Gamble’s Hotel (Civil War Skirmish)

Skirmish Site Marker

Location: Coit and Baroody Streets, Florence, SC

This site marks a Civil War skirmish that stretches over three locations in Florence. The local chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy installed this site marker in 1949.

On March 5, 1865, 546 soldiers, under the command of Union Colonel Reuben Williams, fought Confederate army soldiers at this location. The soldiers were part of the 12th Indiana Infantry, a detachment from William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union Army. 

The Union soldiers outnumbered the Confederates 2 to 1, marching into Florence to destroy the railroad and its accompanying station. Doing so would allow them to cut off supplies to the Confederate army. The region had historically been known for its railroads as a primary source of transportation for plantation crops like cotton. People like Henry Johnson, the father of William Johnson who is featured on this tour, built the railways. 

“Sherman’s bowties” were used to destroy the tracks. The tracks were heated and then bent into pretzel shapes. This method got its name from General Sherman, who was known for destroying railroads as a way to overpower his Confederate enemies.

Sherman’s army used a three-pronged assault to defeat the Confederates in this area. The first skirmish took place here at Gamble’s Hotel, where the North Eastern and Wilmington & Manchester Railroads converged. The second one was at Church and Palmetto Streets where the North Eastern Railroad had maintenance shops, and the final one was somewhere between the two locations.

Initially, it looked as though the Union forces would be successful. One informant told a reporter from The Charleston Daily Courier that he encountered Confederate deserters trying to get home. One of the deserters told him “the jig was up” and “it was no use fighting any longer.” 

However, 400 reinforcements came to aid the local Confederates in fighting the Union soldiers, forcing Sherman’s troops to retreat to Darlington before they could dismantle the railways. However, they did destroy some crops before the retreat. According to The Intelligencer out of Anderson, South Carolina, “All the cotton, both Government and private, about three thousand bales, at Florence was burned.” This was one of the two defeats Sherman had in South Carolina; the other took place in Aiken. 

Mrs. C. D. Bristow, who was still a child in 1865, recalled hearing the gunshots and seeing the soldiers glisten in the sunlight.

Thankfully for the residents of the small village of Florence, while military supplies often passed through the railways, this was the only Civil War action that took place here. 

Visitors are welcome to park in the open lot at Coit and Baroody, the former location of Gamble’s Hotel, and walk over to view the historical marker.

For more information on the events that unfolded around the Gamble’s Hotel, you can learn about