Monday, July 9, 2012

‘Value added’ Colonial Dorchester in Summerville’s annexation sights

BY BO PETERSEN             
Posted: Monday, July 9, 2012 12:31 a.m. 
UPDATED: Monday, July 9, 2012 1:07 a.m.

SUMMERVILLE — The town might be about to annex the nearly three-century-old Colonial Dorchester.
Mayor Bill Collins is working with S.C. Parks and Recreation officials to bring the state historic site into the town — a move aimed at enhancing the tourism value of both.
But it’s the value added to this deal that makes it so intriguing: It could restore Summerville’s annexing presence across the Ashley River on the development-ripe Ashley River Road.
A little-realized aspect of the 325-acre Colonial Dorchester property is that most of it lies across the Ashley River from the currently developed park off Dorchester Road.
That not-yet-opened part of the park runs all the way to the Ashley River Road, across the road from Watson Hill.
Eight years ago, a massive development proposed on more than 7,000 timberland acres at Watson Hill touched off a battle to preserve the rural plantation environs along Ashley River Road.
In a last-ditch effort to stop North Charleston from annexing Watson Hill to foster the development, Summerville annexed an intervening property, one that North Charleston also annexed. The property would give the prevailing municipality a boundary line to block off, or get to, Watson Hill.
The annexation also would have given Summerville its first toehold across the river. The town and city sued each other and North Charleston came away with the disputed property.
‘Lost town’
Colonial Dorchester might be the most significant, overlooked bit of history in the legacy of the Lowcountry. Along with Childsbury in Berkeley County and Willtown in Charleston County, the site is one of the 1600s “lost towns,” the beginning of inland settlement of the people who became the Lowcountry.
It’s the only one of the three that still holds structures from a town much bigger than many people realize: The grid of its streets and houses stretches from the Ashley River bank to today’s Dorchester Road nearly a half-mile away.
The remains of the brick bell tower and the walls of the riverbank tabby fort go back to the early 1700s.
‘Ghost structure’
Annexing the historic site would open up opportunities and money for both it and the town’s efforts to attract more tourists Collins said.
The collaboration could bring in everything from more volunteers and labor to accommodations-tax revenue to improve the site. Colonial Dorchester has been poised for years to showcase itself, but was not funded to the level of other, higher-profile state sites.
Immediate goals include improving trails, opening more excavations and erecting “ghost structure” frames of each building being excavated.
“It’s one of the best archaeological spots we have in the state. Annexation has a lot of upside potential. Summerville residents have embraced the site and supported it. This gives more pride and sense of ownership,” said Duane Parrish, Parks, Recreation and Tourism director.
“It will help promote the potential of all that is out here, help people understand how significant this site is,” said Ashley Chapman, the site manager.
The trails of Colonial Dorchester make a natural destination for the town’s Sawmill Branch biking/hiking trail nearby, Collins said.
The town also gets the unusual prestige of having a historic and archaeological trove in its limits, the remains of the village that led to the town’s founding.
The St. George Church bell tower is one of the oldest standing structures in the Lowcountry.
‘A real asset’
Collins frankly concedes that bringing in Colonial Dorchester also is to the town’s long-term advantage because it would extend the boundary line to the potential growth area of southern Dorchester County, a source of revenue.
“We don’t have a lot of undeveloped land in the town (now),” he said. “I think that’s something that would be of interest. I think it will take some time,” he said.
“I’m all for it for both reasons,” said Town Councilman Walter Bailey, who campaigned partly on the town seeking to annex more land.
“It’s a real asset. It’s probably the most historic structure in the state.”
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or on Twitter at @bopete.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dorchester under the Crescent

Patriot Forces are occupying the fort at Dorchester for the first Dorchester under the Crescent on September 8th-9th. This will be a 2nd South Carolina event with drilling, demonstrating camp life, and other aspects of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. More information to come for the event in the next few weeks. For information about the 2nd SC please visit thier website.

The 2nd SC have a long history at the fort at Dorchester starting in 1775 when two companies under the command of Francis Marion "The Swamp Fox" were sent there to get the defenses in order against possible Tory attacks. During the time with Marion as commander of the fort  he put the fortifications and military barracks in better order and trained local militia. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dorchester County scores big with new park land

Post and Courier Editorial July 2nd

Dorchester County scores big with new park land

Leroy Burnellstaff

Dorchester County jumped at the chance to buy this Bacons Bridge property for its next park. The site already includes $3 million worth of infrastructure.
Leroy Burnellstaff Dorchester County jumped at the chance to buy this Bacons Bridge property for its next park. The site already includes $3 million worth of infrastructure.
What could be better than an 83-acre public park with frontage on the Ashley River, a fishing pond and walking trails through a lush forest?
How about one that already has $3 million worth of infrastructure in place and costs only $1.35 million?
One that might well be near where Gen. William Moultrie and Gen. Francis Marion each encamped during the Revolutionary War?
How about one that is expected to pay for itself?
Dorchester County Council wisely jumped on the chance to add just such a purchase to its park property in a suburban part of lower Dorchester County.
Plans to add shelters, a dock for paddle boats and canoes, trails, picnic areas, a playground and a pavilion aren’t expected to take long to accomplish.
The design might be tweaked to feature its historic nature if archeological digs confirm that the park is the site of Gen. Moultrie’s camp.
Scholars say it is quite possible in that the historic Bacon’s Bridge crossed the Ashley in the vicinity of the park site and soldiers were charged with protecting the bridge. Just across the road is the county’s Rosebrock Park, where the Swamp Fox is believed to have camped. The county obtained that 76-acre park in from the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, which used S.C. Conservation Bank funds for the purchase in 2008.
People and businesses are attracted to the Lowcountry for many reasons, including its history and its natural beauty.
But without careful government planning, their opportunities to enjoy the extraordinary outdoor environment would become more scarce.
Indeed, the tract in question was available for Dorchester County to purchase only because a developer, hoping to build residences there, defaulted.
Dorchester County voters in 2010 voted for a $5 million bond to purchase open space and parks. In effect, they acknowledged the importance of protecting and preserving the area’s natural assets for the public’s enjoyment.
Once land is developed, it rarely, if ever, is “un-developed.”
Dorchester County would do well to design the parkland so that it is accessible, taking care not to compromise its unspoiled essence.
The county’s next park should be a special asset to the public, to the environment and to historic scholarship.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy Carolina Day

Carolina Day remembers important Revolutionary battle

  • Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 12:10 a.m.

Today marks the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, a conflict that made Moultrie a local household name and set the British back considerably in their quest to tame the colonists.
“This was an early turning point,” said Doug MacIntyre, president of the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Historical Trust. “We can only speculate as to what might have happened if the patriots had not prevailed.”
On June 28, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was being hashed out in Philadelphia, the British Navy descended on Fort Sullivan at the south end of the island as thousands of ground troops simultaneously tried to cross Breech Inlet to take the island’s north end.
It was part of Britain’s southern strategy to mobilize loyalists in the South Carolina backcountry and control one of the colonies’ most important ports.
Commodore Peter Parker aimed the might of the British Navy at the palmetto-log fort guarding the harbor entrance while Gen. Henry Clinton tried to take the island with 3,000 troops that had landed on Long Island (now Isle of Palms).
The most famous detail of that day remains the spongy palmetto logs of Fort Sullivan repelling British cannon fire — a detail that guaranteed the palmetto its place as a state icon. But Mac-Intyre said the battle at Breech Inlet was perhaps even more impressive.
The inlet in those days was at least a mile wide, a dangerous obstacle course of rushing water, sandbars and oyster beds. And if that weren’t bad enough, Clinton had to face a formidable force assembled by Col. William Thomson.
Thomson and his back-country troops were joined by Indians from the Catawba and other tribes, as well as some slaves.
There were 780 men in all, but once the fight started, Clinton feared that he was facing an army of perhaps 4,000. Mac-Intyre said Clinton never got a foothold in Sullivan’s Island.
Meanwhile, William Moultrie repelled the British Navy so handily that, after the war, Fort Sullivan was renamed in his honor.
MacIntyre, who will speak today at the Carolina Day ceremony in White Point Garden, said new accounts of that day are still coming to light, and they paint a portrait of Charles Town as worried and anxious — just as it would be a few years later when the British had the city under siege again, this time more successfully.
Although the state celebrates Carolina Day every year, much of the rest of the country has forgotten what a pivotal moment it was in the Revolutionary War.
“It was an embarrassment for Peter Parker, a rising officer in the Royal Navy,” said W. Eric Emerson, director of the state Department of Archives and History.
“It’s the most powerful navy in the world, and they are beat by a gang of rebels in a palmetto-log fort. I think it’s pretty significant, and wish more people would recognize it.”
Reach Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Siege of Charleston was key Revolutionary War battle

Siege of Charleston was key Revolutionary War battle

  • Posted: Sunday, July 4, 2010 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, March 23, 2012 2:47 p.m.

The Siege of Charleston was the largest battle in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.
The Siege of Charleston was the largest battle in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.
For six weeks, the city held off enemy troops, fighting the longest siege of the war to preserve the freedom of a newly founded nation.
Now, thousands of people walk the site every day without even realizing it is a battlefield -- the largest in South Carolina -- or the role it played in the holiday the country celebrates today.
"I'm always amazed when I give tours that people don't realize there was a major battle here in 1780," said Carl Borick, assistant director of the Charleston Museum and author of "A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780.
"The siege is important. It was the largest battle in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War."
Today almost nothing remains to remind folks of that struggle, save for a bit of tabby unearthed on Marion Square. Last week, a national park preservation organization issued a report on the state of battlefields in South Carolina, and in it there was no mention of the Siege of Charleston grounds.
That may be because its status is "paved." How things change in a couple of centuries.
More than 230 years ago, what is now John Street was a moat, a blocked tidal creek of the Cooper River that penetrated deep into the peninsula. Vanderhorst and Charlotte streets roughly mark the parapet on the city side of that moat, all of which protected a fort that straddled what is now King Street.
The siege took place between present-day East Bay and Smith streets, from Spring Street south to Calhoun Street.
In a city obsessed with its Civil War history, its Revolution-era past often is forgotten. Until a historical marker recognizing the siege was put up on Marion Square this year, there was no reminder of the battle.
"It is something that is very often overlooked," said Mark Moloy, a former National Park Service intern here who was instrumental in getting the marker erected. "I just don't see a reason we can't honor the people who first founded South Carolina and the United States."
Some cynics might say the battle has been pushed out of the city's consciousness because it was a stinging defeat, perhaps the largest of the war. After years of trying to take the city in 1776 and again in 1779, the British set up on Hampstead Hill -- basically the corner of present-day East Bay and Columbus streets -- in April 1780.
Following six weeks of the siege, the Americans surrendered and the British took more than 5,000 prisoners, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence. Borick said the siege, and subsequent defeat of the colonists, actually set up a chain reaction that turned the course of the war in America's favor.
Charleston fell, in part, because many militia men -- worried by a rumor of smallpox in Charles Town -- did not show up to fight. That left them available for other South Carolina battles, at King's Mountain and then Cowpens, that set the course for American victory in the Revolution.
And the British victory at Charles Town left the Redcoats over-confident, thinking they had, in effect, conquered the Carolinas.
For all those reasons, Borick said, Charleston played an important role in America's Independence.
Don Barger, southeast regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, last week released a report on the condition of the battlefields at King's Mountain, Cowpens and Ninety-Six. The idea, he said, is to highlight what remains to tell the story of these parks.
The loss of battlefields, in part, plays a role in how much of the South's role in the Revolution has been forgotten.
"When most people think of the Revolutionary War, they think it happened between New York and Virginia," Barger said.
Historians are happy to see a little more focus on the city's Revolutionary history these days.
Aside from the annual Carolina Day celebration, which marks the 1776 battle in which Col. William Moultrie repelled the British navy and army from Sullivan's Island, this year the Historic Charleston Foundation will highlight the lesser-known parts of that battle, namely the battle at Breach Inlet.
That day, about 780 patriots repelled more than 10,000 British troops trying to cross from Long Island (now the Isle of Palms) to take Sullivan's Island and its fort. On Wednesday, the Historic Charleston Foundation will offer free public presentations about that fight at its headquarters at 40 East Bay St.
"I'm hoping we'll be able to get more people interested," Moloy said. "That's what the (Siege of Charleston) marker is about. There is a ton of history but there's nothing much to see. Getting information out about it is an ongoing process."

Gadsden Flag

Captain Samuel Nicholas presenting Marines at the hoisting of the Rattlesnake flag

Monday, June 25, 2012

Carolina Day 2012

Carolina Day 2012
June 28, 2012
Schedule of Events
10:00 a.m.        Church service, St. Michael’s Church
10:30 a.m.Organizations assemble in Washington Park for parade
11:00a.m.Ringing of church bells, procession from Washington Park to White Point Gardens begins
11:30 a.m.Wreath-laying ceremony and performance by Charleston Community Band with remarks by Doug MacIntyre, President of the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Historical Trust
For additional information (843) 723-3225 ext. 11

New park could be historic treasure

This is what we have been working on the past year, so we hope to get back to work on the blog now that it has become a reality. 

Author(s):    BY BO PETERSEN Date: June 21, 2012 Section: Metro
SUMMERVILLE - The jungle-like stretch of the Ashley River, where it turns from a blackwater creek to a tidal stream, alone made Dorchester County's newest park property irresistible. The property might well have once held Gen. William Moultrie's "lost fort," among the most significant regional Revolutionary War sites not yet located.
There's one more thing: This park just might make money.
"Canoe and paddleboat rentals, shelter rentals, festivals, weddings, there's so many resources out there. The entire canvas is a blank slate that can actually pay for itself, in my opinion," said Tom O'Rourke, Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission executive director, who was consulted on the purchase.
The 83-acre tract Dorchester County is buying for its latest nature park is a prized piece of open land in the densely packed suburban area outside Summerville.
The county voted Monday to buy the property for $1.35 million. The site, formerly slated for residential development, had been in bank receivership.
It sits north of the river and east of Bacons Bridge Road, diagonally across the bridge from the newly opened woodland trail, Rosebrock Park.
The river tract is the third significant property bought in the past few years in the suburban lower county, where the county previously had no parks. In 2010, voters overwhelmingly passed a $5 million bond for parks and open space.
The other property is the Pine Trace tract off Miles Jamison Road.
The county also purchased 2 acres fronting the river tract along Bacons Bridge Road that it plans to sell for a compatible business to help pay for the park.
County Councilman Jay Byars, whose district includes the river property, said the park could be up and running relatively quickly. Some $3 million worth of infrastructure already is in place from the previous development effort, he said, including sewer lines, a fishing pond with gazebo, a dock on the river and a riverside trail with boardwalks.
With that value already on the ground and the potential for the park to support its own operation, the purchase "was a no-brainer," he said.
"You've got 3,000 feet of frontage on the Ashley River that the public can get out and enjoy. I don't think there was any argument on council. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Then there's the "lost fort."
If archaeological digs confirm the place as the site of the Moultrie's camp, Byars suggested that the park might well be developed around that history, making it a regional attraction.
"I'm excited about the potential, the preservation of an important site and what it can do for the economy of the county," said Summerville historian Steven Steele.
The historic Bacon's Bridge crossed the river in the vicinity during the Revolutionary War and was a key strategic point, the inland wagon route to the fort and town just downstream at what is today the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site.
Moultrie's camp would have protected the bridge.
Together, the nearby sites could make up a bigger historical trail attraction that could be traveled by water.
Patrick O'Kelley, who wrote a history of the American Revolution in the Carolinas, has visited the park site.
At one point, more than 1,000 American soldiers, some under "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion, were stationed near the bridge, a massive encampment that likely took up at least some of the park grounds, O'Kelley said.
"It's entirely possible" the park is that site, he said. "It makes sense."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thank you to SAR

Thank you to the General Moultrie Camp of the Sons of the American Revolution who invited us to speak at their Spring Social about General Moultrie in Dorchester County. The presentation went well and what a great group of people to talk with. The presentation site was very cool also, it was at the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Seeking forgotten fort on Ashley

Seeking forgotten fort on Ashley

Potential park site might hold key

Monday, February 13, 2012

SUMMERVILLE -- The slight rise above the Ashley River takes on an eeriness as Steven Steele speaks about it: 300 horses, hundreds of men and an earthen redoubt with a field of fire that could turn artillery against attack from upstream or down.
This could be the spot where "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion camped and trained militia, where he guarded the bridge between Round O and the White Meeting House that was the social hub of Colonial Dorchester. It could have been the sneak backwoods river crossing to attack Dorchester and Charleston's less protected rear during the Revolutionary War.
This spot might just have held Gen. William Moultrie's "lost fort," one of the most significant regional sites from the period still to be located. And the property is in negotiations to become the next Dorchester County park.
County leaders are beginning to realize just how historically important a park there might be -- an inland counterpoint of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, the national monument whose palmetto log walls withstood a British bombardment and became a state emblem. The promise quickly has become one of the reasons for the purchase, said council Chairman Larry Hargett.
To save the history for the county, as Steele says bluntly.
"This was Charleston's 'hanging flank.' Whoever controlled this crossing had the flank of Charleston," Steele says as he looks around the wooded rise. "This is a major site for Revolutionary War, win, lose or draw, especially for Dorchester County. We're within 50 feet of it right now."
The property is near today's Bacon's Bridge on Bacon's Bridge Road outside of Summerville. Steele is a local historian who specializes in the period and posts the Swamp Fox Brigade blog. He suspected the 83-acre tract might hold the site, and asked county leaders to give him access when they toured it. He and County Councilman David Chinnis, both Revolutionary War re-enactors who have studied battle strategies, reached the rise at the river's edge, stopped and stared.
"This bump in the river gives you a 180-degree field of fire," Chinnis said. "That's what you want. You want the artillery out in front." He's found other indications.
The "bump," it turned out, also sits along a high ground corridor from the Ashley River Road straight to the White Meeting House on Dorchester Road, the common sense route to run a wagon road through wetland bottoms. It sits roughly across the river from an historic cemetery and what archaeologists think might be the site of a fortified frontier settlement of a century earlier.
Steele says the place fits descriptions from Marion's and Moultrie's letters. The flat ground behind it is expansive enough to have held an Army camp that would have included everything from drill grounds and graves to latrines -- unlike other locations nearby. And the contour of the land has a sculpted quality that is different than anything upstream or down.
Steele wants to do core samples and other tests to try to confirm his assessment. The samples could turn up soil evidence or even artifacts from a fort in the period. If he's right, a park there could become one of those places history buffs come to see.
Bacon's Bridge is one of the more under-appreciated pieces of history in the region anyway, a place where skirmishes, ambushes and hairs-breadth escapes took place between Patriot and British fighters during the Revolution, among two centuries of lore.
"It's a very, very important staging area at very strategic crossing on the Ashley River," said Ashley Chapman, manager of the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site two miles down the river.
Locating the redoubt and the camp would create an opportunity for people to learn about a missing link to the history that includes Colonial Dorchester and its tabby fort, the river plantations and other toured spots. "We're all connected."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

General Moultrie's Lost Fort

Most people know the story of General Moultrie’s fort on Sullivan's Island that was named for him after he lead the forts defense against the British on June 28th in  1776. This fort becomes the symbol of resistance in Charlestown against the crown after its walls of palmetto logs were able to with stand the bombardment of the British Navy and Col. Thomson at the other end of Sullivan's Island was able to keep the British troops on Long Island (Isle of Palms) from crossing Breech Inlet and attacking the fort by land.
General Moultrie’s forgotten fortification can be found in Dorchester County on the Ashley River. This is the earth redoubt that he built to guard the access to Charlestown near Summerville, SC. This was an important crossroad for the defense of Charlestown 28 miles up the Ashley River. This was the bridge that leads across the Ashley River to White House Meeting House named in the honor of Reverend White, which the British burned under General Provost during his raid against Charlestown in 1778 and to Dorchester Road which was the main road leading directly to Charlestown. This fortification was built between January and February of 1780 to block any British advance coming up from Savannah that were going to link up with the British General Clinton who had landed on Johns Island and was already moving his forces to James Island under the protection of the Royal Navies big guns.  At this fortification he had over 300 hundred horseman that were used as a reconnaissance force and or a rapid response force should the British appear at other crossings to impede their crossings. This cavalry force was composed of the 1st Continental Dragoons under the command of Lt. Col. Anthony White and the 3rd Continental Dragoons under the command of Lt. Col. William Washington, Col. Daniel Horry’s South Carolina Light Dragoons and other mounted troops from the local militia and unattached cavalry. This group of cavalry was put to good use in late March of 1780 by checking a British Calvary force consisting primarily of the British Legion and the 17th Light horse under the command of Col. Tarlton who had yet to earn his American nickname Bloody Tarleton.  The infantry force was composed of the 2nd South Carolina with around 250 men who defended the palmetto fort on Sullivan’s under Moultrie’s command in 1776 and whom at this time were under the direct command of his second in command at Fort Moultrie, Francis Marion. Marion’s other role at Bacon's Bridge was to form the local militia from the surrounding parishes and have them ready to defend Charlestown. This was no easy task because the locals were in fear of the British burning their homes while they were away.
Once General Lincoln, who was in total command of the defenses of Charlestown realized the British planned to cross at Stono Ferry he began to pull all his available forces to Charlestown proper  and General Moultrie’s position on the Ashley River was abandoned as his forces reported to Charlestown.  
This did not end the importance of this site since Marion would returned under the command of General Lincoln as a General in the South Carolina Militia and with a well earned nickname “The Swamp Fox”. Marion would come back to the site several times to check possible British advances or passing through to other areas of operations.
Today the spot where the fortification was located has been located and is now in the process of being protected for future generations so they won’t forget Moultrie’s lost fort as previous generations have.