Congaree Swamp National Monument, South Carolina

Congaree Swamp National Monument preserves the largest intact tract of old-growth floodplain forest in North America. The old-growth forest has some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States, with one of the highest canopies in the world. The floodplain (it is not a true swamp) contains remarkably diverse animal and plant life, including approximately 90 tree species. In the early twentieth century, the old-growth forest had been threatened by logging operations. When relatively high timber prices prompted private landowners to consider resuming logging operations in 1969, a “grass roots” campaign organized to protect the forest, and Congress established Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976.

Congaree Swamp is located off of South Carolina Highway 48 (Bluff Road) approximately 20 miles southeast of Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina Highway 48 is accessible from Interstate 77 via exit 5 and from Interstate 26 from Charleston via South Carolina Highway 601. Follow the brown and white directional signs once on South Carolina Highway 48.

Ninety Six National Historic Site, South Carolina

The settlement of Ninety Six got its unusual name from traders in the 1700s because they mistakenly believed it be 96 miles from the Cherokee village of Keowee in the upper South Carolina foothills. During Ninety Six’s early days, there was considerable trouble with local Indians. In 1760, Cherokees twice attacked the fort that protected the settlement at Ninety Six. By the the time of the American Revolution, the village at Ninety Six had 12 houses and a newly constructed courthouse and jail. Ninety Six was the site of a famous siege during the Revolution. From May 22 to June 18, 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene with 1,000 patriot troops staged the longest (yet unsuccessful) siege of the Revolutionary War against 550 loyalists who were defending Ninety Six. The historic site sponsors an historic reenactment event, called Revolutionary War Days, every year. Participants dress in period attire and depict military and camp life activities. They also demonstrate 18th century skills such as bayonet competition and tomahawk throwing competition.

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Links: Ninety Six National Historic Site

Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina

After the secession of the southern states in late 1860 and early 1861, the federal government retained possession of several forts in the territories of the seceded states. The new president, Abraham Lincoln, considered retaining possession of these forts to be a concrete way to assert continuing federal sovereignty over the states that had declared their secession. The forts also became the issue that led to the actual outbreak of war. Unwilling to tolerate the challenge, forces of the new Confederacy opened fire against Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. After 34 hours of fighting, the Union garrison surrendered the fort. From 1863 to 1865, the Confederates themselves withstood a 22 month siege by Union forces at Fort Sumter. During that siege, most of the fort was reduced to brick rubble. Fort Sumter became a national monument in 1948, and has been reconstructed to its 1861 appearance.

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Charleston County Courthouse, South Carolina

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was among the first black regiments to take up arms for the Union during the Civil War. The 54th was composed predominantly of free blacks from the North including two sons of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The use of black troops in combat was highly controversial in both the North and the South. In the northern states, it was widely believed that black soldiers were not as dependable as their white counterparts. In the South, the use of black soldiers was met with great disdain. So much so, that the Confederate Government issued a proclamation stating that any colored soldiers captured at arms against the Confederacy would be sold into slavery, and any white officers leading black troops would be put to death. The 54th Massachusetts was organized in 1863 as a test case in this controversial debate. Unlike earlier black regiments, the 54th was equipped and trained as well as white regiments. On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts led the attack on Battery Wagner, a part of the coastal defenses of Charleston. In a vicious assault, the 54th charged into the teeth of the forts defenses. The attack penetrated the Confederate lines, and under withering musket and cannon fire the flag carried by the 54th was planted atop the parapet of Battery Wagner. The intense fire from the Confederates and the staggering casualties, including the regiments Colonel, Robert Shaw and over 250 men eventually forced the 54th to retreat. In the aftermath of the assault, some 60 members of the 54th were captured and taken to the Charleston Jail to await trail for insurrection. Two of these men, a sergeant and a corporal, were tried for their lives at the Charleston County Courthouse. With the help of local barrister and northern sympathizer, Nelson Mitchell, the men were aquitted. Spared the death penalty, the men of the 54th remained imprisoned until the end of the war. They were finally released in the spring of 1865. Today, the Courthouse where the trial took place, as well as the jail still stand.

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Links: Charleston County Court House