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Re-enactors share experience as 1750s rangers

June 9, 2014
Associated Press

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (AP) — It's all about history and for many re-enactors, it starts when they want to take their passion beyond reading a history book.

The "Conegochege" Ranging Company — as the creek was spelled 200 years ago — were camped out for the weekend at the Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg.

The group was portraying rangers in the 1750s, under the direction of Capt. Joseph Armstrong. The team acted as an "early warning system" for the forts in the area that it patrolled between.

"It's living history of the French and Indian War," said Mike Strausner, Littlestown, one of the members of the group.

The Mercersburg native said that Armstrong recruited his 68 soldiers from the surrounding areas of Hamilton, Lurgan and Letterkenny townships.

Several feet away from the group's camp was the church graveyard ... the final resting places for some of Armstrong's men.

"It's a unique experience," Strausner said.

These volunteer units had a "martial attitude" and while many weren't originally sanctioned by the U.S. government, they became strong parts of the war, he said.

The ranger camp wasn't an elaborate set up.

"We are portraying a group in active service," he said. "They had what they could carry on their backs and they packed light."

The re-enactors also attended a traditional service in the church. Strausner said it is an interesting experience because members of the real-life company attended the church and it was possible to see their names on plaques and in pews throughout the church.

The group also dedicated the grave of Armstrong's son, buried at the church.

Chris Patterson, Carlisle, is one of the newest members, and said that attending encampments is "the best way to love history."

Stephen Berneserderfer, Harrisburg, said that in American history classes in school, many "blow right through" this era or don't focus enough for people to develop an interest.

"We got through the Civil War and I wondered what happened after that," he said, citing the beginning of his own love of history.

After being introduced to the idea of military games and having a friend who performs World War II re-enactments, he began attending such events.

After buying a musket, he was hooked.

"I've been doing work in a ranging unit for a year and a half now," he said.

He's had some interesting questions asked by visitors, ranging from "Is that a real fire?" to "Do you actually sleep here?" ... and, the question the guys always get asked, "Aren't you hot?"

"We are," he said as another re-enactor nodded in the background. "But it's not about that. It's all about the love of history. What's a better way to learn?"




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