Over the years, Mary Musgrove has become a legend. This is mostly thanks to a 19th century historical novel called Horse-show Robinson. In the novel Mary works as a spy for the Patriots and risks her life to help save an officer that had been captured by the Loyalists.
No one knows if that version of events is true, because little is known about the real-life Mary Musgrove. What we do know is that she lived at Musgrove Mill.
Today the land near Clinton that used to belong to Mary’s family is the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site and its education center not only provides information on the bloody Revolutionary War battle that was fought at the site, but also uses Mary’s story (legend or no) as a jumping off point to explore the contributions of South Carolina women to the war.
Women, of course, suffered great hardship during the Battle for Independence. Often left home alone while their husbands were fighting, they suffered through food shortages and epidemics of disease. They also were left vulnerable and were often harassed or brutalized by the enemy.
Some women played an active role in the Revolution, fighting off soldiers intent on destroying their property, contributing their homes to the war effort, or even risking life and limb for the war effort.
At Musgrove Mill you can learn about women like Mary Dillard, who acted as a Patriot spy or Dicey Langston who threw herself in between her aged father and a loyalist musket in order to save his life.
There were countless examples of female bravery during the Revolution, but it seems to be Mary Musgrove who succeeded, thanks to some historical fiction, in capturing the American imagination. People’s admiration for Mary Musgrove is apparent in the large monument erected by a citizen group in the early 1900s.
While at Musgrove Mill Historic Site you will not want to miss the two walking trails. The first is a loop of about a mile that takes you through the land that the British occupied in 1780 and the second explores the battle site itself. The trails take you through some lovely wooden areas, by a small waterfall and along the lolling (and during the Revolution, strategically important) Enroee River.
Musgrove Mill Historic Site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.