In May 1950, Ernie Peterkin leading the Berwin Bluebellies (re-named the WBR in October of the same year), and Jack Rawls leading the 1st Virginia Greys (re-designated as the 1st Regiment Va Volunteers) competed in the first North-South skirmish. To meet the resulting interest and growing participation, the North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) was established in 1956. By 1959, 75 eight-man teams were competing in the National Musket Championships. Today, there are over 200 teams, with over 3,200 members from all parts of the United States. Twice a year, skirmishers converge on Ft. Shenandoah, the association’s national range, located on 437 acres; seven miles from Winchester, Va the location of three major Civil War engagements.
The name “Washington Blue Rifles” does not represent any Union military unit which served in the Civil War. In the early 1950’s participants of North-South shoots felt that it was pretentious and irreverent to use the regimental/unit designations of organizations that fought in the darkest chapter of our nation’s history. This attitude was soon reversed; however, the Washington Blue Rifles (affectionately called the “Blues”) retained their original team name in recognition of our unit’s overwhelming involvement in establishing the N-SSA & Fort Shenandoah.
The “Blues” are highly competitive as demonstrated from winning more Musket and Carbine National Championships than any other team in the N-SSA. To this day, the ”Blues” proudly hold several hard won National Skirmish records, most prominently: being the ONLY team to finish a musket match in under 300 seconds, and the fastest carbine match of 272 seconds! The “Blues” believe strongly in team work and practice, utilizing a skirmish-proven qualification system to determine team positions. The team also has some of the finest, record holding individual competitors in the entire N-SSA. These same members are more than willing to help ANY team mate with their marksmanship skills/equipment, so they too can compete at their absolute best!
Behind the firing line, many “Blues” serve, or have served as: National or Regional officers, chairs or members to various committees, and on the Board of Directors. Ft. Shenandoah’s “Rawls and Peterkin Range” was named in honor of the instrumental contributions both gentlemen made to our sport. “Blues” who have earned N-SSA’s highest service award, the “Award of Merit” include: Ernest Peterkin, Roger Cohen, Charles Hunter, Steve Light and, Davy Crockett.
Many members of the “Blues” work diligently to keep the team’s history alive and accurate through the continuous collection of photos, data and information from annual events, skirmish results, and enlistments of new members. We have a robust and user-friendly website – http:// www. washingtonbluerifles.com which archives all of the team’s many activities and achievements.
At Ft Shenandoah, “home” is the team’s well maintained campsite used throughout the year; not only for skirmishes, but during other weekends for practice/qualifications. The team is VERY active, attending all skirmishes held at Ft Shenandoah. After a long day on the range, members retire to the campsite to relax, cook out, socialize and even talk about skirmishing. Prominently featured at the site is “Felter Hall” where team dinners, card games, and meetings are held; it’s also here that many of the team’s vast collection of pictures, memorabilia, and trophies are stored.
The motto of the Washington Blue Rifles, “First in-Service” has always exemplified the performance of the team, both on the firing line and behind the scenes supporting the N-SSA and Ft. Shenandoah over the many years. Come and be a part of our long and storied history, and enjoy the fun and camaraderie that comes with being a member of the “Blues.”