McMaster Joins with National and State Leaders to Promote South Carolina's Part in American History
(Columbia, S.C.) — At a news conference this afternoon, Governor Henry McMaster joined with the American Battlefield Trust, the National Park Service, the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, and the South Carolina American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission to announce a heritage tourism and preservation initiative to promote the Palmetto State’s leading role in the founding of the United States. The centerpiece of the initiative is The Liberty Trail, a statewide program that will tell the unique story of this campaign that secured victory in America’s War for Independence.
“But for the valor exhibited on the battlefields of South Carolina, this nation’s quest for liberty may have been driven to a halt,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “The perseverance and tenacity exhibited by our forebearers remains alive in the character of this state’s citizens. Now, as we prepare to celebrate the 250th anniversary of American independence, it is time to commit to ensuring their stories are told for the entire country to hear.”
The Liberty Trail is a joint effort of the American Battlefield Trust and the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust (SCBT), assisted by numerous partners at the federal, state and local levels. Leading the charge among these is the National Park Service, which, through its American Battlefield Protection Program, has already contributed more than $2.5 million in matching grants toward land preservation projects associated with The Liberty Trail. Overall, the effort will create a new driving tour that functions as a one-of-a-kind educational and heritage tourism resource through which key battlefields of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution will be preserved, interpreted and promoted.
“The project’s ultimate goal is lofty: linking more than 70 sites across South Carolina and preserving 2,500 additional acres of battlefield land in the process,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “But even its first phase will yield impressive results. In the near term, the Trust and SCBT look to open a segment composed of 16 full-fledged park sites, augmented by numerous additional roadside pull-offs.”
Doug Bostick, SCBT Executive Director and CEO, emphasized that The Liberty Trail is truly a statewide effort, reflecting the full nature of the Revolutionary War conflicts fought in the state. “During our nation’s war for independence, critical battles were fought everywhere from the shores of Charleston Harbor to the hills and forests of our backcountry. The Liberty Trail will help draw visitors into more rural communities by highlighting the top-notch historic resources centered there. In the Initial Phase, we are already engaging more than one-quarter of South Carolina’s 46 counties.”
Among those 16 park sites included in The Liberty Trail’s first phase are five being created nearly whole-cloth through Trust and SCBT-led land acquisition and interpretation efforts. The groups have already protected nearly 600 acres at Fort Fair Lawn in Berkeley County, Eutaw Springs in Orangeburg County, Camden in Kershaw County, Hanging Rock in Lancaster County and Waxhaws in Lancaster County. Further, five existing federal sites, three state parks and two regional parks will be enhanced with new interpretation, including state of the art digital capabilities. Fourteen additional locations will be outfitted as roadside pull-offs — 10 of these sites receiving their first-ever on-site historic interpretation. Finally, the effort will see the creation of a first digital Gateway Experience site on Charleston’s Marion Square, enticing visitors to the Holy City to venture further afield on their heritage tourism journey. The full list of sites included in the Initial Phase of The Liberty Trail is available at www.thelibertytrail.org.
While individual portions of the Southern Campaigns or the American Revolution are interpreted at existing sites in South Carolina and beyond, many of the state’s most significant battlefield properties are unprotected and vulnerable to development. Further, there is currently no single resource that pulls together its entire narrative, including the experiences of all participants — whether patriots or loyalists, men or women, recent immigrants or multi-generational colonials, or member of a minority population of slaves, freemen and Native Americans. The Liberty Trail, in promoting additional preservation of these hallowed grounds, while also creating a comprehensive telling of the Southern Campaigns, directly seeks to combat these challenges. In this, the project will work alongside the National Park Service, which is also poised to make telling the story of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaigns a central goal during the America 250 commemoration.
The success of this ambitious project is also predicated on effective collaboration among a host of partner groups at the state and local levels, including both public and private entities. Speaking at the event, state senator Vincent A. Sheheen praised the Camden community for rallying to the cause of preserving and promoting its battlefield landscape.
“This project is of national significance. Great things are possible when we work together,” said Sheheen, “From the Historic Camden Foundation accepting ownership and stewardship of a new almost-300-acre property from the American Battlefield Trust, to the creation of a master plan for interpretation and the creation of a new Revolutionary War visitor center to promote our burgeoning historic resources, this community is coming together in unprecedented and dynamic ways. Camden and South Carolina are taking their rightful place in the true story of how the American Revolution was won.”
Similarly, the partnerships necessary to fund large-scale landscape protection and interpretation efforts are another critical element of the Liberty Trail’s vision. This commitment to finding ways to maximize public benefit for each investment is embodied by the South Carolina Conservation Bank, which has already supported projects of The Liberty Trail at Waxhaws, Camden, Fort Fair Lawn and, most recently, Hanging Rock.
“South Carolina is full of beautiful scenery, ecological wonder and incomparable history,” said South Carolina Conservation Bank executive director Raleigh West. “We are committed to protecting its most significant landscapes and are proud to have partnered regularly with the American Battlefield Trust and South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. Together we will continue to work toward this shared vision.”
Within the state, important work in sharing the remarkable story of the Southern Campaigns of the Revolutionary War during the 250th anniversary period will be carried out by the South Carolina American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission. Joined at the podium by commission chair Charles Baxley, McMaster officially named the 14 members who join him on that commemorative body: Dr. A. V. Huff, Jr. (ex officio), Mr. Duane Parrish (ex officio), Dr. Scott E. Buchanan, Mr. Victor Carpenter, Ms. Pam Melton Cazel, Hon. Neal A. Collins, Ms. Dianne T. Culbertson, William S. Davies, Esq., Ms. Emily Morris deQuincey-Newman, Hon Laurie Slade Funderburk, Hon. V. Steven Moss and Hon. Floyd Nicholson.
For more information on The Liberty Trail initiative, including historic background and a list of those sites that are part of the Initial Phase of the project, visit www.thelibertytrail.org. As The Liberty Trail takes shape, partners, friends and history enthusiasts are invited to follow its progress on social media using the hashtag #TheLibertyTrail.
About the American Battlefield Trust
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 51,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.
About the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust
The South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust (SCBPT) is a nonprofit established in 1991 and dedicated to the preservation of South Carolina’s historic battlegrounds and military sites. SCBPT preserves South Carolina's military heritage employing a variety of tools from conservation easements and land acquisitions to high-tech ground based laser scanning surveys and public interpretation. For more information, visit www.scbattlegroundtrust.org.