Sitting on the banks of Lake Marion in Eutawville is the site of the last Revolutionary War battle to take place in South Carolina. The battle occurred on September 8, 1781 when General Nathaniel Greene’s American troops attacked a British camp at the limestone springs on Eutaw Creek. The British encampment was led by Colonel Alexander Stewart. Greene and his men had been evading Lord Rawdon after an unsuccessful attempt at seizing Star Fort at Ninety-Six, where Greene and his troops were repelled. The Patriots retreated to Charlotte, North Carolina before heading towards Charleston following the return of Lord Rawdon to England.
General Greene’s force of around 2,000 men set up camp along the Santee River for rest, just a couple of miles from where Colonel Stewart – Lord Rawdon’s successor – bivouacked at Eutaw Springs with 2,000 of his own men, looking for Greene. After learning that Stewart’s troops were garrisoned nearby at Eutaw Springs, Greene and his men headed towards the British encampment around 4:00 a.m. on September 8, 1781, with a scouting party leading the way. The scouts were spotted by a small detachment of Loyalists from Stewart’s camp, who were then led into an ambush by the scouting party. The ambush killed around five of Stewart’s men and led to the capture of 40. By the time Greene’s troops reached Stewart’s camp, they had captured 400 more of Stewart’s men, whom they discovered foraging for yams. Stewart had been warned of Green’s troops by one of his captains, who had escaped the ambush, and the British force was ready for battle when the Patriots arrived.
Initially, the Americans were able to drive the British back into their camp. Yet instead of remaining focused on the battle, the Patriots took advantage of their temporary success to invade and loot the British troops’ tents. It was then that the British overtook the Americans and forced them to retreat from Eutaw Springs. Casualties on the American side, including killed, wounded, and missing, numbered over 500. For the British, the loss topped 700. Though the battle is often considered a British victory due to Stewart’s success in driving the Americans from their garrison, others give the advantage to the Americans, as the battle marked the end of British occupation in South Carolina.
Following the battle at Eutaw Springs, the British camped at Wantoot Plantation to recover before withdrawing from South Carolina. British officer Major John Majoribanks died during his encampment at the plantation and was buried on site. When the Santee Cooper hydroelectric project began in 1939, flooding the area and many plantations to create Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, Major Majoribanks’ grave was relocated to the battle ground. Wantoot Plantation is now submerged in Lake Moultrie.
Also vanquished after the creation of the lakes were Eutaw Creek and the surrounding limestone springs, which were flooded when Lake Marion was built. Limestone sinks in the area formed the channels that allowed the Eutaw Springs to flow. The abundance of limestone here, which dates to 40 million years ago, makes the area a prolific producer of cement, which uses limestone.
The Eutaw Springs Battlefield Park is listed in the National Register:
On September 8, 1781 General Nathanael Greene with a force of 2098 attacked a British camp of 2300 at Eutaw Springs commanded by Colonel Alexander Stuart. Greene’s goal was to strike a blow against the British forces in South Carolina and prevent them from sending aid to Cornwallis in Virginia. The tree shaded battleground park at the edge of Lake Marion includes a historic marker that tells the story and marks the site of the battle. On the grounds is the tomb of British Commander Major John Majoribanks, noted for outstanding leadership during the battle.
Reflections on Eutaw Springs Battlefield Park
Contributor Linda Brown shares, “On a personal note, I have old newspaper clippings about my grandmother’s family, who lived in nearby Vance, regularly having picnics on the battleground during the early 1900s.”