Fort Motte

Image from the original painting by Mort Künstler
"The Capture of Fort Motte," ©1976 Mort Künstler, Inc.

The Archives & Museum is hosting a traveling exhibit  “…make no Doubt we shall carry this post…” The History and Archaeology of Fort Motte, opening August 31, 2018. This new traveling exhibit, developed by the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum examines the 1781 siege of Fort Motte, the excavation of the site and the artifacts uncovered.

During the American Revolution, Camden's strategic location made the area a vital asset for the British.  After the American defeat at the Battle of Camden in August, 1780, the British expanded their control of the colony and established garrisons at key towns and locations.  Camden was a major outpost for the British Army and their supply line from Charleston was vital for the continued occupation of the town.  Fortified positions like Fort Motte were key to the security of that supply line. 

When General Nathanael Greene and the Continental Army marched back into South Carolina in 1781, they determined to attack the British at Camden.  Although the April 25th battle of Hobkirk's Hill ended with an American retreat, the American army continued to threaten the British garrison.  At the same time, General Francis Marion and his partisans and Lt. Col. Henry Lee's Continentals were attacking outposts along the British Army's supply lines.  Marion and Lee captured Fort Watson on April 23rd and then turned their attention to Fort Motte. 

Fort Motte, in present Calhoun County consisted of the Rebecca Motte plantation house, surrounded by a heavy, palisaded earthwork parapet and ditch. In May, 1781, Marion and Lee's  forces lay siege to the fort, and the British garrison of 184 men surrendered after resisting for seven days. 

Squeezed between Greene's Continentals, General Thomas Sumter's partisans, and Marion and Lee's forces, the British retreated from Camden on May 8th.  It was the beginning of the end for British control of South Carolina.   

“…make no Doubt we shall carry this post…” The History and Archaeology of Fort Motte" illustrates how the fort's capture was a strong link in the chain of British defeats that led to the end of British occupation of the state.  With 13 dynamic panels and 12 incredibly reproduced objects, the exhibit will display examples of artifacts uncovered during decades of archaelogical explorations of the site. 

Also on display will be artifacts from the 1780 Battle of Camden and the 1781 Battle of Hobkirk's Hill.  After the American defeat at Camden, hope for independence from Great Britain seemed hopeless to most South Carolinians.  Greene's return to Camden was the first step on the road to South Carolina's independence. 

“…make no Doubt we shall carry this post…” The History and Archaeology of Fort Motte is on display through January 2, 2019.