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War On The Parkway

It's hard to imagine while we're zipping along Betsy Kerrison Parkway that this stretch of Johns Island was once a Civil War battleground in what became known as the Battle of Haulover Creek, when Union and Confederate forces clashed over access via the island to Charleston's railroads and strategic harbor.

The march to Haulover Bridge

The fighting came fairly late in the war when Union troops stationed on Folly Island were ordered to Johns Island with two objectives: to create a diversion for Confederate troops that would draw them away from the Union's planned attacks further down the coast toward Florida, and to possibly allow Union troops to cross Johns Island and cut the Savannah to Charleston railway at Rantowles Creek, a critical supply line for the Confederacy.

In February of 1864, some 2500 Union troops were ferried across Stono Creek to Kiawah Island, where they camped overnight at the abandoned Vanderhorst mansion; from there, they waded across Captain Sams inlet onto Seabrook Island and sloshed through the marshes to arrive at Haulover Bridge, just north of today's roundabout. They arrived in early morning fog that shrouded them from a Confederate sentinel post where Rosebank Farms is today. Rushed and surprised by the Union troops, the southern sentinels fled north along what is now the Parkway to give the warning to troops already camped near today's Hopkinson Plantation.

The Confederacy's Captain Moses Humphrey led the attack on Union troops

Sporadic fighting raged up and down the roadway, culminating at what was then known as The Cocked Hat, at the intersection of Bohicket, Main and River Roads. (The name stemmed from Revolutionary War times, when the shape created by the intersection of the three byways reminded contemporaries of the then-fashionable tricorner, or cocked, hat.) Heavy artillery fire from both sides boomed throughout the night before falling silent just before dawn; but when Confederate troops reassembled for a renewed attack, Union forces had already withdrawn in the darkness after learning they'd be outnumbered with more southern troops already marching up from the Georgia border to join in the fighting.

No ground was gained by either side, and the clash became a footnote to the larger, bloody sprawl of the War Between The States. Johns Island remained in Confederate hands until the fall of Charleston, marking the end of the plantation era, the opening of the door to land speculators and the eventual commercial development of the barrier islands.

(Photos courtesy Johns Island Conservancy)

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