Reenactors show off knowledge in Brattonsville battle
Dan Fulton, decked out in a handsome red coat with matching lace decorations on the sleeve, couldn’t resist giving a sly dig to his fellow reenactors and current enemy of the day.
“I don’t switch,” said Fulton, acting as an avowed Loyalist for the British Crown. “I like to stick with working as the Loyalists and the British. There’s a majority who like to represent on the rebel side.”
“You mean the Patriots’ side!” interjected a man dressed as an American militia member, eliciting a wry smile from Fulton.
Hundreds of spectators are expected to brave the steamy weekend weather to witness a Sunday afternoon reenactment of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat at Historic Brattonsville in McConnells.
Sunday’s scheduled activities include an 18th-century style worship service, a guided battlefield tour and a cannon/musket firing demonstration.
The opportunity provides history enthusiasts and acting aficionados alike the chance to don period clothing and put themselves in the boots of a family member, farmer, soldier or hunter of the late 1700s.
Jayme Benton, who portrays a housewife, has been involved in reenactments for nearly 14 years since she was inspired during an elementary school field trip.
“Just the idea that the people had period clothing, cooking with fires and knowing what they were doing, it got in my brain,” said Benton, 28. “The bug bit early and it bit hard, and I’ve never recovered.”
The Battle of Huck’s Defeat in York County describes the meeting of Patriot militia under the command of William Bratton and Loyalist forces under Philadelphia lawyer Christian Huck. The battle is now known to be one of the first battles of the southern campaign to be won by Patriot forces.
Often in the South, during the Revolutionary War, brothers fought brothers and neighbors were pitted against each other due to their alliance either to the Whigs (also known as Patriots or Rebels) who fought for independence from Great Britain or to the Tories (also known as Loyalists) who remained faithful to the Crown.
The Battle of Huck’s Defeat was one of several factors that helped turn the tide in the American Revolution, said Kevin Lynch, museum manager of Historic Brattonsville.
“They were fought here on our property,” said Lynch. “It was a pivotal battle to kick off success in the Carolina backcountry. At school, kids learn about Lexington and Concord, and they’re all very important, but South Carolina was pivotal in the American Revolution. People can see and relate to something that’s close to them, not hundreds or thousands of miles away.”
That’s a point of contention for reenactor Glenna Hubbell, who fanned herself from the heat in a flowing white antebellum hoop skirt on the porch of the Homestead House. Hubbell wants her grand-daughter Teagan, who joins her on reenactment weekends, to grow up learning about the “real history” of the American Revolution, with an emphasis on South Carolina details.
Seeing young kids get excited about history, she said, gives her as much fulfillment as they do.
“I want for our children and future generations to learn the real history and not the washed-out version that’s sometimes taught in schools,” said Hubbell. “It’s good to learn a lot of what really transpired, the hardships faced by the troops and the families that were left behind.”
Houston Hamilton, who’s been a dedicated reenactor since he was 4 years old, is hoping to bring some of those gritty realities to life.
He wears a faded shirt with a simple vest and stockings to portray a simple life in the Whigs’ militia, where members would often fight with makeshift weapons and sleep under tents.
Hamilton, 20, would join his father at reenactments when he was younger, and now participates each year that he can. He said he tries to absorb all he can from his older colleagues about how best to portray a historical figure.
“It was a ragtag group of makeshift soldiers,” said Hamilton of his particular unit. “An organized group of farmers and lower-class people from different cities. If they had a rifle, they fought with it, if they had a musket, they fought with it. They did with what they had.”
Carey Tilley, executive director of the Culture & Heritage Museum, said the event typically attracts about 1,000 spectators over two days. He urged those coming out to stay hydrated throughout the day. Visitors can purchase food through the concessions stands or bring their own packed lunches.
For Bob McLeod, who’s been reenacting for five years now, it helps bring his love of history full circle. He finds the Revolutionary War one of the most interesting times in American history, and recently purchased his own reproduction of a musket that militia members would carry.
He spent the majority of Saturday tending to the slow roast of a slaughtered hog, prepared over an open pit.
“I get to play with fire and shoot guns,” said McLeod. “What else is there to say?”
Sunday, July 10
10:15 a.m. - 18th century worship service
11 a.m. - Guided battlefield tour
Noon - Cannon and musket firing demonstration
12:30 p.m. - Children’s militia drill
1:15 p.m. - Watt’s assignment
2 p.m. - Battle of Huck’s Defeat
3 p.m. - Guided battlefield tour
$10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for children between the ages of 4-17, free admission for children who are three years old or younger, and for those who are members of the Culture & Heritage Museum.