(February 2–3, 1865). Rivers Bridge, in southern Bamberg County, is the site of a Civil War battle fought on February 2 and 3, 1865. The battle pitted about twelve hundred Confederates against some seven thousand Union soldiers and marked the only major resistance to the march of General William T. Sherman through South Carolina.
Sherman led his army of sixty thousand veterans into the state late in January 1865. On February 2 soldiers of the right wing of Sherman’s army—the First Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, commanded by Major General Joseph A. Mower—attempted to seize one of several strategic crossings of the Salkehatchie River. Failing to take the crossing at Broxton’s Bridge, Mower’s troops advanced upstream to Rivers Bridge, which was defended by a Confederate brigade under Colonel George P. Harrison. Harrison’s strongly entrenched force repulsed a direct Union assault down the narrow causeway that spanned the thick Salkehatchie swamp. On February 3 Union soldiers crossed the swamp upstream of Rivers Bridge, leading Mower to launch a major assault on the Confederate right. Another Union division crossed the river downstream at the same time, flanking the thin Confederate line and forcing Harrison to retreat. The battle cost each side about one hundred casualties, gave Union forces possession of the countryside north of the Salkehatchie, and led to the cutting of the South Carolina Railroad.
In 1876 men from nearby communities reburied the Confederate dead from Rivers Bridge in a mass grave about a mile from the battlefield and began a tradition of annually commemorating the battle. The Rivers Bridge Memorial Association eventually obtained the battlefield and in 1945 turned the site over to South Carolina for a state park. Rivers Bridge State Historic Site preserves the battlefield and its earthen fortifications and interprets the Civil War and its changing commemoration.
Power, J. Tracy, and Daniel J. Bell. Rivers Bridge State Park Visitors Guide. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, Division of State Parks, 1992.