Eutaw Springs: Remembering key but 'forgotten battle' of Revolutionary War

Eutaw Springs: Remembering key but 'forgotten battle' of Revolutionary War

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The 238th anniversary of the Battle of Eutaw Springs was commemorated during events held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6-7.

Battle of Eutaw Springs anniversary Sept. 6-7

A special dinner and presentation was held Friday evening at Clark's Inn & Restaurant in Santee. A patriotic service was held Saturday morning at the historic Church of the Epiphany, with a wreath-laying ceremony afterward at Eutaw Springs Battle Monument Park.

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Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord, and Saratoga are a few of the major battles of the American Revolutionary War. But the Battle of Eutaw Springs is a significant battle that is sometimes forgotten.

Cameron resident Doug Doster wants to ensure the Battle of Eutaw Springs is remembered. Doster is a member of the Battle of Eutaw Springs Chapter of the South Carolina Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and is a past president of the state organization.

The Battle of Eutaw Springs took place on Sept. 8, 1781, as around 2,000 British troops under the command of Col. Alexander Stewart clashed with a similar number of American troops commanded by Gen. Nathanael Greene. The opening shots occurred near St. Julien Plantation outside Eutawville, when a British foraging party stumbled into members of the Continental force who were approaching from the northwest. The two evenly matched forces slugged it out in what would be the last major battle of the war in South Carolina.

“Some say the British won, some say the patriots won, others say it was kind of a draw,” Doster said.

But “the battle was a strategic win for the patriots because it convinced (British commander Gen. Charles) Cornwallis he wasn’t going to win the war in the South,” he said.

Doster said that another reason the battle is often overlooked is because less than three months later, Cornwallis surrendered to American commander Gen. George Washington after the Battle of Yorktown.

“Yorktown got all the big fanfare because the surrender happened there,” he said. “But most historians would agree the Battle of Eutaw Springs convinced Cornwallis that he couldn’t win in the South.”

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The British strategy all along was to divide the Northern and Southern colonies, Doster said.

“They were going to split them and defeat the North first and (then) go down South,” he said.

“And they weren’t that much worried about the South because here in South Carolina, the American Revolution was as much of a civil war between neighbors, families even,” Doster said. Many South Carolinians at that time were Tories, or Loyalists to Great Britain, he said.

“They did as much killing of patriots almost as the British (did),” he said.

Greene’s troops were made up of regular soldiers and militia, or part-time citizen soldiers. Stewart’s force was comprised of British regulars and Loyalists, Americans fighting to preserve British rule. Each army had about 2,000 men, most of them veterans of combat.

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The brutal combat lasted for three hours as the two forces traded musket volleys and bayonet charges. Greene’s troops drove the British back into their camp, but the British regrouped and forced Greene from the battlefield.

In the end, the Americans suffered about 500 casualties, and had 100 men killed. The British took a worse beating, though, as Redcoat casualties totaled 866 men.

The battlefield is being enhanced as part of its inclusion among a system of Liberty Trails that aims to connect all of the war's battlefields

As part of the process, the battlefield will be one of five battle sites to be developed into a park, complete with amenities such as a visitor's center, trails, shelters and an amphitheater.

The Liberty Trail is a project conceived by the South Carolina Battlefield Trust in partnership with the American Battlefield Trust. It includes 69 American Revolutionary War battlefields which are divided into four trails stretching from as far south as Jasper County to as far north as Spartanburg County.

The Eutaw Springs site includes a historic marker, a monument by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the tomb of British Commander major John Marjoribanks.

The enhancement plan includes turning the old Chef’s Choice restaurant into a visitor’s center. The Preservation Trust purchased the restaurant – less than one mile from the site – in 2017.

The part of the battlefield that includes the historic marker and the monument by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is being leased to the Preservation Trust by Santee Cooper.

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

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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.


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