For Westminster battle re-enactors, war is swell Blue, Gray fight for fun at Farm Museum

May 10, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

It's a good thing the day began with a truce. The Yankees set up camp just on the other side of the hill.

But that didn't worry 1st Sgt. Rick Barber of the 19th Georgia Regiment, Archer's Brigade.

"I think we're going to take a lot of hits today, but there's not going to be a winner today," said Sergeant Barber. "We like to show the people that there really are no winners in this war."

Battles are a way of life for Confederate soldiers, as Sergeant Barber's group of Civil War re-enactors demonstrated yesterday, winding up the living history weekend at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.

About 50 participants camped on the museum grounds Friday night and lived as Americans did during the 1860s.

The North was represented by re-enactors from the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, Company F, and the "Bucktails."

"It was a romantic and elegant time -- during that period, not the war," said Brenda Barber, who acts as seamstress for Archer's Brigade. She and her husband, Rick, live in New Windsor. "You know, with the hoop skirts and the manners. All the men were gentlemen and the ladies were ladies."

Well, almost all of the women were ladies.

The latest dalliance of Southern belle Debbie Cohee-Wright forced her boyfriend, Capt. Bruce Avery of the 19th Georgia Regiment, into a duel with Capt. Charlie Underwood of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

"There's the hussy over there," Captain Avery said, pointing to his dark-haired sweetheart across the yard. "I brought her here with me,and I come back to my tent and find her there with Underwood."

"I'm right in the middle of this," said 10-year-old Tyler Wright, an Eastern Shore resident dressed in period woolen pants and a cotton shirt. "My mom is kind of the cause for all this, and the captain [Mr. Avery] is going to be my stepdad."

As shots rang through the air and gunpowder flew across the grass in front of the museum's farmhouse, Col. Ken Obenland was killed trying to stop the illegal duel.

Of the six people involved in the incident -- the duel participants, their seconds, the woman and the moderator -- only Capt. Tom Foster of the Maryland Signal Detachment, who pitched a cure-all elixir before moderating the duel, and the woman were left standing.

They walked away from the skirmish arm-in-arm, of course.

Patrick and Donna Trainor of Manchester brought their daughter Justine, 9, and sons Ryan, 7, and Timmy, 3, to the event as part of a birthday celebration for Ryan, the family Civil War buff. Ryan said he liked the period weapons.

"After you shot once, you have to load it again," said Ryan.

Timmy began to laugh as Ryan cheerfully rattled off other things he knew about Civil War weapons.

"I never knew the Civil War could make people so jolly," said Mrs. Trainor.

Although the re-enactments are in good fun, the participants are serious about their work. Everything is authentic for the time period, from the camp setup to the clothes they wear. A captain's tent heads each "company street," which is lined by the soldiers' tents where the participants sleep overnight.

Ammunition for yesterday's 2 p.m. battle was hand-rolled by soldiers and Secret Service agents.

Ben and Sam -- alias Shannon Stevens of Linthicum and Rosemary Lather of Sykesville -- were soldiers in the Maryland Signal Detachment. Michelle Bohle of Joppatowne and Debbie Burkhead of Glen Burnie acted as agents for the Confederates who gathered information on the Union troops.

"We're usually armed, in case we are captured," said Ms. Burkhead, lifting her cotton skirt a trifle to reveal the small revolver in an ankle holster.

Rita MacNeish, whose short haircut and glasses fooled many observers, walked among the troops disguised as a man to represent the thousands of Confederate women who fought in the war under the same circumstances.

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