Wednesday, July 22, 2009

South Carolina: Jeff King, Day 3

Because of the mid-week closing of Rivers Bridge Battlefield Park, this Monday became a significant driving day. It included three battle sites and a better appreciation for the Marines.

James Island and the Battle of Secessionville
The historical marker for Battery No. 5 is in the housing development near the intersection of Bur Clare Drive and Secessionville Road. The historical marker is on the east side of the street on Seaside Plantation Drive.

Fort Lamar Heritage Preserve for the Battle of Secessionville (CSA)/James Island (USA) at 1229 Fort Lamar Road is a well interpreted site with trails, earthworks, and a good view of the swamp that was the Confederate flank position. I don’t remember defending troops being awakened by an attacking force with the firing of grapeshot out of a 10-inch Columbiad as were the CSA defenders here at the Battle of Secessionville. Imagine waking up to an earth shaking artillery moment and instant hand-to-hand combat. This is how CSA Col. Thomas G. Lamar, a South Carolinian from Edisto Island, was forced to begin the day 16 June 1862. That has some serious WOW Factor.

The parking area has the Confederate and Union Obelisks, an interesting entry sign, excellent period pictures, a UDC stone monument to the battle, and information on the battle. The earthworks, battle area, no man’s land, and attack routes are all easily accessible from trails. Col. Lamar is quoted that his victory here while being outnumbered six-to-one was “owing entirely to patriotism, love of freedom, and indomitable courage.” That's mostly accurate, but the earthworks, artillery, and a very defendable position certainly contributed to the success.
Because it was under Union control so early in the war, Beaufort escaped the destruction suffered by so many other South Carolina towns. The Antebellum homes are gorgeous and for many probably worth the separate tour available at the Visitor Center, 1106 Carteret St. The Beaufort Arsenal was closed for repairs when I visited, but it was worth the stop anyway. McKees/Small House at 511 Prince Street is private and was for sale when I drove by. It does have a state historical marker to Robert Smalls who captured a Confederate steamer.

"Secession House” (Maxcy/Rhett) at 1113 Cravens St. has a historical marker for Edmund Rhett’s home. The National Cemetery at 1611 Boundary is striking because of the contrast of beauty given by the palm trees that I seldom see. The graves include casualties of both Gulf Wars. The St. Helen’s Episcopal Church at 501 Church St., which served as a hospital during the war, is the grave site of CSA Lt. Gen. Robert Anderson and several other southern soldiers marked by the distinctive southern crosses.
Parris Island
Maybe it is because so many patriotic defenders of the America passed through here, but Parris Island is a special place. You must have personal identification, registration, and insurance card for car inspection at the gate (just like other active military bases at West Point NY and Fort Monroe VA). I really appreciated the guards' grooming tips. Be sure to visit the museum, 111 Panama St. (follow the signs), which has a small display on Marine Civil War uniforms and a display on the Battle of Port Royal Sound. It is fascinating to see how many famous people were Marines — Shelby Foote, Charlie Hough, Bob Keesham, Gene Hackman, George Peppard, Scott Glenn, Glenn Ford, Jonathan Winters, Gene Harwell, Keith Jackson, et al.

A driving tour map is available. Drive out past the golf course on the southern tip of the base to the Battle of Port Royal display off the boardwalk near the monument to the farthest north Spanish Fort in America. The view of Port Royal Sound is breathtaking.
Ehrhardt and Rivers Bridge State Park Battlefield
325 State Park Road (1357 Confederate Highway/Route 641)
The largest engagement in South Carolina during Sherman’s March is well interpreted, clean and very enjoyable. Plan ahead — this state park is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. The interpretive trail really goes into detail about all aspects of the battlefield and the final successful Union Flank attack. The edge of the Salkehatchie River makes it seem impossible for an army to pass through this swamp even with a corduroy road. How in the name of the Pioneer Corps and Engineering did they make this way passable? The Confederate Earthworks are in very good shape. Take a picnic lunch; this remote park is off the beaten path and a beautiful place to enjoy some time outdoors.

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