NEW MANCHESTER - If you visited the old Boy Scout camp at Tomlinson Run State Park this weekend, you would have found anywhere from 12 to 25 men in Civil War attire practicing drills, cooking their meals on a fire, in sleeping in period-style tents.
Members of Company G, 27th Virginia Infantry gather for small events like this one and other larger events. The re-enactors gather to live out lighter moments like the comradery of sitting around a campfire and the heavier moments of acting out a Civil War battle.
The re-enactment group of the 27th Virginia Infantry, known as The Shiver Grays, were formed around 25 years ago by Jim Powell of New Cumberland. Powell has been the commander of the group ever since, but recently decided to retire. The group honored Powell Saturday night at a gathering at the camp with Powell's friends and past and present members of the group. With his retirement, it was decided that Powell would receive the title of major.
Members of Company G, 27th Virginia Infantry practice drills while camping at Tomlinson Run State Park this weekend. (Photo by Kate Everly)
"We felt it was right and just to give him a title," said Captain Jeff Wormley. Wormley added that they would be giving Powell awards and a plaque for his long-time service to the group.
"He sees it as his baby because he started it," said Wormley.
While at the camp from Friday to Sunday, the group spends a lot of their time practicing drills that prepare them for larger events with multiple groups acting out Civil War battles.
"They practice the drills to prepare for a larger battle," said Amy Johnston, wife of one of the re-enactors. "It helps them understand better how it all fits together."
According to Wormley, the group of around 25 members is always looking to recruit "new blood."
"Like every hobby, it's cyclic," said Wormley. "Participation goes up and down."
The group that the re-enactors portray was an actual company during the Civil War and, being from Wheeling, was the northern-most group of fighters for the Confederacy. While the men were at war, the state that they had left, Virginia, had become West Virginia.
"The only men who came home, came home as prisoners," said Wormley. "The area they left had become a whole new state, which was part of the north."
Wormley explained that the re-enacting that the group does is as realistic as possible, with real rifles and bayonets being carried during drills. According to Wormley, safety is one of the group's main concerns.
"The majority of these guys are hunters and military men. They know that rifles are rifles and not toys," said Wormley. "We're always making sure every one is safe."
Contrary to what most people believe, Wormley said that the group lives out many of the other events of the life of a Civil War soldier.
"We sleep in tents, cook our own food," Wormley. "We have our most fun at night, sitting around a fire with your friends."
The youngest that a member of the group can be is 16, but beginning at 13, participants are allowed to carry the drum.
"They come and play the drum and they can't wait to be 16 and get to hold a rifle," said Wormley.
If anyone is interested in the history of the group or becoming a member, visit www.27thvacog.com.