A Visit to Musgrove Mill State Park, Where 200 Patriot Militia Defeated 300 Loyalist Militia and 200 Provincial Regulars

On 8 January 2019, I visited the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site in Clinton, SC, the site of a Patriot victory over Loyalists and Provincials during the American Revolution. Also within the park is Horseshoe Falls, a waterfall on Cedar Falls Creek near the Enoree River. There are two trails on the site, one that covers the area where the Loyalists and Provincials were camped prior to the battle and another that covers the battlefield. I wasn’t able to walk the first trail because it had recently been underwater and was ankle deep in mud. I did walk the battlefield trail and it gave me a better understanding of why the militia was able to have success against regulars in the southern part of the Revolution; the rough, forested terrain prevented the regular’s massed formations and bayonet charges from having as much effect as they would on open ground.


On 18 August 1780, a Patriot force of 200 militia engaged and defeated a force of 300 Loyalist militia and 200 Provincial regulars (no British regulars were involved). The Loyalists and Provincials were camped at Musgrove’s Mill and the Patriots meant to make a surprise attack on them but were discovered by a patrol. Even though they were outnumbered by more than 2 to 1, the Loyalists decided to fight because their horses were in need of rest, making it hard to escape without fighting. The Patriots decided to bait the Loyalists and Provincials into an ambush instead of facing them head-on. A group of about 20 Patriots under Captain Shadrack Inman attacked the Loyalists then feigned fleeing in disorder; the Loyalists and Provincials then chased them uphill via the road to Musgrove’s Mill and broken terrain toward the top of a ridge. The rest of the Patriot force was waiting at the top of the ridge behind a hastily formed breastwork of brush and timber. When they realized what they were up against, the Loyalists and Provincials fired their volley too early and to little effect. The Patriots, however, held their fire until their enemy was closer and their volley had a tremendous effect. The Provincial regulars then executed a bayonet attack that was broken up when the Patriots threw in their reserves. Captain Inman, who headed the initial Patriot attack was killed during the battle, but the Loyalists and Provincials lost several officers during the battle, which caused them to break. The Loyalists and Provincials lost 63 killed, an unknown number of wounded, and 70 captured. The Patriots lost only 4 killed and 12 wounded. It was a lopsided victory that left the Patriots in command of the field.

Even though it was a Patriot victory, it came on the heels of a significant Patriot defeat by British forces at Camden, SC. Camden was just as lopsided a victory for the British as Musgrove Mill was for the Patriots (if not more), and it solidified the British hold on South Carolina. Musgrove Mill, however, proved to the British that while they may have held South Carolina, that hold would be very difficult to keep.

At the beginning of the Battlefield trail, you come across Horseshoe Falls, a low waterfall on Cedar Falls Creek near the Enoree River. It isn’t a large spectacular waterfall, but it is scenic and beautiful; I’d love to see it with the trees along the creek in their Autumn colors (a good reason to make a return trip one of these days…). While the rest of the Battlefield trail isn’t paved, the trail up to the falls is paved and wheelchair accessible.