Quick update: The Fort Congaree II Dig team completed a dozen dig days over the summer of 2014 with the help of over 40 volunteers. All work was overseen by Dr. Jon Leader (the South Carolina State Archaeologist) and the team included 6 other archaeologists and many members of the Granby dig team. The first dig location (14 units) was completed by the end of August. When we started on May 31, 2014, within a couple of hours, the team came across a feature in Unit 3 that had characteristics of a palisade wall. Subsequent Units were opened to follow this feature. By the end of August, we had also found characteristics of a fill area (possibly the documented ditch around the outside of the fort) on both sides of the possible wall feature. Our site selection was chosen to hit the North-East bastion of the fort based on two mid-1700 surveys. The potential wall and ditch finds could indicate the bastion. Most features were found at the bottom of level 1 (10cm) or within level 2 (10-20cm). For this reason, some pits were not dug beyond a 10-20cm depth. Some units were dug to a depth of 40-50cm at which point artifacts were no longer found. We found about 160 possible period artifacts in the 14 units. There were several obvious period pottery pieces and several pipe pieces including a 1720-1750 pipe stem. A .35 caliber musket ball was also found deep in one of the units. On both sides of the possible wall feature, we found period handmade nails. At the end of the summer, a resistivity survey was completed in the backyard of the site. The results showed a continuation of the ditch feature. Documentation and feature and artifact photos for each level of each unit can be access at this link.

On Memorial Day weekend (2014), we officially started the physical search for the lost and forgotten 1748 - Fort Congaree II.

Fort Congaree II Background

In 1748, in response to deadly Indian attacks against the first South Carolina backcountry settlers, the palisaded British outpost Fort Congaree II was built. Its location was at an established Indian crossing just below the fall line on the Congaree River where, today, you find the City of Cayce, SC. Fort Congaree II would serve its initial purpose of protecting early European settlers and, around 1761, became the launching ground for attacks against the Cherokee in the French-Indian War. During this time, it was also the training ground for young men who would later become heroes of the American Revolution. Among them: Francis Marion, John and William Moultrie, Isaac Huger, and Andrew Pickens. From Dan Tortora's "Fort Congaree II": "Fort Congaree II played a vital role in the history of the Midlands of South Carolina. It was built at a time of rapid growth and settlement in the area. It commanded a strategic position at an important crossroads: at the intersection of the Congaree River, the Cherokee Path and the northern limits of Saxe Gotha Town (Saxe Gotha was the first backcountry settlement of South Carolina up from Charlestown). In peacetime, Fort Congaree II's garrison bustled with activity. Farmers and merchants, African slaves, indentured servants, Catawba Indians, local settlers, and ministers visited often. Soldiers and settlers worshipped together, conducted business, and even married each other. The fort protected upcountry settlers from Indian attacks and gave them peace of mind. It helped South Carolina support the struggling but loyal Catawba Nation. Its soldiers left their wives and children behind and participated in the opening battle of the French and Indian War. The fort's first commander (Lieutenant Peter Mercier) made the ultimate sacrifice to the British cause. The story of Fort Congaree II offers a glimpse into an oft-forgotten chapter in the history of Colonial America."

As the town of Granby developed a few hundred feet north of Fort Congaree II, the fort was shut-down in the mid 1760's. It would soon be forgotten with the Revolution approaching. The last reference to it appears in a 1935 newspaper article by the late and still well-known South Carolina historian, Dr. Edwin Green. Dr. Green makes a plea for some type of marker to be placed at the site of the "last signs of the fort." A marker was never placed but, a few years later, the first aerial photos (1939) of the area show a pattern in the shape and orientation of the fort in a cleared (but un-plowed) field at the location that Dr. Green mentioned. This very important part of our Colonial history has been almost completely forgotten and much evidence of it has been erased. Our team of historians and archaeologists believe, however, that modern day technology and archaeology would reveal the covered ditch of the old fort and features within the fort. Digging in these areas should, at the least, uncover the remains of the cellar of a fort building and nails from the period. We would also expect to find some personal items like glass bottle fragments, tobacco items (pipe stems and pipe bowl pieces), Indian trade goods, ceramics, evidence of the barracks and post holes. Military artifacts related to the Cherokee conflict may also be found.

There is also a series of dives planned in the Congaree River where the old Indian trail would have crossed at the site of the fort. Our goal here is to inspect an unknown sunken vessel and look for any signs from the fort's period. Although not a primary goal of the project, most historians now believe the first Europeans crossed this area in the Hernando de Soto Expedition of 1540. The oldest maps of the region only show one Indian crossing and it is at this Fort site. It was well documented (from the de Soto Chronicles) that the 1540 expedition was led through this area by Indian guides so we will consider this in the dive phase of this work. No item has ever been found in South Carolina from the de Soto Expedition.

With major development under way for Cayce's "12,000 Year History Park" (being developed under the direction of the National Parks Service) just a few hundred feet away from the Fort site, and the expansion of the Cayce Riverwalk through the Fort site (next year), our discoveries in this Flag Expedition would bring Fort Congaree II (and a part of Colonial American history) back to life. This could lead to some type of site recognition like that proposed by Dr. Edwin Green in 1935 and possible inclusion of the site in the "12,000 Year History Park".