Zachery Bleacher of Springettsbury Township, a re-enactor with the Union’s 45th Pennsylvania Regiment Company K, demonstrates how a Civil War-era
Zachery Bleacher of Springettsbury Township, a re-enactor with the Union's 45th Pennsylvania Regiment Company K, demonstrates how a Civil War-era canteen works during a recent encampment at Brown's Orchards. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

Thompson Dasher isn't the stereotypical Civil War re-enactor.

At 13, he is one of a few teens who have taken up the hobby, a choice that surprises even him.

"I never saw myself getting interested in re-enacting," the Seven Valleys teen said.

All that changed about two years ago when Thompson and his family came across the 87th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Company C, a group of local re-enactors, at an event at Hanover Junction.

With an interest in the Civil War and history, Thompson contacted the regiment and eventually joined up.

"He was just taken by the 87th," said his mother, Cathy Ensor. "We were gung-ho (when Thompson joined)."

The original 87th was organized in York County in 1861 a few months after the start of the war.

Thompson Dasher, a 13-year-old re-enactor from Seven Valleys, plays the fife.
Thompson Dasher, a 13-year-old re-enactor from Seven Valleys, plays the fife. (Submitted photo)

Enlisting: Thompson isn't the only member of his family to join the regiment.

His father, Ty Dasher, joined a few months later, and then Ensor joined as a vivandiere, a woman who traveled with

soldiers.

Now the family attends re-enactments and living history events together. That includes the family camping out in tents, something Ensor said her husband and son jokingly say is something they thought she wouldn't be keen on doing.

"You're not camping. You're Civil War camping. It's down-and-dirty camping," she said.

Thompson said he's excited to have the opportunity to take part in the momentous event.

"I just got into it at the right time," he said. "It's kind of an honor."

Busy summer: About 30 people are members of the regiment and nearly 20 will take part in the re-enactment in Gettysburg, said James Van Laeys, captain of the 87th Company C.

The regiment took part in the re-enactment of the raid on Hanover Junction on Saturday and will be encamped in Wrightsville Friday through Sunday for the bridge burning event.

Like all recruits, Van Laeys started out as a private in the regiment when he joined in 1996.

At the time, his wife was working at the York County Bar Association. Local attorney George Kain III asked her if she knew anyone interested in becoming a re-enactor and she told her husband about it. Van Laeys joked that his wife might now regret bringing it up to him.

Zachery Bleacher, a first sergeant with the 45th Pennsylvania Regiment Company K, got into re-enacting about 10 years ago after a teacher talked him into taking up the hobby.

"And the rest is history," said the Springettsbury Township man.

Promotion: As in a real military unit, re-enactors start out as grunts when they join a regiment and can be promoted to an officer position, Van Laeys said.

"We work our way up," Van Laeys said. "I started as a private."

He was promoted to corporal and further through the ranks and is now captain of Company C.

Also like the military, re-enactors hold drills to freshen up marching and formations. For example, the 87th holds drills in March to prepare for the St. Patrick's Day parade in York City, Van Laeys said.

One of the duties of a re-enactor is to educate the public about what life was like during the Civil War.

In the field: When he's performing living history exhibits, Thompson said, members of the public have posed some strange questions, such as, "Is that a real fire?"

Thompson also took up the fife and now plays with a fife and drum corps when he's not soldiering.

But re-enactors also pay tribute to the soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who fought in the war.

"It gives you a sense of honor that you're portraying them. You feel like you're really there," Van Laeys said. "You just really get goose bumps."

Though Thompson and his parents are fairly new to re-enacting, they all said they are hooked on it and will continue doing it well into the future.

"I don't see us giving this up anytime soon," Thompson said. "If anything this hobby is going to expand."

-- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.