I recently started watching Downton Abbey for the first time. Yes, I’m quite a bit behind the times in this, but I’m beginning to understand why it was such a great success for so many years. Being transported to another time and seeing how life was lived in a different era is fascinating and gives you a much greater appreciation for the modern conveniences and freedoms we enjoy today (thinking about you, Amazon Prime).
Having spent my entire life in South Carolina, and now working to promote it as a vacation destination, one might think I’d know most of my state’s history. But when we say there’s always something new to discover here, we mean it, both for visitors and locals alike.
This proved to be particularly true when I learned what a significant role the Palmetto State played in the Revolutionary War. I’m certain I recall something about that from my seventh grade South Carolina history class with Mrs. Hamilton, but the realization sunk in about the time I discovered there’s an entire tourism region named after the English settlements that were established here in the mid-1770s.
With more than 200 battles and skirmishes fought in South Carolina throughout the course of the war, it’s pretty evident our state was at the center of the activity. Today, many of those battlegrounds and sites invite visitors to come and relive history through interpretations, reenactments and guided tours.
One such site is Historic Brattonsville, located in McConnells, South Carolina. Brattonsville takes living history to another whole level. When I arrived for my tour, I saw a man in full Revolutionary War period dress walking across a field to meet me, with a lamb following at his heels. Talk about taking a step back in time.
Farmer Eli is the Historic Farm Program director who lives on-site to oversee the care of the farm’s heritage animals and demonstrate farming techniques from the period. He literally lives and breathes the history of the property, and he kindly spent the morning explaining the many ways Brattonsville works to preserve and educate visitors.
The site includes multiple structures that serve to show how the property functioned through the Revolutionary War era and beyond. As we strolled the grounds with our lamb friend Lizzy in tow, Farmer Eli told the story of each of the buildings and how they evolved through the three generations of the Bratton family. For example, a homestead later served as a tavern, and then eventually a school.
In addition to learning about farming techniques, student groups and visitors can visit the site to experience various period demonstrations like candle making, weaving, cooking and entertaining, part of the daily rituals in the Bratton community. And each July, patrons can watch a reenactment of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat, a significant conflict that occurred nearby.
Some of my favorite takeaways from the day were feeding heritage farm animals, particularly the handsome, hybrid DEVON cows, though I was very grateful not to be the one responsible for mucking the stalls. And despite having a sore shoulder for the next three days, it was pretty awesome to have the opportunity to shoot a musket!
While Brattonsville is certainly unique in its interpretations and offerings, there are nearly endless opportunities across the state to experience South Carolina’s Revolutionary War history. These places and experiences won’t just teach you about history, they’ll more than likely teach you something about yourself, too. A trip back in time? Why not go for it?
Filming for this show was done in part prior to Covid-19 and SCPRT recommends following local guidelines for social distancing and your personal protection. Some of the activities depicted in the “Go For It’ series might be affected, or even unavailable, due to Covid-19. Please check with the local provider or attraction for the latest schedules and hours of operation.