SUMTER, S.C. — History is now marked with new signs at the Wateree Passage of the Palmetto Trail, which was established in 1994. The goal is to create a 500 mile trail that stretches through the entire state and is open to the public.
“I encourage you to get out, see the state, see what this beautiful state of South Carolina has to offer, both in its natural beauty and its history,” Palmetto Trail Midlands Regional Coordinator Furman Miller urges. “So when you’re here, you can kind of appreciate where you currently are and your place here.”
Miller oversees the Wateree Passage in Sumter.
“It’s a unique environment,” MIller explains. “And the ecosystem here is just wonderful. People really love to get out here because you can legitimately walk through the middle of a swamp.”
The passage is now marked with historical signs, donated by the Williams-Brice-Edwards Charitable Trust, to explain the history that unfolded right along the trail during the Civil War when Union army general William Sherman came across a Confederate munitions train.
“He was interested and concerned about whatever resources the South could have that might be in this part of the state. So he eventually tasked a General Potter to go find this munitions train that was supposedly riding around through this area of the country…After a pretty strenuous trek, he finally caught up with the train,” Miller says. “He caught up with a train right here, right where we stand. So he spent about two days destroying all the munitions and supplies. And they headed back to Georgetown.”
Now, we know it as Potter’s Raid.
“The impact on the war, although it was negligible, it is, you know, pretty unique situation, and you've got a possibility right here, the opportunity to come here to stay and not stand on the rail bed and in this beautiful swamp, but also on the place where significant historical event occurred, right here in April of 1865,” Miller says.
Now, visitors can come read about the raid while hiking along the free trail alongside the plants and animals as Miller and his team work to complete the rest of the Palmetto Trail.
“We have 31 passages that are currently open. And each one of them is in a different section of state,” Miller details. “We have the upperlands in the mountains, the lowcountry, marshlands pine, hardwoods…pretty much any kind of environment you want to be in, you can find it on the Palmetto Trail.”
The Wateree Passage starts at Poinsett State Park and stretches about twelve and a half miles.
“Now with the fact that the signage is here, everyone who comes in here now can take the time to read these signages and broaden their education,” Miller says.