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Plowing farmer finds mysterious buried structure linked to War of 1812, SC expert says

(Rosebank Farms/Released)

An odd remnant of the nation’s wartime past was revealed by chance in February in South Carolina, when a plowing farmer hit something on Johns Island near Charleston, officials say.

The mysterious structure has been linked to the War of 1812, but it sat hidden for more than 200 years for good reason.

“Sidi Limehouse was bottom-plowing a field at the end of Johns Island a few weeks ago when he hit something, made another pass, and hit it again,” according to Zack Snipes, Coastal Region extension agent with Clemson University.

“They began excavating the mystery and started pulling up handmade bricks. The structure was around 4 feet by 12 feet.”

The farmer contacted a historian, who brought a metal detector, Snipes says. That led to the discovery of artifacts, including “buttons, Spanish and English coins, pottery, old metal scraps, and massive oyster shells as they sifted soil from the site.”

So what did the farmer find?

“The historian who helped excavate the site believes this was a latrine from a camp used by soldiers in the War of 1812,” Snipes said.

Latrine, as in public toilet.

“No wonder the crops that grow in that spot look so good!” Snipes added.

“Kinda makes me sad (with) all the development that is going on here. What else is buried that needs to be told to the world?”

Limehouse, 85, reports he was plowing the field for sunflowers. His family has owned Rosebank Farms since 1938, and grows crops across 50 acres to sell at a produce stand.

His plan is for the “pile” of artifacts to be organized and put on display at a local hotel or other public venue.

As for the bricks, they’re going to be incorporated in the produce stand, at a spot customers can see, he says. It remains something of a mystery as to whether the bricks were made locally or came to the region as ballast in a ship, Limehouse said.

“I’ve lived on this place all my life, and I never knew that (latrine) was there,” he told McClatchy News in a phone interview. “Once we started finding bricks, we had to dig it up. I was thinking: ‘This is ancient.’”

Latrines were the military’s version of portable toilets in the 18th and 19th centuries, reports.

“Each camp had its open latrine area, raked and buried over daily to maintain a modicum of sanitation, but during a battle any available latrines and privies were generally luxuries reserved for the senior officers,” the site reports.

How bricks came to be used in a camp latrine is a mystery, but soldiers in South Carolina had a lot of time on their hands during the War of 1812.

No battles or skirmishes were fought in the state, but more than 5,000 soldiers were assembled in preparation for war, historians say.

“The British Navy blockaded Charleston, but no serious bombardments took place,” the National Park Service reports.

Johns Island is 84 square miles, about a third of which is within the city of Charleston’s limits, reports.

The War of 1812 is among the lesser celebrated of the nation’s victories, perhaps because the British marched into Washington, D.C., and burned the White House.


© 2024 The Charlotte Observer

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