During the Revolutionary War, South Carolina boasted more than 200 battles and scrimmages – more than any of the 13 original colonies. It's also where some of the nation’s most important battles were fought. Two conflicts that helped secure America’s independence – Cowpens and Kings Mountain – are located in what was then the rugged Upstate.
From the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the Olde English District, history buffs will find a range of sites that explain the state’s pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. Here’s a three-day itinerary that hits the highlights.
Where to stay – Greenville, the Upstate’s largest city, serves as a convenient base camp for your travels. To appreciate this bustling community, stay in one of the hotels along Main Street offering easy access to the wealth of restaurants and attractions in the historic downtown. Among the options is Hyatt Regency, Courtyard by Marriott Downtown or the historic Westin Poinsett.
What to see – Start your day with a scenic drive to Oconee Station Historic Site near Walhalla. While no battles took place there, it served as a military compound and trading post for the SC militia and has a well-preserved blockhouse that was used until 1799.
Due east of Greenville in the town of Roebuck is Walnut Grove Plantation, established in 1765 and home to the Moore family, Patriot supporters who hosted SC militia. Loyalists attacked and killed three Patriot soldiers there in 1781.
Next up is the site of the Battle of Great Cane Brake in the Ninety Six District. In this battle, the only one fought in Greenville, 4,000 Patriot troops under Col. Richard Richardson attacked and routed Loyalists. A plaque commemorating the 1775 battle is located near the Reedy River, which flows through downtown Greenville.
What else – Spend an afternoon walking and shopping Greenville’s beautifully landscaped Main Street. Visit the Mast General Store, Falls Park on the Reedy River with its one-of-a-kind suspension bridge, and Fluor Field, home of Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate Greenville Drive, featuring shops and the famed Green Monster left-field wall.
Where to eat – Without leaving Main Street, visitors can find a wealth of dining options, from steaks at Halls Chophouse to Persian dishes at Pomegranate on Main to French bistro cuisine at Passerelle Bistro to barbecue at Smoke on the Water and Henry’s Smokehouse. A number of restaurants offer views of the Reedy River, including Larkin’s on the River and the Lazy Goat. Just want lunch? Try Soby’s.
What to see – Travel south on I-385 to Laurens and visit Lindley’s Fort, where in July 1776 Tories and Indians attacked the fortification built to protect settlers. Relief forces under Major Jonathan Downs arrived and drove off the attack, encouraging Patriots in the area.
If Lindley’s Fort was a relatively minor action, the Battle of Musgrove Mill was anything but. The 30-minute clash was fierce and bloody, as a detachment of Patriots defeated a larger group of Loyalists and set the tone for the Americans’ subsequent victories. The Musgrove Mill State Historic Site details the fight and is open daily.
Farther south near Greenwood is Ninety Six National Historic Site, where two battles were fought, including the first Southern battle of the war. The visitor center features a 20-minute film depicting both battles, as well as an exhibition gallery.
What else – Take a drive to the city of Clinton where you'll find beautiful homes in tree-lined neighborhoods and the picturesque campus of Presbyterian College. Nearby Laurens also is a friendly community to visit. Another fun place to stop is Greenwood, home to the Festival of Flowers, the SC Festival of Discovery and Uptown Market, as well as Good Times Brewing at The Mill House Pizza.
Where to eat – For coffee and breakfast in Clinton, visit Jitter’s Cafe at Elaine’s. If you're looking for a menu with a wide range of breakfast options, try Old Mill Buffet in Laurens. It will fill you up and make you happy. Greenwood’s downtown has The Mill House Pizza, Pascal’s Cafe & Grill and Montague’s Restaurant.
What to see – This is the big day with visits to three of the most significant battle sites in South Carolina. Head northeast on I-85 to Gaffney, then on to Cowpens National Battlefield, where Patriot forces won a major battle that ultimately led to Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown and the end of the war. The site has an 845-acre park with a visitor center, walking trail and battlefield area.
A short drive farther along I-85 is Blacksburg and Kings Mountain National Military Park, where the Battle of Kings Mountain took place on Oct. 7, 1780, resulting in “the turning of the tide” in the Revolution. The battle site includes a 4,000-acre park – one of the nation’s largest Revolutionary War sites – with a 1.5-mile battle trail, exhibit area and a 20-minute introductory film shown every 45 minutes.
Finally, head south to Rock Hill and Historic Brattonsville, site of the 1780 Battle of Huck’s Defeat, where Patriot forces triumphed over British regulars and revived morale among those in the Upstate. Cowpens and Kings Mountain followed in a series of Patriot victories. The Brattonvile site is open Tuesday-Sunday.
Three smaller sites in the Rock Hill area also are worth stops: Andrew Jackson State Park, which tells how the future US president bore a scar inflicted by a British officer when he was just 9 years old; the Battle of Fishdam Ford in Chester, memorialized with a small granite marker and an official state historical maker; and Buford’s Massacre in Lancaster, featuring granite markers that tell the story of how the infamous British officer Banastre Tarleton brutally slaughtered Patriot prisoners in 1780.
What else – Take a drive along Scenic SC 11, a stretch of highway from I-85 to Gaffney with stunning mountain views, and stop by the Gaffney Outlet Marketplace. Rock Hill sites to visit include Winthrop University, Glencairn Garden, Ebenezer Park and Manchester Meadows Park. The town also offers five breweries, a cidery and a bottle shop that make up the York County Brew Trail.
Where to eat – For comfort food and small plates, there's Mountain View Restaurant near Blacksburg. In Gaffney, sample the barbecue choices at Daddy Joe’s Beach House BBQ & Grill. Popular Rock Hill options include riverfront dining at The Pump House, elegant meals at Michael’s Rock Hill Grille and casual dining in the heart of downtown at The Flipside Restaurant.