A Hidden Gem – the South Carolina Military Museum in Columbia, SC

The second visit on third and last day of my South Carolina/North Carolina road trip was the South Carolina Military Museum in Columbia, SC. Located in the shadow of the Universtiy of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium, it’s operated by the South Carolina National Guard and located in the Guard’s compound on National Guard Rd off of Bluff Rd. It isn’t the easiest thing to find and you have to pass through a guard post to get back to it, but it is well worth the visit for any History or Military History buff.

The South Carolina Military Museum presents the Military History of South Carolina primarily from the National Guard perspective, from the Spanish explorers in South Carolina through today. Their collection and equipment on loan for display includes uniforms, weapons, equipment, and vehicles from the various wars from both sides of the conflicts. They have a number of beautifully restored military vehicles from both the United States and World War II Germany on display in the museum. There is also a wonderfully restored Bell H-13B, 48-0796, which is the first H-13B airframe, serial number 101 from 1948. Outside of the museum is a good collection of heavier armored vehicles that wouldn’t fit inside the museum and there is an OH-58 and UH-1 beside the museum. The museum also contains an excellent display on the South Carolina Air National Guard, detailing the aircraft they have flown since they were stood up in 1947. The ANG display also tells about some of the personnel that have flown in the SC ANG and has an ejection seat from an F-104.

The South Carolina Military Museum is indeed a hidden gem and is well worth finding. They have a great collection and friendly veteran volunteers full of interesting stories and information. There’s no admission since it’s a government museum, but there is a collection box you should drop a donation in; operating a museum like this isn’t inexpensive and their government budget doesn’t cover everything.

The North Carolina Transportation Museum – a Little Something For Almost Any Fan of Motorized Vehicles

The last stop in North Carolina on my road trip was the North Carolina Transportation Museum, a state historic site and museum in Spencer, NC not far north of Charlotte. Quite literally, there’s something for just about anyone who is a fan of motorized transportation at this museum. The museum is housed in the remaining buildings of the Spencer Shops, which used to be Southern Railroad’s largest steam locomotive repair on the east coast.

The 37 bay roundhouse at the museum, built in 1924, is the largest roundhouse remaining in North America and it houses a variety of steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, and train cars. In addition to the locomotives and train cars, the roundhouse also contains displays that educate the visitor about the history of the Spencer Shops and the history of railroads in North Carolina. The roundhouse also features a replica of the Wright Flyer. Part of the roundhouse remains a working train shop, where you can see museum volunteers working on and restoring locomotives and train cars.

The Flue Shop contains antique automobiles and shows the evolution of the automobile. It contains cars and trucks from the 1910s to the 1960s, several of them quite beautifully restored. This building was originally used by workers for cleaning the flues inside steam locomotives. When diesel locomotives took over, the shop was used by electricians.

The Back Shop was used for major overhauls on steam locomotives. It is now home to a variety of motorized vehicles including cars, trucks, commercial vehicles, public safety vehicles, and a couple of airplanes.

The North Carolina Transportation Museum is a great museum. The have a wonderfully varied collection of trains, motor vehicles, and aircraft and it does a great job of presenting the history of the Spencer Shops and railroads in North Carolina. If you’re a train buff, you’ll definitely want to visit this museum and if you have any interest in motorized transportation you’ll be interested in what it has to offer.

Most of the inside photos in this post were taken with my Google Pixel 3 phone in “Night Sight” mode. Night Sight is designed for taking photos in dark conditions and I found it to be great for taking photos inside of museums. Some museums are dark inside and others discourage the use of flash photography for preservation reasons, so the Night Sight mode enabled me to take better photos in the museums without using a flash. If you’ve got a Google phone and haven’t tried out Night Sight yet, I highly recommend it for any low light environment.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum – Well Worth Visiting

The first stop of the second day of my South Carolina/North Carolina road trip was the Carolinas Aviation Museum located at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, NC. As aviation museums go, it’s not very large, nowhere near the size of the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB or the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, but it is very much worth a visit. It is a Smithsonian affiliated museum and part of its collection is also on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum. Its collection features both military (mostly Navy and Marine Corps) and commercial aircraft, but the centerpiece of the museum is Airbus A320 N106US, the aircraft that was ditched in the Hudson River by its crew on 15 January 2019 after multiple large bird strikes. It’s only fitting that N106US end up in Charlotte since US Airways’ largest hub was in Charlotte (it has since merged with American Airlines and American Airlines has a large hub at Charlotte) and the flight’s destination was Charlotte Douglas IAP. As a bonus for fans of military aviation, you can also see a portion of the North Carolina Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing’s ramp from the museum parking lot.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Part of the 145th AW facility, including two of their C-17s, visible from the Carolinas Aviation Museum

The Carolinas Aviation Museum has a varied collection of military aircraft; given that the state of North Carolina is home to MCAS Cherry Point and MCAS New River, it’s not surprising that it features four Marine Corps aircraft. It also features three US Navy aircraft and a joint US Navy/NACA test aircraft. The first aircraft you see when you walk through the museum’s front door is a replica Sopwith Camel. When you first walk into the hangar where most of the aircraft are, one of the first aircraft you see is a Stearman Kaydet. Some of the museum’s military aircraft have histories behind them. The F-14D, Bu No 161166, was the last F-14 to drop ordinance in combat on a mission over Iraq. The A-7E, Bu No 155971, was one of the last A-7s to see combat while deployed to Operation Desert Storm on the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). The CH-46D, Bu No 153389, was used on a rescue mission during the Vietnam War on which a crewman’s performance resulted in a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Outside of the museum’s hangar, as you make your way back to the gift shop and entrance/exit is a C-130E ABCCC. You don’t see EC-130s very often and this one just happens to have a significant history. The EC-130E, 62-1857, took part in Operation Eagle Claw, the rescue attempt of American hostages in Iran in 1980, as REPUBLIC 5. Another EC-130E on the mission was destroyed when an RH-53 helicopter collided with it, but 62-1857 survived the mission and went on to continue serving until it was retired in 2013, having accumulated over twice as many flight hours as it was originally designed for.

The civilian and commercial aircraft in the museum’s collection also form an interesting group. One of the first aircraft in the museum’s hangar is a replica Wright Flyer, which was the first powered airplane to attain sustained flight near Kitty Hawk, NC on 17 December 1903. Just below the replica Wright Flyer is a Savoia Marchetti S.56C; one of only two surviving S.56Cs, it’s a significant aircraft because Zachary Smith Reynolds (of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco family) used an S.56C on a 10,000 mile around the world flight. The DC-3, N44V, represents the strong connection between the Carolinas and Piedmont Airlines. The museum’s Ercoupe is a fascinating little airplane designed in the late 1930s as an attempt to simply flight controls.

The centerpiece of the Carolinas Aviation Museum is Airbus A320 N106US. N106US was US Airways Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte on 15 January 2009. Shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia airport, Flight 1549 flew through a flock of Canadian Geese, striking multiple birds causing damage to the aircraft and the loss of both engines. The crew, under the command of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, safely ditched the aircraft in the Hudson River. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries and all of the passengers and crew were safely recovered from the river. N106US is now part of a large display at the museum that also includes personal items from passengers that were on the flight as well as displays and videos that tell the story of what happened to Flight 1549.

Yesterday, before I started working on this blog post, I saw the museum post across their social media that they will be moving to a new facility in the future. The museum, the City of Charlotte, and the Charlotte Douglas IAP will be working together on plans for a new location so that the airport can use the current location for more private aviation space. Hopefully, the new location will be bigger and allow the museum to grow beyond what their current location limits them to. This could definitely be good news for the museum. The Carolinas Aviation Museum is definitely worth the trip to Charlotte for; it was the primary reason I included Charlotte on my road trip and I’m glad I did.

Most of the inside photos in this post were taken with my Google Pixel 3 phone in “Night Sight” mode. Night Sight is designed for taking photos in dark conditions and I found it to be great for taking photos inside of museums. Some museums are dark inside and others discourage the use of flash photography for preservation reasons, so the Night Sight mode enabled me to take better photos in the museums without using a flash. If you’ve got a Google phone and haven’t tried out Night Sight yet, I highly recommend it for any low light environment.

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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