Attired in a Civil War Union private’s uniform, complete with blue forage cap, sack coat, wool trousers, brogans (leather ankle boots) and leather straps to hold ammunition and supplies, Lackawanna Trail High School history teacher Timothy Pierce, of Mill City, will take up his Enfield riffle musket June 27 and head into battle.
Battle reenactment, that is.
Although the uniform and musket are replicas and no one will actually be under fire, Pierce said he hopes the “150th Gettysburg Reenactment: A Blue Gray Alliance Event,” to be held June 27 to 30 in Gettysburg, will help bring the history and reality of the Civil War to life for those participating in and witnessing the event.
He said he has previously participated in several reenactments with his unit, the 81st Pennsylvania, Company K and he believes when people see the the battles with their own eyes, it helps make it real so they can say, “Wow, this really happened. It’s not just monuments on a battlefield, or my mom and dad dragging me around the battlefield on a 90 degree summer day boring me.”
“Sometimes when you’re involved in the battles,” he said, “if you’re in a place in the battlefield where you can’t see anything modern, you can only see 19th century stuff, it kind of puts you back in that time and place. Obviously, you know you’re not really going to get shot, but…it’s very emotional when the battle is over and one of our buglers plays taps and everybody stands up at attention. Sometimes you can see guys with tears running down their face and stuff like that. You really feel for the soldiers. That’s why we do it, is to to honor and remember the soldiers.”
Pierce said he first got into Civil War reenacting when he lived in Virginia and the film “Gettysburg” was released. He already had an interest in the Civil War and previously considered reenacting, but wasn’t sure how to pursue it.
“I was in a parking lot of a mall down in Virginia,” he said, “and I stopped a guy who had a reenacting bumper sticker on his car. I joined a unit down there called the 79th New York, The Highlanders. Then when I moved here, I tracked down some people in the 81st Pennsylvania Company K and joined them.”
He said his current unit consists of about 50 members—30 “active military” men and 20 women—25 of whom plan to participate in the upcoming event, along with many other groups from around the country.
The reenactment will include the various phases of the Battle of Gettysburg in chronological order over three days. A complete schedule can be found online at the event’s website, www.bluegraygettysburg.com. Pierce is scheduled to participate in McPherson’s Ridge, Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Ridge on Friday, Wheatfield and Peach Orchard Saturday and Pickett’s Charge Sunday.
In addition to the battle reenactments, he said the group members perform marching and shooting demonstrations and offer “living histories,” in which they set up encampments people can visit to learn about the uniforms, lifestyles and weapons of the soldiers.
When asked what he enjoys most about reenacting, Pierce replied, “I think shooting at rebels. And mostly the education—teaching people about the war and the life of the every day average soldier.”