Lightwood Knot Springs


"Lighterwood or Lighterknot Springs" as know by the locals

Possible Site As It Looks Today

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Research and Photography By Tim Bradshaw 2004

There are many things we know about this place we call Lightwood Knot Springs..  During the 1830's this was a resort.  Many people visited the location to get a break from the heat and mosquitoes.  There was  a railroad stop, Dent Station providing access for the visitors.  There was a hotel located about 1/2 mile on the right of the six mile marker.  There was even a newspaper. 

In February of 1862, the State Executive Council, a controversial wartime body, designated the military camp at Lightwood Knot Springs an official reception center for troops and ordered Arsenal Academy cadets to serve, if necessary, as Columbia's police guard at night.  Soon after this designation, a conscription law was passed in Richmond, Virginia.  A state conscription office was then established at the Springs.

There were literally thousands of people tromping those grounds and yet there is hardly any physical evidence of any of it! Nearly every soldier who wrote about his merely located it near Columbia, about 7 miles from Columbia, and so forth.

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Some think the old camp was on the old Sanitorium grounds..... Possible!

The search for Lightwood Knot is fascinating while at the same time a little disappointing!  If you are visiting this site and share an interest, feel free to pitch in and send me email about your thoughts!  While doing extensive research, one can get the feeling that he or she knows exactly where it was, that is until you get out on the hoof and start looking for the evidence!  It is hoped that through the efforts of this web page, and the willingness of others to share, we might come closer to putting the famous landmark back on the map!

The Resort in the Sandhills

I can remember back in the 70's there was a historical marker located on Lightwood Knot Creek just off of Highway US 1 (Two Notch Road) in Dentsville, South Carolina.  This creek runs behind the Hess Gas station and winds it's way back in the direction of Parklane Road and so on toward the State Hospital Facilities.  The old marker was titled "Early Summer Resorts" and when Two Notch Road was enlarged, the marker disappeared! The inscription on the old marker read:

40 - 32

"Lightwood Knot Springs, situated about two

mile north, a popular summer resort during

the first half of the nineteenth century, was later

a Confederate training camp for recruits. 

A few miles east was Rice Creek Springs, another

early summer resort and the site of

Richland Polytechnic Institute, 1830-1845"


Lightwood Knot Herald and Daily Expositor

MS Vol. Bd. 1837-1838

South Caroliniana Library, USC


June 15, 1837

The Invalid, a disappointment, and an unexpected meeting…….It was on Thursday morning June 15th after being confined to my room by sickness that, I ordered a coach determined to leave Columbia and restore my feeble health if possible. It was precisely six o’clock the coach drove to the door, I quickly placed myself within and ordered the driver to Light Wood Knot Springs.

On my arrival there I was as much astonished as surprised at the appearance of the place. Instead of finding from the fashionable resort to the Springs, some romantic spot, selected by some romantic genius decorated with all the art, man’s ingenuity is capable of displaying -- Lo & behold I was at the consecrated spot when I inquired of the driver how far before we reached it. Just think reader how awful you would feel to be hurried from a bed of sickness with the expectations of soon being translated to some such place as before described, when to your horror was presented to your view a square of ground enclosed in the midst of the woods by a rough plank fence in the center of which stood 3 or 4 log cabins intended for the accommodations of visitors.

The inside of which on examination caused my blood to creep, not on account of the rough state in which they were thrown together, but at the idea of being visited through the space in the logs by some detested reptile, such as snakes, lizards, roaches, etc. I had come to this place to seek a restoration of my health, and I quickly determined to make myself as content as possible, with a full determination to be nearly at a moments warning to meet the attack in a becoming manor come from what quarter it might. But I must return to my arrival at the springs.

On alighting from the coach I met with my old acquaintance S. H. Smith who I was told was proprietor.

On entering his parlour I did not find it surrounded with spendour, t my satisfaction every thing the plain presented a view of neatness and surrounded with the great blessing so conducive to health, cleanliness naturally posed at a pleasant and lively disposition nothing was omitted on his part as well as that of his lady’s who was in a bad state of health, to make the situation of their visitors pleasant and agreeable as possible and circumstances would permit…..(continues on for 1 pages)



July 30, 1837

"The office of the Light Wood Knot Herald & Daily Expositor is removed to Columbia as it is only a short distance, we deem it unnecessary to change the name of our Justly Celebrated publicates….The Publicks, Very Humble Servant, Peter Would-If-He-Could, Maid of Munster

Richland County Equity Roll 439, land records 1785 - 1865, South Carolina Department of Archives and History.  James S. Guignard of the Town of Columbia for $2,000.00 to James Armstrong.....333 A. know by the name Lightwood Knot Springs, bounded N. & N.W. by land belonging to the Estate of JOHN D. BROWN,   W. by the main road from Columbia to Rice CREEK SPRINGS, S.W. by JOHN  SMITH   and the other sides by DOCTOR SAMUEL PERCIVAL'S  land....dated 1 March, 1839, signed  JAMES S. GUIGNARD, WIT: EDWARD A. SEYMOUR, JAMES TO WADE.  P. 2 March, 1839 by EDWARD A. SEYMOUR  before JOS. A. BLACK, recorded 2 March, 1839 in Book ___ Pages 63-64.


The following is a letter concerning the locations selected for two camps of instruction for South Carolina Regiments.  Lightwood Knot Springs of course would become known as Camp Johnson and the location in Aiken as Camp Butler. [Camp Hampton located at General Wade Hampton's race track was another camp of instruction.   It was located at the present site of the Veteran's Hosptial in Columbia]

July 19, 1861.

Hon. L. P. WALKER,

Secretary of War:

SIR: I have just received yours dated the 15th instant, and hasten to say that I have selected for the two encampments Lightwood Knot Springs, near Columbia, and the other at or near Aiken, both on railroads and perfectly healthy, and suited for the convenience of moving to any point desired at the earliest notice. Your authority as to electing field officers will insure success in raising the troops. If you will allow me, I can order a large supply of the best tents made here of heavy drill at $ 12 each, with poles and all complete. I can have them made by a Frenchman, in the best style. I have had a great many made here, some of them inferior, but they were of light material and cheap, only $ 10; but this is of superior material, suited for winter tents; and I have a Frenchman who makes knapsacks, with straps, all furnished well, for $ 2, buckle and all. They are cut after the French fashion, which make a dry covering to damp ground to protect the soldier at night to sleep on.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,





Colonel James A. Hoyt of the Palmetto Sharpshooters authored the following story which was published by The State newspaper on Thursday, May 9, 1901.   From about the 10th to the 20th of August, 1861, a nucleus for about four regiments of infantry - Twelfth, thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth South Carolina Volunteers - and a squadron of cavalry, went into camp at Lightwood Knot Springs, about seven miles north of Columbia on the Charlotte & Columbia railroad.  The Twelfth to be commanded by Col. R. G. M. Dunovant, the Thirteenth by Col. O.F. Edwards, the Fourteenth by Col. H. McGowan, and the Fifteenth by Col. W.D. DeSaussure, and the cavalry by Col. Jno. L. Black.  Failing to organize the Fourteenth, Capt. W.L. Wood, Capt. Joseph N. Brown and Capt. R.B. Owens, with their three companies from Laurens after remaining a week or 10 days, voted to go into Col. James Jones' regiment at Camp Butler, near Aiken, with Col. McGowan as lieutenant colonel and W. D. Simpson as major.

A corps of cadets from the Citadel under Jno. P. Thomas, was assigned to drill the companies in the infantry and were daily becoming initiated into the duties of camp life.  The soldiers were democratic. electing their own officers and exercising the same authority in changing from their own into other companies.  But the discipline was fairly good.  Guards were placed around the camp and at quartermasters' and company stores.

A little rivalry sprang up between the cavalry and infantry and a bold dragoon showed his superiority by charging the guards walking their beat in front of the company supplies, ordering them to the hotter regions, and they gave him and his horse a wide berth.  War speeches were made at night by candidates for field offices and the time pass off pleasantly.  Speeches were descriptive of the battles of Manassas and the future Bull Runs in store for us.  The soldiers visited Columbia and were well treated by our patriotic people; in fact throughout the war, the citizens of Columbia were the soldiers' friends, and up to the capture and burning of the city had organizations for relief, supplying and forwarding provisions and extending help in various forms not equaled by any other city of its size in the South.  The Fourteenth regiment shared largely of its benefits.

In 1905, Julian A. Selby authored Memorabilia and Anecdotal reminiscences of Columbia, S.C.  In this publication he stated, "Lightwood Knot Springs was a sort of resort for Columbians.  It was run by Mr. Stephen Smith and his wife.  The springs are still there - a few miles from town, on the now Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad - but the cottages have disappeared"

The story of James L. Anderson as published in The State Newspaper, Christmas 1908 - "This locality has quite a history, first as a summer resort of some note long before the war and again as the muster ground of the old-time militia, and again as the camp of instruction for the raw Confederate States soldiers in the early days of the the pending War Between three Sections.  It was here that the soldiers that were to be trained for the battlefield went into camp in 1861, followed by others from time to time for the first year of the war, "Camp Johnson" was the name given to the camp in honor of the then president of the old Charlotte&Columbia railroad, now the Southern.   And again the place was know as the camp of Sherman's army for a day and night after they took up their march northward after they had burned Columbia and were then engaged in the destruction of the Charlotte & Columbia railroad, the full story of which was published in The State of today one year ago.

"The writer's first recollections of the locality know as Lightwood Knot Springs was in the early '60's and the information the writer has stored away about the place and it's history is from hearing when a boy older people talk and from his own observation."

An Old Hotel

"From what he learned from others it would seem there was a hotel at one of the largest springs about one-half mile to the right of the railroad (opposite the six-mile post) going north.  There the planters and their families from the coast country spent a part of the summer, at least many of them, during the late '60's.  The writer remembers seeing one building in the last stages of decay in the early '60's.  One mile north of this spring there was a number of other good sand hill springs and here the camp of instruction was laid out on a level plot of land belonging to the railroad company, 100 acres.  Here the First South Carolina regiment was mustered in and the work of drilling the men began for what turned out later to be one of the greatest and hardest fought wars of all times.  Little thought did these young raw soldiers have of the pending contest or the battles that they later took part in.   Only a few -- very few -- will likely read this story, as there are not many left in the land of the living."

"These young South Carolinians fresh from their homes, acted lie they were out for a frolic.  They received boxes of good things to eat from their homes and had little use for the army rations, so much so that they actually three lots of it away.  They would meet the train that was run from Columbia to the camp daily to bring up fresh meats, bread and other supplies for the camp to help unload and take the supplies to the commissary."

"The writer has seen the men of the amp break up the large sheets of baker's bread or "wasp's nest" as they called it, and play snow ball game with the loaves, chunking one another until there would be no baker's bread left to carry over to the commissary.  These were great times for the officers and men and how anxious they were for hostilities to commence!  Dress parades were held every afternoon, and hundreds of men, ladies and children - mostly ladies - would come up to the camp each afternoon form Columbia to see the drills and parades of the soldiers.   After some months spent in camp more soldiers were brought in and in time it was "on to Virginia."  As the first gun had been fired on the Star of the West from the battery on Morris Island, the War Between the Sections was on and a little later with a vengeance.  Finally the call for troops was so urgent to go to the front that the camp became a thing of the past.  However, not until several thousand men for the Army of Northern Virginia had been broken in for the soldier game."

Lively Camp Life

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Richland Rifles at Camp Johnson, Lightwood Knot Springs

"Camp life was enlivened at night by speeches to the men from the candidates for field offices and the time passed off pleasantly.  Speeches were descriptive of the future battles in store for these young soldiers.  They were told in the speeches made by the young officers how the Confederate soldier was to overcome the vast odds in numbers of men on the Union side, which was about seven to one.   The writer remembers a speech made by one of the officers in which he told the men in camp that one Southern soldier could whip seven Yankees.  In this way the odds were to be overcome.  No wonder for four long years that made up the rank and file of the confederate States Army fought with so much vigor to try and overcome the odds against them.  The officer whom I heard speak afterwards became very famous.

The soldiers would visit Columbia and were well treated by the people of the city; In turn the people of Columbia would visit the camp.  After the combat had bee on for four years the surrender of Lee and then Johnston's army took place.   Before Johnston's surrender came, General Sherman's army and went into camp at Lightwood Knot Springs.  After having burned Columbia and while the worked of tearing up the Charlotte & Columbia railroad was in progress, after a stay of 24 hours, when the road had been torn up, they took up their march northward, leaving behind destruction and want.

"In this city there are a few of the men that spent time in old Camp Johnson, who are still alive and hearty.  There are some others scattered here and there throughout the State and elsewhere.  They would not form a very large company should be brought together now.  The old campground is now almost a forest, covered with blackjack trees and many of the springs that furnished water for the camp have disappeared for want of attention and the railroad trains on the Southern to and from the north pass through the old campground, the electric headlights of the locomotives throwing out streams of light over old Camp Johnson.  the little squeaky, hook-motion locomotive that stood proudly at the old station waiting to take back to the city the ladies, the girls and the boys and the men who had come to dress parade in 1861, has passed out of service.  So have thousands of those who proudly rode behind the little old hook-motion locomotive."


A Confederate Likeness

Photography was still in the early stages of development when the War Between The States began.  Of all of the photographs, images, or the "likeness" of young men in uniform among the regiments of South Carolina, most were taken during the early years.  One photographer, Richard Wearn had a studio in Columbia.  He operated in Columbia from 1853 until his death in 1874.  In the 1869 City Director he is shown as located at 170 Richardson Street (Main St.) over Messrs. Fisher & Agnew's Store.  There is no doubt that many a young Confederate soldier posed in his studio before going off to war.

"At the beginning of the Civil War, Confederate soldiers from Camp Hampton, Camp Lightwood Knot Springs, and other points visited Wearn & Hix for "licknesses" to send home to loved ones.  Today cartes de visite of these soldiers grace the pages of many family albums."

For a time Richard Wearn was teamed up with William P. Hix.  Hix was a portrait artist and he used his painting skills to tint many of the photographs produced by the firm.  By 1864 only two Confederate photographers were know to be active in their business. They were George S. Cook of Charleston and Richard Wearn of Columbia. 

Partners with the Sun, South Carolina Photographers 1840-1940, Harvey S. Teal

The State Newspaper published a report about Lighwood Knot on July 6, 1909.  The article was about the Second Regiment of the National Guard camping on the grounds.  The article lists the camp ground about 7 miles northeast of Columbia.   The reporter wrote, "The place where the regiment will camp tonight, Lightwood Knot Springs, in one interesting because of it's war associations.  the name is derived from the abundance of rich pine knots found there in former years and the boiling springs in the locality.  The place is also known as Dent's Station, on the Southern road, and also as "100 mile siding."

The family of Captain F. Marion Tucker, 18th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry left behind family papers which include five letters written by him from Camp Johnson.  In one of the letters he mentions that there are "four trains a day" coming to Lightwood Knot Springs.

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"100 Mile Siding"


A Few Short References.......

"Two of my brothers and I entered the Confederate Army as volunteers.  We belonged to Company C, 15th Regiment.  We then marched to Columbia and were mustered into the regular army.  We were then marched to a place called Lightwood Knot Springs.  We drilled here for six months." Daniel Jumper,  Veteran.

"After the fall of Fort Sumter they were moved out of the Fair Grounds to a point about seven miles on the C.C. & A. R.R. (Columbia, Charlotte, and Augusta Rail Road) and opened a new camp called Lightwood Knot Springs....." Mrs. B.B. Betsill, daugher of W.J. Keller of the 3rd South Carolina Regiment

"The regiment soon moved to Lightwood Knot Springs (Camp Johnson), four miles from Columbia on the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad. The men slowly adjusted to their new life.  Many had never been away from home before and had to get over home sickness. Private Richard W. Simpson reported on May 5 [1861] that they ate rank bacon and tough bread, "but it agrees with us powerful well....I believe I can eat any thing is this world, clean or unclean."    A few weeks later the same soldier wrote, "I begin to like our camp life as well as any I ever lived."   A History of the 3rd South Carolina Infantry:  1861-1865, Mac Wycoff

Destruction  and Reconstruction of the Railroad

Once General W.T. Sherman's business was done in Columbia in February of 1865, the destruction of the railroads resumed.  The Columbia and Charlotte road was included. According to Captain O. M. POE, Captain, U. S. Engineers, Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. Army, "On the 20th the march was resumed. The Seventeenth Army Corps, together with the Michigan Engineers, at work destroying the Columbia and Charlotte Railroad from Columbia northward..... The Charlotte railroad was thoroughly destroyed from Columbia to White Oak Station, forty-four miles."  Official Records War of the Rebellion

By April 1866 the link was restored.  It is recorded that rail executives staged a contest between teams of whites and blacks, each crew starting from one end of the project and working toward the other.  There were sixteen miles of track laid in only five weeks to complete the route.  The accomplishment was rewarded with a barbecue held at Lightwood Knot Springs for the whites and the blacks enjoyed a similar repast at Killian's Mills.  The event was hosted by the company for this "fine achievement."  Columbia & Richland County, John Hammond Moore, USC Press


A Permanent Memorial to Lightwood Knot Springs

Since then, new roads were constructed, Two Notch Road was moved over, old landmarks removed, and a new Interstate 77 was cut through. In the late 80's, I had become very much interested in the history of Columbia, specifically the period of the War Between the States.  During this time I was  serving as President of Company H, 20th South Carolina Infantry (re-enacting group) and as a member of the General Wade Hampton Camp #273,  Sons of Confederate Veterans.  I was able to lead a project to replace the marker for Lightwood Knot Springs and the project funding was shared equally by both organizations to purchase a new one.

On September 7, 1992, I submitted my research material and a proposed inscription for the marker to Mr. Norman A. McCorkle, the Historical Marker Specialist at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.  There was much correspondence and reviews of the material taking place to get the approval.  Eventually, approval came and the marker was purchased from Sewah Studios in Marietta, Ohio.  Thanks to the members of the Wade Hampton Camp and Company H, 20th South Carolina Volunteers, the funds were provided for the purchase. 

Finally on Sunday, November 20, 1994 the new marker was dedicated at 2:00 p.m.  The ceremony was opened by the presentation of Colors, members of 20th South Carolina Infantry, Palmetto Battalion.  Howard Hughes,  of the Wade Hampton Camp led the Salutes to the Colors and the Charge of Lt. Gen. S.S. Lee.   Compatriot Marion Hutson led the Invocation.  Welcome and Greetings were conducted by Commander Brett Bradshaw.  Following the welcome remarks were given by Chris Sullivan, State Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Captain Vince Simonwicz of the 20th South Carolina Infantry and Mr. Norman McCorkle of S.C. Department of Archives and History. The dedication address was given by myself.  We are all proud of the project and it was a team effort of friends to get it done.  The marker is located at the Richland County Tennis Center on Parklane Road.  Of Course the camp was not located there, the site was selected for maximum visibility and awareness.  The inscription on the new marker reads:

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Erected by General Wade Hampton Camp

#273 Sons of Confederate Veterans and

the 20th South Carolina Volunteers 1992