Like the Antietam article, another nod to the Boy Scouts of America. - Jonah

Scouts at Cedar Creek

(By William R. Forstchen, from Boys' Life, Oct 1996)

Paul Crickenberger, 16, his face blackened by gun powder, reloaded his rifle. The Life Scout from Troop 777, Sunderland, Md., fired at the advancing Confederate Army line that included Brendan Burke, a Life Scout in Richmond, Va., Troop 443.

Bugles sounded. Fifes and drums played. Regiments moved forward as artillery exploded and muskets thundered across the fields. The bloody Baffle of Cedar Creek had begun. Again.

Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Repeat It

In October 1864, Union and Confederate soldiers clashed along Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley, just south of Winchester, Va. Armies containing thousands of teen-age soldiers fought in the battle.

Today, such Civil War scenes are not only remembered by Paul. Brendan and thousands of others; they are also re-created. In these "reenactments" life during the War Between the States is brought back in vivid detail.

So Real `You Get Goosebumps'

So it was that late last October more than 3,000 reenactors met at Middletown, Va., site of the battle. They camped using Civil War-era equipment, drilled as soldiers and fought two simulated battles.

Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts filled the ranks.

"I like the drill and learning what it was like to be in the army back then," said Paul, a private with Company E, 20th Maine. (Reenactors; belong to regiments named after real war units.) "Sometimes it feels real and you get goosebumps. You learn just how brave the soldiers were."

Boys of the Battlefield

Scout-age kids often served as musicians during the Civil War, playing drum, fife or bugle. Some, such as 13-year-old Johnny Clem, a Union soldier who fought at the battle of Chickamauga, carried guns.

"I like the camping and going into battles," said Webelos Scout Charles Boykin III of Pack 411, Roanoke Rapids, N.C. At Cedar Creek, Charles ran Confederate messages for the First Virginia Volunteer Infantry.

The battles were the first for Tenderfoot Scout Max Dannecker. Max, from Troop 7, Scituate, R.I., served as a bugler with Battery B, First Rhode Island Light Artillery. He proudly noted one of his ancestors fought , with the real First Rhode Island Artillery during the Civil War.

Reenacting is not just battles. Camping and cooking skills get tested.

A cloudburst drenched camp Friday night. Forty-mile-an-hour winds knocked down tents. On Saturday night the temperature dropped below freezing. Since reenactors use only period equipment and clothing, they had no modern sleeping bags and high-tech tents to keep out the damp and chill.

Each Scout, just like the soldiers of old, curled up beneath a canvas tent and slept (or tried to sleep) wrapped in a rubber poncho and a wool blanket. In the morning, they sat by smoking fires, drying their wet wool uniforms and eating a soldier's ration of hardtack (tough biscuits), salt pork and beans.


During Cedar Creek's two simulated battles, Scout messengers ran carrying orders, blew bugle calls and sounded the drum roll for the charge and retreat.

All around them, "injured" soldiers fell to the ground. (Soldiers are "wounded" or "killed" when they realize that, had the gunfire been real instead of "blanks," they would have been hit.) Scouts acting as hospital attendants helped them from the field.

Paying Respect

Each battle, showing the desperate Confederate attack and the victorious Union charge that drove the rebels from the field, lasted longer than an hour.

As the gunfire died away, a bugler marked the end by sounding "Taps." The reenactors came to attention, took off hats and bowed heads in a long and silent prayer.

It was yet another realistic action that the reenactors practiced: respect for those who had fought for real.

They all knew that--unlike the 1,500 men killed at the real Cedar Creek battle--when the weekend was over, they got to go home.