Visitors to the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site in Clinton can walk the very grounds where Patriots clashed with British Loyalists during the Revolutionary War. But to really appreciate what it was like to trample through the piedmont's hilly terrain prepared to do battle, you'd have to be packing a 20-pound musket.
And wearing a wool coat with collar and cuffs - in the hottest month of the Carolina summer.
Such was the plight of the weary warriors who fought Aug. 19, 1780, at Musgrove Mill in what would prove to be a turning point in the Revolutionary War's southern campaign.
The park's one-mile British Camp Trail takes you into the woods to the Enoree River and the site of a gristmill owned by the Musgrove family. In the summer of 1780, British Loyalists set up camp on the property, using its river ford to move supplies.
You can see the ruins of the Musgrove House in front of the Visitor Center. All that remains are some stone steps and a pile of bricks.
Inside the Visitor Center, are displays about the Musgrove family and the battle that took place less than a mile away. Interpretive Park Ranger Bobby James told us how the Patriot militia outsmarted the Loyalists and won the skirmish despite being outnumbered more than two to one.
A small band of militiamen lured the Loyalists across the Enoree into the hands of 200 waiting Patriots. In just 30 minutes, 67 British soldiers were killed and 70 were taken prisoner.
At the time, Americans were losing hope of winning the Revolution. The success at Musgrove Mill bolstered Patriot morale in the Carolina backcountry. The battle also is significant because almost all of the soldiers who fought on both sides were Americans, illustrating the fact that the Revolutionary War also was a civil war, often pitting Patriots against their Loyalist neighbors.
Exhibits in the Visitor Center include clothing, gear and ammunition of the era. One of the coolest displays features replicas of a hunting rifle and .69- and .75-caliber muskets, one of them equipped with a bayonet. Visitors are welcome to pick up the weapons, which weigh 10 to 20 pounds. It was all I could do to lift the big guns to my shoulder.
In an upcoming blog, I'll tell you about the historic site's Battlefield Trail and its surprise bonus attraction.
The Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site also features picnic tables, a pond and a kayak and canoe launch site on the river. A South Carolina fishing license is required to fish on either the pond or the river.
For more information on Musgrove Mill, click here or call (864) 938-0100.