Confederate troops may be standing on the shores of Sullivan’s Island, staring at Fort Sumter. But, just as it was 150 years ago, their real frustration is with federal officials.

“It’s my opinion that Congress is thinking about Washington and the parties are thinking about themselves,” says Jeff Antley, the chairman of the 150th Firing on Fort Sumter Committee.

Without an agreement on Capitol Hill about the federal budget, the government shuts down at midnight Saturday morning. Typically, this would impact roughly 2,000 people a day who visit the local national park properties. But organizers are expecting 100,000 to 150,000 people in town over the next four days to commemorate the beginning of the Civil War.

That includes several hundred Civil War reenactors, some coming from overseas or across the country to camp at Fort Sumter or Fort Moultrie — both will be closed at midnight if there is no deal in Washington. “This is a multi-million dollar screw up,” Antley says.

The current plan is to relocate camp to a field up the beach from Fort Moultrie: the Confederate parking lot. Antley says the reenactors were meeting Friday night to dole out roles that would have been filled by park staff, taking over educational programs and other responsibilities.

Organizers are comfortable in charge — reenactors are used to running around in fields with little supervision. The real concern for this event is deserters. Reenactors came to Charleston expecting a unique opportunity that won’t be available for another 50 years. “We’re concerned some of the guys will get frustrated and go home,” Antley says.


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