Monday, December 26, 2011

The Battle of Musgrove Mill and Its Revolutionary War Significance

The August 19, 1780, Battle of Musgrove Mill isn’t among the major Revolutionary War engagements we often read about. But it certainly was important.
For one thing, Patriot forces won decisively. Routing a much larger, better trained, and better equipped Loyalist force through courage and unconventional tactics. This battle demonstrated decisively that Patriot forces could defeat their better equipped and better trained adversaries. Certainly a morale booster for the Patriot side! More on that in a moment.
Timing too was critical. London’s “Southern Strategy” seemed to be working in early August 1780. Savannah, an important Southern port, had fallen to British forces at the end of 1778. The British, on their second try, had even occupied Charleston by mid-May 1780.
Then, on the 16th of August, just days before the Musgrove Mill engagement, British General Cornwallis and his commanders decisively whipped a considerably larger Patriot force led by General Gates. General Gates, as in “General Horatio Gates, the Hero of Saratoga”! With nearly 2,000 Patriot casualties. Gates, it turned out, was a crackerjack administrator, but not much of a battlefield commander.
So by mid-August, 1780, there was little to encourage Carolinians with Patriot inclinations. Prudent American Colonists, it seemed, should simply accept the inevitability of British rule. Confirming London’s assumption that many Southern American Colonists held Loyalist sympathies.
Little, that is, until Colonel Isaac Shelby, together with Colonels James Williams and Elijah Clarke, led 200 or so Patriot troops south through the woods from their camp on the Broad River. With instructions to clean up 200 or so Loyalist troops camped near Musgrove Mill on the Enoree River. The troops were there defending a ford across the Enoree on an important north-south wagon road.
fordShelby planned to ford the Enoree at daybreak and surprise the camp. But a Loyalist patrol discovered them soon after their arrival on the high ground north of the river. Worse, Shelby and his commanders learned that 100 Loyalist militia and around 200 better trained and equipped Provincial Regulars had recently reinforced the Musgrove Mill camp. So Shelby’s Patriots now faced a better armed and better trained Loyalist force of over 500. Impossible odds for his travel-weary men and horses.
What to do? The temptation to forget the whole thing and slip back through the woods to their better fortified Broad River camp must have been intense. But retreat was unrealistic. Rested Loyalists were certain to overtake and slaughter Shelby’s travel-weary contingent if they attempted to flee.
The Patriot commanders might simply ignore the recent intelligence and order a morning attack across the Enoree, as planned. At least demonstrating courage, and hoping for a miracle. Again, a prescription for near-certain disaster. The encamped Loyalists were expecting them. They’d be set up and ready to slaughter Shelby’s troops as soon as they left the water on the south side of the River. So, what to do?
Colonels Shelby, Williams, and Clarke ultimately agreed to a daring, unconventional plan said to have been suggested by Captain Shadrach Inman. Inman volunteered to lead 20 or so of his best troops across the river, there to fire on the Loyalist encampment, and then to retreat back up the hill on the other side. This unconventional military move was intended to tempt the larger Loyalist force into pursuit. Once the Loyalists were across the river, running up the hill, the remainder of the Patriot force would mow them down. Firing from cover and concealment on both sides of the road.
high groundIn preparation, the Patriots quickly threw up rough breastworks on both sides of the wagon road leading up to the higher ground. There, with weapons primed and cocked, they awaited their unsuspecting prey. A highly visible line of troops stood in traditional formation across the road at the crest of the hill. In clear sight of the advancing troops. This created a U-shaped kill zone into which Inman and his troops hoped to lure their Loyalist adversaries.
Captain Inman’s plan worked. He and his men made their raid and quickly retreated. The unsuspecting Loyalists took the bait and pursued Inman’s retreating band up the hill, straight into the Patriot trap. There the Loyalists encountered deadly Patriot fire from both sides of the road. Their commander and nearly all of their officers were soon killed or wounded. Lacking leadership and confused by the Patriots’ unconventional tactics, the larger Loyalist force broke ranks within an hour and ran for their lives.
inman markerThe heavily outnumbered and out-gunned Patriots that morning sacrificed only four killed and twelve wounded, against Loyalist losses of 63 killed and 70 captured. A decisive victory against great odds. Unfortunately, those killed included Captain Shadrach Inman, the real hero of the Battle of Musgrove Mill.
So What? You might reasonably ask. Why all the attention? Musgrove Mill was a minor, and hardly decisive, engagement. Better to move on to subsequent battles, like King’s Mountain, Cowpens, or even Guilford Courthouse. Battles that really mattered.
Well, in any war, morale and perceptions mean a great deal. Especially during civil wars, with neighbor fighting neighbor, brother fighting brother. That was certainly true at Musgrove Mill. Of the 700-some combatants at Musgrove Mill, only one was a British regular. All of the others were American colonists.
London’s “Southern Strategy” during the American Rebellion relied heavily on Loyalist support from American Colonists. Indeed, it appeared unlikely that Britain would prevail without it.
News of Shelby’s victory at Musgrove Mill over an overwhelmingly stronger Loyalist force provided encouragement for Patriot sympathizers, and gave Loyalist and “neutrals” something to think about. Should the Patriots ultimately prevail, Loyalists, and even “neutrals” like mill owner Edward Musgrove, could expect little sympathy from the victors. Better to back a winner. And the Battle of Musgrove Mill demonstrated that the Patriots just might win!
Stay tuned. In the next two episodes we’ll walk through the area of the Loyalist encampment, have a look at the Enoree River, and then tour the site of the battle on the north side of the river.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, Near Clinton, South Carolina

Table of Contents for This Series

The I-26 four-lane SuperHighway is one of the most heavily traveled in South Carolina. Can’t say I enjoy it, but I’ve been up and down it hundreds of times, on the way to and from destinations in the western part of the State.

Musgrove Mill Map ToThe past decade or so, a respectable-looking roadside sign near the I-385 turn-off toward Greenville has advertised “Musgrove Mill State Historic Site.” Looked interesting. Last month I finally found time for a visit. “Visit” indeed. I ended up making three trips from Columbia in as many days. Now, that’s a lot of extra miles on my elderly Town Car. But well worth it.

Next time you’re in the area and have some extra time, turn off and follow the signs for about six miles along Highway 56. It will take you through pretty, rolling farm country, just west of the Sumter National Forest. A treat in itself.

If it’s near lunchtime when you visit, stop at that big filling station on the corner to pick up a Subway sandwich and drink. I know; I know. But the sandwiches there are really good! Maybe even one or two of those tempting macadamia nut cookies ….. Then, fortified with two – or maybe three – of the four major food groups, on to Musgrove Mill!

The State acquired 360 or so acres of this important Revolutionary War battlefield site back in the mid-1970s. But tight Park System budgets seem to have delayed its opening until May of 2003. Now, we can all visit and enjoy.

As at most State Historic Sites, it’s best to stop first at the Visitor’s Center for orientation before tramping around. Musgrove Mill maintains a good one. The building you see above was designed, to the extent possible, to resemble the original house located here. At least from the outside.

You’ll find several inviting rocking chairs on the wrap-around porch, and even a picnic table.

So go around back and eat that Subway sandwich while looking out over some beautiful woods. Now, woods scenes like the one you’ll see don’t just happen. They require a LOT of work. I don’t know how many people it takes to maintain this Park, but it must be quite a few!

After lunch, take some time to look through the exhibits inside the Center. Space is limited, but the exhibit planners have made good use of every square inch.

The combination of text and artifacts on the wall displays is especially interesting. Here’s just one example.

And here’s another. We may take displays like this for granted, not recognizing the challenges confronting those responsible for telling the story of an important historical site like this in such a small space.

Anyway, time spent here will enrich your experience as you visit other sites within the Park.

We’ll consider the importance of the Battle of Musgrove Mill for the course of the Revolutionary War in the next post.

But briefly, this battle demonstrated that Patriot troops using irregular tactics could best highly trained and equipped Loyalist troops. A point with significance for both sides as that nightmarish War ground on in the South. More on all this later.

musgrove map.pdfLike most South Carolina State Historic Sites, there’s something for pretty much everyone here. Picnic shelters, trails for hiking, informational signage, even a pond for fishing.

But look at that map! The Enoree River divides the Park into two sections. This means Park personnel must drive several miles along Highway 56 to get from one section to the other. Talk about a maintenance and management nightmare!



A substantial bridge once crossed the River here. But it was washed out long ago during one of the Enoree River’s periodic fits of irascibility. More on this beautiful River too in a subsequent post.

Much more to say about South Carolina’s Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, but we’re out of time. Stay tuned for more posts to come!

Oh, something else. A long-time CarolinaConsidered reader suggested that I add a feature that allows those interested to sign up for e-mail notification whenever a new article is posted to the site. So I have! Look in the upper right-hand corner of this page for the link. All free, of course.

Click here to view the next post in this series.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Season Quick Update

Doesn’t seem possible. But my last post here was more than a month ago. No excuse for the long gap. Just been busy, traveling and collecting material. So, here’s a preview of upcoming CarolinaConsidered programs.

First, South Carolina’s Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. It’s just a few miles off I-26, near Clinton. I’ve meant to stop here since it opened.

Finally got there in mid-November. The site of an important battle during the Revolutionary War. I’ll explain.

Next stop, right at the end of November, was Hickory Knob State Resort Park. One of the most visited of our State Parks.

111202 Hickory Knob Campground Fog From Phone (4)And certainly the Park with the most comprehensive facilities. Even a golf course, hotel, and full-service restaurant. I mean! If you haven’t visited yet you’ll find it hard to believe.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, while at Edisto Beach State Park [Good Old Site # 18; right on the shore],

I visited another South Carolina State Historic Site: Charlestowne Landing. Again, for the first time.

What a treat! Something here for everyone. From toddlers to old geezers like me. Don’t know why I haven’t visited before.

And since the Caw Caw Interpretive Center was just off the Savannah Highway, on the way to and from Edisto Beach, I couldn’t resist a stop there too.

This is a another of those must-visit spots in South Carolina.

They have an incredible museum, and over six miles of Geezer-Hiker accessible nature trails through the Lowland woodlands. Plus, you’ll get to meet Center Manager, Mr. Thomas Thornton.

There you have it. Four programs on four different Must-Visit places in South Carolina coming soon. So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

South Rim Trail at Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia

You haven’t really seen Tallulah Gorge unless you’ve hiked [or walked] both the North Rim Trail and the South Rim Trail.

If you begin your Gorge visit at the Interpretive Center, it’s likely you’ll start with the North Rim Trail. Since it’s right out back! Click here for CarolinaConsidered’s interpretation of that trail, if you haven’t seen it already.

For me, the South Rim Trail was a very different experience. Not better or worse; just different. So be sure to reserve time for both during your visit.

There are at least two ways to approach the South Rim Trail. The quickest would be from the end of the North Rim Trail, the one closest to the Route 441 bridge.

Just keep walking. And you’ll see a sign directing you to steps that will take you to the bridge’s sidewalk, and on over to the other side.

This bridge, by the way, is the second to span the gorge here, replacing one that opened in 1939. Before that, traffic on the way to Atlanta were forced onto the one-lane track on the top of the dam itself! A long-time friend raised in Western North Carolina recalls family auto trips to Atlanta in pre-bridge days. They sometimes had to drive across the top of this dam in the dark, scared to death that some huge truck would enter the path on the other side, forcing them to back precariously to the end of the dam. On one side they risked a slide into Tallulah Falls Lake; on the other a longer drop down the side of the dam and into the Gorge. Oh my!

I chose a different approach to the South Rim Trail, however. Driving the next day over to the Day Use Area on the shore of Tallulah Falls Lake. It’s certainly possible to hike both trails in one day. Or even half a day. But what’s the advantage of that? I’d recommend a slower pace that will allow you to enjoy the spectacular views along both trails. True, they’re both only about 3/4 miles in length. And fairly level. But I took over three hours on each and certainly had a better time.

I found plenty of parking in the Day Use Area. A construction crew was building a new comfort station beside the lake. All sorts of colorful equipment!

The beach here was closed during my visit. But a click on the photo above will give you an idea of what you’ll find once the trail there reopens.

Walk back up the Day Use Area hill, across the bridge, and over to the entrance of the South Rim Trail.

From there it’s one spectacular scene after another. It’s impossible to resist the temptation to see what’s beyond the next turn in the trail. I did manage to resist the temptation to descend these wooden stairs that lead to the suspension bridge across the Gorge.

Look at this! 680 steps down; and 680 steps back up. Beyond my ElderHiker capabilities. But what a view it must be! Maybe some day …

There’s much more to see here. But again, we’re running out of time. Since Picasa photo folder links seemed to work well in previous posts, I’ll add another here. Just click the “Slideshow” button near the upper right of the screen and enjoy.

Tallulah Gorge South Rim Trail

So there you have it. A visit to Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park. A considerable distance from Columbia, South Carolina. But worth it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hiking Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge North Rim Trail

After viewing the Interpretive Center’s fifteen-minute film – an excellent introduction to the whole Park – step out onto the Center’s beautifully designed back patio.

Interpretive Center Rear PatioHere’s just one of the views you’ll find out there. Then walk down the short path that leads to the North Rim Trail itself.

Oh, and don’t forget the native plant garden on the other side of the patio. The Park’s Friends Group maintains it. You may be surprised by what is and what isn’t considered native here.

03 stairs to 1From behind the Interpretive Center it’s convenient to turn left and walk a quarter-mile or so to these stairs. They’re really not as steep as they look in this photo. They’ll take you over to Outlook Number One. About the best place for ElderHikers to view the Gorge.

North Rim Wallender Tower SiteOn the way, you’ll pass the remains of an iron tower used in 1970 by 65-year-old Karl Wallenda to anchor his tightrope across the gorge on the north side. The highwire stunt drew quite a crowd, and was credited with increasing tourism in this area. Why in the world this beautiful place would need such a boost is beyond my comprehension. But here are the remains of the tower, anyway.

Once you’ve looked up and down the Gorge from the Outlook Number One viewing platform, give serious thought to hiking up to the benches you see above. I resisted the temptation, in the event. But imagine the view from there! Said to be the best in the Park.

This brings up an important feature of this trail. Especially for those of us no longer quite as mobile as we once were. Tallulah Gorge’s North and South Rim trails offer opportunities for most every visitor. From those of us who now need wheeled vehicles to get around — scooters or wheelchairs — to those intense exercise enthusiasts with carabiners clanking from their belts who pass us by in search of slippery vertical rock faces to climb.

Comfortable part of North Rim TrailQuite near the Interpretive Center on this North Rim trail you’ll even find a section paved with recycled rubber tires! This creates a surface that’s easy on ElderHikers’ knees, but solid enough for scooter or wheelchair tires.

An Unexpected Resting SpotEasy access doesn’t end with this rubberized section of trail. There are plenty of areas with smooth hard-packed dirt surfaces like the one you see above. All to the advantage of the ElderHiker.

There’s plenty more to see on this North Rim Trail. So, have a look at more photos in the Picasa slideshow below.

Tallulah Gorge North Rim Trail

So there you have it. The North Rim Trail of Tallulah Gorge in Northeast Georgia. A beautiful place to visit. Especially in the fall.

Stay tuned to this channel, since we’ll visit the South Rim Trail in the next post.