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York County Civil War reenactors’ mascot bear

Private Farbie Bear, 87th PA (submitted)

The 87th Pennsylvania was the largest regiment raised in the Civil War in York County. Today, an active group of reenactors and living historians keep alive the memory of the men of the 87th by portraying them in parades, living history events, encampments, and battle reenactments.

I have periodically interviewed some of their members. Here’s a chat with perhaps the most unusual member of the 87th!

Q – Hello Private Bear. When you were a cub, do you ever play army or dress up in any way as a soldier, cowboy, Indian, pirate, or some other historical character? Please give any examples. 

When I was a growing up as a cub, I never had toy guns. I had a collection of sticks that I used, and now I have a very fine musket.

Q – What was your favorite military toy as a kid? Please describe it and how you enjoyed it. 

My stick and I use to pretend that it was a musket or a sword. And I would battle all sorts of foes with this stick, be it dragons, outlaws, pirates, or whatever imaginary evil foe I would come up with.

Q -What or who do you now portray? What is your personal connection to that organization or person? 

I portray a soldier in the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Q – In your opinion, are you more of a reenactor (sham battles) or a living historian, or both? Which do you prefer?

I like to consider myself as a living historian. I prefer the living history encampments and small skirmish battles. A little bear like myself can get lost in all the confusion. So I prefer the smaller events.

Q – How did you get started in the hobby? 

I was taken off the shelf at the Regimental Quartermaster store in Gettysburg and adopted, and from there I was made a member of the 87th. It is so much fun, seeing all the people and sharing my experiences with them. So far, I have been to Gettysburg, Monocacy, Cedar Creek and Lookout Mountain battlefields.

Q – How much does it cost to be a reenactor or living historian? Please give some examples of the typical costs for various pieces of equipment, uniform parts, civilian attire, etc.

I don’t have too much personal equipment, and all of my equipment was a gift, so I have no idea what it cost. I do have a musket, tent, bed roll, lantern, pocket knife, and a nice rocking chair. It is hard finding equipment for a bear my size.

Q – What is your most memorable event in which you participated, and why?

We were doing a living history on the battlefield at Monocacy Junction and the captain was getting a bit over taken by the heat, so when he went to lay down in a tent, I made it my duty to stand guard.  That is what we do, protect everyone, so they can sleep safe and sound.

Q – Have you ever stopped at a gas station, grocery store, etc. while in full attire? What was the reaction of onlookers? 

I never had any reaction from the onlookers. I stay in the vehicle when we are on the road until we get to our destination.

Q – What is the strangest or funniest thing that you remember from one of your events? 

I was away from my tent, doing guard duty, and I heard a little girl say, “Oh look, is that tent for fairies?”  Then some said, “No, that is Farbie’s tent.” Imagine thinking that I was a fairy!

Q – A lot of people talk about the friendships and sense of community that you get while participating in living history events or reenactments. Please give some personal examples of how the hobby has impacted you.

All the wonderful people I have met. They make me feel welcomed to the group, and we all contribute to make this group great.

Q – What advice would you give a newcomer to the hobby?

Be prepared for a great time; it is lots of fun.  And I would like to thank you, Mr. Mingus, for taking the time to interview us and share with the world the history of York during the American Civil War.

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