The National Park Service has awarded a new $39,000 grant to a researcher who hopes to find the exact location of perhaps South Carolina’s most important battlefield in the state’s turbulent history between American Indians and European colonists.
Archaeology professor Jon Marcoux of Salve Regina University in Rhode Island said historians have never determined the exact locations for any of the pitched battles in the 1715-1717 Yamasee War — a short, brutal fight between angry tribes and residents of the relatively young colony. However, he hopes a team of his students will be able to use contemporary accounts and GIS mapping to find the site of the war’s turning point — the Sadkeche Fight (also known as the “Salkehatchie Fight”).
“There were no maps kept at the time,” Marcoux told South Carolina Radio Network. “We have a few accounts that were written; essentially letters that were being written to the colonial diplomats back in England.”
But historians believe the fight occurred along the Combahee River north of present-day Beaufort. Marcoux hopes his team’s research could come up with possible site before next summer. He said any actual archaeological work at the site would require a second grant.
“What we’re probably dealing with is still relatively rural. There’s a lot of planted pines, timber tracts and paper company tracts in the area,” he said. “So I’m hoping the area hasn’t been too impacted.”
The Yamasee War began as various Carolina tribes, frustrated with British trading tactics and enslavement of some Indians, attacked traders and settlements across the Lowcountry. More than 1 in out of every 20 people were killed in a colony that was still less than 50 years old at the time. The Yamasee lost roughly a quarter of their entire population. South Carolina’s fledgling villages were nearly annihilated by raids, while many .
Sadkeche Fight marked a key turning point in the war, although little is known about it due to limited documentation and only the colonist’s account of what happened. A group of roughly 240 South Carolina militia fought off a larger war party that had ambushed them while bivouacked along the Combahee River in what is likely present-day Colleton County.
After frequent attacks by militia, and the unwillingness of the larger Cherokee nation to back their cause, the Yamasee over the next two years eventually fled towards Spanish Florida.
The grant is one of 20 awarded nationally under the National Park Service’s Battlefield Protection Program. The grants are meant to support efforts to preserve battlefields.