Saturday, February 20, 2010

Union captures a prize at Battle of Aiken

Southern forces at the Battle of Aiken re-enactment Saturday felt a little sheepish when the smoke had cleared.

Union troops pushed the Rebs off the field after about an hour of spirited fighting on a beautiful afternoon in South Carolina. That’s OK. Someone’s got to win at a re-enactment.

The embarrassment came during the fighting when a Federal general and another soldier moved around the estimated 3,000 spectators. They circled behind Confederate commanding officer, Lt. Gen Michael Hardy, who portrays Gen. William Hardee, without being noticed.

The Union general said to Hardy, “'You’ve been captured. There’s a loaded Henry at your back,’” said Federal re-enactor Jim Standard, of Spotsylvania, Va., who had the firearm trained on Hardy.

Confederate staff officers raised their swords, but their blades were no match for Standard’s rifle. The capture was complete.

There was a catch to the funny moment. The Union officer who captured Hardy actually was a compatriot of Hardy’s who had “galvanized.” In other words, he usually portrays a Confederate, but had switched to Union blue for Saturday’s fighting to help even the forces.

Spectators whooped and cheered during some of the action, enjoying a scenario put on by about 400 re-enactors. The forces included about 40 horsemen and about 20 artillery pieces.

Don’t be surprised if the Confederates exact a little vengeance Sunday, which is the final day of the annual event about 20 miles east of Augusta, Ga.

The Battle of Aiken occurred in February 1865. Federal cavalry troops under Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick entered what is now Aiken County near White Pond and battled Confederate forces Feb. 9. He stationed some of his troops in Montmorenci and made for downtown Aiken with a force of 2,000.

Gen. Joseph Wheeler, commanding 4,500 Confederate cavalrymen, skirmished with the Union troops in Montmorenci and eventually consolidated his forces in Aiken. On Feb. 11, the Federal troops reached Park Avenue, Richland Avenue and Barnwell Street in what is now downtown Aiken. Fighting ensued, leaving to a Union retreat.

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