The fort at Dorchester was built originally to help buffer Charles town from possible attacks by the French and their Indian allies from the interior of South Carolina during the French and Indian War . The fort was built between 1757 and 1760 on the Ashley River to store powder in its powder magize at the small trading town of Dorchester thirty miles up river from Charles Town. This was a key strategic site at the time with its location on the river and very close proximity to the main trading road network between Charles Town and the interior. Also its location near Bacon’s Bridge allowed for it to help defend it also since it was the key bridge in the road network leading to and from Charles Town. Another fact about the fort was that the walls were built out of tabby, one of only two structures still standing today.
Once the threat of the French and their Indian Allies subsided, the fort was basically forgotten about until 1775 when the war of words between the colonies and England began to turn into a shooting war. At this point the brick armory was updated inside the fort to store military goods, gun powder, and important papers from Charleston for safe keeping.
Francis Marion “the Swamp Fox” with command of two companies of the Second South Carolina and local militia served as commander of the fort for a short time in late 1775. During his time there he put the fortification and military barracks in better military order for a possible attack by Tories rumored to be gathering for an attack against the fort. This threat soon dissipated and Marion was sent with his men to Fort Johnson in Charleston Harbor and later to military glory at the fort on Sullivan’s Island.
Thomas Sumter "The Gamecock" and his Sixth South Carolina were also stationed at Fort Dorchester to guard the powder magazine and military stores for three weeks in Febuary of 1777.
During the American Revolution the fort changed hands several times between the Americans and British. Some of the top military leaders of both sides of the war fought near or on the grounds of the fort. Military leaders such as Banastre Tarleston and his Green Dragoons of the British Legion, Lt. Col John Laurens with his calvary regiment, Lt. Col William Washington and his Light Dragoons, Lt. Col Henry Lee of “Light Horse Henry Lee fame and the father of Robert E. Lee” along with his Legion all fighting near the fort at different times during the later part of the war between 1780-1781.
Light Horse Henry Lee
Lt. Col William Washington
Once the American Revolution ended, the fort faded into history until 1969 when a local timber company donated the fort and its surrounding land to the state for a park. Thus the fort at Colonial Dorchester State Park and its rich history started to come to life to a whole new generation.