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Of all the events leading up to the American Revolution, few of them had the impact of the tragic rout known as Buford’s Massacre 232 years ago May 29 near what is now the Buford community.
This Saturday, May 26, history lovers from far and wide will converge on the Buford Massacre Battlefield Memorial site on Rocky River Road just south of S.C. 9 to commemorate the battle and honor the colonial soldiers whose deaths shaped the war effort against the British.
“The battle only lasted for about 15 minutes, but it was so pivotal in galvanizing the people against the British that it led to their booting out of the Carolinas and their ultimate defeat in Yorktown (Virginia) in 1781,” said Ken Obriot of the Friends of the Buford Massacre Battlefield. “It was in our backyard, and yet so many people don’t know anything about it.”
Also known as the Battle of Waxhaws, the battle came nearly three weeks after the surrender of Charleston to the British as Continental Army Col. Abraham Buford and his 350 Virginia soldiers faced British Col. Banastre Tarleton and his 270 men, nearly all of them calvary.
Accounts differ as to whether Buford’s men were attacked after surrendering, or while surrendering in battle, but either way, Tarleton’s men showed “no quarter.” They slaughtered 113 Americans, wounded 150, many of whom later died, and took 53 prisoners. The British suffered 14 wounded and five dead.
Residents of the area, at gunpoint, buried 84 of the soldiers in a mass grave around which the current memorial stands and later, another 25 in an undiscovered grave on the surrounding battlefield.
News of the massacre galvanized colonists in the Carolinas against the British and “Give them Tarleton’s quarter!” and “Remember Buford’s Massacre!” became rallying cries shouted in battles throughout the region.
Saturday’s annual commemoration will include two events this year.
The first event, at 9 a.m. Saturday, is the dedication of a new flagpole at the memorial donated by the Friends of the Buford Massacre Battlefield. It will feature the raising of a replica of Col. Buford’s flag by members of the Buford High School JROTC.
“It will be the first time in all these years that his flag has been flown over that battlefield,” Obriot said. “It is meant to honor and pay tribute to the fallen Continental soldiers whose blood consecrated that ground.”
The event will include speeches by S.C. Daughters of the American Revolution State Regent Marilyn Altman, Hal Hiott with Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Department and Mark Anthony of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).
The Hinson Girls will sing patriotic songs.
During the event, the Friends of the Buford Massacre Battlefield, a new nonprofit dedicated to the memorial site’s upkeep, preservation and advancement, will also be selling memorial pavers to raise money for future projects at the site.
The traditional memorial will begin at 10:30 a.m. Hosted by the S.C. SAR, it will begin with a formal wreath-laying ceremony and feature historical re-enactors dressed in period attire.
“The story of Buford’s Massacre will be told as the bravery of the patriots is commemorated and the fallen are honored,” said Greg Ohanesian, past president of the S.C. SAR.
The Buford Massacre Battlefield Memorial is on Rocky River Road (S.C. 522) just south of the intersection with Pageland Highway (S.C. 9) in the Buford community.