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By Christie Slocum
Colleton County is rich in American Civil War history and a group of highly distinguished academics decided to spend one of a three-day trip right here studying five earthwork sites. The group called the Civil War Fortification Study Group (CWFSG) was formed in the early 1990’s. They are dedicated to the study, preservation, and dissemination of information of the most visible reminders of the sacrifices made during the American Civil War. Luckily, one of their board members is a well-known local historian and author, Jeff Grigg.
A group of 22 made their way to the Lowcountry of South Carolina for their annual spring conference. They have previously been to the area in 2003 but had never been able to study the earthworks in Colleton County. According to Grigg, it is believed the county has 16 fortifications with the possibility of two others. All but one are located on private property which makes it very difficult for an enthusiast to be able to use them.
The study group has folks from all walks of life who all share one thing in common, their love to study mounds of dirt. Various historians, National Park Service personnel, preservationists, professors and archeologist were all excited to be able to come and spend Thursday hiking through waist high grass under the warm Carolina sun. At one of the sites, a warm spring breeze welcomed the visitors with the smell of spring time marshland. One of the professors said “I wish I could bring my students here. I could teach them more in three days than I could in an entire semester in a classroom”.
After arriving at each site the group documented their findings by taking notes and photos. Each site has been extensively researched before their arrival. Once on site, they discussed what might have happened, what troops might have spent time there and why the earthwork was in each place. The group discussed the engineering of each site and the year they were constructed. One of the most important parts of their work is studying the current state of preservation and how they could help the land owner on how to keep their 152 year old earthwork protected.
Overall, Grigg said the group really enjoyed their first visit to Colleton County. “What we do is truly a labor of love and many expressed this conference was one of the best we have ever had. We were also able to visit a few sites in Beaufort and Charleston Counties but I really enjoyed being able to share our cultural treasures with all of these experts”. Each year the “trench nerds” travel to different locations to study fortifications but many of them are excited to be able to come back to the lowcountry for future studies.