- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

When 200 Civil War re-enactors fell with heat-related illnesses Saturday right in the middle of the Battle of First Manassas, organizers were forced to cancel the war on account of heat. It didn't change the outcome. Stonewall Jackson yesterday still led the Confederate troops to victory, but both armies felt a whole lot better when soldiers died mock deaths on the hot farmland outside Leesburg, Va., or, dripping with sweat in authentic wool uniforms, overran an enemy position.
The reason is as old as war better logistics, meaning better supply lines, lots of ice and a fleet of air-conditioned school buses.
Herbert Jacks from Silsbee, Texas, fought yesterday with the 7th Louisiana. He said marching and drilling in Texas prepared him for the event, so he didn't collapse from heat.
"It brings to light what our relatives went through when they did this. They didn't have people handing them ice," he said.
Nor did they have a firetruck that sprayed a light mist on the soldiers. But organizers of the re-enactment, which drew about 15,000 people to the site some 20 miles north of the historic battleground in Manassas, did not want a repeat of Saturday's misery. Footpaths jammed with soldiers at the height of the battle made it difficult for the injured to reach the main medical station, and ice was scarce. Two pickup trucks had to be dispatched to local grocery stores for more.
Yesterday, a separate footpath was created, mobile health stations were set up along the battle lines, and troops were specially designated to keep an eye on their comrades.
"We made a couple changes that helped us," said event coordinator Don Warlick. "We kind of got taken out of our plans [Saturday]." Mr. Warlick said organizers may have been surprised by how hot it can get in rural Virginia in August, especially after a week of unseasonably cool weather.
Saturday was the warmest day. Temperatures reached into the 90s. It wasn't quite so warm yesterday, but Mr. Warlick said participants went through about three times as much water as they did at most re-enactments.
"A good re-enactor that knows what he's in for is just like a good soldier in 1861 he prepares his body for the occasion," he said.
But even the most prepared soldier is not immune from August temperatures. Even with the modern-day amenities that were added yesterday, about 70 re-enactors succumbed to the heat, fewer casualties than Saturday but still more than the 52 afflicted during a program including artillery and cavalry competitions on Friday.
"The biggest difference is people are being a little more proactive," said Loudon County Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Mary Maguire. "What we're finding as we're driving up and down the lines is the participants are keeping an eye on each other."
About 150 fire and rescue personnel from Loudon County, along with six ambulances, were on hand. Three more were waiting off site. Loudon County rescue workers were assisted by teams from Fairfax County and Frederick County, Md., as well as the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
"The biggest problem we're working up against is these participants are in wool clothing," Ms. Maguire said. She said most patients were treated and released stripped down and covered in ice packs and wet towels.
Bill Cutler, 54, a sergeant with the 25th Massachusetts, has participated in re-enactments about twice a month for the past six years. He said his company lost five participants to heat on Saturday.
"They had more people falling than they had people to take care of them," he said. Mr. Cutler said what complicates matters is that participants can ignore safety measures in the battle to be authentic. "Sometimes on our own we do that because we want to be as realistic as possible."
John Cannon, 21, from Columbia Station, Ohio, wore an authentic Union army uniform made of 100 percent wool. His face dripping, he described how it was possible to stay cool and historically accurate.
"Instead of having water in bottles, we carry it around in canteens," he said. Then he lifted his hat to show another secret to beating the heat: a few dozen rapidly melting ice cubes.

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