Richard H. Keller
BIOGRAPHY

Email Richard: info@greatwar.com
Phone: 717-264-6834

I have always been interested in history. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was a a frontier town during both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. During the Civil War we were raided twice by the rebels, Lee & Hill met on the square of our town and decided to go to Gettysburg, and then we had the distinction of being the only northern town he Confederates during the war. It was only natural that I became interested in history.

As a teenager I basically grew up on the Gettysburg battlefield. I used to hitchhike over in the morning and do the same to get back without anyone knowing it. That was in the day where your parents only wanted you to be home by 1730 for supper! It was a different time and a great one to grow up in.

After the battle of Gettysburg, the rebels retreated along a road about 10 miles East of our town. In the early to mid-1960’s I spent my time collecting “stuff” from the battle and the retreat and began to acquire quite a collection, specializing in Sharp’s rifles and carbines, buying my first musket in 1963 at age 16.

The Vietnam War interrupted my collecting. After doing two tours, 1966-67 and 1969-70, in the Air Force in Vietnam, I was back into it big time. I decided wisely to enlist in the branch in which my two brothers were already serving before the draft got me. It was a wise choice – I got my draft notice while at basic training and the Air Force gave me some great training that served me well in later in life.

When I got back to the states, I again took up Civil War collecting in a serious way and started reenacting with “Sherman’s Bummers” and the “Irish Brigade”, both noted for being very authentic units. I learned the drill manual by heart and eventually became the Sergeant of the unit. The drill paid off as we were usually sent out as skirmishers for battles since we knew the skirmish drill by the book. It was better than standing in a battle
formation. All the friendships made during those early years were to carry over into a new hobby on the horizon. In those days almost every reenactor was both an historian and collector. We did not just wear the uniform but lived and studied the time period. There were also, some of us who were venturing into the 1914-1918 time period. Mine started when I bought an 1897 trench shotgun while in a house looking at Civil War stuff.

My interest in WWI began in the mid 1970’s. I started to take care of the salute rifles (M1917) at the local American Legion Post used during funerals and parades. Their old building had the 4th floor condemned where they had stored a lot of Civil War and WWI artifacts. They decided to keep any guns and swords but were going to “burn or throw out” the rest – including a whole pile of WWI uniforms and other material they simply “had nowhere to store”. I talked them into sending it all off to a local auction rather than simply dispose of it – after all, it was history!

I bought all of the uniforms at the auction as well as some Civil War items they did not want (including a Union Civil War officer frock coat). As I was going through the uniforms, I found names in some and decided to track them down. Thus, began my serious interest in WWI. I managed to find quite a few WWI vets still alive and met them. A few people may remember the WWI vet I brought to the Shimpstown site.

It was during this time I had begun to develop a crazy idea to start the WWI battles to perhaps experience some of what they endured. In short, I was beginning to formulate an idea to start a new hobby – WWI reenacting. The next step was to figure out how to do it, which was not long in coming.