by Kristin Hackler
While the debate over the course of the I-526 extension simmers among residents of West Ashley, James Island and Johns Island alike, other local organizations are encouraging the Mark Clark design team to take a closer look at the areas which the new interstate corridor could potentially affect. One of these areas holds a special place in the hearts of many true-blooded Johns Island residents as it is the site of a battle which drove Union armies from encamping on Johns Island during the Civil War. Because of this battle, Union forces could not attack Charleston through Johns Island and were ultimately driven back to their original positions. At the time, it was considered a great victory for the Confederates and while hundreds of soldiers lost their lives on this ground, the Battle of Burden’s Causeway was a true victory for a regiment of soldiers who fought off more than twice the number of enemies on their home ground.
During the first part of July, 1864, more than 4,000 Union troops under the command of Brig. General John P. Hatch landed on Seabrook Island with orders to move across Johns Island to the mainland and cut off the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, a major supplier of food, munitions and war materiel for the Confederate Army. The regiment marched until they reached Haulover Cut, but upon reaching the cut, they found that the bridge had been destroyed and were forced to rebuild it. Their march across Johns Island continued, but due to the excessive heat they continued at a much slower pace. Not long into their march, however, they were reinforced by more than 1,000 Union troops arriving from Legareville.
On July 6, 1864, the Union troops finally reached Burden’s Causeway in order to cross to the mainland, but found an encampment of Confederate soldiers holding the high ground at Waterloo Plantation. There were fewer than 2,000 troops holding the ground at Waterloo under the command of Brig. General B.H. Robertson and the next day, July 7, Union troops began to advance on them through a large open field which today is located near the intersection of River and Plowground Road. While it seemed a lost cause for the outnumbered Confederates, as their last hope flitted away into the bullet-riddled oak trees, the 32nd Georgia Regiment arrived to reinforce the Confederate lines. The Union soldiers were forced to retreat and the Confederates regained their position.
The next day, gunfire rained down on the Union positions on Johns Island from Battery Pringle on James Island, giving the Confederates at Waterloo enough time to reorganize and plan an advance on the Union troops. Just before dawn the next morning, the Confederates advanced and the fight spilled into the same open field. As the sun rose in the sky a dense fog began to gather from the prodigious firing of arsenal, and the thick July heat would not allow it to dissipate. While the fog lay heavy on the field, the Union soldiers gathered their dead and wounded, and retreated. The Battle of Burden’s Causeway, referred to alternately by Confederate soldiers as “Waterloo” and “Bloody Bridge” by the Union, put an end to these operations, and the Union retreated to their original positions.
Today, nothing more than a cast iron historical marker indicates the location of this significant Confederate victory. Erected by Secession Camp #4 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the southwest corner of the Plowground/River intersection, the marker gives a brief summary of the battle and the names of the generals on both sides. The names of the men who died, however, are lost, but Gene Patrick, Chaplain for Secession Camp #4 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, lists the following regiments as having fought in the Battle of Burden’s Causeway:
• 3rd, 57th,144th, and 157th New York Regiments
• 4th Massachusetts Cavalry
• 8th and 104th Pennsylvania Regiments
• United States Colored Troops – 9th Maryland , 26th New York, 2nd South Carolina, Co.B, and the 34th South Carolina
• 1st Georgia Regulars
• 4th Georgia Cavalry
• 32nd Georgia Regiment
• 47th Georgia Regiment
• Bohaud’s Battalion (Georgia)
• Stono Scouts
• Washington Light Artillery
• Marion Light Artillery
• Inglis Light Artillery
• 2nd South Carolina Calvary
Patrick also states that In the middle of the old battle field there is a dense section of woods, in which is located a cemetery, however, none of the names of the individuals buried there are Civil War-related.
The information for the battle listed above was provided by both Chaplain Gene Patrick and Historian Rick Hatcher of the Fort Sumter National Monument. For a more detailed account of the operations of the Battle of Burdens Causeway, read pages 284-295 of the book, THE SIEGE OF CHARLESTON 1861-1865 by E. Milby Burton (University of South Carolina Press, 1970).
Places like this are why it’s important to make your voice heard during the Mark Clark Expressway, I-526 public hearings. Public comments are being taken seriously and while Project Manager David Kinard assures that the design team is working closely with the state’s Historical Marker Program and will avoid and minimize impact to historic sites where possible, it is important to bring informed comments to these meetings. The next I-526 meeting will be held at St. Johns High School, 1518 Main Road, on Thursday, September 9, from 5 to 6 p.m. with a formal presentation at 6 p.m. More info is available at www.scdot.org/I526 or the Johns Island library. For additional info, contact program manager David Kinard at (803) 737-1963.