GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — 240 years ago, a young boy met his end on a road near what is now Oak Ridge.
“It’s an interesting story,” said Jake Priddy, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Northwest Guilford Middle School. “I didn’t know that people in the army could be that young.”
Interesting, in part, because the young boy Jake and his fellow Boy Scouts from Troop 600 are learning about was 14 himself when he met a heroic but tragic end.
“He seems very brave,” said Josh Campbell, who is also 14 and is a freshman at Northwest Guilford High School. “Trustworthy, definitely loyal. He’s loyal to his country.”
They are participating in an event Scoutmaster Mike Matzinger runs every year for young men in his troop.
The boys do a silent walk to the historical marker by the side of NC Highway 150, just east of Oak Ridge, hear the story of Bugler Boy James Gillies and place flags at the monument as another bugler, in this case, McMichael High School senior Will Gunter plays Taps.
All the current-day scouts think Gillies would have made a fine member of their troop had it existed in February of 1781.
“I think he would’ve. I think he certainly fit the criteria for it,” said Stewart Chipman, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Brown Summit Middle School. “(What Gillies did) just shows that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
Fellow scout, Will Gunter, agrees that Gillies would have fit in well in their troop.
“The military structure and the Boy Scout structure, they’re very similar. The way they go about doing things, and the leadership, and the independence,” Will said.
Ethan Hartman, the scout who reads Gillies’ story, is impressed as well.
“I guess it was quite a life. He did more than a lot of people that age would have done and even a lot of people older, today,” Ethan said.
See the scouts’ march and the monuments to James Gillies in this edition of the Buckley Report.