Originally created 02/21/99

Aim and fire

AIKEN - Forty-five minutes into the Battle of White Pond, dozens lay dead. Mike Brauch would soon wish he was.

As he stumbled over his Blue Coat comrades, charging toward the side of the hill, he held his finger to the trigger and fell to the ground. A bullet from a musket shot had lodged deep in his left leg. He hadn't seen it coming.

Blood gushed from his limb. Still, he tried to charge forward, crawling toward the Confederates with all his muster. One of them had killed his brother, and he wanted to do the same.

But it wasn't meant to be.

The pain, no longer bearable, forced the soldier with the 21st S.C. Infantry to the hard, cold ground, cursing Johnny Reb who had cost him his usefulness to the Union Army, and later his leg.

Onlookers watched as Mr. Brauch lay on the operating table, and listened as a Union doctor sawed through his bone. Minutes later, a shriveled foot was tossed to the ground.

When he awoke, still dazed from ether, the young soldier looked down at his nub with cold blue eyes and yelled, " Why me, God? Why me?"

Then, in a faint whisper he said, "At least the Confederates lost."

Mr. Brauch represented one of the many casualties of the Battle of Aiken on Feb. 11, 1865, re-enacted Saturday. The event drew a small army of at least 800 faux Civil War soldiers encamped at Woodward Farm. They cook on open fires, eat hard-tack, forgo bathing for the sake of authenticity and gather around campfires at night to sing period songs.

"This is like time travel for them," event spokesman Pete Peters said.

For the past five years, the weekend-long festival, which kicked off Friday, has drawn thousands, some as far away as Maryland. Mr. Peters expects some 15,000 spectators will visit the camp before it is dismantled today.

The event, which cost more than $25,000 to produce, is sponsored by the Brig. Gen. Barnard E. Bee Camp Sons of the Confederate Veterans and the 14th S.C. Infantry. An estimated 500 pounds of black powder is needed to re-enact the battle, organizers say.

"Twelve cannons firing and belching smoke is quite impressive," said Donnie Christopoulo, one of the battle's living history coordinators. "Kids come away quite amazed at what their ancestors went through."

Many of the men and women, who come from 15 states, portrayed soldiers in feature films such as Gettysburg, and Glory.

The actual Battle of Aiken began when Confederate soldiers, under the command of "Fightin' Joe" Wheeler, surprised and repelled a Union cavalry detachment as the Northerners marched and rode into Aiken.

The Union general, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, was reported to have fallen back so quickly that he lost his hat. The Confederates saved the town from being burned and the cloth mills at Graniteville from being destroyed.

Casualty totals vary, but the Union was reported to have as many as 53 dead and 270 wounded. The Confederates suffered 31 dead and 160 wounded.

Chasiti Kirkland can be reached at (803) 279-6895.


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