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Stuart's raid re-enacted

October 14, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Ben Troupe, 7, decided to wear his gray wool cap instead of his blue one Saturday.

The young Civil War buff wanted to match the garb Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart wore 140 years earlier when he raided Ben's hometown of Mercersburg, Pa.

Residents of the small town are gathering this weekend to remember that day when the reality of the war hit home for those living north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Some may regard the two-hour raid as just a footnote in the history books. Stuart's troops simply marched into town and made off with shoes and horses to supply the Confederate troops.

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Others say Stuart's humiliation of the Union in Mercersburg and later in Chambersburg, Pa., was an important wake-up call to President Lincoln, who soon afterward stripped Union Gen. George McClellan of his weakening command.

Saturday was a drizzly and muddy day, much like the October day when Stuart's troops terrorized the town.

Civil War re-enactors helped an estimated 600 participants relive the experience Saturday and give them a taste of what a battle must have been like.

It was a relatively small re-enactment, nothing like the large scale of last month's 140th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam near Hagerstown.

But it was professionally staged by the same people who put together larger re-enactments in Gettysburg, Pa., said Jerry Ross, one of the event's organizers.

It was the first time the town has put on an event of this kind, he said.

"For the town to be able to pull this together, it's just amazing," he said.

Spectators lined up along an orange temporary fence to watch the mock battle, which featured horses and cannonfire.

Speaking over a public address system, narrator Kirk Davis said each of the three cannons at the event cost between $30,000 and $40,000.

"Quite a bit of money for a hobby," he said.

Mark Troupe said his son Ben has developed a strong interest in living history.

Even at such a young age, Ben demonstrated a firm grasp of the war games that were played out in front of him.

"I liked when the cavalry turned around and tried to flank them," he said.

Bev Breakefield, 53, of Chambersburg, said she was struck by the fact that more American lives were lost in the Civil War than in all the nation's other wars combined.

"That's really scary, just how many brilliant lives we lost, but how much we gained," she said. "Before, you thought of yourselves as Virginians or Pennsylvanians. After the war we were all Americans."

Mercersburg's Civil War Weekend continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Lions Club Park and a neighboring farm.

A memorial service to honor veterans who served in all wars is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. followed by another battle re-enactment.

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