A Rebel Soldier’s Aim Is Still Pretty Accurate, But His Timing Is Off , Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, October 4, 2008.
Was it the South rising again? Or just a very uncivil blunder on a hallowed Virginia battleground?
Either way, Thomas Lord, a Bronx-born Yankee, felt the bite of a rebel bullet in Dixie last weekend, 143 years after the surrender at Appomattox. He was the latest casualty of a national conflict under re-enactment most anytime, anywhere above and below the Mason-Dixon line, although not normally with live ammunition. “I’ve never been shot before,” said Mr. Lord, 73, a former New York police officer and a corporal in the Seventh New York Volunteer Cavalry, or rather, a latter-day and somewhat aged replica of that unit. On Sept. 27, Mr. Long and the rest of the bluecoats were lined up for re-enactment of a nasty piece of trench warfare near Suffolk, Va.
“The rebels were dug in and we had taken their earthworks,” he said. “We had just gotten down to the trench and raised our kepis. We finished saying ‘Hurrah! Hurrah!’ when I was hit with a .44-cal ball.” The marble-size projectile, evidently fired from the Confederate ranks, struck him in the back and passed though his shoulder, forcing a truce while a helicopter was flown to the battlefield to take him to a hospital.
The shot just missed a fellow trooper, Jon Hofmeister, a real-life chief petty officer in the Navy, recently back from Iraq. Mr. Long, who moved to Virginia after he retired, returned home from the hospital this week. He said he was bandaged but recovering well, with his doctor, he said, “amazed that I could have the strength and mobility in the wounded limb.” But the psychic wounds may take longer to heal.
“Nobody came forward, that’s what’s bothering me,” said John C. Jobe, 66, a retired construction supervisor originally from upstate New York and a sergeant in the mounted unit. Mr. Jobe said the ball, a modern reproduction, came from a pistol “and only three people, on the Confederate side, had pistols.” He said the guns produced “a terrible kick” so the shooter must have known he had fired. All of the Union soldiers’ guns, .54-caliber Sharps carbines, were inspected before the battle to make sure they were empty, as is the iron-clad rule at re-enactments, Mr. Jobe said.
“These things happen,” said Kay Jorgensen, editor of Civil War News, a Vermont monthly reporting historical happenings and preservation efforts. In 1998, a re-enactor was shot in the neck at a 135th anniversary event at Gettysburg (medical researchers used the opportunity to compare his treatment with that of veterans wounded in the original carnage). Another re-enactor was shot in the foot in August 2008, also at Gettysburg. No arrests have been made. “We’re still trying to locate certain individuals,” said Sheriff C. W. Phelps of Isle of Wight County.
The shooter may not have been one of the official re-enactors, he said, but possibly a “walk-on” more difficult to identify. The re-enactment was performed at the behest of filmmakers shooting a documentary of the battle. But the filmmakers have forced investigators to go to court to compel production of the footage, the sheriff said. According to a casting call sent out by e-mail in August, the film is being made by a company called Alderwerks and is directed by Matt Burchfield, who worked on the 2005 Terrence Malick feature, “The New World.” An e-mail message sent this week to the casting company drew no response.
Mr. Lord, who grew up in the Bronx and grew enamored of history at the Kingsbridge Historical Society, retired as a city police officer and moved first to Arizona in 1983 and later to Virginia, where the Seventh New York Volunteer Cavalry maintains historical roots. The original regiment departed New York for battle in 1861 and, after being federalized as the First Regiment Mounted Rifles, fought in many crucial engagements in Virginia under the new Union commander, Ulysses S. Grant, in 1864. The filming began last Saturday morning about 7; the Union re-enactors arrived about 9 a.m., and Mr. Lord was shot around 12:30 p.m. “They had the rebels on the run,” Mr. Jobe said. “We had just chased them out of the trench and they had run down the trench line. They were trying to push us out of the trenches.”
Then, he recalled: “Tom said, ‘Something hit me.’ There was blood coming out of his back. We got his jacket off. It looked like there was something protruding out of his chest. He was not bleeding all that bad. We called an ambulance.” Mr. Jobe accompanied Mr. Lord to the hospital while the filming went on without them. If the rebel who fired the bullet is ever caught, “You better believe I’m going to press charges,” Mr. Lord said. Some “yahoos,” he said, “are still fighting the war.”
Photos: Top---After Mr. Lord was shot, a truce was called while medical personnel attended to him. Mr. Lord was released from the hospital this week, but the police in Isle of Wright County, Va. still did not have a suspect (New York Times)
Bottom---Thomas Lord, 73, a retired New York police officer who portrays a Union cavalryman, was wounded during a re-enactment last month. (New York Times)
Text Source: New York Times, October 4, 2008.