Sunday, May 1, 2016

Battle of Picacho Pass

Setting sun at the camp.

I"m a little late in posting this. We made our annual trip to Picacho Peak State Park, north of Tucson, Arizona last March.  It's always a brutal weekend from a physical labor perspective, but always very rewarding, especially for those experiencing it for the first time.    
The mess tent.

As always, we left Fort Huachuca on Friday at 1 PM and made the two-hour drive to Picacho Peak.  We took six riders and eight horses, along with a cannon crew to man our mountain howitzer.  We set up camp upon arrival and then pitched in to some cowboy stew. After dinner, we relaxed around the campfire while the horses rolled in the fine dust, turning themselves into dun-colored horses.  

The next day, after a hearty breakfast, we rode up to the first battle re-enactment of the day--the Battle of Valverde. The first battle is always a little easier, as the temperature hasn't gotten hot yet.  The second battle, the Battle of Glorietta Pass, is after lunch when the temps get a little higher.  Of biggest concern is making sure the horses don't get overheated. They still had their winter coats and Tucson weather is about ten degrees warmer than Fort Huachuca.  I had to pull one horse out after the first battle as his hear rate and respiration rate were too high. I had to do this several times during the weekend.
Morning coffee around the fire pit.

The last battle of the day is the Battle of Picacho Pass, which is mostly just about us. No cannons or large infantry formations, just a few Confederate pickets and the Union cavalry. It requires a little play-acting and our lieutenant embraced it wholeheartedly.  He even uttered our traditional line during the interrogation of the Confederate prisoners, "Well, that's a tall tale."  Supposedly, I had said this a couple of years ago and now it has become part of our annual performance.  

On the battlefield.
Cannon crew in action.
Saturday night is steak night, and all tired warriors, cavalrymen and cannoneers, gather in the mess tent for a well-deserved dinner. Afterwards, we convene around the campfire and tell lies and relive the battles of the day. This year, the First Sergeant treated us to readings from Mark Twain. After that, we had our traditional naming ceremony, where troopers get their B Troop nickname. It is a good time and the desert night reveals a sky full of stars not normally visible from the city.  
Saber charge.

The next day, we do it all gain, and then load up and head back to Fort Huachuca.  Everyone is exhausted, but a dinner of pulled-pork sandwiches on the front porch at the stable office, perks everyone up enough to get home.  

The local PBS station in Tucson, put together a little video about the battle, which you can see through this link.  It is pretty good.