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Pridgeon's Shenandoah Legion (formerly the The Fifth Battalion)

The Early Days

Founded in the early 1990's The Fifth Battalion was the first authentic campaigner battalion formed in the East. It was comprised of a number of reenacting veterans and newcomers looking for a more fulfilling experience and convinced there just had to be a more authentic way of doing things. Early principles included the idea that one uniform impression did not work for portraying the entire war, and that we should have an appearance that "we could live off our impression" when passing the spectators. We also believed that the drill manual was made equally for movement from the "left face" as well as the right. If this was not bad enough we flabbergasted our contemporaries with our insistence on sleeping on the ground, and our constant requests to build breastworks and in-trench, when the event timeline called for it. While all this seems very elementary by today's campaigners', in those days it made us outcasts.

A lot has changed since those early years. Looking back at original pictures there is plenty to be seen in our impressions that might not be right by today's standards. But one constant in our history has been a burning desire to improve. The battalion has always been blessed by analytical minds and members such as Vince Petty, Bob Denton, Chris Graham, and John Pagano who did constant research and guided us down the path of increased authenticity. The Fifth has never felt it has arrived with its impression or that it is the "finished product" (as if such a thing exists). We are a work in progress and are proud of our constant effort seeking to better our impressions and mindset.

Originally in the ANV, we benefited in the early years from the support of its commander Don Patterson. With Don's death in 1995 we lost our mentor within that organization, and with it the only person who truly sought to understood our developing vision for the future. In 1996 the Fifth became an independent battalion.

Preservation

A key rallying point for members of The Fifth Battalion has been battlefield preservation. Beginning in 1993 we played a key role in helping to sponsor a series of six preservation marches/events that raised funds to benefit the Association For the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS). Many of these events were helped with matching grants sought out by APCWS, and our efforts on behalf of preservation netted over $400,000 during the decade. These funds help support down payments on such properties as 716 acres at Malvern Hill/Glendale, 222 acres at Third Winchester, and 1,564 acres at Brandy Station. In each case these properties were gravely threatened by development.

Events

In 1996 the Fifth made a critical decision. We believed that in order for the authentic campaigner community to continue to grow, and for it to someday stand on its own, it needed to develop its own "circuit of events" and not rely on mainstream events for our "magic moments". We lacked a fancy acronym, but had vision, and began it put it into motion. The results have been events such as McDowell (97', 99' 2001), Third Winchester (99'), and Sailor's Creek (2000). The idea was to draw together those with the best impressions and mindset in the East, and mass them at events on original ground. This massing of resources would then give us a glimpse of what the future of reenacting could be. The knowledge gained thru these successful efforts now serve as the foundation for McDowell 2003. We are gratified that others have adopted our strategy. Our hats are off to others whom have also assumed the burdensome task of sponsoring events, and with each passing event feel the future of the authentic campaigner movement is being secured.

Our Component Parts

The Fifth Battalion is comprised of units, messes, and in some cases even individuals. The mainstay of the Fifth has always been, and will continue to be a Confederate military impression. The battalion has many members in their teens and 20s', giving us one of the best age demographics of any battalion in the East. We are proud of the leadership role that many of these young men play in the battalion and they are a constant source for new ideas and enthusiasm.

Members are encouraged to begin by building a base mid-war impression, and to branch off to early and late war from there. Many members also have a Federal impression. We are a strong advocate of Gilham's Manual For Volunteers & Militia. The membership is capable of producing some fabulous first-person whether in camp, in the field, or on the march. It is amazing how anxiety levels can build-up with anticipation just prior to a fight with good first-person. Our members with a flair for this have aided in creating many a "magic moment" for the battalion as a whole.

Since 2003, the battalion has access to a full scale artillery piece (Cutshaw's) and includes artillery scenarios at some of the living histories/events that we attend. We will be working within the campaigner community to broaden the role that progressive artillery can play, and seek new meaningful scenarios that will increase interaction between the infantry and the artillery.

The Fifth is commanded by Dave Pridgeon. He has a long record of contributions to the reenacting community going all the way back to being a board member of the American Civil War Commerative Committee, the non-profit group that planned and sponsored many of the key 125th anniversary events. Dave helped put on such memorable events such as Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Wilderness/Spottsylvania, and Atlanta that were the high points of the 125th cycle. Dave is well known for his efforts for historical preservation. He began the reenactor boycott of the movie "Gettysburg", over the issue of non-compensation for reenactors. Because of boycott's success the production company agreed to a $100,000 donation for preservation, a lot of this money eventually being used to bury the power lines along the Emmittsburg Pike at Gettysburg. In recent years he has made many contributions in helping to develop, bring forward, and unite the various elements of campaigner/hardcore community.

The Future

While The Fifth works in the present, we are always mindful of the future. All too soon the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War will be upon us in 2011. Planning for these events will probably start at the latest 7 seasons from now. While the state of mainstream reenacting may change and improve the campaign movement cannot count on it. A weighty responsibility is on our shoulders with the fact that we cannot rely on the mainstream to provide our memberships with their "magic moments" during that most important commemoration. Sponsoring our own circuit of events is our insurance policy. The campaign movement must find itself collectively in a position to sponsor events in the several thousand man range by the 150th cycle. McDowell 2001 had eight hundred participants and the 2003 event may have upwards of one thousand, thus placing it in the medium size event range, "a first for a campaigner event". We in the Fifth Battalion are proud of our efforts in helping the campaigner community achieve this new plateau. We look forward to playing a meaningful role in positioning our movement to be capable of providing meaningful and memorable experiences to all our memberships for the 150th anniversary commemorations.

For Further Information

If you are interested in information on joining the Fifth Battalion or want to open a dialogue with us about working together in the future, contact any of our member units. Some links to websites are included here. You can also contact us by e-mailing Dave Pridgeon at DPridg@aol.com


 Reenactor Information | Event Regulations | Federal Reenactor Info | Confederate Reenactor InfoCivilian Information
Clothing Guidelines | Event Schedule | DirectionsHistory & LinksPast Event Photos Registration Form HTML
Registration Form PDF |Where Your Money Goes: Preservation | Spectator Information | HOME

Website artwork based on Bradley Schmehl's painting, "Reconnaissance at McDowell, with the kind permission of the artist.