Report from the Field - 97th National Skirmish

The North-South Skirmish Association conducted their 97th National Skirmish within the friendly confines of Fort Shenandoah near Wincherster, VA, for five days in mid-May, beginning on May 13 and ending on May 17. Individuals and teams competed for medals in Musket, Carbine, Revolver, Repeater, Mortar, Smoothbore Artillery and Rifled Artillery. Individual medals in the first four disciplines were awarded in four segreagated catagories -- expert, marksman, sharpshooter and striker. Non-artillery team medals catagories are arranged so that every member organization has a team that competes in one of the "A" classes, and extra teams compete in "B" or "C" classes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, early arrivals were able to shoot their Individual targets on the Main Range and the Pistol Range. Friday morning, Individual shooting continued, but the Pistol Range was closed about an hour before noon to prepare for the biggest blackpowder revolver competiton since the OK Corral. Three groups of pistol shooters, called "relays", shot at three sets of 25 yard breakable targets. Each team consisted of four shooters, who loaded their six-shooters and were alloted up to two minutes to break their targets. The team score is the total time used, plus penalties for missed targets. When the smoke had settled and cleared the top three teams in the A1 class were, in order: Washington Blue Rifles, Co. A; 66th N.C. Regt, Co. A.; and the Deleware Blues, Co. A. Tops in the A2 class were: Harlan's Light Cavalry, Co. A; 7th N.J. Vols., Co. A; and 1st Pa. Artillery, Co. A. The largest group of competitors, the A3 class, was topped by the 9th Reg. NY Cav, Co. A; 7th Regt. Va. Vols., Co. A and Chesapeake Artillery, CSA, Co. A.

Class B leaders were the 9th Va. Cav, CSA, Co. B; 12th Regt. Pa. Reserve Vols., Co. B; and York Rangers, Co. B. The Class C honors went to the Washington Blue Rifles, Co. C.

Individual shooting continued on the Main Range on Friday until 5 p.m., when the Mortar event transpired. In Mortar, seven shots are directed towards a stake at 100 yards. The closest five projectiles are measured and the distances totaled. The team with the smallest total wins. The best Mortar team of the 52 pieces entered at the 97th National was the 19th Mich. Vol. Inf, who averaged a little over 5 feet per projectile from the stake. Second place went to the 149th NY Vols, who were less than two feet behind. Third place went to the 3rd US mortar entered by J. Wells, just a scant 3 feet more than the winners.

Saturday is a busy day at a National Skirmish, with only enough time for a few Individual relays in the morning. By 10 am, 166 Carbine Teams were preparing for the Carbine event, which usually lasts 4 1/2 hours. Eight man teams shoot approved carbines at breakable targets for up to 5 minutes, attempting to break as many as possible. When the sun had finally crossed the yardham, the winning teams at the 97th Natioanl Skirmish had been determined. In the A1 Class the top finishers were, in order: Union Guards, Co. A.; Washington Blue Rifles, Co. A; and, 2nd Maryland Artillery, CSA, Co. A. Class A2 was headed by 1st Fla. Cav, Co. A.; Knap's Battery E, Co. A.; and 10th Mass. Battery, Co. A. Class A3 was lead by 7th N.J. Vols. Co. A; 149th NY Vol. Inf., Co. A.; and 1st Maryland Cavalry, CSA, Co. A.

Thirty-seven teams fielded a second, or "B" Team for the Carbine Match. The top finshers amoung these tams were, in order: Dismal Swamp Rangers, Co. B.; Chiswell's Exiles, Co. B., and Washington Blue Rifles, Co. B. The Washington Blue Rifles also captured the "C" company honors for Carbine.

The Artillery takes the field after Carbine at a National Skirmish, and 20 Rifled and 11 Smoothbore cannons competed in separate classes starting about 4 p.m. There are so many pieces competing now that there are two one-hour relays to squeeze everybody in. The big guns compete at 200 yards, and are a big crowd pleaser, with up to 300 observers gathering to watch the two groups. Five Rifled guns posted a 50 out of 50 possible score, and the top two teams each had a perfect 50-5V (a "V" is the same as an "X"). The Number One gun of the 1st South Carolina Artillery just edged the 3rd U.S. (J. Wells) for First Place. The 15th Ohio and the Number Two gun of the 1st South Carolina also tied for the next two places by shooting a 50-3V, with the 15th gaining the tie breaker. The 1st New Jersy Light Artillery deserves special mention because they two posted a 50, but finished in 5th place with a 2V.

Not to be outdone, the Norfolk Light Arullery and 3rd U.S. (R. Hipple) Smoothbores also tied, posting identical 41 scores. The 3Vs of the Norfolk bested the Hipple's 1V for the best score.

A lot of lead had been thrown downrange by the time the sun set on Saturday.

Sunday begins bright and early at a National Skirmish. The teams that reside the farthest from Ft. Shenandoah, along with some of the top teams from the last Skirmish, compete in the morning "phase", with the residue competitng in the afternoon phase. Eight shooters make up a team, and again attempt to eliminate breakable targets in 5 minute events. It takes along time for the smoke to clear twice, but eventually it does, and the winners go home happy. Two hundred and fifty-three Musket Teams competed at the 97th National Skirmish; 168 A teams, 73 B teams and 12 C teams. In the A classes , there were 48 A1 teams, 45 A2 teams and 75 A3 teams.

The top three A1 teams were, in order: Union Guards, Co. A., Washington Blue Rifles, Co. A.; and 2nd Maryland Artillery, CSA, Co. A. Leaders in the A2 Class were: 46th Ill. Vol. Inf., Co. A; 56th Pa. Vol. Inf., Co. A; and 69th NYS Vols., Co. A. Top finishers in the A3 Class were 2nd Va. Cavalry, CO. A; 118th Pa. Vol. Inf., Co. A; and, Norfolk Light Artillery, Co. A.

The top three B1 teams were the Dismal Swamp Rangers, Co. B; the Washinton Blue Rifles, Co. B.; and the A-team of Mosby's Rangers. Because the B-Team actually posted a better score than the A-team, the B-team was bumped up to A class, where they finished 22nd. The A-team was demoted to B1 Class, where they won a medal. Go figure! Class B2 leaders were the 1st Fla. Cavalry, Co. B; 1st Stuart Horse Artillery, Co. B.; and, the 14th Va. Cavalry, Co. B.

C Class is reserved for "C" and "D" teams, and the top three were: Washington Blue Rifles, Co. C; Washington Blue Rifles, Co. D; and Dismal Swamp Rangers, Co. C.

On a personal basis, my own organization was lucky enough to field a pistol team that captured third place in the A3 class. We managed to knock down 8 clay pigeons in a total of only 26.6 seconds with 22 shots, a remarkable feat for any team. Our mortar competed in our first National, we posted our best Artillery score ever, and for the first time we had seven of our own Carbine shooters on the line for a National. The way I see it, things are looking up.

Congratualtions to everybody who had a good time at the 97th National. That's why we go, to have a good time. Until the next time, promote responsible gun ownership, shoot safe and have fun.

1998 by Tom Kelley

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