Location: Ehrhardt, South Carolina
Webpage: South Carolina State Park
General Description: After taking Savannah, Georgia in December of 1864, Major General Sherman turned his attention to punishing South Carolina for starting the Civil War and being the first state to secede. With nearly 70,000 troops, he split his forces into two wings to march through South Carolina causing as much destruction as possible. The right wing was to make a feint at Charleston along the coast and Major General McLaw was tasked with protecting the crossings of the Salkehatchie River. Massive earthworks were made at the center of the three causeways and bridges across Salkehatchie River, known as Rivers Bridge. Sherman’s forces under the command of Major General Blair were informed by their scouts that the Confederate force was over 2000 men, however, what most of those forces they thought they saw were slaves working on the earthworks, rifle pits, and cannon emplacements. On February 2, 1865, the Union army attempted a frontal attack along the causeway but were driven into the swamps by cannons trained on the bottleneck caused by the swamp. Over night the Union army began building a road and bridges to bypass the position, but they made a mistake in navigating with the road exiting the swamp directly into the right flank of the Confederate breastworks. On February 3 they attacked the right flank with severe hand-to-hand combat and were able to turn the flank on the Confederates. While being the last major battle against General Sherman, the Battle of Rivers Bridge was a Union victory and only delayed the army one day on their march to Columbia. Also located at the Historic Site is a graveyard and memorial that commemorates the Confederates lost in the battle.
1) The Rivers Bridge State Historic Site is a small park that includes the graveyard, a small picnic area, and the battlefield. The graveyard and memorial are unique since it is the only site I am aware of where the memorial is only for the Confederates that fought in the battle. There are no Union memorials at the site. This reflects the loss suffered by the local residents from the destruction caused by Sherman’s army. They hold a memorial service, attended by hundreds yet today, on the anniversary of the battle. They have certainly not forgotten the Civil War in this part of South Carolina.
2) The battlefield consists of two parts. The first part, is the causeway that exits the swamp at the location of the last bridge over the Salkehatchie River that extends up and through the graveyard. The second and more impressive part are the massive earthworks they constructed to defend the crossing up on the banks. They are easily the largest earthworks I have ever seen and are an amazing site. The interpretive signs along with the private tour by the Park Ranger provided excellent details about the battle and earthworks. While small, it is an amazing historic site that should be visited by anyone interested in the Civil War.