CAMDEN, SC (AP) – South Carolina sees the upcoming 250th anniversary of the American Revolution as an opportunity to remind people that the state played a huge role in winning the nation’s independence, even though it later tried to tear the United States apart into civil war.
The state has opened a new Revolutionary War Center and released an app for mobile devices that explores some 200 sites of battles and other key events, including remote swamps where patriots and loyalists clashed during the War of Independence.
Organizers promise that not all of this anniversary will involve hero worship of the Founding Fathers and turn a blind eye to the slavery that guided South Carolina’s history for 400 years.
“The 250th commission is dedicated to telling the story of the American Revolution as it exists – the beauty, the warts and the terror of it all,” said Charles Baxley, chairman of the American Revolutionary Centennial Commission. Caroline from the south. “And they’re dedicated to the idea – which is a radical and new idea – of telling it from all perspectives.”
Or, as eminent South Carolina historian Walter Edgar said, “It’s important to tell everyone’s story. It’s not just people in fancy panties and powdered wigs.
Five years ago, Congress tasked the America250 Foundation to organize the “largest and most inclusive commemoration in our country’s history” on July 4, 2026, 250 years after the Continental Congress approved the Declaration. independence in Philadelphia.
Inclusiveness is already evident in Massachusetts, which honored the anniversary of the Boston Massacre in 1770 with “Reflecting Attucks,” an exhibit examining the life and legacy of Crispus Attucks. The son of a slave and a Native American was the first to die when British occupation soldiers fired at angry settlers.
Organizers of the anniversary in South Carolina, often more remembered for leading Confederation to secession, say the state can be proud of its role in turning a deadlocked war into victory against the British, but it’s a story that cannot be fully told without including his treatment of slaves.
Many slaves fought for the British, who promised them freedom. Others stayed with their owners, who rewarded some by freeing them from slavery. Slaves were often used as spies and messengers, and South Carolina militias fighting for independence from Britain allowed up to a third of their units to be slaves, but only in support roles like engineers or sailors and not as front-line armed troops, according to Edgar’s book, “South Carolina: A History.”
For most blacks, the rising proclamation of the founders in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” did little to change their reality of oppressive bondage in the new United States. A quarter of a century later, more than 100,000 people remained in slavery in South Carolina, even after the liberation of 25,000 slaves by the British. Some 5,000 more have just disappeared. There were approximately 142,000 white men, women and children in the state in 1790.
The plight of slaves is recognized at the Revolutionary War Visitor Center, as are Native Americans on both sides of the conflict. Other exhibits show major players like ‘swamp fox’ Francis Marion, who thwarted British General Banastre Tarleton’s plans to end the war decisively. Marion’s men exhausted “Bloody” Tarleton’s troops, leading them in unsuccessful pursuits into the swamps, before the French allies arrived, and together they pushed the British to surrender.
“It’s about trying to touch everything lightly and then send people if they are really interested in the War of Independence to other sites that will go into details,” said the director of the center, Rickie Good.
There are thousands of stories to tell, and Good said the centre’s goal is to open the door to as many of them as possible, combining the heroism of the battlefield with stories of ordinary men and women who had to decide to join the revolution.
“A lot of people don’t want their heroes defiled, I guess,” she said. “We call them heroes. They weren’t called that. They were people. And they were good and they were bad and they did their best in impossible situations and in a lot of ways I think they were like us.
Ironically, the center is in Camden, not far from where the forces of British General Charles Cornwallis routed the Patriots in 1780 during the Battle of Camden, one of their worst defeats.
But the South Carolinians then rallied, forming cowardly militias that ended Britain’s goal of winning the war by winning the South. They pushed the loyalists north into the trap that led Cornwallis to surrender his entire army to General George Washington.
“The reason he went to Virginia is because he got beaten up in the Carolinas,” historian Edgar said.
Besides blood and battles, the state anniversary commission wants to commemorate the freedom and equality brought to the world by the founding fathers, even though many of them were plantation owners and it would take nearly two more centuries for these ideals to spread fully across the nation.
“There is a bright light in all of this,” Baxley said. “The enlightened language of the founding documents and ideas that made the United States possible – it really wasn’t guns and bullets and knives, it was those powerful ideas – are the same ideas that resonate today” hui in people’s minds and rhetoric as they defend the case for equality and justice.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.