Museum around the corner: What part did Murrells Inlet play in war?

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Question from last week: What part did Murrells Inlet play in the War Between the States?

In the files at the Georgetown County Museum, several articles were found concerning a piece of Civil War history. They spotlight the village of Murrells Inlet during the War Between the States. Excerpts of the articles:.

“Originally, what is now Brookgreen Gardens was four rice plantations. The plantations were The Oaks, Brookgreen, Springfield, and Laurel Hill. The current gardens and surrounding facilities lie completely on the former Brookgreen Plantation, which was owned by Confederate Captain Joshua John Ward. Josh Ward was elected captain of the Waccamaw Light Artillery battery on January 20, 1862, and resigned on July 18, 1864, because chronic liver problems gave him repeated attacks of fever and chills, which rendered him unfit for service. Ward added that he wished to go to Europe for a change of scene or climate. His physician attested that Ward suffered from malarial poisoning and an organic derangement of the liver. Mayham Ward succeeded him as captain of August 6, 1864, and commanded the company until the end of the war. The Alston-Allston cemetery survives on the grounds of The Oaks plantation. Governor Joseph Alston and his child are buried in the cemetery. Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr, who was lost at sea. The rice mill Laurel Hill is all that remains of the plantation today. During the Civil War, Confederates built an earthen structure on the grounds to block Union ships.

Early in the war, when the first forts had been built, Murrells Inlet had been fortified as well. Named Fort Ward in honor of planter Captain Joshua John Ward, the earthworks contained three guns and were initially manned by soldiers from Smith’s battalion, which later became the twenty-sixth South Carolina Regiment. A letter from Major William Capers White dated April 13, 1861, noted that he deployed 26 men and two officers of the Wachesaw Riflemen to the redoubt at Murrells Inlet. Fort Ward was built when the district was under the command of General Robert E. Lee.

With the exception of the Waccamaw Light Artillery and a couple of companies of the state troops that would later become part of the Fourth and Seventh South Carolina Cavalry, the district was almost undefended by mid-April of 1862. Fort Ward was decommissioned and stripped of its artillery.

During the Civil War, South Carolina and the rest of the South were put in a foreign trade strangle with a blockade by the Union Navy. Ports were all but shut down and much needed military supplies, as well as basic human needs were cut off in a new method of war made infamous by General William Sherman: Total War.

To try to keep the link open, Confederates engaged blockade runners to smuggle in goods.

The South Carolina coast was a hotbed of activity for these blockade runners. The many bays, inlets, and rivers made for more safe havens than could be watched by the Union Navy. The Murrells Inlet area had many skirmishes.

Many incidents similar to the one below tell of Union ships shelling cotton bales and salt barrels near the loading docks awaiting embarkation to blockade runners. The following quote is paraphrased from the Official Records of Union and Confederates in the War of the Rebellion, 31 Vols, Washington:

“Report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Baxter, commanding U.S. bark Gem of the Sea, regarding affairs in the vicinity of Georgetown, and the destruction of salt works, July 19-21, 1862.

“Sir: I proceeded with the Western World to Murrells Inlet where we found extensive salt works on the mainland capable of making 30 to 40 bushels of salt per day, belonging to John LaBruce, who is a strong secessionist, and destroyed them. While we were in the act of destroying them, we were fired upon by a party of twenty-five rebels who were secreted in the wood.”

The Parrott Rifle and the Parrott round were developed by Robert Parker Parrott, an officer in the U.S. Army. They were used extensively by both sides during the war. .

In 2004, a child found what was thought to be a cannon shell in the Murrells Inlet area. The shell was brought to the Georgetown Sheriff’s Office where a SLED Bomb Squad was summoned. It was decided that the round should be identified and rendered safe. A SLED Bomb Technician determined the round was a 20 pound Parrott Case Shot of the 1860’s era. The explosive material was removed. The round is on display at the Georgetown County Museum.

The Georgetown County Museum is at 120 Broad St., around the corner from Front Street. Hours are Tuesday- Friday 11-4 and on Saturday from 11-30. Admission is free ..

Go to our Facebook page: “Georgetown County Museum History Center” to answernext week’s question: What plant, developed after the Civil War, would have made a great wealth for Georgetown?

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