The Revolutionary War in SC: The Midlands

By:Bob Gillespie

Date:11/8/2018

While South Carolina’s Lowcountry and Upstate are home to most of the important in-state battles of the Revolutionary War, the Midlands also lays claim to a number of significant sites in the fight for American independence.

Among them are Camden and Eutawville, where area museums feature collections of weapons, uniforms and other memorabilia from the American Revolution. Here’s a three-day itinerary that covers much of that territory.


DAY ONE

Where to stay – While the Midlands includes all of South Carolina between the Upstate and Lowcountry, Columbia is centrally located and offers a wide range of accommodations that could serve as your base camp. If staying in the heart of downtown suits you, check out Aloft Columbia Downtown, Columbia Marriott or Courtyard by Marriott Columbia Downtown at USC.

What to see – On the first day of your trip, travel north on I-77 to Winnsboro to visit the Cornwallis House where British General Lord Charles Cornwallis made his headquarters. It is the only remaining site outside Williamsburg, Virginia, occupied by both British troops during the Revolutionary War and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Originally built in 1776, the home's two-foot-thick masonry walls still stand strong.

Continue north to the town of Heath Springs, home to the August 1780 Battle of Hanging Rock. In this key skirmish, SC Colonel Thomas Sumter attacked and defeated a larger British force, helping the Patriots loosen British control in the South. The site includes the original Hanging Rock formation and a historical marker.

Next, head south to Camden and one of the state’s most extensive representations of the period. The Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site annually hosts Revolutionary War Field Days with re-enactors camping, marching and maneuvering across the battle site. Camden is also home to the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill. Brochures on Hobkirk’s Hill are available at the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce or the Camden Archives and Museum.

What else – The Springdale Race Course in Camden is home to two annual steeplechase races, including the Carolina Cup. Other notable attractions include the Camden Archives and Museum, the Quaker Cemetery and Camden Carriage Company, which offers horse-drawn carriage rides. You'll also want to spend some time perusing the town's many antique shops.

Where to eat – If Mexican food is your passion, Camden’s Salud Mexican Kitchen should be on your to-do list. Got a hankering for American or vegetarian cuisine? Try Sam Kendall’s. For a breakfast treat, visit Mulberry Market Bake Shop.


DAY TWO

What to see – Drive east on US 76/378 to Sumter for a visit to General Thomas Sumter Memorial Park, the burial site of the famed “Fighting Gamecock” and namesake of the town and county, as well as Charleston's Fort Sumter. A large marker lists Sumter's many accomplishments.

A short trip south on US 521 will bring you to Manning, near the site of the Battle of Ox Swamp. While not a major battle, the clash between British Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his Green Dragoons and American General Francis Marion’s brigade gave birth to Marion’s famous nickname – the "Swamp Fox." Unable to find Marion and his men, a frustrated Tarleton gave up pursuing the Patriots, saying, “… as for the old fox (Marion), the devil himself could not catch him.” You'll find a marker mounted on the wall of the Manning Fire Station and a large painted mural on South Boundary Street (SC 261).

Return to Columbia to view a large collection of Revolutionary War swords, firearms, uniforms and other memorabilia at the SC Military Museum on Bluff Road. The museum also tells the history of South Carolina’s distinctive state flag and the role of one of the state’s African-American patriots.

What else – For a relaxing taste of nature, it’s hard to beat Sumter's Swan Lake Iris Gardens with its expansive display of flowers, water features and yes, swans. The Sumter Gallery of Art offers contemporary art and arts education, and the Sumter Opera House, founded in 1895, has 550 seats for intimate performances.

Where to eat – One of the best fine dining establishments in Sumter is Hampton’s, featuring American and Italian dishes and an on-site bakery. For “Southern cooking with a Cajun kick,” visit Simply Southern Bistro. Sidebar, housed in a restored historic building, is another great option. Manning is noted for its barbecue, and D&H Bar B Que is one of the best.


DAY THREE

What to see – Start early with a visit to Calhoun County's Fort Motte, site of a principal depot for British convoys between Charleston and Camden. The fort began life as Mount Joseph Plantation and was fortified atop a hill, but Patriots under Marion and Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee surrounded and captured British troops occupying the fort, then burned it. The site is on Lang Syne Road.

Farther south, off Interstate 95’s Exit 102 near Summerton, is Fort Watson, part of a British chain of forts. It was built atop Indian Mound, a large hill that had served for 1,000 years as a burial site for Santee Indians. After an earlier Patriot attack failed, Marion and Lee captured the fort in February 1781, helping force the British to abandon South Carolina. Indian Mound and Fort Watson, now part of Santee National Wildlife Refuge, are open daily to visitors.

The final stop is Eutawville and the site of the Battle of Eutaw Springs, one of the most vital – and bloodiest – Revolutionary War battles in South Carolina. Eutaw Springs Battlefield Park marks the site where General Nathanael Greene attacked and captured a British encampment, killing or wounding 700 British troops and forcing the remainder to retreat to Charleston. The victory was the last major engagement of the war in the South and all but secured control of the region by the Patriots. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1970, the tree-shaded park sits at the edge of Lake Marion and includes a historic marker relating the story of the battle.

What else – Before departing Columbia, a visit to nationally known Riverbanks Zoo is a must for all ages. Likewise, the South Carolina State Museum and the Columbia Museum of Art with its array of exhibits, including a Chihuly glass sculpture on permanent display. Saturday mornings, Soda City Market on Main Street is a popular destination for locals who enjoy the international food offerings and browsing the three blocks of tents featuring products handcrafted in South Carolina. History buffs also may want to visit such sites as the Robert Mills House, Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.

Where to eat – Still craving South Carolina barbecue? Don’t miss Sweatman’s BBQ in Eutawville, an institution with Q fans, or JK’s House of Ribs in Summerton. For breakfast in Columbia, you can't go wrong with the Original Pancake House or Cafe Strudel in West Columbia. If you prefer old-fashioned Southern breakfast food, try Ray’s Diner. In the evening, Columbia's fine dining must-try list of restaurants includes Saluda’s and Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe, both located in the Five Points urban village, along with Motor Supply Company Bistro.

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