SUMMERVILLE - A replica Colonial scout boat with a swivel cannon mounted on the bow will be out on the Ashley River in early May.
Oakbrook Ashley Riverfest
WHAT: Historical reenactments - including American Revolution light infantry, artillery and colonial life - exhibits, displays, stories and information about Ashley River conservation efforts and natural history.
WHEN: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 3
WHERE: Jessen Boat Landing, 4820 Ladson Road Extension. Free access to Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, 300 State Park Road.
MORE INFORMATION: riverfest2014.oakbrookcivicassociation.com, or Colonial Dorchester, 873-1740.
This was one historic craft, replete with American Revolution tales of ambush and raids.
The small mast-and-oars river boat will be on loan from the Wormsloe Historic Site near Savannah, complete with a re-enacter crew. It will be among a number of historic features to the inaugural Oakbrook Ashley Riverfest, put on May 3 by the Oakbrook Civic Association in collaboration with Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site. The event takes place at the site and nearby Jessen Boat Landing.
The scout boat is a replica of the craft used by Noble Jones at the former Wormsloe Plantation to ferry a 12-man garrison of marines across to protect the colony against the Spanish. When the British Colonies rebelled, Noble was among a group of men who raided the British gunpowder magazine in Savannah and removed about 600 pounds of gunpowder, some of which is said to have been fired in the iconic Battle of Bunker Hill in Massachusetts later that year, according to "A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians."
But more importantly for the Ashley, similar boats called "market boats" were used to carry cargo up and down the river. In March of 1782, Continental Army Capt. Michael Rudulph, of Col. Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee's legion, commandeered one of those boats near today's historic site and landing. He hid most of his men under a cargo of vegetables, disguised himself as a country trader and a few soldiers as slaves. The boat worked its way down the Ashley closer to Charleston, where it was hailed in the late night by the British galley Alligator - a much larger ship whose guns kept the Patriots from moving along the river.
Rudulph's men sprang from cover, seized more than a dozen cannons, looted and burned the ship as half the galley's 43 seamen dove overboard to escape and the others were captured.
The Alligator remains one of the "lost" shipwrecks in a river fabled for them.
"We're trying to revitalize this section of the river," said Ashley Chapman. He manages the historic site, which was annexed by Summerville in 2013 in effort to boost tourism of both.
That's what this boat will bring to the fest, "just a feel for how it was," said Bob Jackson, the civic association member and Summerville councilman who's helped put together the event to showcase a river and a rich history that many consider overlooked. "You look at the river now and it's peaceful, but it was Interstate 95 at the time. It's important to the town's past and its future, and preserving that is a challenge."
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