The People, Places, Events, History, Businesses, and Music of Upstate SC

HISTORY 101 | BATTLE OF MUSGROVE MILL

"The Battle of Musgrove Mill"

As the Loyalists approached, the rebels were told to hold their fire until they “could distinguish the buttons on their clothes.” When the enemy was within 70 yards the Patriots opened fire.

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In the February Issue I shared a letter written by Richard Wright Simpson in which he told of his idea for using the Red Shirt as the Uniform to help identify the South Carolinians who helped restore control of the South Carolina Legislature to the people of South Carolina after the War Between the States which was being controlled by the former Union officer and the current Governor of the State , Henry David Chamberlain. I had planned to share another letter by Simpson in which he detailed the seizure of the State legislature by the Red Shirts but the handwriting and language of the day has made this a time consuming task. I will try to have it ready for next month.

So for this month I decided to share a Revolutionary War battle which took place here on the borders of Spartanburg, Laurens and Union Counties . I think it has been largely overlooked and over shadowed by The Battle of Cowpens but was a very important battle in our war for Independence from England.

Musgrove Mill is located off Highway 56 Between Interstate 26 and Cross Anchor. The original Musgrove home has been rebuilt and is now part of the South Carolina State Park preserving the history of the battle. The Grist Mill rock supports which span the Enoree River are still visible and can be seen if you walk down the path to the River where it stood. Annual recreation of the battle by re-enactors are held and inside the home is a table which details the battle. Make plans to visit the park for an enjoyable day in the beautiful outdoors waking the trails  and think back about the men who fought to make this our own Country and the sacrifices they made.

HORSESHOE FALLS CHARLES PITTMAN

Battle of Musgrove's Mill History, COURTESY OF THE CIVIL WAR TRUST AT CIVILWAR.ORG

"In the spring of 1780, British forces captured the city of Charleston, South Carolina, which gave them almost complete control of the state and escalated a preexisting civil war between Patriot and Loyalist partisans.
The British established garrisons throughout South Carolina and attempted to consolidate their control of the region. Bands of Patriot guerillas, meanwhile, strove to undermine the British and their Loyalist allies by striking at their outposts in the back-country.

On the morning of August 19, 1780, 200 mounted Patriots arrived in the vicinity of Musgrove’s Mill after an all-night ride. The Patriot force consisted of Georgians commanded by Colonel Elijah Clarke, South Carolinians commanded by Colonel James Williams, and a group of “Over Mountain Men” from present-day Tennessee commanded by Colonel Isaac Shelby.

Musgrove’s Mill was the key to the local grain supply and was home to a Tory outpost which commanded a ford over the Enoree River. Shelby, Williams, and Clarke were under the impression that the enemy’s numbers were equivalent to their own.

MUSGROVE MILL

The Patriots revealed their presence in the area when several of their scouts clashed with a Loyalist patrol. Two of the rebels were wounded in the brief clash.

After falling back, the Patriots encountered a farmer friendly to the rebel cause, who informed them that, contrary to their initial intelligence, the enemy garrison of 200 men had been reinforced with 100 additional Loyalist militiamen and 200 Tory Regulars.

MUSGROVE MILL

Realizing they were outnumbered more than two-to-one and that they had lost the element of surprise, the Patriot commanders decided to go on the defensive.

On a ridge top overlooking the road leading to Musgrove’s Mill, the Patriots dug in and threw up a make shift breastwork. A small detachment under the command Georgian Captain Shadrach Inman was dispatched to lure the enemy into an ambush.




Inman crossed the ford over the Enoree River and engaged the Loyalists, who took the rebel bait. Shadrach retreated back to the Patriot line with the Tories, under the command of Colonel Alexander Innes, hot on his heels.

As the Loyalists approached, the rebels were told to hold their fire until they “could distinguish the buttons on their clothes.” When the enemy was within 70 yards the Patriots opened fire. The effect was devastating but the disciplined Tory regulars kept their nerve. Fixing bayonets, they advanced on the Patriots’ right flank. The rebel right was held by Shelby’s men. Lacking bayonets with which to defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat, the frontiersmen fell back.

MUSGROVE MILL

Realizing that the line was in peril, Colonel Clarke attempted to relieve some of the pressure on Shelby by attacking the enemy’s right flank. Around the same time, one of Shelby’s men shot and wounded Innes, who fell from his horse. The “Over Mountain Men” rallied and returned to the fray with a war cry borrowed from Native Americans. Meanwhile, the Loyalists began to waver and withdraw. As the Patriots pressed home their attack, what began as a retreat transformed into a rout.

Although the battle only lasted for about an hour, the Loyalists suffered heavy casualties. Out of roughly 500 men, they lost 63 killed, 90 wounded, and about 70 captured. The Patriots only lost 4 men killed and 12 wounded.
Before they could follow up on their success, the Patriot leaders learned of the destruction of Horatio’s Gates army at Camden and decided to disperse their forces. Nonetheless, the rebel victory at Musgrove’s Mill served as a reminder that resistance to British rule had not been snuffed out."

SPECIAL THANKS TO

The South Carolina Department of Parks and Tourism

The Civil War Trust

Jeremy Gilbert

Charles Pittman

Randy Simpson, Contributor

Randy is a graduate of Clemson University and veteran of the U.S. Airforce. He is a 10th generation South Carolinian and history buff. He also plays bass for Loaded Toad. Randy will be covering Upstate history for Upstate Exposures. You may contact him directly at AnOldReb@AOL.com

 

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