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Traveling - Carolina History

Civil War Reenactment at historic Brattonsville
Photo Credit: Culture & Heritage Museums of York County SC

Before Europeans arrived, the Carolinas were home to indigenous people who built mounds at Cofitachiqui on the Wateree River near Camden. Iroquoian, Algonquian, Muskhogean, Siouan and Cusabo tribes inhabited this land between the Savannah and Roanoke rivers.

In 1540 Hernando de Soto crossed the Savannah River, traveled inland to Cofitachiqui and then turned north, following the French Broad and Tennessee rivers across the mountains.

In 1629 King Charles I of Great Britain granted the area between 31 and 36 degrees latitude to his attorney general Robert Heath. This grant included the land between Florida's northern border and Albemarle Sound, and stretching west to the Pacific. It was called Carolina in King Charles' honor.

Charles I lost his kingdom and his head, but the monarchy was restored in 1660 with the return of his son, Charles II. In 1663, Charles II granted the territory "Carolana" to eight political supporters, styled Lords Proprietors: Edward Hyde (Earl of Clarendon), William Craven (Earl of Craven), George Monck (Duke of Albemarle), John Berkeley (Baron Berkeley of Stratton), Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley, Sir John Colleton and Anthony Ashley Cooper (Baron Ashley of Wimborne St. Giles).

Although not formally separated until 1735, the Carolinas always had distinct governments. Until 1710, the governor resided in Charlestown and sent a deputy to govern at Cape Fear. Edward Hyde, North Carolina's first governor, was appointed in 1712. The first attempt at defining the boundary between North and South Carolina came in 1735. The line then inched along in stages with the final portion surveyed in 1815.

History is abundant in both Carolinas. Colonial structures, Indian mounds and battlefields are just a few of the sites modern-day explorers can visit. The ruins of Sheldon Church near Beaufort, SC, is a favorite for picnickers and painters.

In 1701 a young Englishman named John Lawson left Charles Town to investigate the interior of the Carolinas. He traveled by water to the mouth of the Santee and then followed the Santee, Wateree and Catawba rivers until he crossed into present-day North Carolina. Lawson reached the Yadkin River before turning east to the English settlements on the coast. For part of his journey he followed the Eno and Neuse rivers. In 1706 Lawson helped establish the town of Bath. In 1711 on a trip to survey the navigable reaches of the Neuse River, Native Americans, angered by English land incursions and abuse, captured and executed Lawson.

Others followed Lawson down the creeks and rivers of the Carolinas to settle new homes. The fertile river bottoms were preferred from the mountains to the sea. Their rich loamy soil produced corn and wheat to feed the settlers and their families. In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, flooded creeks and rivers gave rise to the profitable cultivation of rice. Growing Carolina Gold rice forever changed the lives of African slaves imported to raise the new crop and the landscape diked and terraced into submission.

North Carolina's flag has been modified since its creation in 1861. The upper date commemorates Charlotte's Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, signed more than a year before Independence Day. The lower date reflects the Halifax Resolves, one of the first official documents demanding freedom for the U.S. from foreign powers.

Both colonies faced early and potentially disastrous challenges from Native American groups

North Carolina evolved from settlements in 1664 at Albemarle in the Cape Fear area. Early settlers drifted down from Virginia or arrived from Barbados. South Carolina owes its government to the 130 hardy souls who arrived at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers in 1670, settling what became Charleston.

Both colonies faced early and potentially disastrous challenges from Native American groups -- the Tuscarora War in 1711 in North Carolina and the 1715 Yemassee War in South Carolina. Both colonies survived, thanks to the intervention of the other.

In the 1760s, both faced the regulatory movementa challenge of the backcountry to government by coastal elites. The North Carolina piedmont and mountains had more in common with the South Carolina piedmont and Upcountry than either had with Tryon Palace at New Bern or Charlestown. At stake were questions of representation in colonial legislatures and access to the court systems.

In 1763, governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia signed the Treaty of Augusta with chiefs of the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Catawba. This treaty created a 10-square-mile reservation on the Carolina border for the Catawba.

South Carolina voted unanimously in convention to secede from the Union December 1860.

In 1767, Andrew Jackson was born in the Waxhaws near Lancaster, an area spanning the Carolina border. His later election as president created a long-standing controversy between the Carolinas, both of which claim his birth site.

In 1775, the Mecklenburg Resolves nullified all royal commissions in North Carolina. A year later, South Carolina adopted its first constitution, electing John Rutledge its first president.

In 1780, North Carolinians, Virginians and the over-the-mountain men from Tennessee defeated Major Patrick Ferguson and his force of loyal militia at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina one of the defining conflicts of the Revolutionary War.

In 1788, South Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution, but North Carolina, demanding a bill of rights, did not ratify until 1789.

In 1791, President George Washington toured the southern states to promote the federal union. He traveled through Fredericksburg, Richmond, Petersburg, Halifax, New Bern and Wilmington. Crossing the North-South Carolina line in March 1791, he proceeded through Georgetown to Charleston, and on to Savannah, completing his circuit through Augusta, Columbia and Charlotte, before returning to Philadelphia in July 1792.

The modern landscape of the Carolinas shows the importance of rivers in their settlement.

South Carolina voted unanimously in convention to secede from the Union December 1860. Six southern states followed and joined South Carolina to create the Confederate States of America. Four more states, including North Carolina, seceded after the fall of Fort Sumter April 14, 1861. The United States blockaded the coasts of North and South Carolina, primarily affecting the deep-water ports of Wilmington and Charleston. The success of the blockade runners, particularly at Wilmington, allowed Robert E. Lee to field an army as long as he did.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman brought the war to South Carolina in January-February 1865, and then turned north through North Carolina to meet Gen. Ulysses Grant in Virginia. Sherman had already reached Goldsborough by the time Major-General George Stoneman led a successful raid across southern Virginia and western North Carolina. Upon learning that Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had surrendered the Army of Tennessee, Sherman ordered Stoneman to Raleigh in a futile effort to block the escape route of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The Civil War, Reconstruction and the boll weevil's death march on cotton drove the Carolinas into nearly 100 years of depression. Economic stability returned with textile mills, and more recently with manufacturing, exports and tourism.

Today, cotton is back, and the Carolinas attract 80 million visitors and billions of capital infusion from foreign and domestic firms. They see what the eight Lords Proprietors discovered three centuries before: The Carolinas are a great place to live.

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