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History: All quiet on the Waccamaw
By Jason Lesley
Michael Glazier likes the feel of a wool Civil War uniform, even on a sunny day. For over 20 years he’s been attracted by the authenticity of a re-enactor’s uniform, weapons and gear.
He and a group representing the 3rd U.S. Infantry will step back in time 150 years on Saturday when they set up camp at Hobcaw Barony and invite the public to join them and learn about the war. Uniformed soldiers and officers plan to discuss what led South Carolina to be the first state to secede from the Union and the military response that led to the nation’s bloodiest war.
“We formed a group to enable conversations to begin about this period of history, the equipment and a soldier’s life in 1861,” said Glazier, a resident of the Hagley community and leader of the non-profit educational re-enactors. “We have found in this atmosphere we can discuss slavery, the irony of the founding of this country on freedom and the economics pushing some to preserve the tradition. Many soldiers were not fighting to free slaves at all, but to defend their states or their own homes.”
Glazier and the group’s members research, write and interpret both Union and Confederate statements on the subject of slavery for re-enactments. “The compromises, the comments on slavery by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and myths of slavery are as interesting to visitors as our other demonstrations,” he said.
During their presentations, the re-enactors discuss uniforms, equipment, weapons and guns. Firing and drill demonstrations, as well as tactical battle planning, help visitors understand the training which occurred in camp.
A sometimes humorous display involves “pay call,” a reenactment of troop payday. Leisure time activities and chow, including free samples of “hardtack,” are part of the day, as visitors walk through camp and see artifacts and touch tables, as well as posters and displays about the war.
Glazier got interested in war re-enactment after his wife encouraged him to get a hobby in 1990. “We were living in Virginia at the time, and I was kind of bored,” he said. “We went to a re-enactment, and it looked like fun: it was history, it was camping, it was firearms. That was the attraction.”
He started with Revolutionary War re-enactments but found that he preferred the Civil War. “The Revolutionary War guys were fun but kind of loose. Some would show up in wing tips,” Glazier said. “Civil War re-enactors are notoriously picky.
I kind of like that. I like the aspect of getting away for the weekend, no phones or anything. I’ve done it through the years. My children have done it with me. They would bring their friends. That’s how I ended up having so much gear.” Glazier has a Bible carried by a Civil War soldier, but almost everything used in a re-enactment camp is a reproduction.
“You don’t want to use originals except for display,” he said. “Original rifles are too dangerous to actually fire.”
The soldiers will fire their Enfield and Springfield rifle reproductions Saturday, though there will be no battle. Uniforms include separate leather pouches for cartridges and caps. Loading a standard issue .577 caliber Civil War weapon required a soldier to remove a paper cartridge from his pouch and hold the end in his teeth while tearing the paper. He would pour the black powder down the rifle barrel and push the ball in with a ramrod. A cap was placed under the hammer to provide a spark that would ignite the powder.
“The weapons were huge overkill,” Glazier said. Spiral grooves inside the barrel made the lead ball spin upon exit and made the shooter more accurate.
“During the Revolutionary War,” Glazier said, “they were lucky to hit the broad side of a barn. In the Civil War, a good marksman was accurate from 500 yards and an average one was pretty good from 300. That’s why the Civil War had incredible casualty rates, 20 and 30 percent frequently. Today that would be considered a bloodbath. It’s because they had these modern rifles but still used the tactics of the Revolutionary War.”
The Civil War provided other firsts in weaponry: hand grenades, land mines, steel hulled ships and the submarine. “The tactics were a prelude to World War I,” Glazier said, “and in the 1930s Hitler sent his generals to American Civil War battlefields to study.”
As deadly as the rifles and exploding weapons were, the bayonet may have been responsible for as many casualties. The three-cornered bayonet made a wound that would not heal properly and invited infection. The long bayonet of the 1800s was abandoned in the next century for a shorter weapon that was better in hand-to-hand combat.
The cost to visit the encampment – Saturday , 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – is $10 per adult and free for children under 12. Lee Brockington, senior interpreter at Hobcaw Barony, will provide an overview of the war and its effect on the area before visitors board shuttle buses outside the Discovery Center. For reservations, call 843-546-4623.