Revolutionary War action took place here, February 24, 1782. Wambaw Bridge is deep in Francis Marion National Forest, down forest service roads. In this case, my trusty Hyundai Elantra was up for the task. Conditions here change rapidly, and the winding old roads can get confusing. I did have map gps access throughout.
Wambaw Creek flows from the South Santee, winding through Hampton Plantation, heading south to Wambaw Swamp, north of McClellanville, SC.
This area is where I learned about biting flies, and how they laugh in the face of bug spray, and try to kill you, and your car, both. This is where I saw my first wild boar (and hightailed it out of there). This is wilderness, and spooky sometimes, even in the bright sunlight. I doubt much has changed here since 1782. The roads are old and sand in most places. While the current bridge is of modern materials, there has been a crossing here, over Wambaw Creek, since the 1700s.
The Santee Delta in 1782 was a rich, rice planting area, dotted with plantations with rice and indigo growing operations, both large and small. The commander of the American forces in 1782 here was Col. Peter Horry – Horry County is named in his honor. (As an aside, that’s how we Horry County folks can tell if you’re from out of town. Horry is pronounced OH-REE. It’s French Huguenot) Col Horry was a planter, and had deep ties to the area, an area he was well familiar with. He reported to Francis Marion.
The British were led by Col Benjamin Thomson, with a force said to be 500 strong.
The situation in South Carolina at this time had many men performing double duty – not only were they the men trying to govern, many were also the military leaders. It was a Catch-22 – when the military leaders were away from their posts, they couldn’t protect the vast areas of South Carolina. If they were away from their legislative duties, nothing could progress due to lack of a quorum.
At the time of this event, in February 1782, the South Carolina General Assembly was in session. Charleston was still in British hands, so the Assembly was held in Jacksonboro. One of the Senators reporting was Francis Marion, who placed his brigade in the hands of Col Peter Horry. Additionally, Vol Hezekiah Maham was away at the Assembly, leaving his forces encamped at nearby Mepkin Plantation. The British forces in Charleston looked on this situation as an opportunity to move into the Santee Delta to plunder.
The Assembly delayed in giving the commanders leave as long as they could. Jacksonboro is roughly 100 miles from the South Santee. They made it as far as Mepkin Plantation when the fighting broke out at the bridge at Wambaw Creek, about 45 miles east of Mepkin. Col. Horry was not there, he was ill and at home, leaving Col. Adam McDonald in charge. When word of the action went out to the regimental commanders, it was coincidentally dinnertime, and they didn’t exactly move very quickly. The soft recruits who made it there first were immediately routed, and they retreated. It is said that their Commander, Maj. John James leapt from the bridge in his effort to escape. There were American casualties left behind.
This page https://www.fs.usda.gov/scnfs/ is your portal to everything you might need to explore here. There’s also a great National Forest Explore app. While these resources are super helpful and handy to have, like I said, conditions change daily, drastically. I wouldn’t count on connectivity in all parts of FMNF, either. This is a place where a printed backup map comes in handy. Ask this guy –
Hunter Survives Unintended Overnight Stay in Hell Hole Swamp
There is a GREAT Southern Campaigns of the Revolution article here, with maps and many more details: “Wambaw Creek Bridge and Tidyman’s Plantation”
Meta article from 250 Years of America’s Founding
American Battlefield Trust