Saving the Battlefields Where America Was Forged

A Project of the Civil War Trust |  civilwar.org

Save More Than 1,000 Acres of Revolutionary War Southern Campaign Battlefield Land

A message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know”
– Harry S. Truman

Jim Lighthizer

Dear Fellow Battlefield Preservationist,

Why in the world am I quoting Harry Truman to you in a letter about Revolutionary War battlefield preservation?

It is because I’m writing to you today about a new, truly historic opportunity to do something that has never been done before:

Save more than 1,000 acres associated
with multiple Revolutionary War battlefields
at a nearly $38-to-$1 multiplier of your generous donation dollar – at places where most people “do not know” what happened.

But before I divulge the name of those battles to you, let me ask you:

Would you be willing to help save 1,037 acres of American hallowed ground that saw hundreds of casualties in 1779 through 1781, including the site of one of worst massacres of American soldiers in all of our history?

Would you be willing to help save hallowed ground that was so significant that even George Washington believed it was the key to winning the Revolutionary War?

And would you be willing to help save hallowed ground that dramatically launches a new vision, using preserved battlefield land to tell the story of the founding era of this great nation in a way that has never been done before...

... especially if I tell you that Campaign 1776, working closely with our extraordinary local partner group, the South Carolina Battleground Trust, can turn every $1 you give today into nearly $38 of land preservation, restoration and interpretation?

Taking Harry Truman’s words to heart, this is exactly why it is important for Campaign 1776 to save America’s endangered Revolutionary War battlefields: so that we can all continue to learn about the history we do not know.

So, if you will give me just the next two minutes, I will do my best to make you an expert on the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War... the campaign that turned the tide of the American Revolution!

That’s a bold claim, I know. Many people think of the Southern Campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas as a minor sideshow to the better-known northern battles of Bunker Hill, Princeton, Saratoga... and then the British surrendered at Yorktown, and everyone went home.

But the more I have learned about the Southern Campaign, the more I understand this is a crucial part of our country’s history that many people – even people who have an excellent knowledge of history – simply do not know.

What is most exciting to me is that while many of those better-known Revolutionary War battles fought in densely developed northeastern or New England states still have important battlefield land that needs to be saved, the property can be very expensive, and the acreage available to buy is often very small.

In the Southern Campaign – particularly in South Carolina – it is much the opposite; there are not only hundreds if not thousands of acres of open battlefield land that still can be saved, those acres are also much more affordable, ensuring that your donation dollar will have an exponentially greater impact.

There are also some significant matching fund opportunities (that’s how we get to a $38-to-$1 match on the land I’m writing to you about today), mostly created by the South Carolina Battleground Trust, which is leading the way and helping us efficiently target land to save.

It is our shared vision to create a “Liberty Trail” linking a network of more than 60 Revolutionary War parks, comprised of thousands of preserved acres of battlefield land, with state-of-the-art interpretation that tells the story of these amazing moments in American history like never before.

 Computer-generated re-creation of Fort Fair Lawn, as developed by the South Carolina Battlefield Trust.

The “first American civil war” was fought during 1779-1781 in South Carolina – often brutally pitting brother against brother, father against son, neighbor against neighbor.

Enemies were ruthlessly killed in scores of small but momentous battles that were often tactical losses for the Americans, but which, over time, severely weakened the British as they staggered toward their ultimate defeat at Yorktown.

And today, you and I have the chance to save – in one fell swoop – more Southern Campaign Revolutionary War battlefield land than has ever been saved before.

Are you with me? Then let’s begin at Port Royal Island, February 3, 1779: Unable to make headway in the Northeast, British strategists shifted their focus to the Southern Colonies in late 1778 and succeeded in taking Savannah, Georgia in December 1778. Them on February 1779, two hundred British regulars were sent from Savannah, to seize Port Royal Island, South Carolina near modern-day Beaufort. Learning of the British advance, American Major General Benjamin Lincoln sent Brigadier General William Moultrie to intercept them. Moultrie had a few Continental soldiers but most of his men were militia. (He did have two companies of artillery from Charleston, led by Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, Jr., both signers of the Declaration of Independence.)

After the battle, Moultrie wrote that the fight was “reversed from the usual way of fighting between the British and Americans; they taking the bushes and we taking the open ground.” The battle concluded with a British retreat just as the Americans were about to withdraw due to low ammunition.

The battle is hugely significant because Moultrie led a largely militia force against well-trained British regulars, and defeated them. At this early stage of the war in South Carolina, militia troops were not at all battle-hardened. It is also extremely rare to have two signers of the Declaration engaged in front-line battle action.

We also have the opportunity to save hundreds of acres from several actions associated with the siege and occupation of Charles Town (today we call it “Charleston”): Fort Fair Lawn (Summer, 1781), Colleton Castle (November 17, 1781), and Lewisfield Plantation (July 15, 1781).

During the occupation, Fort Fair Lawn was the most significant outpost between Charleston and Camden. The fort protected British supply and communication links throughout South Carolina, making it a major target for the Patriots.

In the week following the British retreat from Eutaw Springs, Brigadier General Francis (the “Swamp Fox”) Marion, Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, and Colonel Wade Hampton repeatedly harassed the British encamped at Fair Lawn. (And I’m sure the names “Lee” and “Hampton” did not escape your attention.)

On November 17, 1781, Marion’s men attacked Fair Lawn and the nearby Colleton Castle (the fortified home of a Loyalist family) and dealt a major blow to the British by capturing 150 prisoners, 300 stands of arms, and other critical war-making supplies. Today, this 80-acre battlefield includes a rare British redoubt that survives in remarkable condition.

During the “Dog Days Raids” of July 1781, Colonel Wade Hampton and his South Carolina dragoons were attacking British outposts and supply lines. On July 16, he attacked and burned British supply boats at Strawberry Ferry. Moving north toward Moncks Corner, Hampton soon passed Lewisfield Plantation, home of Captain Keating Simons. He ordered his men to move ahead while he and his bugler paid a visit to Lewisfield, hoping for a hot breakfast and a chance to visit Simons’ sister, Miss Molsie Simons. As he approached the plantation home, Miss Simons tried to wave him off to no avail. When he reached the house, she warned him that British troops were in her front yard at the river loading ships with bounty looted from area plantations. Hampton wheeled his horse around and sped to his men. They all returned, completely surprised the British, took seventy-eight prisoners, recovered the loot, and burned the ships (and both boats are still in the Cooper River today at the banks of Lewisfield).

Moving inland from the lowcountry to the backcountry, we come to the Battle of Hanging Rock. Located on the road between Camden, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina, Hanging Rock served as one of a series of British strongholds intended to maintain their position in South Carolina.

The Americans, led by Major William Richardson Davie, first attacked the post on July 30, 1780; at the same time, General Thomas Sumter (the “Gamecock”) attacked Rocky Mount. Major Davie targeted a nearby house and successfully took 60 horses and 100 stands of arms but was unable to take the British camp at Hanging Rock.

On August 5, 1780, General Sumter, Major Davie, Colonel Robert Irwin, and 800 men marched 16 miles through the night, reaching Hanging Rock. The attack began at 6:00am when General Sumter’s men crossed the creek slamming into the British line, breaking its center within half an hour.

When Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s men charged with bayonets, General Sumter’s men took cover behind rocks and trees, firing into the lines of British troops. Within a few minutes, most of the British officers were wounded or killed. After three long hours, the battle ended and the victorious Americans plundered the camp while the British watched helplessly.

And now we come to one of the darkest moments of the entire Revolutionary War, the Battle of Waxhaws, May 29, 1780. Following the Siege of Charleston, Colonel Abraham Buford’s command of about 350 Virginia Continentals (which had been sent to him by George Washington) were the largest body of American troops left in the South. As such, Buford was ordered to march to North Carolina and help rebuild the broken American army. The British, aware of his force and their movement, planned to destroy them.

Tarleton and his 270 men, after a grueling forced march of 150 miles in 54 hours, caught Col. Buford just south of the North Carolina border. Falsely claiming he had 700 men, Tarleton demanded Buford’s surrender, punctuating the terms with “if you are rash enough to reject them, the blood be upon your head.” Col. Buford rebuked the offer saying “I reject your proposals, and shall defend myself to the last extremity.”

As historian Christopher Ward wrote in his The War of the Revolution:

“Immediately upon receiving the refusal of his terms, Tarleton’s bugles sounded and his force [cavalry and infantry] swept down upon Buford’s rear guard. They were cut down to a man.” Buford drew his remaining men into a line on open ground to receive the charge, but the Patriots held their fire too long.

Ward writes that the “charge carried them against the Americans, broke their line, swept around both flanks, and left them a huddled defenseless mass. Buford hoisted a white flag and ordered his men to ground their arms. But Tarleton would not stay his troops. They fell upon the unarmed Americans with sword and bayonet. Cries for quarter were answered with slashing and stabbing steel. Men who had fallen wounded were bayoneted. Across the field, the Tories raged seeking half-dead men to kill . . . The affair was a savage slaughter . . . From that time on, ‘Tarleton’s Quarter’ became a byword to describe relentless slaughter of helpless men.”

Of the 350-400 Americans who engaged in the battle, 316 were counted as casualties, including 113 deaths. However, the strategic result favoring the British was temporary. The battle ignited an intense hatred that fueled the American effort to force the British out of the South by any means necessary.

Such compelling stories of heroism, of how a small, ragged group of citizen-soldiers managed to defeat the largest military force in the world at that time, helped create the nation that you and I revere.

Hopefully, you are now on your way to becoming an expert on the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War . . . and you are ready to join in the fight to save this essential, unknown part of our history.

The last piece of the puzzle that I can fill in for you is how Campaign 1776 (a project of the Civil War Trust) is going to pay for it.  The cost to purchase, preserve, restore and interpret these 1,037 acres is a jaw-dropping $9,009,800!   Before you call me crazy, please note through the great work of our preservation partners in South Carolina, the South Carolina Battleground Trust and the Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust, as well as applying for some federal matching battlefield grants, and state land conservation grants, we believe we have nearly $8.8 million of that amount – fully 97.4% covered!

parisans & redcoats

A special preservation paperback edition of "Partisans and Redcoats" is your free gift with your donation of $38 or more.

Basically, you and I are being asked to put the “last money in” to each of these transactions, which works out to be $238,825 or just 2.6% of the total! That is a $37.57-to-$1 multiplier of your donation dollar!

Every $1 you give turns into nearly $38 to save an enormously important part of our history that very few people know about. Not only are you saving history, but you are making history at the same time.

That’s why I ask you to please consider sending the most generous contribution you can to help Campaign 1776 raise our portion of the match, $239,825. I know this is a lot of money, but remember that every $1 you give to this effort is multiplied into nearly $38 – a fantastic return on your charitable “investment.”

And in recognition of that tremendous matching grant multiplier, if you send a gift of $38 or more today, it will be my honor to send you a special preservation paperback edition of a great book Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict that Turned the Tide of the American Revolution, by Walter Edgar. I guarantee that after you finish reading this gripping account, you will have a new appreciation, as I did, of the importance of the Southern Campaign in our War for Independence.

Any amount that you can send today will help tremendously, and will be greatly, greatly appreciated, but if you can send $38 or more, I will rush your copy of Partisans and Redcoats out to you as soon as possible, with my compliments. I can never thank you enough for your stalwart support for this historic effort.

I remain, very truly yours,

Jim Lighthizer Signature

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. Emory Thomas, who you may know better as a Civil War historian, says that Partisans and Redcoats “is a superb book . . . A great read . . . Here is a theater of the Revolution about which few people know, and it is in many ways the most interesting, most exciting and most important.” Please help save these crucial parts of our nation’s history with your most generous contribution today. Thank you for all you do!