Boy Scout Six & Twenty District Spring Camporee
Friday afternoon low hanging gray clouds occasionally spit rain as they skirted low across the sky. Nine Boy Scout Troops moved down a muddy trail onto W & J Brock Farm and set-up their campsite for the 2005 Six & Twenty District Spring Camporee.
By special invitation, the Scouts were camping adjacent to the re-enactment of the Battle of Anderson, a three day event recreating one of the last battles of the America Civil War.
The field, off Troy Murdock Road in southern Anderson County, had being transformed into a dichotomy of time; modern cars and SUV’s on surrounding roads indicated the 21st Century yet inside the pasture fence time rolled back 1865. Men and women, in period dress and authentic uniforms, were living under conditions that mirrored those endured by 19th Century field armies. Huddled near their campfires trying to stay out of the wind, warm and dry, they were on short rations; the only thing in abundance was mud.
For the Scouts, Friday night brought little good sleep. Unlike the re-enactors, the Scouts were using modern camping equipment, tents that did not leak, warm sleeping bags instead of tattered wool bed rolls, and propane lanterns and stoves; things unheard of in 1865. No, the sleepless night was caused more by excitement for the next day’s events and the sound of the wind and the restless horses of the Union Calvary corralled nearby.
Saturday dawned with leaded skies but by 9:00 AM the sun had broken through, turning the day into a bright clear South Carolina day; if you could avoid the mud. After breakfast the Scouts made a short walk across several hundred yards of pasture and 140 years to the Union and Confederate encampments where, like all armies, the soldiers invited the youngsters into camp to share food and camaraderie.
Although the boys had little interest in salt pork and hard tack, they were enthralled by the soldiers stories of life during the last war fought on American soil. Each of the re-enactors they met had painstaking recreated the persona of the Civil War period. Some represented an actual person; for others, it was a generalization to represent all members of a specific unit, yet each person had meticulously researched and was accurately presenting their chosen slice of the 1860’s.
The Scouts then watched as the different units present for the battle re-enactment were drilled by their officers prior to the morning parade. It was after the morning assembly that the Scouts became less spectators and more participants.
It was about this time a Corporal drilling 20th South Carolina Volunteers realized that the Scouts represented a potential source of new recruits to aid in repulsing of the Union Army’s expected attack on Anderson.
The Corporal assembled a number of Scouts and gave them a rousing speech about “protecting their homeland from the northern aggressors!” He appealed to their “love of hearth and home” and asked for volunteers. The entire group “enlisted" on the spot.
As time was of the essences, training began immediately.
It was soon learned by the Scouts that salt pork and hard tack was not the worst of the 19th century soldier’s lot. Carrying the twenty pound Enfield rifle and associated gear, wearing the ruff cut and scratchy wool uniforms, long cross country marches, harsh field conditions and no effective medical care would soon take what ever visions of glory seen by the young recruits and replace them with the realities of one of America’s bloodiest wars.
The battle re-enactment Saturday ended with a memorial service for all American veterans, a concept brought to sharper focus by the fact that two of the re-enactors not present this year had fallen in our country’s war on terror.
Perhaps that is the most important lesson taught over the camporee weekend: that the concept of “duty, honor and country” represented by the Civil War re-enactors is still present today. And that is not a bad thing.