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This Friday, the largest water balloon battle in Columbia will take place…with a historic twist at the Robert Mills House and Gardens. From the Revolutionary War, where more battles were fought in South Carolina than in any other state, to today’s modern conflicts, the list of important historical events is long. Countless factors have affected the tactics soldiers use in battle since our nation’s founding. Historic Columbia has organized a unique event to illustrate how battlefield tactics have changed over time.
Program participants will take part in three battles representing different time periods, each with an important connection to South Carolina. The “soldiers” will be led into battle by active-duty drill sergeants who will provide rudimentary training on each era’s tactics before leading teams into battle. For the Revolutionary War, individuals learn how muskets used during this time were inaccurate and slow to reload. This caused opponents to move closer to one another before shooting and the tactics often involved firing en masse for a better chance of hitting the enemy. Participants will line up shoulder to shoulder and may only throw their limited number of water balloons when the drill sergeant gives the order to fire.
We then fast forward to World War I, an important moment in Columbia’s history as Camp Jackson (now Fort Jackson) was founded during this war. For this battle, one team will go “over the top” and move across an open area on the grounds to attack another team that is entrenched behind hedges. The defending team will have many more water balloons than the attacking team. People will learn how machine guns, trenches and other technology gave defense a decisive advantage for most of the war. This is what led to the static trench warfare on the Western Front that gives us the familiar images we associate with this conflict.
The third and final battle to be fought represents the Vietnam-era and the elimination of clear battle lines that defined control of territory. In this battle, buckets filled with water balloons will be placed around the grounds and teams must fight for control of the “supply” points. The battle will likely devolve from well-planned strategies to small groups fighting for control of one or two buckets.
Books, lectures, maps and museum exhibits certainly provide more in-depth information about warfare in the past, but this event will draw participants who may not normally visit museums or consider themselves history buffs. Our goal for this event is to whet the appetite for folks who have a diverse range of education and careers to go out on their own and to learn more about the past. Over 1,700 water balloons will fly through the sky in three battles designed to educate the public on fighting techniques. Without making light of the real life experiences of soldiers in the past, this event engages the public in an active, outdoor educational setting during the famously hot summer days in Columbia.
This article was originally published by The Columbia Star.
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