The grim-faced men in butternut and gray rode through Glyndon, horse harness and saber scabbards jingling, bent on a mission of destruction. Their target: the Yankee railroad bridge at Magnolia Station.

"We're coming to liberate you from the northern despot's heel," Captain Dorsey, otherwise known as Dale McCabe of Bel Air, shouted to Judy Beaver, who was planting begonias along the front walk of her Victorian-style Butler Road home.

"Thank you," was all the startled woman could reply as the five-horse cavalcade -- escorted by three police cars with lights flashing -- passed by.

"I didn't know what it was but it was neat," Ms. Beaver said after learning that the five horsemen represented a 135-man Confederate raiding party led by Maj. Harry W. Gilmor, a Baltimore County aristocrat, to burn railroad bridges across the Gunpowder River.

Magnolia Station, where the five-day re-enactment will reach its climax Saturday and Sunday with skirmishes between Union infantry and the raiders, disappeared years ago and is now part of Edgewood Arsenal.

The pretend fighting will take place about 200 yards from the original location, where Major Gilmor's men captured a Yankee general and burned the bridge.

Motorists gaped as the authentically uniformed troop -- its bright Stars and Bars guidon fluttering on its staff -- clattered along the narrow country roads, past horse paddocks and fields of soybean and corn.

They rode on the grassy verge whenever possible while the police escort ensured that traffic gave the horses a wide berth.

Plans for the re-enactment of Major Gilmor's raid July 10-13, 1864, were hatched last year by two Civil War re-enactors: Mr. McCabe, who has a Civil War shop in Bel Air and heads the 1st Maryland Cavalry, C.S.A., and Thomas R. Foster, retired deputy Baltimore school superintendent, who also lives in Bel Air and leads the Maryland Signal Detachment, C.S.A.

Yesterday, Dr. Foster was costumed as Baltimore Police Marshal George P. Kane, recently freed from prison in Boston along with other city and state officials who might have voted Maryland's secession from the Union. He saw the raiders off on their 44-mile ride from the Maryland Military Academy, formerly the Montrose school, on the Hanover Pike, wishing them Godspeed and a quick victory.

They headed toward the first night's encampment at historic Hayfields, the former John Merryman estate.

Dr. Foster, who has charge of arranging the infantry camp and battle at Magnolia Station, said the event took months to schedule because re-enactment units have commitments all over the country "so we had to fit it into their schedules."

Mr. McCabe said his group participates in many cavalry re-enactments but that he wanted particularly to do Major Gilmor's adventure.

"I've always been fascinated with cavalry raids, and Gilmor's raid really intrigued me, the plan to isolate Baltimore and Washington, threaten Washington and then attack Point Lookout to free the Confederate prisoners," he said.

The troop's first halt was at Louis Berman's home on Worthington Road, where he opened the gate to his paddock to allow the raider's sweating horses to drink from the stream that ripples through his field, while the men gurgled from their felt-covered or wooden canteens.

"The Confederate governor and President Jefferson Davis thank you, sir," Captain Dorsey/McCabe declared as he prepared to remount.

"You're very welcome," their host replied as the riders clattered off, armed with brass-hilted sabers, razor-sharp Bowie knives, heavy dragoon pistols and even an old double-barreled shotgun.

The ride was definitely through horse-country. Four gray horses galloped from the far reaches of one Worthington Avenue field to stretch their heads across the fence and greet the equine re-enactors.

As the troop turned from Worthington Avenue onto Tufton Avenue, Dana Ferguson's mare got skittish and spun onto the pavement,apparently stressed by the steady stream of traffic.

John Moss, a gray-uniformed private with a natty straw hat, immediately shifted into his persona as Dr. John Moss, a Coatesville, Pa., veterinarian, to administer a tranquilizer injection. The mare was fed pieces from a salt block as Mr. Ferguson, from Dundalk, led her a distance from the group to calm her.

"This is the first time I've ever done anything like this [re-enactment]. I'm a Quaker; I've never fired a gun," Dr. Moss said.

Noting that several of his ancestors fought for the South, Dr. Moss said he saw a notice about the re-enactment in a saddle shop and decided to enlist. He said he can combine personal and professional interest in the study of Civil War veterinary medicine, about which he said little is known.

Jocelyn McCausland, who lives opposite Sagamore Farm on Worthington Avenue, arrived in a station wagon with her three young children.

"I kept hearing voices. I thought it was a wagon train -- then I saw them and decided we'd better go."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad