Fifty years and counting.
The date was August 12, 1958 when Manfred Huffman of Fairlawn, NJ mailed an application for team membership to Sgt. John B. Gilmer, Commander of the North-South Skirmish Association. With that application many years of joyful skirmishing have followed. Joining Huffman in 1958 were Robert Fisch, Anthony Shalna, Aurthur Livingston, Walter Nock, George Hogan, Paul Reuhs, and Val Forgett, Jr. These men are the fathers of what we today know as Battery B, First New Jersey Light Artillery.
Since that date there have been highs and lows, but our resolve to skirmish has never wavered. From the 1961 Centennial Event at Manassas, to the first National Skirmish held at Fort Shenandoah in 1963, the early years of our existence were very fulfilling. Throughout the years to follow, the Battery continued to make notable contributions to historic research and accurate reproduction through living history, as well as make a mark on skirmishing with six National Championship golds in the Rifled Cannon Match.
With sweat, grease, and black powder, we broke many clays, collected some medals and trophies, and enriched many lives. Even after all the flat tires, flipped and flooded trailers, false teeth, rubber snakes, and blown shells, it’s been a priceless experience.
On August 2nd, 2008 a celebration of this Batteries’ Fifty Years commenced. It was a dark and stormy day to start, but God favored upon us a comfortable and sunny afternoon of food, friends, and tradition. A gathering of some 20 members, past and present were in attendance with family. One by one members traded handshakes and hugs. Faces not seen in more than twenty years were among us again. In a gathering around a Parrott cannon, a salute was offered to the men for whom this Battery was founded to celebrate, and another salute was offered to all the men who used to color our proud ranks, but couldn’t be there that day. Later, food and drink were consumed along with large doses of long forgotten anecdotes, and reminiscences. A cake was cut by sabers, all of our number having a hand in the deed. It was certainly a fitting and proper celebration for an Artillery crew such as this.
Then, as if by accident, the celebration was done. The cannon was rolled off the lawn, the flags were stored, and all was quiet. Fifty years gone by just like that.
Michael Hanifen, the author of the Civil War Batteries’ history written in 1912 wrote about the original unit this way: “They were a fine lot of men”. Today’s Battery strives to continue that historic tradition. May fifty more wonderful years of skirmishing be blessed upon us.