With more than 200 Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes having taken place in South Carolina, it would be difficult to visit every historical marker and battlefield in the state. For most visitors, taking in the primary sites is a more reasonable endeavor. Here are 10 Revolutionary War venues in South Carolina everyone should see.
Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island
This site offers visitors a two-for-one Revolutionary War experience. The Battle of Sullivan's Island was fought here on June 28, 1776 when defenders of partially completed Fort Sullivan under Col. William Moultrie defeated a British naval squadron, whose cannon balls could not damage the soft, palmetto-log walls of the fort. An amphibious landing by British troops also was repelled, prompting the British to withdraw and not return until 1780 when the second Siege of Charleston captured the city. The fort, as now constructed, was completed in 1809. Its interior has been restored to reflect American seacoast defenses from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Located near the fort is a National Park visitor center and an "African Passages" exhibit recounting the role Sullivan's Island played in the slave trade.
A number of actions took place in and around Camden during the Revolutionary War, and British Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis commandeered the colonial Georgian house built by Joseph Kershaw from 1780-81. The 107-acre site features the reconstructed Kershaw-Cornwallis House and the rehabilitated 1800-era McCaa's Tavern. Other exhibits include log homes, the restored 1785 John Craven House, the 1830 Cunningham House (now an office and gift shop) and a blacksmith shed with working forge, as well as reconstructions of some of the fortifications built by the British. The first weekend in November, Historic Camden hosts the annual Revolutionary War Field Days, which attracts 500-600 re-enactors and includes a daily battle, history demonstrations, craftsmen, a period fashion show and kids' activities. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or by appointment.
Eutaw Springs Battlefield Park, Eutawville
Eutaw Springs is the site of the last Revolutionary War battle in South Carolina. It took place Sept. 8, 1781 when Gen. Nathanael Greene's 2,000 troops attacked a British camp on Eutaw Creek under the command of British Col. Alexander Stewart. The Americans drove out the British, but then stopped to loot the tents, and the British counterattack drove off Greene's men. Still, Greene's goal of preventing troops in South Carolina from joining up with Cornwallis in Virginia was accomplished. The battleground park on the banks of Lake Marion includes a historic marker telling the story of the battle. Also on the grounds is the tomb of British Major John Majoribanks, an accomplished commander.
On Aug. 19, 1780, one of the war's bloodiest clashes took place when a group of 200 Patriot militia men attacked what turned out to be a much larger force of Loyalists camped on the Enoree River. Rather than retreat, the Americans took up a strong defensive position, inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking Loyalists, who eventually gave up the counterattack. The park includes a visitor center with interpretative exhibits focusing on the battle and South Carolina's role in the war. A 2.5-mile nature trail takes you to the Enoree River, Cedar Shoals Creek and Horseshoe Falls, where according to legend the daughter of a mill owner hid a Patriot soldier from the British. Special events and living history programs take place throughout the year.
In June 1780, British dragoons (cavalry) under Capt. Christian Huck destroyed several Patriot militia camps in the area near the current city of Rock Hill. When Huck's troops set out to capture Patriot leaders Capt. John McClure and Col. William Bratton, the Americans turned the tables on Huck. At dawn on July 12, the patriots attacked the plantation home of James Williamson where Huck was camped, defeating the Tories in a 10-minute battle and killing Huck. The outcome encouraged Patriot supporters and set the stage for bigger victories at Kings Mountain and Cowpens. Historic Brattonsville has more than 30 colonial and antebellum structures, including two house museums, as well as an interpretive trail through the battlefield site and a nature preserve with miles of walking trails. Re-enactments and living history programs are staged periodically.
Oconee Station State Historic Site, Walhalla
Though no battles were fought here, the station was the site of a military compound and trading post. It includes a stone blockhouse used by South Carolina militia from 1792-99 and the William Richards House, named for the Irish immigrant who built it in 1805. Both structures are open for tours on weekends and by appointment. Admission is free.
Cowpens National Battlefield, Gaffney
Considered the turning point of the Revolution in the South, the Battle of Cowpens was fought on Jan. 17, 1781 against regular British Army troops rather than Loyalist volunteers. American Gen. Daniel Morgan clashed with notorious British Col. Banastre Tarleton, who had been sent to counter efforts to cut British supply lines. The Americans retreated, but then took up defensive positions along the Broad River and withstood several British charges. When the American riflemen hit the attackers with massive fire from their right flank and a double envelopment, the British surrendered en masse after only an hour. Morgan lost just 12 men while killing 110 British soldiers, wounding 200 and capturing another 500. The 841-acre site includes a visitor center with museum and exhibits about the battle, a walking tour and a reconstructed log cabin that belonged to Robert Scruggs, who farmed the land before the park was established.
Ninety Six National Historic Site, Ninety Six
Originally known as Old Ninety Six and Star Fort, this was the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, as well as another battle/siege during the Americans' Southern campaign in 1781. The first clash on Nov. 19, 1775 saw Patriots besieged by Loyalist troops and the first South Carolina death of the war. In May and June 1781 - the longest siege of the war - Gen. Nathanael Greene's Americans surrounded the fort until 2,000 British troops relieved the garrison. The earthen Star Fort, named for its star-shaped design, is one of the best-preserved examples of 18th-century fortification. The 1,022-acre National Historic Site features a visitor center with artifacts found at the site and oil paintings of the battle, a video presentation about the battle and a gift shop. A one-mile trail takes visitors to the remains of Star Fort; other trails lead to an unidentified cemetery and the grave sites of two American officers.
Walnut Grove Plantation, Roebuck
Home of Charles and Mary Moore for 40 years, this plantation was built in 1767 and served as a meeting place and haven for Patriot militia forces during the Revolutionary War. Loyalist William "Bloody Bill" Cunningham raided the plantation in November 1781, killing a Patriot soldier sheltered by the Moore family. The site depicts how people settled the South Carolina backcountry and fought for independence. Along with the home and outlying buildings, visitors can view a cemetery and walk a nature trail or picnic at the home's pavilion.
Kings Mountain National Military Park, Blacksburg
Described as "the turn of the tide of success" by Thomas Jefferson, the Oct. 7, 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain was the first major Patriot victory following the British invasion and capture of Charleston in May 1780. The clash between Americans - Loyalists and Patriots, with no British troops involved - saw Patriot militia forces, including "over the mountain men," defeat Tory troops commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson. The Patriots caught and surrounded the Loyalist forces, forcing them to surrender after Ferguson was killed. The victory came on the heels of several Patriot losses, boosting their morale and forcing Lord Cornwallis to end his plans to invade North Carolina. The National Military Park includes a 1.5-mile historic trail that follows the Patriot lines and ascends to where Loyalist troops were positioned. Several monuments, including one marking Ferguson's grave, recount the battle's events.