This post brought to you by Curtis, who is avoiding studying for his weekly exam and overall shirking responsibilities. And notes from Jess in italics. If you care to know, he actually rocked that test, just like he always does. Just sayin’! -Jess, Proud Wife 😉
Santee & Orangeburg, South Carolina | Santee State Park | Santee National Wildlife Refuge | Edisto Memorial Gardens | Wannamaker County Park | May 14, 2016
This past weekend we didn’t really know what we wanted to do. The weather was promising to be rather steamy, but we wanted to do something outdoors and with Charlotte without having to drive more than an hour. Unfortunately, because of how awesome we are, we had already done most of the outdoors-with-Charlotte-things-in-the-area that we have on our bucket list. So on a whim I suggested we drive north a bit to the Lakes region, do some letterboxing, and maybe some hiking, just to get out.
And so we set out towards Santee State Park for yet another trip. We took the quickest route to get there using the boring interstates, but when you don’t leave for your day trip until after 10 AM, it’s excusable; especially when it is going to be hot. It’s not like we slept in that late. We just couldn’t break up our weekly ritual of making cinnamon cake for breakfast, and then eating the entire thing. I’m sure you can understand. -Jess
We made it to Santee State Park in reasonable time and lucky for us, it wasn’t as hot or humid as it could have been. We took a short trail to a letterbox through the woods and found it without event. “Without event” meaning we only had to circle the area once before checking to see what comments were left on the box before figuring out how the area has changed since the clues were written. 1 hop through a creek, 2 muddy boots and 4 muddy paws later, we had success! We then decided to walk down by the lake in order to get our State Park Stamp.
Interestingly, even though we have driven “past” the lakes on several occasion, I don’t think we have actually ever seen them due to the tree cover. The Lakes in question are Lakes Moultrie and Marion. These lakes were formed during the 1930’s as one of the work projects of FDR’s New Deal by damming the Cooper and Santee rivers (respectively) and joining the two with a canal. This was done in order to bring hydro-electricity to rural South Carolina, and to potentially create a water way connecting Columbia with Charleston. At the time, it was one of the largest earth moving projects to date.
Interestingly, this was not the first attempt to join the Cooper and Santee basins. As some may recall from our trip early this year, the Santee Canal was constructed in the late 1700’s for just such a purpose (minus the hydro-electric aspect).
The dams and generators still operate today (although for those who care, coal is still the predominant energy source), and apparently (took some research on this one), barges can still make their way up from Charleston along the Cooper, through a lock, over Lake Moultrie, through the canal, over Lake Marion, and then up the Congaree to Columbia. Of course nothing on such a large scale is all good and there have been some interesting physical and ecological effects as well as just the sure expanse of area that had to be relocated.
Following our jaunt at the State Park, we decided to head across the lake to the Santee National Wildlife Refuge to visit a point of interest. In what time I had to prepare for this trip (all of an hour) I made note that the Palmetto Trail, a cross state backpacking trail, crossed the lake at this point. Pursuing this train of thought led me to discover that there were some Indian ceremonial grounds right off the trail. Of even more importance (to me) was that this was the site of a (minor) Revolutionary War action. We had to visit it naturally. And now you GET to read all about it. Lucky you.
The place in question is called the Santee Indian Mound and Fort Watson. Prior to the development of the lakes, the mound (I am not sure if it is natural or constructed by the Santee or even prehistoric peoples) was a natural high point overlooking the Santee River Valley and part of the road from Charleston to Columbia.
Pre-colonial, the mound was a ceremonial site for the Santee Indians who may have used it for religious, burial, and perhaps ceremonial/economic purposes. But by the Revolutionary War, the Santee had very minimal presence.
After the British successfully captured Charleston in May 1780, the British began establishing outposts throughout the South Carolina interior in order to better control the rebellion and monitor for Patriot movements. Included in these outposts were Ninety-Six and a small fort built atop the Santee Mound named Fort Watson.
Between the fall of Charleston and Kings Mountain (August 1780), the bulk of the war in South Carolina was comprised of partisan and guerrilla warfare conducted by the likes of Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion against British supply depots and garrisons. (I have not even begun to discover some of these locations. Supposedly Berkeley County -where Marion operated out of- has the most revolutionary battle sites per county in the US). In February 1781, Sumter attempted to reduce Fort Watson, but owing to a lack of cannon, and the British possession of cannon, the attempt was repulsed and Sumter continued on to assist General Greene in his rolling battle against Lord Cornwallis. Without the support of an Army commanded by a competent General, Marion and Sumter could be little more than nuisances to the British.
Following the Battle at Guilford Courthouse in March 1781, Cornwallis decided that Virginia was the place to be, and left the Carolinas open to reconquest by Greene and the regulars. With Greene marching his way back to South Carolina, the British under Lord Rawdon began to strip as many men and munitions as possible from the back country outposts in order to stop General Greene near Camden. This of course weakened Fort Watson, leaving it with no cannon and only 120 men under the command of Lt. James McKay to defend it.
In support of Greene’s movements, Marion and Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee moved up the Santee after an aborted attempt to take Georgetown. On April 16, Marion began to lay siege to the fort. He first attempted to cut off the British water supply at the nearby lake (NOT Lake Marion). Foiled in this (the British dug a well), he then proceeded to build a tower tall enough for sharpshooters to fire down into the fort. (called a Maham Tower after its designer). The British, without cannon, were unable to destroy the tower and surrendered after a single assault. The siege had lasted eight days and ended with Marion destroying the fort utterly.
Although minor in scale, the Siege of Fort Watson was significant in its impact on the greater war being fought in South Carolina. Following the siege, Lee and Marion were able to pursue John Watson and the rest of the British garrison and prevent them from joining up with Lord Rawdon near Camden. Furthermore, with one of his forts destroyed, Lord Rawdon began to view the British position near Camden as untenable and retreated towards Moncks Corner despite having one a victory over Greene at the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill (April 25, 1861).
With Lord Rawdon thus removed, Greene and his Lieutenants were free to continue their reduction of the British outposts. Greene continued on to Ninety Six where he employed a Maham’s Tower (less successfully granted), Lee pushed on to Augusta, Georgia, and Marion proceeded to reduce the garrison at Fort Motte along the Congaree (perhaps another weekend trip).
Following our brief tour of the mound, we decided to head over to Orangeburg to stop and smell the roses. Orangeburg is supposedly famous for the Edisto Memorial Gardens where many different types of “Award Winning” roses are grown. Fortunately, many of the roses were in bloom, although I think we were past peak season. But it was still enjoyable to walk the gardens, see the cypress trees and a water wheel along the Edisto River.
Following this, we decided to make our way home, attempting a nearby letterbox before leaving town (missing) (and in supposedly “private property” – why do we even try??). Rather than taking the interstate back we decided to take highway 176 through farms and small towns.
While we’re at it, we may as well talk about our short adventure on Sunday as well. Sunday was a much much nicer day. Whereas Saturday was alright in the shade and tolerable in the sun, Sunday was beautiful as a cold front moved through.
Since we didn’t feel like we had gotten that much outdoor time the previous day, we decided to go walk and letterbox in Wannamaker County Park after church. The trails were nice and wooded and far enough away from all the picnic-ers and their loud children. We considered walking around the whole park, but were feeling a lack of motivation and decided to head home after finding two boxes. For those who are interested, the entrance fee was $2/person, and along with trails, parks, and picnic areas the park has a dog park, water park, camping sites available, and a lagoon with boat rentals.