A year after historians, military scholars and re-enactors celebrated a milestone that proved a turning point in the Civil War for the Union Army, it's now the Confederates' turn.
About 250 Civil War re-enactors will gather this weekend in Jasper County to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pocotaligo.
After being routed by Union troops from Hilton Head Island and Beaufort nearly a year earlier, 2,000 Confederate soldiers -- outnumbered nearly 2 to 1 -- fended off a federal attempt in 1862 to choke off supplies and communication between Charleston and Savannah, according to Bruce Blackmon, a colonel in the S.C. Palmetto Battalion re-enactment group.
On Oct. 22, 1862, in a string of encounters near Coosawhatchie, Frampton's Plantation and Pocotaligo, Confederate troops successfully defended the Charleston-Savannah railroad and interior of South Carolina against a Union force of 4,448 men from Hilton Head, according to a historical marker erected by S.C. Society of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars.
Confederates, with only 475 men when the day began, delayed Union troops under the command of Brig. Gens. John M. Brannan and A.M. Terry in engagements at Caston's and Frampton's Plantation until 200 Confederate reinforcements arrived by train, according to the marker. The Confederates were led by Col. W.S. Walker
Most of the fighting centered around Pocotaligo Bridge. By dusk, Union troops withdrew toward Port Royal, having done only minimal damage to the railroad.
"Had Pocotaligo been taken, it effectively would have shut down Charleston and Savannah," Blackmon said. "That would have severely hindered the Confederate war effort and hastened the end of the war by a year or two."
The battle, though, often gets overshadowed by larger bloodletting in Antietam and Gettysburg, despite a key detail, which also often gets overlooked, Blackmon said.
Gen. Robert E. Lee was given command of the coastal military department of South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida. From his headquarters at Coosawhatchie, he planned the strategy and defense that successfully repelled Union troops until near the end of the war, Blackmon said.
"Lee designed a series of trench-works in the Lowcountry to protect the bridges and causeways," he said. "He ordered so many trenches dug that he temporarily earned the nickname 'King of Spades.' "
The trench-works squeezed Union forces into a narrow front, allowing Confederate artillery to cut "great gaps through a line of infantry in double ranks," according to an account of the battle from Joseph Eggleston, who served with an artillery unit from Virginia.
Six cannons and horse cavalry will be used to re-create the battle at Frampton Plantation, said re-enactment coordinator Lynn Bristow.
People will also dress as settlers, selling products that would have been available in 1862.
"It will be as if we've all stepped back into 1862. Everything will be period-correct," Bristow said. "It will be a living history."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.