Noted Civil War author Daniel Carroll Toomey, no stranger to historical reenactments, said the annual weekend encampment at Jerusalem Mill Village in Kingsville ranks high on his list of favorites.
The event, held for the past eight years, includes two days of period music, infantry drills, medical demonstrations and a staging of Major Harry W. Gilmor’s 1864 raid across Baltimore and Harford counties.
“I’ve been coming up here since almost the beginning; I fell in love with it right away,” said Toomey, whose books include "The Civil War in Maryland" and "The Johnson-Gilmor Raid."
“I think it’s the neatest little reenactment. … It’s not elaborate, not Gettysburg. But it’s easy for the public to get involved, and it’s in the middle of beautiful surroundings,” he said.
On Saturday, when Toomey wasn’t selling Civil War tomes alongside other “sutlers” (civilian merchants that often travel with military troops), he served as something of a master of ceremonies, providing spectators with the proper historical context for each reenactment.
First came “Encounter at Ishmael Day’s,” which told the tale of a loyalist living in Fork who, on July 11, 1864, defied Confederate cavalrymen trying to pull down his Union flag. Day shot and mortally wounded one of the soldiers before fleeing into the woods. Alhough Saturday’s reenactors stopped short of burning down the building being used to represent Day’s house, the rest of the “encounter” stayed relatively faithful to the history.
Visitors, who paid up to $7 to attend the weekend encampment, also watched a staging of Gilmor’s raid on the local general store. According to historical records, joined by 135 fellow Confederates, Gilmor—a Marylander who served as Baltimore City Police Commissioner following the war—quietly seized horses and requisitioned “boots, shoes and other wearing apparel” in order to carry out a larger campaign that involved disrupting Union transportation and communication links around the area.
For Saturday’s reenactment, the action got decidedly intense as federal troops skirmished with the rebel cavalrymen.
Reenactor Coordinator Charles Kibler of Edgewood explained, “We call it a ‘plausible what-if scenario.’ It’s not too far of a fetch to think that there very well could have been some federal troops in the area at the time, so [during the reenactment] we give the public a little bit more gunfire to keep things interesting.”
Accuracy is important to Kibler. “We hope that the people who come and see [the reenactment] get more of a knowledge of actual history,” he said. “When it comes to the Civil War, most people know about Gettysburg, and since we’re in Maryland maybe they know about Sharpsburg [site of the 1862 Battle of Antietam], but they should know that right here in their own county, all kinds of havoc was taking place.”
This isn’t news to Mick and Joy Paul, who live in Joppa near the Magnolia Station railroad bridge, a primary target of Gilmor’s raiders.
“I’m interested in history, and it’s nice to come out here and see the action,” said Mick, who described the event as “something relaxing to do that’s close to home.” After watching “Encounter at Ishmael Day’s” (“We enjoyed it thoroughly,” Joy said), Mick wandered off to ask if he could join a group of Confederate reenactors.
Meanwhile, Jim Natale of Bel Air made his way onto the grassy field across from Jerusalem Mill to play vintage baseball with the Chesapeake and Potomac baseball clubs. Natale, who described the game as “baseball with no gloves,” has been a participant for two years, ever since he came out to spectate and instead found himself answering the call for extra players. Now he’s a regular with the Chesapeake Nine of Baltimore, sporting a large “C” on his jersey.
Before the game got under way, Mick and Joy Paul were already heading for the parking lot. But not before Mick had been given a certificate of induction into the 1st Maryland Cavalry, Co. C, for the Confederate States of America. “I’m gonna do it,” he announced excitedly.
Sunday’s schedule for the Civil War Weekend Encampment begins at 10 a.m. with music by the Fort McHenry Guard Fife & Drum Corps and an infantry firing demonstration. Other activities throughout the day include a field hospital demonstration, “Cavalry Clash at Towsontown” reenactment, a lecture about Major Gilmor and more. Camps close to the public at 3:30 p.m.