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Downtown buildings burned; fire hits Bamberg, cause investigated

BAMBERG — Vermont native Steven Leninski first came to Bamberg in 2005 and fell in love with the buildings downtown.

As a lover of antiques and history, Leninski purchased a number of buildings on Main Street with plans to revitalize the structures and bring business back.

On Wednesday, Leninski walked through the rubble of three of his buildings and walked within another that was partially destroyed in a fire Tuesday night.

"I love this building," Leninski said as he walked by the former Tobul Accumulators headquarters. The building is at the corner of Main Street and Short Street.

Fumbling for his keys to open the door to the now water-logged and fire-damaged building, Leninski wanted to see how many of his antiques survived the fire. The antiques are mostly furniture, with some items dating as far back as the 18th century.

"See this stuff here," Leninski said, pointing to what appeared to be a dresser in the damp and dark building. "It is very expensive stuff. It is very old."

Leninski knows his antiques. He pointed in the darkness to some Chippendale chairs.

"They are rare," he said. "Very rare."

"A lot of this will be ruined," he said. "I had hundreds of thousands of dollars in there gone.

“That is it. Gone forever. It is burned."

In another room of the building, Leninski pointed out a vault from the former bank which occupied the building.

"See that vault?" Leninski said. "That there alone is worth $100,000 right there. That is worth a fortune."

Leninski says he is not sure exactly how much has been lost, but he estimates the total to be an “easy” $300,000, and that would be on the low end.

"I lost a lot of money," he said. "I had no insurance on it."

Leninski purchased the buildings -- some for as much as $45,000 - about four to five years ago with visions of bringing them back to their former glory. They weren’t in use except for storage.

He was at home sleeping when some friends came over to wake him and tell him of the fire.

“I came running up here,” Leninski said. He stayed at the scene until 1 a.m.

A backhoe was at the scene on Wednesday.

An exhausted Bamberg Fire Chief Timmie Taylor, who spent much of the night at the fire, said the backhoe was sifting through the rubble in search of clues to what caused the blaze.

"It is under investigation," Taylor said. "That is what they are trying to do: a determination where exactly and what."

The fire call came in shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Leninski believes the fire was suspicious.

"There was no electricity," he said.

No injuries were reported in the fire. At least one building collapsed and firefighters tore down another building to keep the flames from spreading.

A portion of Bamberg's Main Street remained closed Wednesday.

A number of fire departments responded to the blaze, including the Bamberg, Denmark, Colston, Clear Pond and Hunters Chapel departments. The Edisto and Canaan fire departments from Orangeburg County also responded.

Crews were on the scene until 4:32 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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Battle of Eutaw Springs cost lives of 1,200 soldiers; memorial site open to visitors year-round

A Revolutionary War battlefield, where 1,200 volunteer soldiers lost their lives, is open to visitors year-round.

The Battle of Eutaw Springs began around 9 a.m. on Sept. 8, 1781, just a few miles east of the town of Eutawville.

It raged for nearly four hours between Patriots and British troops.

British Col. Alexander Stewart moved his troops, of about 2,098 men, northwest along the Old River Road from Moncks Corner and set up near the freshwater spring on Eutaw Creek.

That’s where he met his match: 2,300 patriots led by Gen. Nathaniel Greene, the southern commander of the Continental Army.

But how did this particular battle in what is now known as eastern Orangeburg County play such a pivotal role in the bloody war for independence from Great Britain?

History experts say that it was at the Battle of Eutaw Springs that the British strategy became undone.

The battle marked the end of the tactics used by the British to gain control of the interior of South Carolina.

Both armies took heavy losses.

For the British, nearly 700 died and the Patriots lost 500.

The battle site covered about 170 acres and it was a bloody one.

Firsthand accounts describe soldiers waded in puddles of blood on the battlefield while dead men still stood impaled on each others’ bayonets. Mass graves became the burial sites for most of the dead.

Several of the American Revolution's heroes fought in the Battle of Eutaw Springs – William Washington, Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion, Andrew Pickens, "Light Horse Harry" Lee and Wade Hampton.

The battle claimed the life of British Maj. John Marjoribanks.

The United States Congress established the park as a memorial site in June 26, 1936.

Since then, the public has been able to access a portion of the area where the battle took place.

Eutaw Springs gets grant

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History is receiving a grant of $128,470 to restore the Eutaw Springs Battlefield in Eutawville.

The Eutaw Springs battlefield site became listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 2, 1970.

In 2017, the South Carolina Battlefield Preservation Trust purchased the former Chef’s Choice restaurant -- less than one mile from the site -- with plans to transform the building into an interpretive center to tell the story of the battle.

The area measures just under three acres.

The building has not yet been transformed into an interpretative center, however, there are illustrated signs throughout the Eutaw Springs battlefield site that tell visitors about the battle.