Battlefield Berkeley County: New study will uncover county’s role in independence
- Sunday, July 26, 2015
Pop quiz, and no Googling: Who is Henry Laurens?
Let’s make it multiple choice. Was he:
A) the second president of the Continental Congress
B) the only American to be held in the Tower of London
C) the owner of Mepkin Plantation
D) one of the biggest slave traders in the Colonies, who, later told, pushed for America to be founded on freedom for all, including slaves
The answer is all of the above. Laurens is just one of the many influential Americans during the time of the Revolutionary War that called Berkeley County home. While many Berkeley County residents can name Francis Marion — the famous Swamp Fox that dogged the Redcoats, and made its pop culture debut in Disney’s 1959-1960 TV series — names like Laurens might elude most.
How about another question: Where are the Biggin Church Ruins? Here’s a hint: you might have driven past it recently.
The answer is near the corner of Highway 402 and Carswell Lane, near the boat landing for the Tail Race Canal.
Biggin Church was built in the 1700s. Its intricate brickwork made it a showcase church in the area during its time. In its pews, men bearing recognizable names — such as William Moultrie — sat through services.
The British came to South Carolina expecting a strong loyalist base — men like Alexander Garden of Goose Creek and Sir John Colleton of Fair Lawn were loyalists — and Berkeley County offered a gateway to the Upstate. British fortifications at Fair Lawn Barony and at Biggins Church began.
But the uprising never came to meet the Redcoats and, as they pulled foot from Biggins Church, which had held their armory, the British torched the site. It was the first of two fires that tried to claim the church, which now stands in ruins just a few hundred feet from where summertime boating memories are made.
How did you score on the quiz? Don’t feel bad if you got neither question right. You have plenty of company in Berkeley County, according to South Carolina Battleground Trust Executive Director Doug Bostick.
“Ninety-nine out of a hundred people don’t know Biggin Church,” he said.
If you got them right, well, no one likes a show-off.
Bostick and his nonprofit are working toward getting the other 99 people into scoring A’s when it comes to Berkeley County’s American Revolutionary War history. It’s a hefty history that’s at odds with its relatively quiet presence, often hidden through the trees.
“These are the kinds of stories that come out of Berkeley County. That’s why we’re anxious to start telling them,” Bostick said citing Biggins Church Ruins and Laurens.
According to a July 21 announcement, a series of grant awards through the National Park Service included a $72,500 grant to South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. The grant will fund the first step in a project called Berkeley County: The Path to Liberty, which will research and make prominent 14 pivotal Revolutionary War battles and a Yamassee War battle.
The Yamassee battle was in 1715 at the Chapel of Ease site near Goose Creek.
The Revolutionary War battles include: Battle of Moncks Corner (April 14, 1780), Battle of Lenud’s Ferry (May 6, 1780), Battle of Lewisfield Plantation (1781), Battle of Wadboo/Moncks Corner (Jan. 24, 1781), Attack on Kitfield Plantation (Jan. 31, 1781), Battle of Biggin Bridge (July 16, 1781), Battle of Quinby Bridge (July 17, 1781), Retreat from Eutaw Springs (Sept. 10, 1781), Battle of Fair Lawn Barony (Nov. 17, 1781), Battle of Cainhoy (Dec. 30, 1781), Battle of Videau’s Bridge (Jan. 3, 1782), Battle of Strawberry Ferry (Feb. 19, 1782), Battle of Wambaw Bridge (Feb. 24, 1782), and Battle of Wadboo Barony (Aug. 29, 1782).
The project will create a master database of battlefields and associated sites in Berkeley County. That database will then be used for heritage tourism and protecting the sites, according to Bostick.
“This study is really the first step,” Bostick said. “Berkeley County is not capturing its fair share of heritage tourism … This county has so many enormous stories to tell, but right now there is no one to tell it.”
Bostick continued: “We think Berkeley County will rapidly development an impressive heritage tourism base.”
Later, the Trust plans to launch a smartphone application that will guide folks around to the sites and offer interpretation. While building and staffing an interpretive center is expensive, Bostick said the app will allow the Trust to bring history to life relatively cheaply, and attract more heritage tourists.
Bostick said the research work begins in August. The Trust will hold public meetings during the research phase, which Bostick said would continue until July 2016.
Berkeley County: The Path to Liberty will include identification of all historic battlefield sites in Berkeley County, integration of other databases like the National Register sites, and coordination with the S.C. Department of Archives & History to nominate qualifying sites for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The study will use LiDAR surveys and military terrain analysis to study and map the battlefields.