Charlie Underwood does what he is told, when he's told. And when it's time to fight, he does that, too.
"I'm a first sergeant. I do what the lieutenant and captain want done," he said. "I do the marches, and I fight. I don't stand back, I go out and fight."
Underwood's enemy is not Iraq, but Union soldiers. As a leader ofArcher's Brigade, a Civil War re-enactment group, the 59-year-old Union Bridge man marches willingly into battle about once a month.
The group, comprised of the 7th Tennessee, 19th Georgia and 2nd Maryland, prides itself on being authentic in every way. Uniforms and equipment are carefully researched for every member, according to his rank.
Although women cannot be a part of the unit, the wives and children frequently follow their husbands into camp, as they did in the Civil War. When they do, they also must wear period costume.
"The brigade is a family-oriented unit," Underwood said. "According to my history books, the 19th Georgia was a family unit. Some families did gowith the men, following the wagon trains, to their base camp."
The reason for this, he said, was that the wives and children simply couldn't keep up the family farm by themselves.
Family support in Archer's Brigade is a must, Underwood noted, because membership in the group is a time-consuming and expensive hobby.
"There's a lot of work and a lot of money involved. You have to be dedicated," he said. "It's not a cheap hobby, it's an expensive hobby. And we go to Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, the lower part of Pennsylvania for events. Some even go to Tennessee on their own."
Rick Barber of Marstonis one participant whose whole family is involved. His wife, Brenda,makes their costumes, and even the children go to camp. Justin, 10, has been the unit's drummer boy.
During living history re-enactments, brigade members take the names of real Civil War soldiers, whose lives are thoroughly researched for authenticity, Underwood said.
Archer's Brigade members also go to schools and social and civic groups to do authentic portrayals of Civil War soldiers and camp life.
"We do this for free," Underwood said. "We go in uniform with full equipment."
Added Barber, "We do a first-person impression -- talk like (soldiers), use the old slang, act like you're really there, andthe kids can't tell the difference between you and the real soldier."
The unit has been busy in recent months, with events last fall at Rocky Point Park in Baltimore County and Susquehanna State Park in Harford County.
"The people (in the unit) really get close," Barber said. "When Sunday night comes, you hate to go home."
To stay prepared for muster, the brigade conducts a weekend boot camp once or twice a year to practice marching, gun use and safety, Underwood said.
In fact, one boot camp was on the Barbers' 30-acre farm.
Archer's Brigade is always looking for new members. All ages are welcome, but members must be 16 to carry a gun. Annual dues of $10 include allfamily members.
The unit trains raw recruits and will help them find authentic clothing and uniforms at reasonable cost, Underwood said.
Information: (301) 898-9689.