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Preparing for battle

Friday night wasn’t particularly fun for Dylan Koehler.

The 11-year-old from Quakertown spent it sleeping inside a small, canvass tent set up on the grounds of the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township, buried beneath a pile of wool blankets.

“With the wind, it was horrendous,” he said of the cold night.

His discomfort was by choice, a bid at authenticity. After all, it’s the same sort of thing the military drummer boy he was portraying would have faced.

Koehler was one of a few dozen Civil War reenactors who made camp at the Heritage Center this weekend, arriving Friday evening and stay through Sunday morning. They were members of the National Regiment, a group who act out battles during reenactment events throughout the spring and summer.

The encampment was a “camp of instruction,” Ted Brennan, colonel of the regimen, explained. Modeled after training camps for new soldiers during the Civil War, it helps the reenactors get ready for the upcoming reenactment season.

Col. Tad Brennan of Keedysville, Md., left, and Capt. Tom Carlson of Baltimore talk about tactics during a Civil War encampment on Saturday at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Col. Tad Brennan of Keedysville, Md., left, and Capt. Tom Carlson of Baltimore talk about tactics during a Civil War encampment on Saturday at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“We’re shaking the rust off after the winter on inactivity,” Brennan said.

In particular, Brennan said, the reenactors were preparing for a big reenactment of The Wilderness Battle next month in Virginia.

Much of what happened during battles like The Wilderness is well-documented, Brennan said, which means reenactors need to practice the formations and maneuvers that were used to make the reenactment as authentic as possible.

“Minus the blood and death, this is what it would have looked like,” he said.

Tom Carlson stood on the edge of a grass field Saturday morning, watching a group of soldiers march. The captain of the First Maryland Regiment, the men were under Carlson’s command.

Troops drill during a Civil War encampment on Saturday at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Troops drill during a Civil War encampment on Saturday at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

He explained that while it may appear the men were preparing for a parade, their coordinated movements weren’t just for show. They mirrored what they would be expected to do on the battle field, following orders and moving in unison.

“We all have to be on the same page,” Carlson said. “We have to have the same timing, the same spacing.”

Carlson, of Baltimore, has been a reenactor for the last 35 years. It all started with a visit to a Civil War reenactment, which he discovered was right up his alley.

“I’ve always been a history buff,” he said. “I’ve always just devoured history.”

Being able to bring that history to life was something Carlson fell in love with. And, he quickly found out, he wasn’t alone in his passion. Which is what kept him involved all these years.

“It’s they guys,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the people I do it with, I wouldn’t do it.”

Koehler, taking part in his first bit of reenacting, said he’s already found that out, too.

“I like sitting at the fire, hanging out with everybody and listening to their stories,” he said. “It’s a very fun experience.”

Sgt. Major Matty Cronin of Manchester, N.H., participates in a Civil War encampment on Saturday at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Sgt. Major Matty Cronin of Manchester, N.H., participates in a Civil War encampment on Saturday at the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Koehler came to the encampment with his dad, Michael, who recently began delving into reenacting.

“He’s a history nerd,” Koehler said, adding that although he likes history he isn’t on the same level of his dad. “History is cool, but it’s not my favorite subject. But it’s up there.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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