Standing on the Same Spot

Message From The Director

It’s not what you think; standing on the same spot can be fun - if it’s the same spot as history. Your state parks are more that just great places to “play.” They are also great places to learn and to be connected to our past, to stand on that same spot.

This month we are focusing in on soldiers and settlers and in particular battlefields. Check out the Soldiers and Settlers section of our website to learn more about the programs and activities at these special places.

South Carolina is rich in history and her state parks are a great place to learn more about how our state shaped and influenced a nation.

Battlefields offer a unique opportunity for visitors to not only learn about history but to feel it as well.

A trip to one of these sites, with the help of a park ranger, an interpretative wayside, exhibit, living history program and a little imagination takes you back in time. I recently had the opportunity to visit Rivers Bridge State Historic Site. As I left the parking lot I was greeted with an interpretative wayside that set the stage for my journey back into time.

I read accounts from the men who fought on the very spot I was standing.

“This indescribably ugly Salkehatchie” as a frustrated Captain Hedley of the 32nd Illinois Infantry recalls as he awaits a battle with Confederate soldiers at Rivers Bridge, site of one of the Confederacy’s last stands against General William T. Sherman’s sweep across the South.

He goes on to describe the river and the swamp around it as “so abundantly covered with foliage that the light of day is shut out.” The Salkehatchie still has a mystique about it, no doubt, and the still-intact earthen fortifications near the river at the park bear silent witness to the fierce battle that raged there Feb. 2-3, 1865.

As the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War approaches, Rivers Bridge is the perfect place to reflect and feel history.

The Battlefield of Rivers Bridge gives the visitor a unique perspective of just how this battle was fought and the impact it had to have had on the participants. The defining features of the site are

The Salkehatchie, the earthen breastworks

The Road, the very road General Sherman would use on his infamous “march.”

The amazing thing is they are all still there. Standing on the same road that was once fought over 142 years earlier, you not only see the tactical, but feel the emotional.

Breastworks to the right and left of the road were dotted with Confederate soldiers while the Union troops approached and sought refuge in the swamps of the Salkehatchie.

The site is alive. A walk along the historic trail puts things in perspective. Breastworks appear to be hilltops, but remember we are in the lowcountry and next to a swamp.

I quickly think of the work it took to create them and ponder what must have been going through the men’s minds as they prepared for a confrontation. Close your eyes and you can hear the sounds and feel the history. This is indeed a place of reverence. Thirty-eight men fought and died here.

The historical significance of what occurred in the very spot you are standing seals the deal, and you have a trip worth taking.

Remnants of an old bridge still remain; the river keeps a close eye on it and its secrets. The outnumbered Southerners held on for two days, marking the only major resistance the Union army encountered on its march from Georgia through South Carolina, which culminated a few weeks later with the burning of Columbia. The war would end soon after.

As I wander back to the car, I keep looking back, remembering what happened here. I’m connected, and history is no longer just something I read in a book.

Similar feelings and discoveries at other sites that connect us with history await you in this anniversary celebration of South Carolina State Parks.

There are so many places to discover. How about a visit to Colonial Dorchester to stand inside a tabby fort built in 1757 to protect a new settlement on the Ashley River. It will change your perspective on our past.

There are so many places to discover. There is just something about being in the same place, standing on the same ground, behind the same fort, or overlooking the same breastworks, the same place that the people who made history stood.

You’re connected. It’s a trip worth taking, and with gas prices being what they are -and with the 75th Anniversary Celebration going on - there’s no better time than now to “come out and play” and discover South Carolina and its history.

See you there,

Phil Gaines, Director