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No battle too small

August 07, 2000

No battle too small



By KERRI SACCHET / Staff Writer

photo: RYAN ANSON / staff photographer

Bobby SmallGunpowder smoke fills the air as soldiers with Federal uniforms roll on the ground wincing in pain. There are no lead bullets. These battles ended more than 100 years ago.

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For Bobby Small, 17, keeping history alive is not only a hobby but a way of life.

"There is modern life and re-enacting life, and you can't let modern life go, but just about every night I pick up a book and do research," Small said.

Small began studying the past in third grade. He was in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and saw a picture of John Brown.

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"Mom, why is there a picture of Granddaddy hanging on the wall?" Small asked.

Because of the strong resemblance and because he has ancestors with the Brown name, Small said he and his mother began doing research to see if there was any relation.

"We're still not 100 percent sure that we're related, but that's what got my love for history up," Small said.

A re-enactor for six years, Small initially was in what is known as a mainstream unit.

"The mainstreamers have their wives and children come out to the battlefield and dress up," Small said. "I like being out there on my own, and if you study the battles, it was very rare that a soldier would bring his wife and kids to the battle."

Accuracy is the most important element in a re-enactment, and it is not an easy thing to create, Small said.

"When I get out on the battlefield, I have to think what I would do if I was a soldier back then with 100 bullets whizzing by my head," Small said. "Sometimes I turn around and run."

Now Small is part of Liberty Rifles, a hard-core, progressive re-enactment group.

"Progressive goes deeper into details," Small said, "We'll research the event before we portray it ... getting the uniform as close as we can and having the same food and weapons that they would have."

The Liberty Rifles act out both the Federal and Confederate sides of the war, but Small said he prefers being a Union soldier.

"Some people have that 'The South is gonna rise again' attitude, and what really got me away from that was learning what happened after the war ... this country was ripped apart," Small said.

Some events begin to wear down the re-enactors, such as a long march, but Small said there is always something to bring him back up.

Teaching spectators what Civil War life was like is one aspect of re-enacting that Small enjoys, he said.

"It's a hobby, but we also owe it to the spectators to teach them, especially because there is really not a lot taught about it in school anymore," Small said.

To understand how a soldier acted in battle, one has to be re-enacting even when spectators aren't watching, Small said.

"Our commander will get us up at 1 in the morning and move us 100 yards, and we pack light so that we can all be moved within three minutes, and it's just so you know how they would have been," Small said.

A volunteer activity, Small said re-enactors either buy or make the clothing and other instruments used in the events.

"My grandmother knitted me this pair of socks for an event and she made them right down to the 't,' " Small said. "Guys have offered me $50 for them, but I wouldn't let them go ... I am very proud of those socks."

A 2000 graduate of Smithsburg High School, Small said he plans on joining the national reserves and attending Shepherd College.

"After school, I definitely want to go into the Park Service and maybe after I retire from that, I'll teach history," Small said.

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