On Confederate Memorial Day, a look at the Grand Strand’s ties to the Civil War

From staff reportsMay 10, 2013 

Today is Confederate Memorial Day, when states across the South remember the sacrifices made by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The exact date varies by state, but in the Carolinas it is always May 10, the day that Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died in 1863 and that Confederate president Jefferson Davis was captured in 1865. State government offices will be closed today, though Horry County offices will remain open. Local members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans celebrated the day April 27 in Conway with speakers and period costumes. Many of the same members took part in statewide ceremonies in Columbia last weekend.

South Carolina has a number of famous Civil War sites, including Fort Sumter, where the conflict began. But Horry County can often be left out of discussions. With that in mind, and to mark Confederate Memorial Day, here is a short list of the Grand Strand’s ties to the Civil War:

Battery White | On the National Register of Historic Places, Battery White was built by the Confederates around 1862 to protect Winyah Bay. It’s now located inside the Belle Isle Yacht Club. The battery could have been “almost, if not absolutely, impregnable,” according to Confederate Brig. Gen. J. H. Trapier, but it suffered from a lack of manpower and artillery. It was eventually deserted by its few soldiers, who reported its existence to a Union commander. When the Union navy came upon it in February 1865, it was completely evacuated, but Rear Adm. John A. Dalhgren’s report records his admiration for the site:

“The principal battery looks directly on the water, well planned, and executed carefully, not only with reference to the cannonade by ships, but also to an assault from the water. ... If the work had been sufficiently manned, it would have required good troops to take the work.”

Fort Randall | Built partly to protect blockade runners and partly to protect the village of Little River, Fort Randall was erected sometime before March 1861 on what is known today as Tilghman Point.

The inlet was used as a haven for blockade runners during the early part of the war. A document with instructions captured from Confederate Maj. A.B. Magruder of Wilmington, N.C., betrayed its position:

“Run into the mouth of Little River, a small stream ... near the boundary line of North and South Carolina. ... It is not down on the charts nor on the coast survey, and its existence even - certainly its harbor and anchorage ground - is hardly known to any Yankee. Communications from a little village or post-office called Little River, about 4 or 6 miles from the mouth, are readily had with the interior.”

The fort was captured in January 1863 by Union Navy Lt. William Cushing, who held it briefly before running out of ammunition. A historical marker is erected near the site at North Myrtle Pointe Boulevard and U.S. 17.

Murrells Inlet | A series of skirmishes broke out in late 1863 on the South Strand. The Union brig Perry first fired on and attempted to destroy a blockade runner that was being outfitted in Murrells Inlet. Unsuccessful, it sent two boats ashore at what’s now Litchfield Beach to attempt to set fire to it. The 21st Georgia Cavalry attacked those who landed, capturing three officers and 12 men. In retaliation, Union forces attacked Murrells Inlet on Dec. 30, 1863, with six ships and 100 marines. They succeeded in destroying the Confederate ship on New Year’s Day 1864.

Myrtle Beach swashes | In April 1864, after the attack on Murrells Inlet, the Union sailors went up the coast and attacked saltworks in the Myrtle Beach area, first at Singleton Swash and then at Withers Swash a day later. Salt was an important commodity in the war and a federal officer described the sizable Singleton Swash site as containing “about thirty buildings, three of them large warehouses built of heavy logs, containing about two thousand bushels of salt and large quantities of rice, corn and bacon.”

The tidewater lagoon on the 11th fairway of the Dunes Club, near Singleton Swash, may have been the site of a large saltwater storage tank for the saltworks.

Sources: www.batterywhite.org, National Register of Historic Places, Coastal Carolina University, “Myrtle Beach: A History, 1900-1980.”

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