By Patra Taylor
The South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust works to document any and all identifiable fortification, both Federal and Confederate, constructed during the War Between the States in Charleston County. According to Doug Bostick, executive director of the SCBPT, a total of 188 fortifications have been identified, of which 127 have been completely destroyed through a combination of coastal erosion, post-war farming, and commercial and residential development.
“Sixty of the total sites have survived, though many are mere remnants,” states Mr. Bostick, a James Island native and eighth generation South Carolinian. “One site on private property is not accessible and, therefore, its condition is unknown to us.”
Mr. Bostick notes that of the 60 surviving sites, only 19 are permanently protected either through ownership by a public agency or land trust or through conservation easements. Within Charleston County, the Battleground Trust owns six sites and holds conservation easements on seven others.
The Battleground Trust has long sought ways to enhance public awareness of the need for more complete preservation of the state’s historic sites. Additionally, the trust has pursued strategies for effective interpretation of the many passive and destroyed sites. This search has resulted in the Trust undertaking a project that promises to re-ignite interest in the sites that helped define South Carolina’s unique history.
According to Mr. Bostick, in the coming weeks the Trust will unveil phase one of a project that will enable residents and heritage tourists to “see” the Lowcountry as it was during the War Between the States. Using Augmented Reality (AR) technology, the Trust will create a tour of 50 of the Lowcountry’s War Between the States fortifications, both sites that have survived and sites that have been destroyed. Each site on the tour will be presented as a 3D model.
“Imagine the possibilities of actually seeing the Hibben Street Battery in Mount Pleasant or White Point Battery in Charleston or Battery Gladden in St. Andrew’s Parish while standing at the site where it once existed,” explains Mr. Bostick, a local historian and author. “Using a smartphone or tablet onsite or a computer at home, people interested in the region’s history will be able to access 3D models of the batteries and forts. Each fortification model can have both video and audio links to offer specific details of its history and its role in the war.”
Using AR technology, the Trust is designing a driving/walking tour of Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and James Island that will utilize GPS-triggered images from the Civil War period as visitors travel through the Lowcountry. Residents and tourists can then link to related and more complete information, as well as additional images that will allow further exploration of the area’s war history.
“It has been a long process leading up to this,” explains Mr. Bostick. “First, we had to collect any available period images, engravings and engineer’s drawings of the sites. Our second step was to collect the available aerial LiDAR imaging of the site, if any remnants of the fortifications remain.”
LiDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that can measure the distance to, or other properties of, targets (in this case, fortifications) by illuminating the target with laser light and analyzing the backscattered light.
“The final step for a surviving site is to conduct a terrestrial LiDAR survey,” adds Mr. Bostick. “Then all that’s left to do is to combine all this data. Utilizing our Augmented Reality software, we create 3D models of the sites.”
Using document research and consulting with official reports from the period, the trust has also established the types of guns and armament in a number of the fortifications and plans to insert them into the models. “We are now experimenting with demonstrating the ‘field of fire’ of each gun and, in augmented reality, firing them,” Mr. Bostick says.
“We believe that technologies like Augmented Reality software and LiDAR will make people want to know more about these important historic sites and help them understand the importance of preserving the few that are left,” remarks Mr. Bostick. “I know that when people experience these sites in a whole new way, it will astonish them.”
Augmented Reality tours of the first 50 fortifications will begin on July 18, the anniversary of the attack on Battery Wagner. For more information about this exciting project, please visit www.scbattleground trust.org.