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.

A Visit to Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens in Columbia, SC

The first stop on the third and final day of my South Carolina/North Carolina road trip was the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens in Columbia, SC. I’d been to Riverbanks before, but it was years ago and found it to be much improved than I remembered. They have a large and varied collection of animals and birds and they all appear well taken care of. Many of the exhibits are large and open for the overall space available for the zoo. Unfortunately, given that temperatures for the day started in the low 30s, some of the animals more accustomed to warmer climates weren’t out in their exhibits. The Grizzly Bears weren’t out in their exhibit either, but I’m not sure why. I particularly enjoyed the Kangaroo exhibit, which you’re able to walk through on a path with nothing between you and the Kangaroos and Wallabies.

The Greenville Zoo – a Small but Interesting Zoo

I wasn’t aware that Greenville, SC had a zoo until I started searching for things to do to replace the Cowpens and Kings Mountain battlefields that were closed due to the government shutdown during my vacation trip. I visited it after Musgrove Mill and the BMW Zentrum on the first day of my road trip and it turned out to be a good choice because it’s a very pleasant, small zoo. They’ve made effective use of the land that they have and although I’ve seen some complaints online that the enclosures are too small, the zoo is AZA accredited (one of the complaints was about the Lion enclosure and the zoo is building a new Lion enclosure). They have a variety of animals in their collection including Amur Leopards, Red Pandas, Orangutans, Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, and Schmidt’s Red-Tailed Guenons (and much more). One of the Black and White Ruffed Lemurs seemed to be just as interested in me as I was in it! As zoos go, the admission is relatively inexpensive at $9.75 for adults, so if you find yourself near Greenville I’d definitely drop in for a visit.

A Visit to the Zentrum at the BMW Factory in Spartanburg, SC

Another stop on the first day of my South Carolina/North Carolina road trip was the Zentrum at the BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC. Located just off of I-85 at Exit 60, the Zentrum is a combination museum and showroom that shows off both BMW’s history and their current products. Prominently displayed near the center of the C-shaped museum is an M3 GT2 car raced in the American Le Mans Series from 2009 to 2012; as a sports car racing fan, I was thrilled to see it. Having it so prominently placed shows how seriously BMW takes their motorsport. Among the historic cars in the Zentrum is the first car to roll off of Spartanburg’s production line, a 318 signed by over 700 of the factory’s employees. They also have a first generation 1986 M3 road car on display. Other historic BMW cars are a 1934 BMW 319 and a 1930 Ihle DIXI, the car that debuted BMW’s signature grille. Showcasing their new automobile technology is a beautiful black i8 electric sports car. Another classic BMW, an iconic Isetta takes center stage in the Zentrum’s cafe. If you find yourself in or near Spartanburg or Greenville, the Zentrum is definitely a place to stop in and visit.

Some 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.