Sunday, March 11, 2012

Civil War Sunday-The Battle of Charleston Reenactment -Gullah Culture

I'm basking here in my upstate New York backyard.  It's 62 degrees and sunny, with a little bit of a breeze. Thw ing chimes are chiming, the birds are singing, and the neighborhood woodpecker was out earlier on a nearby utility post, alternating between pecking and preening.

Spring is here.

For the Civil War soldiers of March and April of 1862, there was little rest as winter became spring.  The Peninsula Campaign of 1862 was in full swing in the Tidewater of Virginia (I blogged about the Great Battle of the Ironclads at the Battle of Hampton Roads last week)and that would have been a logical stop in a Civil War vacation.  However, in the near future, my Civil War travels will be leading me shortly in another direction:

Charleston, South Carolina.  (land of camelias, azaleas, wisterias and WARMTH).

My spouse and I visited Charleston, SC last year and, partially due to somehow getting lost (and turned around big time) while trying to find the building where the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was being restored, ended up serendipitously at a Civil War reenactment.  For the next couple of weeks, I'd like to share some of my photos.

The "Battle of Charleston" being reenacted is not one battle, but rather several rolled into one event. (Charleston and vicinity was also the site of several Revolutionary War battles, which we hope to investigate further once the Civil War sesquicentennial is over.).  I'll write more about the battle next week.  But what I enjoyed most about this reenactment (in addition to the battle, of course) was the local flavor - Gullah flavor, to be exact.

At the "typical" Civil War reenactors, not all reenactors are soldiers.  Some portray other people of the period, to educate the public about various aspects of life in the 1861-1865 period.  And not all reenactors ar men, either.
The Gullahs are African Americans living in the "low country" region of both South Carolina and Georgia.  They are descendents of slaves brought over from rice growing areas of Africa.  Their masters used the slaves' rice growing skills to start a rice growing industry in the low country.  During the Civil War, a number of Gullah slaves fought for the Union side in the First South Carolina Volunteers.

The Gullahs spoke a distinctive language, a type of  "Creole".  Their culture, happily, has been quite persistent.  Gullahs also live outside of the Low Country - for example, in my native New York City.

Today, the Gullah handwoven sweet grass baskets (a dying art) are sold at Charleston's City Market and also on various roadside stands. 

I got a chance to talk to this woman, who works to preserve the Gullah heritage and teach it to others.  She was very proud of the fact that everyone of her children have, or are, attending college.

 She has also participated in various oral story telling events in various parts of the country.  But at the reenactment, her interest was education.  Here' she demonstrates making flour meal by hand. we hear horses?  The calvary is coming....and the battle is about to begin!

Stay tuned for Part 2  - the battle.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great post! Gullah culture is still very much alive in parts of SC. Hope you get to experience some more when you visit!


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