The battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1 through July 3, and the Union victory there marked the turning point in the war.
The infamous conclusion of that three-day battle — Pickett’s Charge — has become a symbol of the Lost Cause ever since. William Faulkner wrote, in “Intruder in the Dust” that “For every southern boy … there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863 … and it’s all in the balance.”
“There is a lot of symbolism there,” said Allen Roberson, executive director of the S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. “A lot of the Civil War romance and reality comes from that moment. Everything the South was fighting for was embodied in that moment and it doesn’t work out, and ultimately it’s all to the good.”
It was the bloodiest battle in American history with approximately 53,000 men killed, wounded or missing. Combined with the loss of Confederate-held Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, Gettysburg was the beginning of the end of the Civil War.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle, the Relic Room is presenting an exhibit about the nearly 5,000 men serving in regiments from the Palmetto State that fought there.
“Gettysburg: South Carolina in the Fight” examines the various roles of South Carolinians in Gettysburg Campaign.
The exhibit has on display:
• A nearly life-size 21-foot-by-7-foot reproduction of James Walker’s “The Battle of Gettysburg: Repulse of Longstreet’s Assault, July 3, 1863,” which is part of the Johnson Collection in Spartanburg. The highly-detailed artwork depicts Pickett’s Charge from the Union perspective.
• The sword of Col. William Davie DeSaussure, who was the highest ranking South Carolinian killed at the battle
• The sword of Gen. Joseph Brevard Kershaw. It was surrendered shortly before the end of the war to a Union cavalryman, and this is the first time it has returned to South Carolina.
• Numerous rifles carried in the battle, as well as artillery projectiles
• Gen. Wade Hampton’s camping equipment and personal letters
The artifacts come from the museum’s own collection, private lenders and Gettysburg National Military Park.
If you go