From the smell of gunpowder and the roar of 18th-century cannon to the sight of red-coated British soldiers and buckskin-clad Continentals, there’s nothing like a Revolutionary War re-enactment to get a sense of what America’s war of independence was like for those who lived through it.
Between 1775-1783, more than 200 Revolutionary War battles and scrimmages were fought in South Carolina – more than in any other state. Preserved as historic sites, the battlefields allow history buffs and the curious the opportunity to walk the grounds of some of the most pivotal events in America's fight for independence.
Below is a list of Revolutionary War re-enactments held annually across the state, from the Upstate to the coast.
Battle of Sullivan’s Island, Fort Moultrie
Considered the first decisive victory for the American colonies, this clash between Continentals defending Charleston and the Royal Navy took place June 28, 1776, with the defense withstanding bombardment. Each June, re-enactors conduct musket drills and firing demonstrations, along with a history program focusing on the British plan to attack and capture then-Charles Town. The Second SC Regiment helps stage this performance. Fort Moultrie’s visitor center also offers exhibits and an orientation film on the fortification.
For more information, call 843.883.3123 or click here.
Battle of Ninety Six, Ninety Six National Historic Site
The first Southern battle of the Revolution was fought in the colonial town of Ninety Six on November 1775, claiming the life of James Birmingham, South Carolina’s first casualty of the war. An eight-sided earthen fortification built to defend the Loyalist stronghold was later successfully defended from an attempted siege by Continental Army Major General Nathaniel Greene and his troops. Re-enactments are held the third Saturday of each month from May-September and include demonstrations of period cooking, woodworking and firing a musket. Along with the still intact Star Fort, historic structures at the site include the Logan Log House and the Black Swan Tavern.
For more information, call 864.543.4068 or click here.
Battle of Huck’s Defeat, Historic Brattonsville
Also known as the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation, this July 12, 1780 clash set the stage for more significant Patriot victories. Loyalist Capt. Christian Huck had led a force of 115 men to the plantation, but Patriot forces attacked from three sides, killing Huck and all but a handful of his troops. Each July, three battle re-enactments are staged at the site. The event also includes 18th-century music and dancing, cavalry weapon demonstrations, a kids’ militia drill and the laying of a memorial wreath.
For more information, call 803.684.2327 or click here.
Battle of Cowpens, Cowpens National Park
On Jan. 17, 1781, 2,000 Colonial troops under Gen. Daniel Morgan met and defeated the ruthless British Gen. Banastre Tarleton and his crack army of 1,000 soldiers in this frontier pastureland. Along with the Battle of Kings Mountain, the Battle of Cowpens was a turning point in the Americans’ Southern Campaign. The annual anniversary celebration held in January includes interactive cannon drills for kids, guided battlefield tours and demonstrations of cavalry and weapons. In addition, Kings Mountain National Military Park presents cannon firing demonstrations and guided battlefield walks for visitors each October on Artillery Weekend.
For more information, call 864.461.2828 or click here.
Considered the most significant Patriot defeat of the American Revolution, British troops under Lord Cornwallis defeated American forces led by Gen. Horatio Gates on Aug. 16, 1780. Johannes Baron de Kalb, an ally of the Americans from present-day Germany, was mortally wounded during the battle. Each November as part of Historic Camden Revolutionary War Field Days, some 500 British and Patriot re-enactors march on the grounds, pitch tents and fire cannon. Festivities also include Tavern Tales, artillery demonstrations, a period fashion show, Kershaw House tours and drum and fife concerts.
For more information, call 803.432.9841 or click here.
Battle of Musgrove Mill, Clinton
The battle on Aug. 18, 1780 between Continental troops and a larger group of Loyalists lasted only about 30 minutes, but resulted in high casualties. Despite being outnumbered, the Colonials won, and the battle is considered an important turning point in the war. Once the home of farmer and land surveyor Edward Musgrove, Musgrove Mill State Historic Site sits on a 397-acre site that today includes an interpretive center, a canoe and kayak launch on the Enoree River and the scenic Horseshoe Falls. A re-enactment of the battle and other demonstrations take place in late April.
For more information, call all 864.938.0100 or click here.
Battle of Kings Mountain, Blacksburg
Fought on Oct. 7, 1780, this is considered the war’s most decisive victory in the South, with 1,000 Patriot led by Col. Isaac Shelby annihilating an equal number of Loyalist/Tory troops under the command of British Major Patrick Ferguson. Key to the victory: Most of the Americans carried hunting rifles, which were more accurate and inflicted heavy casualties on the musket-armed Tories. Re-enactments of the battle occur in early October and include encampments and demonstrations of weapons and other gear.
For more information, call 864.936.7921 or click here.
Along with the individual battle sites, Middleton Place Plantation in Charleston stages re-enactments of military actions, as well as the role of women and slaves in the war. The Second SC Regiment, part of a national association of Revolutionary War units, and the South Carolina Colonial Militia, based in North Augusta, are two of the groups involved in Revolutionary War re-enactments in South Carolina.