Historians, students working to uncover Revolutionary War fort in heart of Charleston

VIDEO: Historians, students working to uncover Revolutionary War fort in heart of Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A gated slab of sand, shells, tabby and rock in Charleston's Marion Square is all that's left of a 30-foot tall Revolutionary War fortification.

For the first time, local experts, historians and students are working to document the structure to save the history that sits just under the park's surface.

The Hornwork was a large fort built in 1758 to defend Charleston during war, but its exact location and size has remained a mystery.

“This was really the headquarters of the defenses during the siege of Charleston in 1780,” said Nic Butler, historian at the Charleston County Public Library. “It’s a major part of the city’s history and military history. It’s a part of the American revolution and a part of the American story.”

The project is led by the South Carolina Battlefield Protection Trust and the American Battlefield Trust.

Two dozen graduate students in the College of Charleston and Clemson’s historic preservation program are using ground-penetrating radar to map the fort’s location.

“Preservationists are typically really passionate about saving old things and there’s a really old thing under the ground,” Director Jon Marcoux said. “But at the same time we’re going to create a map that the city and the owners of the property can use to protect that resource.”

Student Rachel Wilson said she chose Charleston as a perfect place to study preservation.

“I love it because it’s older than anything I’ve known,” Wilson said. “I grew up in Cincinnati where the history is old, but it definitely doesn’t date back to the late 1600′s. I think this is a fantastic place to learn about it.”

The study is a part of the Liberty Trail, a larger project to document South Carolina's role in the Revolutionary War.

“It’s about telling the story in a more accurate, more compelling way,” Butler said. “But it’s really informing the people about the existence below their feet of this once very massive and impressive military structure.”

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