Historic Markers Across South Carolina

Fort Watson

Marker ID:  
Location: on St. Paul Road (U.S. 301/15), across the road from the entrance to the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, Summerton, SC
County: Clarendon
Coordinates: N 33° 31.819    W 080° 25.591
  33.53031666    -80.42651666


Fort Watson:
Disrupting British Supply Lines

Assigned to hold all of eastern South Carolina but with only a small force at his disposal, Col. John Watson needed to build a fort to protect the vital transportation corridor between Charleston and Camden, the British inland headquarters. The spot he chose was a forty-foot-high, flat-topped pyramid ~ a religious and political center abandoned a few decades earlier by the Santee Indians ~ that overlooked both the Santee River and the main Charleston-Camden road. With a wooden palisade on top of the earthen pyramid and three rows of abatis ~ sharp stakes pointed outward to defend against an attack ~ on its slopes, Fort Watson commanded the surrounding lowlands.

In late February or early March 1781, Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter tried unsuccessfully to take Fort Watson. On April 16, Brig. Gen. Francis Marion, reinforced by Continental troops under the command of Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee of Virginia, laid siege to the fort. But with few of the tools they needed and unable to deprive the defenders of a water supply, the Whigs feared a prolonged standoff. One of Marion’s officers, Lt. Col. Hezekiah Maham, proposed building a wooden tower from which they could fire down onto the fort’s British and Loyalist defenders. The plan worked. Facing Marion’s riflemen in the tower, the British commanding officer, Lt James McKay, surrendered Fort Watson on April 23.

Erected 2012 by Francis Marion Trail Commission of Francis Marion University.


More information:
Wikipedia - Francis Marion
The Patriot Resource - Francis Marion

The Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society
Francis Marion Trail