MANNING - More than a hundred avid Revolutionary War historians gathered Oct. 27 and 28 for a weekend of intense discussions and lessons on our nation's War for Independence. Many of them were attired in period dress as they attended the Francis Marion Symposium XV held at F.E. DuBose Center and presented by the Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society. Retired Col. George P. and Mrs. Carole Summers founded the Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society more than 15 years ago in an effort to keep history alive and to showcase the battles and skirmishes that occurred within Clarendon County and South Carolina that were vital to the colonies' victory against the British.
Their commitment to keeping Revolutionary history alive today has earned them numerous awards, including most recently recognitions from the local Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter, the South Carolina State Sons of the American Revolution and the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution Lifetime Achievement Award. For the past 15 years, the Summerses have raised thousands of dollars to have murals painted in locations across Clarendon County that relive local battles and historic significance near areas where they occurred.
During the weekend, attendees listened and asked questions as speakers discussed various topics, including "The Battle of Savannah from the American Perspective," "The Post-war life of Francis Marion," "The Arms of Marion's Brigade. Turning Saws to Blades," "A Warm Summer's day. The Battle of Fort Sullivan," "Captured at King's Mountain. The Journal of Uzal Johnson, a Loyalist Surgeon, 1780," "When France Opened its Veins: the Influence of the French Huguenots" and "Patriots in Petticoats."
Presenters and attendees came from all across the nation representing 12 states and almost every county in South Carolina. From California to New York, from Maine to Florida and from Wisconsin to Texas, these enthusiastic historians gathered to share stories and learn a little more about history from each other.
The main speaker for the symposium was Charles B. Baxley, who delivered his message on new research on the Battle of Eutaw Springs that took place in 1781. Baxley, who lives in Lugoff, is a lawyer, judge, professor, USAF Reserve captain and an avid American Revolution researcher. He is also the editor and publisher of the magazine Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution and books on Southern campaigns. He also gives tours of battlegrounds and military staff rides.
Baxley led archaeological explorations of battlefields and conducted field trips known as "Corps of Discovery." These trips take people to little-known Revolutionary War sites in the South. He also conducts Revolutionary War roundtable discussions for amateurs and professionals who are interested in the War of the South.
Baxley talked to the attendees about the Battle of Eutaw Springs, where he has been instrumental in completing additional research and maps that spread new light on that historic last major battle in the war.
"There are 20 battlefields in the Carolinas," Baxley told the audience. "It's absolutely essential that we not forget them and that we get the research right. We need to save them forever. These are the sites where the Americans won our independence."
Baxley said that new maps where these battlefields are located are being compiled and property is being purchased and put under contract in an effort to preserve these areas.
Baxley took the audience through the Battle of Eutaw Springs. He talked about the capture of British soldiers. He talked about the meager food supplies and how the two warring bodies were separated by only three miles with the British forces never knowing how close the Revolutionaries were.
"Bell's Marina is under contract to turn it back into a beautiful park," Baxley said. "We are making an earnest effort to preserve these battlefields so that people will be able to see these battlefields where hundreds of Americans died."
The research is a daunting task that needs to be done, he added.
"We need to preserve the story of where the Revolutionary War was won," Baxley said. "We need to preserve the areas where our soldiers found and died for the concept of liberty. If we don't do the proper research, it's a shame."
Baxley thanked the Summerses for the "intense amount of work they do to round up sponsors and speakers" for the annual symposium.
"They do a wonderful job helping to preserve history," he added.