During the Civil War, there were not many battles fought in South Carolina. While most people remember Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war and General Sherman's grand tour of the state toward its end, there was at least one battle. That was the battle of Rivers Bridge, fought on the Saklahatchie River near Ehrhardt, S.C., about 10 miles from Bamberg.
The battle was fought on February 2-3, 1865 between 5000 union troops and 1200 Confederates. While the Confederates held the high ground , they were no match for the Union troops. The Union victory paved the way for the fall of Columbia two weeks later and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Va. on April 9, 1865.
The battlefield has a 3/4 of a mile interpretive trail featuring wayside signage pointing out various facets of the battle. The trail also runs alongside the Saklahatchie River. The Memorial area features a small Confederate cemetery as well as a small cemetery for those killed in World War II. There are also two private cemeteries in this area. A picnic shelter is also available.
Be advised that Rivers Bridge is a remote location and visitors would be advised to bring a picnic lunch. Bamberg, about 10 miles away, does have some food choices available. Rivers Bridge is about an hour and 45 minute drive from Columbia.
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RB wayside sign
This wayside sign gives an overview of the battle and its significance. While the sign features a picture of Gen. William Techumseh Sherman, Sherman himself was not at the battle. The battle was fought in February, 1865
This sign introduces the commanders for the respective sides. Gen. O.O. Howard for the Union and Gen. Lafayette McClaws for the Confederacy. Gen. Howard went on to head the Freedman's Bureau after the war and was a founder of Howard University in Washington, D.C.
The bsttlefield at Rivers Bridge was close to the Salkahatchie River. It is more wooded now than in 1865. This particular area is known as "the swamp" . There were two other battles in the area at Broxton's Bridge and Buford's Bridge but neither of those areas have been preserved.
The Salkahatchie River flows along the edge of the battlefield. It has several streams flowing through the area. As one can imagine, this area suffered some damage during this winter's ice storms.
This signage shows how the Union won the battle. Just beyond the sign is evidence of the trenches that were dug here. While Rivers Bridge is regarded as a minor battle it did have some significance. It cleared the way for the fall of Columbia two weeks later, and a little over 2 months later, on April 9, 1865, the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox, Va.
RB Memorial area
The Rivers Bridge Site also contains a memorial area that contains a picnic shelter and several cemeteries. Two of which are for Civil War Veterans and World War II veterans. There is also a building that is currently closed but was used as a museum from the 1930s to the 1980s.
RB Civil War cemetery
This small cemetery contain the remains of several Confederate soldiers who were killed at Rivers Bridge. For the most part, they came from the state of Georgia. There is a remembrance ceremony here every year.
RB World War II cemetery
This cemetery, adjacent to the Civil War cemetery, contains the graves of World War II veterans from Bamberg, Colleton, Allandale and Hampton Counties.