Official: Crowds up for 146th reenactmentBy Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org MIDDLETOWN -- Simon Taylor didn't die at the Battle of Cedar Creek -- this time.
The Civil War re-enactor from Rochester, N.Y., joined nearly 4,000 others like him on Saturday for the 146th anniversary reenactment at the historic Cedar Creek Battlefield near Belle Grove Plantation.
The event drew thousands more who strolled through the camps before sitting on the sidelines to watch the re-enactors recreate the integral battle. Tim Stowe, president of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, said participation and attendance were up from previous years, likely because of the warmer, drier weather.
Spectators came to see loved ones participate in the re-enactment, to satisify a love of Civil War history or out of curiosity. Several history buffs noted the reenactment is one of few held on the actual battlefield rather than elsewhere.
"I thought it was really nice," said Sara Thacker, of Mechanicsville, there to see her husband, Dennis, participate on the Confederate side. "I didn't know it was gonna be like right in front of us. This is the first time I've actually seen one, so I thought it was really cool."
Tim Hodge, who has seen other reenactments, brought his wife, Suzy, from their home in Harrisburg, Pa.
"This is one of the best ones," he said.
Mrs. Hodge said her great-great grandfather served as a scout for the 12th Pennsylvania cavalry of the Union forces.
"You read it in a book, but it's hard to visualize all the tactics, especially if you don't have that background," she said. "I like to see it here and it kinda comes together."
Several reenactors and spectators said the smaller, lesser-known battles often were the bloodiest but receive little to no mention in history lessons.
"You hit very minimal in school. You learn so much more here," said Cori Vaughn, of Newville, Pa., whose son, Kyle, stood holding a flag with the Confederate troops and sparked her interest in re-enacting.
Brian Gesuero, of Federalsburg, Md., Ken Obenland, of Frederick, Md., and John Moss, of Coatesville, Pa., rode horses in the Confederate camp area, wearing uniforms that didn't match, indicative of the period.
"Supplies were so scarce, just like with this coat, there's no catgut to indicate my rank on my sleeve," Gesuero said, pointing to the jean-like material. "There's no colored cuff to indicate ... It's very basic."
"When I do, like, [the Battle of] Sayler's Creek [near Farmville] it's almost civilian clothing," Obenland said.
"It was a little different after Gettysburg," Gesuero said. "Times were tougher then. A little more desperate."
Gesuero said he has four, great-great-great uncles from Nelson County who fought for the Confederacy.
Moss' links to the Civil War come from Georgia. One of his ancestors survived several years in a prison at Camp Douglas.
"He was never right," Moss said. "He probably had post-traumatic stress."
Wendy Knox, who lives near Gettysburg, Pa., stood wearing a hooped dress as her 1-year-old son, Mason, sat on a blanket. Her son had on a dress because, as Knox explained, boys at the time wore them until they were potty trained.
Taylor stood with fellow reenactors, John Fegley and Larry Peterson, both of Cornell, N.Y., on the field after the battle.
"[I've] always been a Civil War buff, and instead of reading about it, we get a chance to actually semi-live it," Peterson said.
The three admitted a reenactment can sometimes deviate from a plan, requiring participants to pause, regroup and fall back in line.
"This one went OK," Taylor said. "There were a couple of points where I'm standing there in line and I'm looking down to our right and while we're supposed to be pushing the Confederates back, we've got Rebs coming around our flank with their cavalry almost behind us down at the bottom of the creek down there, so it got a little bit silly at points."
Reenactors, soldiers and civilians said realism is important.
"When you get within here to that bullhorn [approximately 20 feet] to the Confederates, and you're shootin' back and forth at each other, the spectators can see that and common sense says someone's supposed to get down," Fegley said. "I got down on that flat there and the Johnny's are shootin' and it's point-blank range -- I'm takin' a hit."
"These things have to happen," Taylor chimed in.
"I didn't die today," Taylor said. "I was gonna die a couple -- I was gonna take a hit or whatever -- I was gonna go down a couple of times but I basically decided I kinda wanted to stay in line to keep an eye on what's going on."
"The other thing, too, with this, is we're kind of each other's brothers' keeper," Fegley said. "Safety's a big issue ... right down to some details some people normally wouldn't think about. Everybody's gonna go home happy."
"And not injured," Peterson said.