Santee Indian Mound – Summerton, South Carolina
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Located in the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, this Santee Indian mound is one of several known prehistoric Indian mounds in South Carolina. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, it is thought to be around 3,500 years old, serving as a ceremonial and burial site for the local Santee Indians.
The Santee held elaborate burial rituals. They buried chiefs, shaman, and warriors on earthen mounds. A structure made of wooden poles was placed on top of the mound to protect the body. Relatives hung offerings such as rattles and feathers on the poles. The height of the burial mound indicated the importance of the deceased.
Common people were buried by wrapping their bodies in bark and setting them upon platforms. The closest relative of the deceased would paint his or her face black and keep a vigil at the grave for several days. After a time, corpses were removed from the burial site and their bones and skull were cleaned. Families placed the bones of loved ones in a box and cleaned and oiled them each year.
British forces built Fort Watson upon the Santee Indian mound during the American Revolution. General Francis Marion and Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee attacked the fort in 1780, forcing its surrender. Their troops built a taller tower during the night and showered the British troops with lead.
Even though no remnants of Fort Watson remain, the site is listed in the National Register. Today, an observation deck at the top of the mound features fantastic views.
Here is the mound’s description according to the National Register:
Santee Indian Mound was part of a mound village complex; it was probably a burial and/or temple mound, likely constructed in some cultural period between 1200-1500 AD. Santee Indian Mound and a probable low earthwork remain intact except for the superposition of eighteenth-century fortifications on top of the mound. The fortification, British Revolutionary War post Fort Watson, was built from 30 to 50 feet high atop the mound.
In 1780, Francis Marion and Light Horse Harry Lee decided to capture the fort. Bombardment was out of the question, for the Americans were without artillery, but Colonel Maham, one of Marion’s officers, proposed building a log tower higher than Fort Watson. Hidden by trees, men hewed logs and the tower was erected in a single night. At dawn a shower of lead poured down into the enemy enclosure, effecting a quick victory. Fort Watson was the first fortified British military outpost in South Carolina recaptured by patriot forces after the British occupation of 1780. There are no remains of Fort Watson on the site.
Santee Indian Mound Info
Address: 2125 Fort Watson Road, Summerton, SC 29148
Santee Indian Mound Map
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