Some of South Carolina’s most endangered historic battlefield sites are located within the most highly-developed regions of the coast. A historical group hopes a new grant can help map out sites in jeopardy of being bulldozed.
“All of these sites are severely threatened by pending development,” South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust Executive Director Doug Bostick said. “The development in Charleston is just as wide open as you can possibly get it. All these sites that potentially tie to these battles are under urgent need to be protected.”
The trust has received a $72,000 grant from the National Park Service to map out designated battle sites. Bostick said the American Battlefield Protection Program grant help allow it to investigate nine Civil War sites in the Charleston area including:
• The April 12, 1861 attack on Fort Sumter
• The Battle of Secessionville, June 16, 1862
• Simmons Bluff, June 21, 1862, Union attack in Wadmalaw River & North Edisto River
• Ironclad Attack on Fort Sumter, April 7, 1863.
• First Attack on Fort Wagner, July 10 – 11, 1863
• Battle at Grimball’s Landing (Stono River), July 16, 1863
• 2nd Attack on Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863
• Bombardment of Fort Sumter, August 17 – September 8, 1863
• Battles in Charleston Harbor, August 22 – 23 (Swamp Angel) & September 5 – 8, 1863 (Amphibious Assault on Fort Sumter)
The information gathered from the study will be used for future preservation efforts. It may also lead to new applications for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
“These grants create maps and verify the footprint of battles so that we can apply for state and federal grants to find either conservation easements or, in some cases, site acquisitions,” Bostick said.
Bostick said the National Park Service had suggested in January that the trust apply for the grants. “They were interested in seeing these battles remapped,” he said. The NPS thought its previous maps on file were “inadequate” and “inaccurate,” he said.
“They apparently felt like we’d have a good handle on these battles and asked if we would be willing to take on this project, which of course, we’re honored to be asked to do it,” Bostick said. “The ultimate goal is to preserve as much of them as we can.”
Some of the former battle sites are private property. Some are owned by the state or county, but that does not guarantee protection. The trust tries to work with private property owners to either buy the land or encourage conservation easements, which protect the property from development.
“There are big footprints of yet still undeveloped property within the study and we’re hopeful that through this study we might be able to open some eyes and some hearts and find people that are willing to preserve our history,” he said.
He said some battlefields, such as Secessionville on modern-day James Island, currently have homes on them.
“There are people living within the battlefield that don’t have a clue that they touch the battlefield,” he said. “We’ve lost touch with what occurred within the footprint of where we live.”
Bostick said some of the battlefields still have unrecovered bodies of the soldiers who fought there. And the battles are not limited to the Civil War. There were more than 200 Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes throughout South Carolina.
“There are going to be nooks and crannies in places all over the Lowcountry,” he said. “The war raged here for four years.”
Bostick said the trust is available to help property owners research their sites and consult them on their options.
“Sometimes the only bullet in our gun is to ask people to do the right thing and that’s not always an easy ask because property owners, particularly on the coast, can turn these properties into — in some cases — small fortunes,” he said.