Local Civil War re-enactors commemorate Battle of Gettysburg 150th anniversary

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There was no place Pearce Truesdale would rather be than sleeping in an open field, drinking coffee from a canteen and leading soldiers in a charge.

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Pearce Truesdale (left) and Will Christman recently returned from participating in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Pearce Truesdale (left) and Will Christman recently returned from participating in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought during the first three days of July 150 years ago, came alive for Truesdale and other local Civil War re-enactors who traveled to Gettysburg, Pa., to commemorate the battle this week. There was no way they were going to miss the premier event of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

“Just to say ‘Wow, I was part of something,’ ” said Truesdale, of North Augusta, before leaving June 26 for his five-day trip with fellow re-enactor Will Christman.

“You only have one 150th,” he said.

More than 20,000 re-enactors from across the nation descended on Gettysburg to commemorate the bloodiest battle of the Civil War – 51,000 casualties. The Union victory was the turning point of the war and inspired President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Two historical re-enactments have been held on farm fields just outside the actual battlefield.

The first event, and the one attended by Truesdale and Christman, was fought last weekend. The second begins Thursday.

Truesdale and Christman are members of the First Independent Brigade, a local group portraying the 38th Georgia Infantry. At the Gettysburg anniversary, however, they wore the blue uniforms of Union soldiers. There’s often a greater need for Union soldiers to balance an overabundance of Confederate re-enactors from Southern states.

“The guys in gray were just as honorable as the guys in blue,” said Christman, a social studies teacher at the Academy of Richmond County and the moderator of the school’s Civil War Re-enactment Club.

Kevin Rorer, a re-enactor from Aiken, left Tuesday for Gettysburg. The battle will be his fourth event commemorating the Civil War sesquicentennial, and he plans to attend more next year.

He knew the 150th anniversary was an opportunity he couldn’t miss.

“I’m not going to live long enough for the 175th,” said Rorer, 52. “I want to honor my ancestors. I had ancestors at Gettysburg.”

AUGUSTA AND THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG

Augusta’s connections to the Battle of Gettysburg run deep. Several troops from the area and across Georgia fought in the battle 150 years ago. War casualties devastated Southern homes, casting a gloom on entire towns.

“Lots of men came home not able to do much physical labor at all,” said local historian Russell Brown. “The Southern states made a bad miscalculation when they attempted secession.”

LOCAL LEADERS

Here are some notable leaders from the area who fought at Gettysburg:

• Gen. James Longstreet was born near Edgefield, S.C., and grew up in Augusta on Westover Plantation. Following orders from Gen. Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, he gave the order to Gen. George Pickett to make the charge in which 6,000 Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded. The Southern army never recovered from its losses.

• Gen. Ambrose Ransom Wright was born in Louisville, Ga., and enlisted in the Confederate army in April 1861. On July 2, 1863, he led an attack that was the greatest penetration into Union lines. He became part owner and editor of The Augusta Chronicle after the war.

• Gen. Edward Porter Alexander, of Washington, Ga., served under Longstreet and reluctantly helped order Pickett’s Charge. Before the failed charge, Alexander led an artillery barrage to clear the way for the infantry attack. Some accounts say the young leader ordered the charge prematurely before Union troops were suppressed.

MAGNOLIA CEMETERY

Alexander and Wright are buried in Augusta’s Magnolia Cemetery with five other Confederate leaders: Brig. Gen. Goode Bryan, Brig. Gen. Victor Jean Baptiste Girardey, Brig. Gen. John King Jackson, Brig. Gen. William Duncan Smith and Brig. Gen. Marcellus A. Stovall. At Magnolia Cemetery the Generals Walk memorial pays tribute to the group.


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