University of South Carolina

Francis Marion
Francis Marion image, far right, courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library.

Archaeologist's research could boost SC's heritage tourism


Francis Marion, South Carolina's legendary Swamp Fox who helped repel the British during the Revolutionary War, is a legend in American history.

But when Mom and Dad are on their way to Florida, how do you get them to stop in the Palmetto State and tell Marion's story to their kids?

Steven D. Smith
Steven D. Smith

There are no interpretive centers at any of the places Marion frequented during his lifetime, though there could be in the future, thanks in part to the work of Steven D. Smith, associate director of applied research at the S.C. Institute of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina.

Smith, who oversees the Institute's Military Sites Program, has been conducting archaeological research at Revolutionary War battlefields since 2002. He has been the principal investigator for archival and field surveys at battlefields like Camden, Blackstocks, Musgrove Mill, Fort Motte, and Francis Marion battlefields like Blue Savannah, Snow's Island, Wadboo Plantation, and Parker's Ferry.

Francis Marion
Francis Marion

The research is helping South Carolina's heritage tourism industry to interpret the sites for tourists.

"You need an infrastructure in order for tourism to work and you need to interpret the story," said Smith, who recently confirmed the location of a Revolutionary War battlefield called Williamson's Plantation at Historic Brattonsville for the York County Culture and Heritage Museums.

"The centers have to be developed," said Smith, "but our research provides the history and archaeology that will be used to develop accurate language for signage, interpretive programs, and tours."

In the past, Smith's field survey and research with institute colleague James B. Legg has led to a battlefield interpretive trail at the Battle of Camden for the Palmetto Conservation Foundation.

The idea, said Smith, is to entice people off the interstate to spend time and money in South Carolina while learning about a unique chapter in American history.

This could be especially important in the economically depressed Lowcountry between Georgetown, Charleston, and Florence, where Francis Marion lived and fought the British. The state's Francis Marion Trail Commission sponsored Smith's archaeological study of Marion's battlefields in that region.

Developing tourism related to the Swamp Fox is actually just a byproduct of Smith's personal interest and research on the famous partisan fighter.


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