MANASSAS, Va. - It wasn't quite as historic as Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's stand atop Henry Hill in the first Battle of Bull Run, but it was life-changing nevertheless for Youngstown's Jeff Wormley and his son, Christian.
"We wanted something to do on a Saturday afternoon, and I saw an ad about being a (Civil War) reenactor in Lisbon," the Youngstown State University computer network administrator said of the day 13 years ago that set him on a course to the spectacular 150th anniversary reenactment July 23-24 of the Civil War's first major battle at the key railroad junction of Manassas, Va.
Wormley, 47, and his son, 21, were among more than 6,500 reenactors who sweltered in mid-19th century ''jean wool'' - wool and cotton blend - clothing on some of the hottest days of the year to participate in America's worst trauma.
Civil War reenactors from around the country came together last month to re-fight the Battle of Bull
While not exactly replicating the terror and chaos of the first clash, reenactors and more than 25,000 spectators battled brutal heat from a unusual ''heat dome'' that settled over the eastern U.S. during the week. Organizers brought in tanker trucks of water, thousands of bags of ice and set up misting stations to prevent heat casualties.
The 105-degree heat on July 23 - it ''cooled off'' into the 90s on July 24 - was similar to July 21, 1861, the day when 35,000 Union troops collided with about 32,000 Confederate soldiers in the first of many bloody battles over the next four years.
''None of our guys had any problem with the heat, but it gave our soldiers and the spectators some appreciation for what it was like,'' Wormley said.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Larry Ringler
Confederate troops fire at almost point-blank range on Federal soldiers after forcing the Yankees to retreat during the reenactment of the first Battle of Bull Run.
Wormley and his son, along with Steve Ernst from Struthers and other "Northerners'' fought with Company G - the same company out of Wheeling, W.Va., that was part of the famed ''Stonewall Brigade.''
Wormley recalled facing a choice at the Lisbon reenactment 13 years ago: North or South? Living in Youngstown would seem to steer him to the Union side, but when he looked at the soldiers, "They didn't seem to be having much fun, so we went South. The people treated you like family."
It turned out there was a familial element to his decision. Company G fought with the 27th Virginia Infantry regiment, which was part of the Stonewall Brigade during the war. Wheeling was part of Virginia that split from seceding Virginia in 1863 after years of feeling neglected by state leaders.
After making his decision, Wormley began studying his family's genealogy and discovered one of his ancestors actually fought with G Company in the 27th Virginia Infantry.
"We're all pretty honored" to be part of the battle, said Wormley, who served as company commander for the reenactment, telling soldiers when to fire, turn and drink water.
Organizers took pains during the roughly three-hour battle to replicate actual events. After drills Friday evening, participants had to move all vehicles, including horse trailers, from the encampments to the 1,000-acre parking lot across Pageland Road, leaving acres of tents, campfires and horses.
Festive white tents were lined on one side of the battlefield to replicate the picnic atmosphere of elite gentlemen and ladies who traveled 26 miles from Washington to watch the confident but raw Union army crush the equally raw rebels.
In the real battle, the Yankees at first appeared ready to do exactly that. The opening Sunday attack about 10 a.m. saw them send the Rebels fleeing from Matthews Hill, south across the Warrenton Turnpike, the east-west route running to Washington now known as U.S. 29, or Lee Highway.
The Southerners retreated to the top of Henry Hill, where the rough two-story house occupied by bedridden 85-year-old widow Judith Carter Henry served as a landmark - and magnet for warring troops. Henry would become the only civilian casualty when union artillerymen, thinking she had been taken from the house, blasted the structure from less than 100 yards away to silence Confederate snipers.
Thinking they'd won the battle, Union commanders paused for nearly two hours in what now is seen as a critical delay. Their soldiers wandered through the fallen enemy, giving a drink to the wounded and taking war souvenirs from the dead.
The pause allowed Jackson to organize his brigade into the stone wall for which it would become renowned. Jackson's stand broke the Union attack, preventing the easy victory so many Union supporters expected.
Bull Run resulted in about 5,000 casualties, but only about 880 died because the raw recruits hadn't yet developed into killing machines - the adrenalin rush of their first battle prompted many to shoot wildly into the air or into the ground.
They honed their aim over the next four years, littering battlefields at Shiloh, Tenn.; Antietam, Va.; and Gettysburg, Pa., with some 625,000 dead and 412,000 wounded soldiers before the South surrendered on April 9, 1865, nearly four years to the day the war started.