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.

Book Review: Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas by John Buchanan

Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas

Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas by John Buchanan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I decided to read Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas by John Buchanan as preparation for a vacation trip to visit the Ninety Six, Musgrove Mill, Kings Mountain, and Cowpens battlefields in South Carolina (due to the government shutdown, it seems I won’t be visiting three of the four since they are federal parks).

Road to Guilford Courthouse covers the American Revolution in the Carolinas from the beginning of the war through the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Buchanan tells the story by not just describing battles and troop movements but also by developing the personalities of the men guiding and leading those battles and movements. Through the use of primary sources, diaries, and autobiographies, he gives both the leaders’ view of the war and the line officers’ and soldier/militiamen’s view as well. One of the focuses of the book is on the use of militia, by both the Americans and the British, with a concentration on how they were properly used and who properly used them. Another focus is the analysis of both Regular and Militia leaders’ performance (including a chapter at the end of the book on what happened to many of them after the war).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Road to Guilford Courthouse. It is a fascinating, captivating book that I often found hard to put down. The concentration on both actions and personalities give you a comprehensive look at that period of the Revolution in the south. It’s well researched and documented with extensive endnotes and a bibliography at the end of the book. The reason I haven’t given it a five-star review is its lack of maps. This campaign was very much a war of movement and maps showing the movements of the British and Americans would help the reader better visualize the relation of the two armies to each other. Maps of the battle would also help the reader visualize the positions of the units described in the text and the movements of the units during the Seige of Charleston and at battles such as Kings Mountain, Cowpens, and Guilford Courthouse.

Reading this book made me reflect on other conflicts. As I read, I kept coming back to the thought that the US military’s failures in Vietnam and Iraq are partly due to the failure to remember lessons from our own Revolutionary War. The southern war is rife with lessons on partisan/guerrilla warfare, particularly from the British on what not to do when fighting them and from the Americans on how to utilize your partisan/militia allies. As I read more about Greene and the war in the south, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Spruance at the Battle of Midway in World War II. Greene had to fight Cornwallis yet he couldn’t allow himself to be defeated in detail. Spruance had to fight Yamamoto yet he couldn’t allow himself to lose significant numbers of ships and men. If either had allowed themselves to lose their army or fleet, it would have been calamitous; arguably their decisions to be not as aggressive in battle were the correct ones.



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Book Review: The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution by John Oller

32739518Despite having lived in Savannah, just south of South Carolina, for most of my life and having a practically lifelong love of History I never really knew much about Francis Marion beyond the myths and legends that sprang up about him. Even then, the myths were mostly about his military activity and not the man himself. The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution by John Oller is a compelling story of not only Marion’s military activity but about Marion himself. Knowing who he was as a person is key in understanding why he did what he is famous for and it gives you a window into his decision making, explaining why he was as successful as he was. Oller has done a wonderful job telling us about Marion the man, so in this book, we not only have a record of what he did but a much better understanding of how and why he did it. I truly enjoyed reading The Swamp Fox and heartily recommend it to anyone who’s familiar with the myths and wants to know more about who Marion was and what he did.

Book Review: Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift

I bought Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift by Thomas E. Chavez at the Castille de San Marcos gift shop while I was visiting Saint Augustine, FL earlier this year. Between that visit and a program I watched on Saint Augustine on PBS prior to the trip, I’d developed an interest in Spain’s American colonies. This book didn’t cover that interest, but it truly opened my eyes to Spain’s part in our country’s independence, a role much bigger than I was aware of. Chavez shows us parts of the American Revolution we don’t learn about in History class. He explores how Spain, allied with France, worked to overextend Great Britain, turning Britain’s involvement in America into a wider global conflict, regaining territories lost previously and checking British expansion in the Caribbean and Central America. He introduces us to personalities we don’t learn about in school who played key roles in our independence. There is a so much to learn from this book.

Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift is a fascinating and extraordinary book. It’s well written, compelling, and well documented. It isn’t often that you read a book that gives you so much new insight into a topic you think you know a lot about. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in not just the American Revolution but Amercian History in general. The information in this book deserves exposure in at least high school History classes and I’d suggest that this book as required reading in advanced US History courses. It easily rates five stars.

Sheldon Church Ruins – Yemassee, SC

Earlier today, I took a trip up to the Beaufort, SC area to visit the Old Sheldon Church ruins in Yemassee. I’ve seen photos of the site for years and have been wanting to visit it; being on annual leave for a week, I figured this was just as good a time as any to go.  The ruins are what is left of what was originally the Prince William’s Parish Church, an Anglican church built between 1751 and 1757. During the Revolutionary War, it was used Colonial supporters and was burned by the Royal Army. Decades later, it was rebuilt and was reopened in 1826. At the end of the Civil War, it was destroyed again. Apparently, Sherman claimed that his Army burned it down, but other accounts indicated it was just damaged and that materials from it were used as constructed materials by newly freed slaves. Either way, it came out of another war destroyed, this time for good. It is surrounded by graves, most of which seem to be women’s graves, mostly from the 1800s, although I did see one grave as recent as 1917. The grave of South Carolina Lt. Governor William Bull lies within the church itself; Bull provided most of the funds for the church’s construction and also assisted General James Oglethorpe with laying out the City of Savannah.

A view of the Old Sheldon Church ruins as you enter the grounds. The Church is the centerpiece, but the old Live Oak trees provide shade and atmosphere.

 

This view of the front of the church shows just how picturesque the ruins are.

 

Another view of the front of the ruins, dominated by columns.

 

A closer look at one of the Old Sheldon Church’s columns.

 

Side view of the Old Sheldon Church ruins.

 

A closer look at an entry way on the side of the Old Sheldon Church.

 

The rear of the Old Sheldon Church ruins.

 

A look at damage to the brick walls of the ruins gives you an idea of the church’s construction.

 

Lt. Governor William Bull’s grave site within the Old Sheldon Church ruins.

 

For some reason, this is a really powerful historic site. You can truly feel the history as you walk among the ruins and the churchyard graves. It has ties to both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, it’s the resting place of a Colonial figure key to both South Carolina and Georgia, and ties to the surrounding community through the graves throughout the churchyard. It’s not a place to visit frivolously, it’s a historic site that should be visited in quiet contemplation. That said, I highly recommend visiting the Old Sheldon Church ruins, it’s well worth the drive.