When the American Civil War started South Carolina was essentially the place where the first shots were fired. Starting on the night of April 12th, 1861 artillery batteries from the newly formed Confederate States of America unleashed a massive artillery barrage on Fort Sumter which was a Union military post guarding the entrance to Charleston Harbor. As hostilities between the Union and the Confederate States of America dramatically increased the South realized the vulnerability of a ground assault to Charleston and started to fortify it. Between 1861 and 1864 a ring of defenses was constructed around the city in an attempt to secure it from this expected ground assault. These fortifications ranged from basic earthworks to prepared masonry positions. To the east of the city on the banks of the Santee River an earthwork was built to help secure the eastern approaches to the city. This fortification was known as Battery Warren.
Battery Warren was built to house five artillery cannons and defend a railroad bridge that crossed the Santee River. This fortification never fired a shot in anger and the expected ground assault on Charleston never came and the city surrendered in March of 1865. Overtime many of the fortifications were demolished as Charleston grew into one of the biggest cities in the South Atlantic region. Despite urban sprawl and modernization Battery Warren was somewhat forgotten. It wasn’t until 1936 when the National Forest Service started to protect and manage the massive coastal forest east of Charleston and named it after the local Revolutionary War Hero, Francis Marion. Inside Francis Marion National Forest is over 258,000 acres of dense coastal pine tree’s and conifers as well as some forgotten historic locations such as Battery Warren.
Since I moved to Charleston last fall I’ve ridden the forest service roads and trails in Francis Marion National Forest only a few times and didn’t really know to much about the area. After some internet searches on new areas to ride in the forest the location Battery Warren kept popping up. Now I have a motor vehicle usage map for the area however, it doesn’t have specific locations on it, only roads and trails. Eventually I was able to figure out the general area Battery Warren was located in by using the National Forest Service’s website for the area as well as Google Earth. A lot of this information was fairly vague and their were no clear cut directions to get to it, so in true adventure motorcycle fashion Spitfire and I would search for it on our own.
With a general idea on where to start I started riding on forest roads that were along the Santee River which is the north eastern and eastern boundary of Francis Marion National Forest. A lot of these roads dead ended on the river bluffs or went to small boat ramps and even a couple were gated and led to private property. After an hour and some growing frustration I ran into a local hunter who was driving around and he asked if I was lost. I told him that I was looking for some Civil War defenses in the area and he immediately replied “oh you mean Battery Warren”. He told me it was close by and directed me towards a service road which low and behold had a nice NFS sign marking the entrance. At the end of the road is a fairly large parking area that would be great for a moto camp site or short term boondocking. From here theirs a one mile mowed grass trail that takes you through a mix of woods and swamp before you see the first parts of the earthwork defenses. The defenses might not look like much at first but once you walk around them you can see the cannon emplacements and the protective berms. Compared to the local restored forts of Moultrie and Sumter, Battery Warren doesn’t look like much but it was still a fairly important piece of the defenses of Charleston.
While the search for Battery Warren is nothing truly special it did provide me with a glimpse of the history of Charleston in an area that very few people venture to. The day I rode there I saw only the local hunter and looking at the condition of the forest service roads in the area it seemed like their was very little traffic. Francis Marion National Forest and the rural areas outside Charleston continue to impress me in terms of riding as well as you never know what you will stumble upon, besides Battery Warren I’ve found a forgotten battle site from the Revolutionary War as well as church ruins from 1813. In closing, you don’t have to spend a lot of money or ride miles away to have an adventure or to find something unique, sometimes the best adventures are in your backyard.