Off to Gettysburg: Local re-enactors heading for a Northern battle

Confederate re-enactors (from left) Fred Polston, Randy Burbage and Kevin Reynolds, recently at Fort Moultrie, will be traveling to Gettysburg, Pa., this week for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle known at Pickett’s Charge.

Paul Zoeller

In Gettysburg, Pa., on Sunday, Confederate re-enactor Randy Burbage knows exactly where he’ll be when the worst of the carnage begins.

For the Pickett’s Charge re-creation, he’ll march on the Rebel left and into a hornet’s nest of Yankee lead, marking the instant 150 years ago where thousands of Confederate soldiers were mowed down.

And he’s living for the moment.

Civil War re-enactors from around the state and South this week are heading north toward the annual Battle of Gettysburg, widely seen as the premiere gathering of the nation’s Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Actually, there are two competing Gettysburg battle recognitions planned for the days ahead, both on private farmlands just outside the boundaries of the town and the surrounding national military park.

The one that Burbage’s group of about 25 local 10th South Carolina Infantry members is joining is run by the Blue Gray Alliance. It will go Thursday through Sunday on the Bushey Farm.

The other is being called the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment, scheduled on two farms covering 1,000 acres off Table Rock Road. It will run July 4-7.

Both fights are expected to draw around 10,000 uniformed participants each, along with hundreds of horses and cannons and tens of thousands of spectators.

This is the fifth time Burbage, 63, of Hanahan, has been to the Gettysburg event. But the extensive passage of time makes this one different, he said.

“The 150th is such a significant date in time. It’s one of those not to be missed,” he said.

The actual battle took place July 1-3, 1863, marking the second and final attempt by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to invade the North. It culminated with the July 3 massive charge by about 15,000 Confederates trying to puncture the Union lines.

Close to half the Southerners became casualties. It was known as the war’s “High Water Mark.”

Among those traveling with Burbage are fellow re-enactors Kevin Reynolds, 52, of North Charleston, and Fred Polston, 47, of Ladson. Both men said they are keen on the uniform, bivouac and weapons realism that goes with the hobby, even down to the fact that there will be very little mixing with the Union re-enactors, except on the battlefield.

“They camp so far from us,” Reynold said. “You see them on the field; other than that, no.”

Pickett’s Charge is one of five Gettysburg battle actions Burbage’s group will be a part of. The others will be the Peach Orchard, the Wheat Field, McPherson’s Ridge and Culp’s Hill.

Pickett’s is still the biggest event, with the Confederate attack line expected to stretch out as much as a mile wide and fueled by soldiers carrying 40 rounds of powder shot each.

Based on past battle performances, Reynolds expects some of the re-enactor etiquette to be broken during the final attack, including by the Confederate “dead” who smuggle their pocket cameras with them.

When they go down, he said, “they are laying in such a way that they are clicking pictures.”

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.