OTTUMWA — David Gordy looks right at you when he talks about Gettysburg, but it's easy to believe that he's seeing the battlefield.
His normally rapid speech slows a bit as he describes parts of the battlefield most tourists never wander through. He rode the battlefield last week, a rider in Confederate gray behind what were Union lines 150 years ago.
“It's untouched,” he said. “When you look at the back side of those trails you see what they saw.”
Gordy, an Ottumwan, is a re-enactor who spent the battle's anniversary at Gettysburg as part of the commemorations. He's a cavalryman whose horse, “Duke,” took to the noise and confusion of re-enactments as readily as his rider.
Gordy isn't your typical re-enactor in some ways. He has been in a much more modern war zone. Two, in fact. Afghanistan and Iraq. He had done re-enactments before his service, but an advisor he met with as he left Afghanistan suggested returning to it.
The service in Afghanistan informed his role as a re-enactor with weaponry, too. He came across old British musketoons while there. The 1853 Enfields were extraordinarily well preserved, so some came back with him.
Gordy didn't start as a mounted cavalryman. His first re-enactments were as dismounted cavalry. After that came a stint as an infantryman. Different roles saw the war in different ways, and Gordy has seen a lot. He's intense. His enthusiasm comes through loud and clear.
At one point in an interview he called up a photo on a laptop and proudly pointed out his riding tack is authentic, right down to the iron pieces he made using a blacksmith's forge.
“I actually have a small shop at the house,” he said.
Turn Gordy loose to talk about re-enactments and the conversation will wander. You meet “Seamus,” a re-enactor Gordy's unit ran into at Shiloh. Seamus spoke with an Irish brogue and sang old folk songs in what Gordy described as a beautiful voice.