Short history of South Carolina
Lucas Vasquez de Allyon of Spain attempted the first European
settlement on the South Carolina coast in 1526. A few Spanish missions and military
outposts during the next 150 years had brief but tenuous existence up and down the coast.
Their presence did not keep King Charles II from granting the area to the lords
Proprietors of Carolina in 1663.
North and South Carolina were separate settlements from the
beginning. People were already living in the Albemarle Sound area near the Virginia
border. South Carolina grew from a settlement on the Ashley River in 1670. Official
division of the two provinces came after 1729 when the crown bought the rights of the
Lords Proprietors. This section of the North-South Carolina boundary was drawn in 1737.
The coastal Indians welcomed the English settlers as allies against
the Spanish. The province of South Carolina grew, and Charleston became one of the busiest
seaports in the British Empire exporting cattle, naval stores, lumber, rice, and indigo.
The population was concentrated in the coastal area for nearly a century. South Carolina
was a melting pot for people of English, French, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, Jewish, Swiss, and
German stock. Slaves from Africa constituted more than half of the colonial population.
Colonial South Carolina was the frontier outpost protecting English
interests against Spain to the South and France in the Mississippi Valley. The province
was involved in three major Indian wars and four major imperial wars. Some of the earliest
and some of the latest battles of the American Revolution were fought here. South
Carolina, with over 150 Revolutionary battle and skirmish sites, has more than can be
found in any other state.
A British attack in 1776 was repelled, but British forces reoccupied
in 1780. Guerrilla fighting heroes such as Gen. Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox), Gen.
Thomas Sumter (The Gamecock), and Continental troops under Gen. Nathanael Greene forced
the British withdrawal. If your ancestors were from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia or
Pennsylvania, they may have fought decisive battles here under Gen. Greene, shoulder to
shoulder with South Carolinians.
During the first half of the 19th century competition from the
industrial states, too great a reliance on cotton, and criticism of the slave labor system
led to secession, formation of the Confederacy, and finally to the Civil War. The
aftermath of the War was poverty, compounded problems, and an excruciatingly slow
A resurgence, much like that of the post-Revolutionary period, began
after World War II. Better education, a stable government, industrial expansion, and a
favorable climate are among many factors contributing to todays South Carolina. With
this resurgence is a growing interest in the out-of-doors and the history and culture of
this great state we live in.
George Washington Trail
George Washingtons goodwill tour of 1791 passed through South
Carolina along two routes, central and coastal. Washington entered the state crossing the
northern border of South Carolina near Little River where the first State Welcome Center
is located, he followed the Kings Highway to near the ocean at Myrtle Beach from
which point he traveled along the grand strand south to Surfside beach. Here he returned
to the Kings Highway and followed it through present day Brookgreen Gardens to
Georgetown, Charleston, Ashepoo, Pocotaligo, Purrysburg on the Savannah River and into
Georgia at Savannah.
Washington followed a central route on his return journey which goes
from Augusta through Columbia, Camden, Lancaster, and Charlotte. This central route has
attractions such as: evidence of early railroad building and manufacturing near Augusta,
the State House complex and the Robert Mills influence, the Camden battlefields, and
Andrew Jackson State Park near Lancaster.
More than 300 years of exciting history have taken place along these
routes; this is the region where South Carolina had its origin. Spanish and French
attempts at settlement go all the way back to 1526. The first permanent English settlement
in Charleston dates back to 1670. Pirates, Indians, four Colonial Wars, the American
Revolution, the Civil War, South Carolina Rice, Indigo, and Sea Island Cotton have all
left their marks.
George Washington Trail Coastal Route
Little River to Myrtle Beach
This area is part of the Waccamaw Neck, long, inaccessible, and without a major port. It
was the last part of the road between Boston and Savannah to be served by stagecoach.
Isolated by rivers and swamps, settlement was retarded. The Old Kings Highway, only
a short distance from US 17, was the primary north-south connection in Washingtons
day. News of the battle of Concord came down this route.
Conway, 15 miles inward and across the Waccamaw River, was settled
as far back as 1735. There was a small settlement near Little River almost this long ago,
since some old cemeteries record early occupation. Some grave sites were marked with Ships
Myrtle Beach to Georgetown
President James Monroe traveled this route. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston
Churchill vacationed at the tip end of the Waccamaw Neck at Hobcaw, plantation home of
Bernard Baruch. Here, Washington visited local citizens and crossed the river to
Georgetown by barge amid fanfare and ceremony. The Kings Highway in this area is
generally to your landward side, passing through the Brookgreen Gardens area.
Georgetown to Charleston
This part of the state lies between two major seaports named after English Kings, George
II and Charles II, who ruled over South Carolina as a province. The first English
colonists made landfall at Bulls Bay in 1670 but settled farther south on the Ashley
River. Settlement later spread back into this region during the first 50 years.
Early English families shared the Santee River Valley with French
Huguenot immigrants, among them, the forebears of the Revolutionary hero Francis Marion.
Much of the area today is in the Francis Marion National Forest,
with other sections occupied by pulpwood, small farms, swamp lands and tidelands.
Charleston to Savannah
Indians fought among themselves over the land long before European settlers arrived.
Frenchman of the Ribaut expedition were here in 1562 but were driven off by the Spanish,
who maintained uneasy occupancy until the late 17th century. When English settlers came
ashore in 1670, the Indians welcomed them as allies against the Spanish.
Two major Indian Wars, the Westo and the Yamassee, were fought here.
A major slave insurrection, the Stono Revolt, further bloodied the territory in 1739.
During the Revolution, the land between Charleston and Savannah was
much fought over territory, the scene of major battles and countless skirmishes.
Charleston, which had staved off the British invasion from the sea in 1776, fell before an
invasion by land on May 12, 1780. In this terrible American defeat, more than 5,000 troops
were captured. The British stayed until December, 1782, more than a year after
Cornwalliss defeat at Yorktown.
During the Civil War, Union forces invaded Hilton Head Island in
November, 1861, and spent a bloody, grinding four years slogging their way up the sea
islands to the gates of Charleston. But the city did not fall until Shermans
march to the sea in 1865.
George Washington Trail Central Route
This route marks the direction President Washington went on his
return through South Carolina for his goodwill tour in 1791. The President began his trip
in North Augusta, where he was met by Revolutionary War Colonels Wade Hampton and Thomas
North Augusta to Columbia
Heading northeast across South Carolina from North Augusta, stretch the Sandhills, which
were deposited by a prehistoric sea. Along this ridge, progressive travel routes of South
Carolina history have developed, from Indian footpaths to packhorse trails to a plank
turnpike to modern and interstate highways.
President Washington described the area as a pine barren of
the worst sort, being hilly as well as poor.
DeSoto explored here in 1540 looking for gold. Juan Pardo led a
Spanish expedition through this area from Port Royal in 1566.
After the 1715 Yemassee War, British Colonel George Chicken also
crossed here with an expedition into the Cherokee uplands.
Fort Moore, near North Augusta, was established in 1716 as a
Savannah River trading center and garrison. Trader George Galphin named nearby Silver
Bluff in 1735.
Pioneer botanist John Bartram found the area an excellent field for
his pioneer research in 1765.
As early as the 1730s, the settlers had pushed the frontier to
this area with English, French, Swiss and Germans founding pioneer townships at New
Windsor, near North Augusta, and at Saxe Gotha, west of Columbia.
October, 1833, marked the completion of the worlds longest
railroad, which ran from Charleston to Hamburg. Its first locomotive, The Best
Friend of Charleston, was the first built in America for actual service on a railroad. A
replica may be found at the State Museum in Columbia.
Mid-state garrison after 1716 was Congaree Fort, near present day
Columbia. This was the territory of early reformed (Calvinistic) pastor Christian Theus
and of Drayton and Tennents 1775 journey to arouse the backcountry against the
Centuries of soldiers have crossed the Sand Hills, including
American forces under Generals Pickens and Sumter, blocking the British drive north; and
Lord Rawdons 1781 expedition to relieve the besieged garrison at Ninety Six.
In 1865, Union forces burned Columbia, which was founded as South
Carolinas new Capital city in 1786. Consumed in the fire was the wooden State House
where the President had dined.
Columbia to Northern State Line
Above Columbia, plantation families seeking refuge from lowland malaria built summer homes
in the sandhills. Lightwood Knot Springs and Rice Creek Springs were popular resorts in
the 1830s and 1840s.
The important Battle of Camden saw Patriot General Gates opposing
General Cornwallis on August 16, 1780. At Hobkirk Hill in Camden, President Washington
stopped to examine the ground on which General Greene and Lord Rawdon had their action, an
important battle fought on April 25, 1781.
In lower Lancaster county, see a South Carolina natural wonder,
Hanging Rock. This is where Sumter, the Gamecock, fought a Revolutionary engagement in
1780. This is also where 3,000 Methodists gathered together in 1802 for one of South
Carolinas earliest camp meetings.
Above Lancaster are the rugged Waxhaws, a land of pines, pastures,
and split rail fences. In 1767 this area produced the South Carolinian who became the 7th
President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
This famous Indian trail was followed by pack horse traders from
Charleston before 1700. Two routes were followed. One led by way of the Cooper, Santee,
and Congaree river systems past present day Columbia. The other route turned toward
present day Augusta on the Savannah River, and headed north to meet the first route near
Ninety Six. The alternate routes converged on the Indian town of Keowee (Oconee county).
The path goes by Forts Dorchester (Dorchester county), Pallachucolas
(Jasper and Hampton counties), Moore (Aiken county), Ninety Six (Greenwood county),
Rutledge (Oconee county), Prince George (Pickens county), and the Congarees (Lexington
county). On the eastern branch of the path, a natural route to follow, French,
German, and Scotch-Irish settlers all have left historic evidence along the way.
Staging at Fort Prince George, South Carolinians in 1756 hauled
materials along the path over the mountains into Tennessee where they built Fort Loudoun,
which has been reconstructed on its original site near Maryville on the Tellico River.
Perhaps the largest archeological dig in the United States took place at Fort Prince
George in 1967 revealing more information about life along the Cherokee Path.
Two British expeditions against the Cherokee followed this route in
1760 and 1761. Revolutionary heroes - Sumter, Marion, and Pickens - learned guerrilla
fighting along the Cherokee Path. William Bartram, the naturalist, described it in his
The Jefferson Davis Trail
The Jefferson Davis Trail retraces the flight of the President of
the Confederacy through South Carolina after the fall of Richmond in 1865. On the night of
April 2, 1865, the Confederate Government evacuated Richmond, Virginia, when defense of
the Confederacy capital became impossible. In the following weeks, the surrender of
Confederate armies in Virginia and North Carolina forced President Jefferson Davis with
his cabinet and military escort to retreat further south.
From April 26 to May 3, 1865, Davis and his party traveled
southwesterly through the Piedmont region of South Carolina, where they were hospitably
received by people of the area. The country through which they passed had escaped much of
the destruction of the war and members of Davis staff long remembered the well kept
gardens along the road and the people in small towns and hamlets who greeted the President
wherever he went, offering flowers and strawberries, prayers and kind wishes.
Davis still refused to believe the Confederate cause was hopeless,
but his generals finally persuaded him to accept reality. At a Council of War, held at
Abbeville, South Carolina, on May 2, 1865, it was decided to abandon any purpose except
President Daviss escape across the Mississippi River. The party began to disperse
after leaving Abbeville, with Davis and a small escort group traveling south into Georgia.
One week later, in the early morning of May 10, 1865, Davis and his companions were
captured by Federal troops near Irwinville, Georgia.
William Sherman Trail
Union General William T. Shermans army cut a wide swath
through South Carolina, but the main path, extends form Savannah to Orangeburg and
Columbia and then northeast through Camden and Cheraw. Much evidence of Shermans
march remains: Rivers Bridge State Park; the ruins of old Saluda Factory; the cannonball
scars on the State House; the ruins of General Wade Hamptons home, Millwood; and the
Kelly house, which was used as Union headquarters outside of
William Bartram Trail
William Bartram, the first native born naturalist and artist of the
American colonies, contributed greatly to the documentation of the southeastern United
States in the late 18th century. In fact he has the only early account of the environment
of the southeast. He is best known for his writings about this region in his book
Bartrams Travels, which is an account of his epic journey from Charleston to Baton
Rouge between 1773 and 1777. His book includes observations of the Indian culture of the
region, as well as the natural phenomena and the differing landscapes.
William Bartram was not only a naturalist, but a botanist, artist
and a writer. His lifelong work was probably precipitated by his father, John Bartram, who
served as the official botanist to King George III of England. John Bartram supplied
seeds, plants, and zoological specimens to England and other areas in Europe for close to
fifty years. As a child, William accompanied his father on expeditions to the Carolinas,
Florida, and other areas.
In his trek through the southeast, Bartram traveled through South
Carolina from Charleston south along the coast into Georgia. He then headed northwest
along what now is the Georgia-South Carolina border, dipping back and forth between the
two as he traveled north to Oconee Station, SC. Much of his original route is now under
Lake Russell. Georgia has constructed a few stretches of recreational trails following
Bartrams route near Augusta, GA.
National Historic Trail
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail commemorates the
approximate route taken by a band of over-mountain men in their march to Kings
Mountain, SC where they defeated a Loyalist force of 1,100 men on October 7, 1780.
In 1975, local citizens, many of whom were descendants of Patriots
and Loyalists, determined to march the route of the Patriot army as part of American
Revolution Bicentennial celebrations. From this first march developed the Overmountain
Victory Trail Association (OVTA). The OVTA collected thousands of signatures to gain
national trail status and in 1980, just before the 200th anniversary of the battle, were
awarded that status.
The trail covers approximately 300 miles from Abingdon, Virginia,
through eastern Tennessee, over mountains in North Carolina, eastward through Cherokee
County, South Carolina, to Kings Mountain National Military Park.
On opposite ends of the trail portion in South Carolina are Cowpens
National Battlefield (CNB) and Kings Mountain National Military Park (KMNMP). CNB
preserves the 845-acre field where Daniel Morgans brilliant victory over Banastre
Tarletons larger force of British regulars took place on January 17, 1781. This
Revolutionary war battle was not related to the overmountain mens victory at Kings
Mountain. The battlefield has a visitor center and foot paths through the battlefield.
KMNMP is a 4,000 acre park commemorating the Overmountain victory and is managed by the
National Park Service. The park contains an obelisk monument to battle participants, a
visitor center, and self guided interpretive trails. Also, the sites where Ferguson was
wounded and buried are marked.
Part of the National Trails System, the trail is managed
cooperatively by OVTA, National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Army Corps of
Engineers, local governments and citizens, historical societies, and the states of
Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The American Revolution had been in progress for five years when
England found itself stalemated in the northern colonies and turned its military strategy
toward conquest of the south. British General Charles Cornwallis had defeated a large
American army at Charleston in May of 1780. Convinced that Southern Whigs would flock in
droves to the Loyalist camp if British strength were shown, Cornwallis ordered British
Colonel Patrick Ferguson to foray into the Carolinas to recruit followers to the
Kings cause. Thus in summer of 1780, Ferguson and his regiment of American Loyalists
began to hunt out and harass rebels who continued to resist British authority.
In late summer of 1780, the overmountain men retired to their homes
to rest and strengthen their forces before having another go at Ferguson. Cornwallis, in
the mean time, had devised a strategy with which he hoped to sweep the south and carry the
war into Virginia to crush the American Revolution.
Thus it was in late September of 1780, that Ferguson
(Cornwallis western commander) sent a message to the backwater men (as he called
them) promising that if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms, he
would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste
with fire and sword.
The overmountain men could not resist this challenge. In late
September of 1780, they took the initiative and gathered under Colonels Charles McDowell,
John Sevier, Isaac Shelby, and William Campbell at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River in
the present day state of Tennessee. There they were met by additional Patriot militia
forces from the east under Colonels Joseph Winston and Benjamin Cleveland of Wilkes and
Surry counties, North Carolina. They proceeded south to find that Ferguson had fled
the town of Gilbert, a small hamlet near the present day city of Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
Aided by intelligence from South Carolina patriots, the overmountain men marched to
Cowpens in South Carolina where they were joined by South Carolina troops under Colonels
James Williams, William Hill, and Edward Lacey. On or about October
5th they were also joined by 30 members and officers of Elijah
Clarke's Georgia militia under the command of major William Candler,
which, Cornwallis sent Ferguson to defeat. From there the best and ablest among them
pushed on through night and rain to reach Kings Mountain, South Carolina, on October 7,
1780. At 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, the battle began. When it was over, the overmountain
men had killed Ferguson and soundly defeated his loyalist troops.
The Patriot victory delayed Cornwallis plan for three months
and allowed the Continental army to organize a new offensive in the south. In December of
1780, General Nathaniel Greene replaced General Horatio Gates as Continental army
commander of the southern department and seized the military initiative in the Carolinas.
Cornwallis never regained the initiative in the south before he was forced to surrender at
Yorktown, Virginia, a year later. Thus, the Battle of Kings Mountain was a significant
turning point leading to the ultimate Patriot victory in the American Revolutionary War.