Highway Expansion Threatens Historic Site

by | Oct 18, 2005

Island Packet: Some historians and archaeologists worry that widening U.S. Highway 17 in rural Beaufort County will destroy or cover up significant Civil War artifacts and building sites.

Archaeologists hired by the state Transportation Department to probe the area have found remains they think show the location of a Combahee River ferry crossing used in a Civil War raid led by famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman. An earlier study also found an old black cemetery in the area.


More than 700 slaves from plantations in Colleton and Beaufort counties were freed in what is widely considered the first raid in U.S. history to be led by a woman.

Tubman is best known for escaping slavery and helping others to do the same along the famed Underground Railroad, made up of safe houses and secret passages. But no single act in Tubman’s life would free more people than the Combahee raid.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., whose congressional district includes a Confederate earthworks on the Colleton County side of the Combahee, wants the area to be included in a proposed Gullah-Geechie history corridor.