File/Staff

Federal soldiers advance toward the Confederate fort past Confederate soldiers (foreground) during a 2007 reenactment of the Battle of Charleston at Legare Farms.

JOHNS ISLAND -- The Marines are coming. A Naval detachment of re-enacters in their distinctive uniforms will be part of the charge on Bloody Bridge for the first time, out there with hundreds of Confederate and Union infantry and 14 pieces of artillery.

Just like in the actual charge 147 years ago, it won't make much difference.

"We come out of the woodwork, run smack into Confederate forces and go, 'Hmm, we're not infantry. We're going to retreat,' " said Andrew Barrett of the Charleston Naval Detachment re-enacters. The detachment was a key piece to the battle; Marines and sailors rowed federal troops ashore in 20-foot longboats, 15 men to a boat.

They will be one of the new sights in the Battle of Charleston re-enactment this weekend at Legare Farms. The annual event re-creates the Civil War skirmish in 1864 when some 2,000 South Carolina militiamen withstood four times as many Union troops in the tidal swamps and farm fields on

Johns Island. It starts today.

The failed federal attack was called the Battle of Bloody Bridge or the Battle of Burden's Causeway. It was a critical element in a larger, coordinated attack on the city of Charleston itself. At the bridge, federal troops were lured into a deadly ambush. The defenders were from the families of Sea Island plantations who were evacuated as the federals moved in. According to legend, the Union wounded were bayoneted by old men and boys and thrown into mass graves.

This year, the re-enactment is being considered one of the kickoffs to the sesquicentennial commemoration of the war. It will be the largest re-enactment held at Legare Farms in the seven-year history, featuring nearly twice as many soldiers. Forces will engage in an unscripted "tactical battle" that will re-create the actual skirmishes Saturday and a scripted battle Sunday. The grounds will drum with artillery and gunfire.

The weekend also features living history camps of soldiers, sailors, surgeons, Gullah storytellers and crafts people, among others. "We've got living history taking place all day long," said Linda Berry, Legare Farms co-owner. The event is a fundraiser for the Legare Farms Education Foundation, which teaches the agricultural heritage of the region.

The 97th Regimental String Band, one of the nation's leading period musical groups, will perform and a period ball will be held, among other attractions. "We wanted it to be bigger and better," said Maj. Buddy Jarrells of the South Carolina 7th Unit, the host re-enactment group.

The re-enactment is held only a few miles from the actual battle site. Federals landed on Johns Island near Legareville, trying to outflank Confederate defenses on Morris Island and Folly Beach.

The newly formed Charleston Naval Detachment plans to make it bigger next year, Barrett said. The group is building two replica longboats, hoping to row down the Stono River and perform a landing at Hut Creek for the battle re-enactment.