Civil War re-enactment is a living history lesson

April 26, 1993|By Maureen Rice | Maureen Rice,Contributing Writer

The 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry defeated the 7th Tennessee and 19th Georgia infantry units yesterday. The Union is still intact.

The Civil War re-enactment took place as members of Cub Scout Pack 110 of Eldersburg and their families witnessed the scene on Vernon Sill's farm in Gamber.

Against a backdrop of trees, the Union soldiers positioned themselves on a hill while the Confederates took cover behind trees and in a stream beside steep banks.

Shouting taunts at each other, they began firing their rifles. Drifting smoke rings showed their positions.

Several Union troops were "killed" but the "Rebels" were virtually wiped out by the greater number of Union forces.

The skirmish lasted about half an hour.

"Can we go home now, Dad?" asked Michael Law, 8, of Eldersburg. "There's only one Rebel left."

That lonely Rebel was duly "captured" and taken back to the Union camp as the re-enactment ended.

Before the skirmish, the Scouts and their families wandered between the tents set up for the re-enactment, talking with the soldiers and learning about life in a 19th-century army camp.

"This is really teaching them history," said Paul Hinton of Eldersburg.

"They see this sort of thing on television, but being here makes it more real and helps to drive it home a little."

The visitors sampled hardtack, a tasteless confection that lives up to its name, watched the Rebels make coffee and studied the Civil War-era rifles with great interest.

Hardtack is made of flour, water and salt, and is baked until it is rock hard.

In this fashion, it can last for weeks.

"They [the soldiers] used to crumble it and boil it in their coffee," said Ridge Parks, a Confederate soldier from Parkton. "That would make the worms rise to the top, and they could just scoop them out. They probably ate a few, too."

Coffee was the drink of the war, consumed in great quantities by soldiers on both sides.

The re-enactors, wearing hand-made woolen uniforms, did their best to educate the public about life in a Civil War camp and the 19th century itself.

"We study everything before we make anything," said Cullen MacDonald of Ashburn, Va.

"We want to make this as realistic as possible," he said.

"The fabric for our uniforms is hand-woven to match the originals exactly. We made the backpacks and a lot of the other paraphernalia ourselves -- some of the things we hire out -- and we're making a new set of uniforms ourselves from scratch."

The camps, constructed with tarpaulins stretched over sticks, resembled the actual camps of 100 years ago.

"Sometimes other re-enactors set up great big tents, put chairs in them and everything. But the soldiers really didn't have that. This is really what their camp looked like," said Bill Sensel, a Union soldier who organized the activity for his son's Cub Scout pack.

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