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Fall & Winter 1996
Fall & Winter 1996

Civil War Re-Enactment

- Eyewitness report

Passengers boarded The Highlander at the Youngwood Depot on Saturday, September 7th (1996), even though intelligence had warned them that the Rebels might have arrived from the South during the night. Confidently they gathered at the Depot and boarded the train, expecting an enjoyable trip down the line into Scottdale. Little did they realize the experience that awaited them.

Union Army #1 followed them aboard in strict military fashion to the tune of the field music accompanying the troops. Covertly, Union Army #2 were hiding in the boxcar behind the coaches with suitable artillery. The Union Army knew the Rebels were planning to ambush The Highlander; and their job was to protect the unsuspecting passengers and their children.

To set the riders at ease, as the train departed, the military band struck up "Rally 'Round the Flag", the soldiers encouraged the passengers to sing along with them and urged them to consider joining the Army. The Highlander muscled its way onward toward the New Stanton Park.

The fun came to a sudden stop when out of the blue came artillery fire signalling a Rebel attack. To the surprise of the Rebs, artillery fire from the boxcar on the train forced them back into the bushes. However, Rebel Cavalry joined the infantry to attack the train. Amid passenger screams, the Union Army #1 was overwhelmed and the boys in blue retreated into the New Stanton Park to take up defensive position.

Confederate forces took over control of the train, and the Rebs turned their attention to the huddled passengers. The Rebels tried to calm them but they considered themselves hostages. They were required to make pledges to the Confederacy and sing "southern" patriotic songs with the soldiers. The Highlander approached the distillery at Ruffsdale.

Word came back through the coaches that a tree had fallen across the track. The train stopped. Unnoticed were the hidden Union Army #2 who slipped out of the boxcar and attacked the Rebels. They were taken unawares totally and placed in the boxcar under guard of the artillery brigade.

Passengers cheered the rapid turn of events and the train rolled on again under command of the Union Army #2. The passengers and a parson on board assisted the wounded and several apparently homesick soldiers. Others exchanged stories about their military service with the passengers and the children were enthralled by the activity which they least expected.

In about 30 minutes The Highlander conductor announced that they were entering the Scottdale outskirts. There was a call for music, and the band played the "Battle Hymn Of The Republic," with soldiers and passengers singing at the top of their lungs. The artillery opened fire to announce the train's arrival.

When the train arrived at Scottdale platform, soldiers marched off, did some drilling, fired their weapons in tandem, and generally entertained the crowd awaiting the train. The green engine moved off to take on water and prepared to return to the Youngwood Depot. Passengers boarded the train as the soldiers followed. The train rolls off to the music of "Rally 'Round the Flag" and every voice on the train sang the words with glee.

The soldiers conducted a search of the passengers for suspected spies, continued enlistment efforts. During the half hour out of Scottdale, several young men enlisted in the Union Army. As the train came again to the Distillery, once again the train stopped due to the report that the boxcar had "derailed." Some of the stronger soldiers were pressed into service to attend to the situation.

As they approached the derailment, they were ambushed by Rebel prisoners who had overcome their guards. The Union Army #2 men were put into the boxcar. The Rebels had regained control for the next half hour. As they neared the New Stanton Park, cannon fire rent the air, forcing the train to stop and the Union Army #1 came to the rescue.

The Rebels escaped into the Park. The train resumes its trip; artillery fires, passengers cheer and the band plays "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Everyone joins the chorus while the Commander thanked the passengers and soldiers for their assistance during the raids.

With the Youngwood Depot in sight, the Commander called for music; cannon from then boxcar blazed away to signal the safe return of The Highlander. The Army troops led the singing of the "Battle Hymn" while crowds waved and cheered for the safe arrival of their relatives and friends.

The 3:30 p.m. excursion was boarded by unsuspecting passengers southbound although rumors had it that Rebels from below the Mason & Dixon had infiltrated the Southwest Branch. Union Army #1 followed them aboard in strict military fashion to the music of the military band accompanying them.

- Al Hopfer, War Correspondant
Youngwood Railroad Depot

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