Originally created 02/23/01

Battle of Aiken yields a glimpse of the past



Every child has played soldier. Running through the woods and mowing down playmates with a pine bough assault rifle is a rite of passage.

As children get older, many put away the soldier-play like a forgotten toy.

Others step it up a notch or two.

This weekend, more than 1,000 men and women re-enactors will re-create and celebrate the Civil War Battle of Aiken. The event will be held at the Carolina Star, off U.S. Highway 78, 10 miles east of Aiken.

The seventh-annual event occurs on the anniversary of the battle. It has grown from a few hundred men with muskets to a full-blown Civil War festival. In addition to the battle re-enactments, there will be an authentic 19th-century military encampment, reproductions of medical facilities and, for the first time, the opportunity for participants to unload some actual lead.

"This year we're having a pistol and musket live-fire competition," said event organizer Pete Peters. "Soldiers will fire at a tree stump and actually cut the tree in half. We're doing that because it's something that actually happened in these battles."

Saturday, after the gunpowder clouds have thinned and the hungry warriors have returned to camp, there will be an oyster roast and a performance of 19th-century music by Kent and Erica Courtney.

Mr. Peters said the biggest challenge in pulling together an event like the Battle of Aiken is logistics. It is not, he said, unlike taking an army to war.

We have to have firewood for 1,000 troops and hay for 100 horses," he said. "There are going to be 20 cannons to be moved. And we've had to communicate with volunteers spread all over the country. That takes a lot of letters and phone calls."

Proceeds from the event, sponsored by the B.E. Bee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, go to historic education and preservation programs. Mr. Peters said the history is what is important about the Battle of Aiken.

"What people should leave thinking about is what this war was like and what life was like 136 years ago," he said. "That's really what this is about - education."

Battle of Aiken

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; battle re-enactment 2 p.m. each day; night fire artillery 8 p.m. Saturday, followed by oyster roast and period concert; period church service 10 a.m. Sunday

Where: The Carolina Star, Cedar Branch Road off U.S. Highway 78, 10 miles east of Aiken

Admission: Adults $7 in advance and $10 at the gate; students (6-18) $3 in advance and $5 at the gate; and no charge age 5 and younger. Advance tickets available at Aiken Chamber of Commerce, Bobby's Bar-B-Q Buffet and Oreck Vacuums in Augusta; for more information, call (803) 642-2500 or (803) 641-1111 or visit www.battleofaiken.org.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.