Ever since he first began participating in Civil War re-enactments 56 years ago, Ben Rogers has been in love with the adrenaline rush the hobby provides.
He loves the thrill of being surrounded by musket fire and the clashes punctuated by cannon fire, but he says the "living history" recreations became even more exciting for him in 2015, when his 7-year-old grandson Liam Rogers began accompanying him on the battlefield as a drummer boy.
Over the last three years, Liam, now 11, has participated in more than 30 events throughout the Southeast with the 6th Kentucky Company A and the 37th Tennessee Company Aytch, which is based in Chickamauga. This July, he even got a chance to travel to Pennsylvania to take part in the 155th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.
Despite being younger than many other drummer boys, who Ben said typically range in age from 8-16, Liam has dutifully kept pace with the men in his unit, performing drum rolls and calls to signal attack and retreat as they march anywhere from a few yards to 10 miles.
When the re-enactors head out for a weekend, they may also be at the mercy of the elements for up to 48 hours, yet Liam keeps up with the troops without a complaint, said Rogers.
"It is a big commitment for a boy to give up playing with friends, video games and sleeping in on weekends to camp in rugged conditions, march for miles in wool uniforms and deal with varying weather, mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks," said Liam's grandmother, Carol Rogers.
His resilience and service has earned him a certificate from the National Park Service's Volunteer-in-Parks Program every year since 2015. The certificates are awarded to those who have surpassed 300 volunteer hours during re-enactments coordinated by the federal agency.
"I feel like I would be missing out if I wasn't doing this right now because none of this would have ever happened," Liam said, referencing the awards and his own experiences on the battlefield.
Aside from learning how to strike a fire with flint and steel, prepare a meal over an open fire and other crucial survival skills, Liam said he really enjoys participating in re-enactments because they give him they ability to get spectators excited about history.
"[It] gives kids and adults the opportunity to learn, and the fact that they get to see it happen before their own eyes really helps with the learning," he said.
The hobby also gives the boy a chance to pay homage to every soldier who risked his life during the war, whether Union or Confederate.
"Liam has both the blue uniform and a gray uniform," Ben Rogers said. "And it doesn't make any difference which uniform he's wearing, he's re-enacting and commemorating those men who wore those uniforms at that time in our history."
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