Fort Sumter under the guns
Brad Nettles // The Post and Courier
Vernon Terry has brought a restored Civil War Parrot rifle to add to the cannons to be used in the re-enactment of the shelling of Fort Sumter on Tuesday.
MOUNT PLEASANT -- Punishing the Union forces in Charleston Harbor will be no problem for Vernon Terry of Rock Hill, thanks to his original Civil War cannon on loan from the Chester Historical Society.
"If you give me four or five rounds, I could easily hit that flagpole," he said, referring to Fort Sumter, more than a mile away.
Of course, he won't be lobbing 10-pound conical shells at the fort from his Parrot rifle perched at the Patriots Point Confederate encampment. But it will sound like it as an array of historic military weapons come to life in Mount Pleasant and on James and Sullivan's islands.
An initial cannon barrage at 7 a.m. Tuesday will be followed by one or two cannon volleys per hour until 7:45 p.m., when continuous firing will happen until 8:15 p.m., the town of Mount Pleasant said.
"It will be dang loud, I guarantee it," Terry said. "Daytona, Fla., will hear me when I start shooting."
The Confederates have 350 pounds of gunpowder and 26 pieces of artillery for their display of might to mark the 150th anniversary of the shelling that began the war.
Terry, a re-enactor holding the rank of lieutenant colonel, is in charge of about 400 Confederates camped here this weekend. He is driven by a desire to keep war history alive.
"Once you start doing this, you can't stop," he said. "It gets in your blood."
His adversary is Mark Silas Tackitt of Seattle, who will re-enact the role of Union Maj. Robert Anderson, the commander at Fort Sumter. Tackitt will lead a contingent of 50 U.S. soldiers stationed there. He was a history major in college but can't easily explain his passion for Civil War re-enactment.
"It's like somebody hit me over the head and made me stupid," Tackitt said. "I don't know why, but it just draws me and pulls me in."
On Friday, the Confederates at Patriots Point had cots in tents, whiskey and steak. In contrast, the Union soldiers said they would sleep on hard concrete at the fort where they would eat salt pork, rice, corn meal and molasses and drink black coffee.
Union non-commissioned officer Dale Brennan of Maryland is a high school history teacher. He looked forward to the experience of living like the soldiers did at Fort Sumter "What better way to learn about the war?" he said.
The day's generally festive atmosphere was tempered by uncertainty over whether the government would shut down because of a political budget battle. Late Friday, however, negotiators forged a deal to avert the shutdown. If that had happened, Tackitt and his troops would not have stayed at Fort Sumter because it would be closed. And a Confederate encampment at Fort Moultrie would have moved down the street, off federal property.
Jeff Antley of Charleston, chairman of the 150th Firing on Fort Sumter Committee, said participants shelled out hundreds of dollars to cover their expenses. The only thing they receive in return is firewood, water and bathroom facilities.
"We're not re-enacting," he said. "This is living history."
Earlier in the day, Antley was sharply critical of the political fight over the budget and its possible effect on the remembrance.
Participants come from Europe, Canada and around the United States. "This is an international event. This event changed the scope of the planet."
Caryn Herzberg of Jacksonville, Fla., arrived at the Patriots Point camp Friday with her husband and their young son.
"It's great family time," she said. "The people are just really great people."
H.G. Clapper of Marion, who holds the rank of sergeant major in the Confederate forces, likes to re-enact the Civil War because it's like a vacation from modern-day pressures.
"I think it re-defined everything," he said. "It's not a celebration. It's a commemoration."