Cavalrymen trot into Cedar Creek

A.J. Amon, 12, of Palmyra hammers a peg while installing his tent on the Cedar Creek Battlefield grounds Friday afternoon. Amon will serve as a messenger boy during the Battle of Cedar Creek re-enactment this afternoon in Middletown. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN — Dan Pinnell started going to Civil War re-enactments about 13 years ago. But as the descendant of Fauquier County natives who rode in the cavalry for the Confederacy, his family history soon got the better of him.

Within about three years, he had purchased and trained his own horse for the events.

“I saw this,” Pinnell said, pointing to his horse, Gentleman Jack, “and decided, ‘I have to try this.'”

But while Pinnell got drawn into riding cavalry during the re-enactments because of his family history, it is unclear which side Pinnell will wind up fighting for during this weekend’s re-enactments commemorating the Battle of Cedar Creek.

During re-enactments, organizers work to even the sides, Pinnell said, and this year, there are 15 union cavalry members signed up, compared to 75 Confederate cavalry.

Dan Pinnell and his horse Gentlemen Jack stand inside the Confederate calvary camp at Cedar Creek Battlefield Friday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I also bring a blue uniform” in addition to his Confederate uniform, Pinnell said. “So if the Union needs to be beefed up on the field, I wear a blue uniform, and I’ll ride with the Union cavalry.”

Pinnell said that his path toward riding horses in re-enactments is a fairly unusual one. Most people have a horse and later start attending re-enactments.

“You have a horse and you wanted to try something different with the horse,” Pinnell said of the most common path. “They were doing the 100-jumper or they were doing trail rides or endurance riding and they wanted to do something different.”

Gary Paules, for instance, did trail riding with his horses before he started attending re-enactments.

“A friend of mine joined the 35th in Maryland,” Paules said. “And so we decided to do that.”

Damon Wilson of Yadkin County, North Carolina, tosses slabs of wood for his fire pit Friday afternoon at the Cedar Creek Battlefield. Rich Cooley/Daily

Paules has continued attending re-enactments for the past 54 years. He has trained a number of different horses to try the re-enactments by slowly getting them used to the loud sound of gunfire.

At one point, seven or eight years ago, he was attending over 10 re-enactments per year, but that number is now down to around four per year.

“We’re getting too old to run up and down so much,” Paules said. “It’s hard enough to go up the stairs.”

But Pinnell was not alone in getting a horse after he started re-enacting. Steve DiCarlo of Virginia said that he started doing re-enactments with his cousin.

He began as an infantryman but quickly moved his way to cavalry positions.

Austin Bradford of Kearneysville, West Virginia, chews on his corncob pipe Friday afternoon at the Cedar Creek Battlefield. Rich Cooley/Daily

“During the 90s, there were big events and everybody bought horses,” DiCarlo said. “So I had a place, I bought my own horse and trained it and stuff like that. And I’ve had them ever since.”

But it’s not just the cavalry re-enactors who like to come to re-enactment events. DiCarlo said his horses, Trigger and Lightning, enjoy the events, too.

“They get right on the trailer,” DiCarlo said. “But they also look forward to getting back home.”

Since starting the re-enactments, DiCarlo said that Trigger and Lightning have become close to one another.

“They’re so herd-bound now that they don’t like being away from each other,” DiCarlo said. “They stay in the field all day and play with each other.”

Art Malette of Somerset, New Jersey, ties up his tent in the Confederate camp at Cedar Creek Battlefield Friday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

Wayne Barron, left, and Tony Powell, right, both Confederate re-enactors from Baltimore, sit outside their camp during last year's re-enactment of the battle of Cedar Creek near Middletown. Rich Cooley/Daily file

Ronnie Via, 59, of Franklin County, sits outside his blacksmith shop at the Cedar Creek Battlefield on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily