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Cowpens National Battlefield – Close to Home

Scruggs House
Scruggs House

On this Throwback Thursday-Yep, I’m still doing them- I’m concentrating on national parks close to Asheville.

Cowpens National Battlefield is only a little more than an hour from Asheville.  It’s a revolutionary war battlefield in South Carolina. Though well-known as the site of the start of the Civil War, South Carolina has more Revolutionary War sites than any other state–any other state. There was plenty of revolutionary war action in the South.

Yes, you can learn about the battle itself. The patriots came from this way, the British came from the other corner. But here is what I find fascinating.

image_preview11In 1865, the Washington Light Infantry, a Charleston militia made up of the city’s leading citizens, erected a thin spire on top of a concrete base on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle. However, they did more than just leave their name at Cowpens.

They attempted to unify the state of South Carolina by bringing white shells from the lowcountry at Fort Moultrie.

Today the ground around the monument is filled with white pebbles. The group had celebrated the Revolutionary War victory for over fifty years in Charleston, but now they vowed to make a pilgrimage to Cowpens. By then, with the division between North and South so pronounced, commemoration of Revolutionary battlefields could be used to invoke either the sectionalism of the South or the national unity agenda of the North.

This is not the only Revolutionary War battlefield in the South that was invoked to deal with the coming split within the country.

Each year the park holds a special event on the weekend closest to the anniversary of the battle. Next year, on January 16 – 17, 2016, there will be weapons demonstrations, Dragoons with their horses marching in formation, fife and drum – the whole Revolutionary War celebration. And I’ll be there.

Cowpens National Battlefield

Cowpens - Pastoral walk

Yesterday Lenny and I visited Cowpens National Battlefield in upstate South Carolina, about 90 minutes from Asheville. This day trip was part of my birthday celebration.

There are at least two reasons to visit battlefield sites. One is to understand the battle details and another is to see a National Park unit. I belong to the second category but that doesn’t mean I didn’t prepare for it or enjoyed the details.

Cowpens was one of the turning points of the Revolutionary War in the South. We associate South Carolina with the Civil War because the war started there with the blowing up of Fort Sumter. Yet there are more Revolutionary “action sites” in South Carolina than in any other state.

As its name implied, Cowpens was a field used by farmers to graze cows on their way to the Charleston market. But on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan, a Southern revolutionary hero led a group of Continentals (paid army soldiers) and militia (real volunteers) to a victory against a large force of British soldiers.

Cowpens - British soldier count The enemy were not just Loyalists but members of the British army, the best in the world. It was a one hour battle which seemed almost choreographed to me. It was as if the Brits and the Colonial army said “I’ll meet you behind the school yard. Bring your friends and be prepared to fight.”

Cowpens - Toy soldiersThe visitor center houses an exhibit of soldier uniforms, a movie and toy soldiers. This is a children’s dream visitor center. They can play soldier and find other toys. I loved the movie, a recap of the Cowpens battle by a grandfather telling his wide eyed grandson.

After enjoying the visitor center and the staff who were funny and knowledgeable, Lenny and I wandered on the one-mile trail to see the battlefield. What a pastoral setting. See above.

Cowpens - Scruggs HouseThen we drove the three-mile look road. We had lunch in the picnic area and stopped at the Scruggs House. Scruggs bought some of the Cowpens land in 1805. Cowpens became a Battlefield Site in 1929 on just an acre of land. The cabin remained private until the National Park Service bought it from a Scruggs family member and expanded the side to what it is today.

According to National Park statistics, the average length of a visit to Cowpens is 45 minutes. We spent three hours at the site. I may not wait until another birthday to see the other South Carolina park units.