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While preparing for a bridge replacement project near Carlisle, South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) discovered a Revolutionary War battlefield site at Fishdam Ford. Rather than remove artifacts that would be directly affected by the bridge replacement, SCDOT partnered with other State and Federal agencies to purchase and preserve the entire 143-acre Fishdam Ford Battlefield.
In 2004, SCDOT planned to realign a bridge on South Carolina Routes 72/121/215 by placing the Broad River crossing at a new location. The bridge realignment plan came about when the existing bridge at the site was deemed functionally deficient. The existing bridge was the only river crossing for 30 miles and had to remain operational while SCDOT constructed the new bridge on an adjacent site. During the preparations for the bridge realignment, archaeologists discovered that the bridge relocation site sat on a Revolutionary War battle site, the Fishdam Ford Battlefield.
The battle at Fishdam Ford was one of several American victories over the British during the South Carolina campaign of 1780. Ultimately, this successful American campaign drove the British out of South Carolina and contributed to the British surrender in 1781.
After identifying the Fishdam Ford Battlefield, SCDOT and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials needed to meet historic preservation requirements while continuing with bridge construction. Historically, FHWA and SCDOT would excavate any artifacts on a construction site that might be affected by construction. Unfortunately, the geological nature of the archaeological site meant that excavation would take years and cost approximately $1.5 million.
SCDOT and FHWA partnered with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (SCDAH), the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to implement a creative solution to the excavation. SCDAH identified the precise location of the battle site through archival research and field survey. SCDOT then agreed to relocate the bridge construction project to a point further downstream to avoid damaging the battlefield.
After relocating the bridge project, SCDOT continued to consider how to preserve Fishdam Ford Battlefield. Ultimately, SCDOT used FHWA bridge replacement funds and Transportation Enhancement funds to purchase the 143-acre battlefield and deed it to SCDNR as part of the Heritage Preserve Program.
Relocating the bridge project and purchasing the historic site provided significant benefit to the people of South Carolina. The bridge relocation allowed construction on the bridge over the Broad River to proceed quickly and lowered taxpayer expenses. Relocating the bridge also eliminated the need to excavate the Fishdam Ford Battlefield immediately. The decision to purchase and preserve the battlefield gave SCDNR the opportunity to transform this important archaeological site into a historic park. SCDOT, FHWA, and their partner agencies have ensured that South Carolinians will eventually see a part of their heritage that has been preserved intact for over 200 years.
For more information, contact J. Shane Belcher, email@example.com.