News Column

SC Revolutionary history chronicled in State Museum

May 26, 2014

By John Monk, The State (Columbia, S.C.)

May 26--COLUMBIA, S.C. -- War crimes. Attacks on Native Americans. Spies. Guerrilla warfare. Harsh occupation. Prisoners of war. Women in combat. Spies. Divided loyalties. International intrigue. Pitched battles -- military and political.

The American Revolution in South Carolina had it all.

Anyone who takes time to read the 24 wall posters in the S.C. State Museum's new exhibit about the American Revolution in South Carolina will come away with awe at that war's intensity and complexity in the Palmetto State.

Each poster -- located in a hallway on the museum's fourth floor -- chronicles an aspect of the eight-year conflict.

"About time! I'm delighted the S.C. Museum is putting emphasis on this part of our history," read a comment from a Columbia visitor in the booklet left for people to put reaction in.

"Love it!" wrote a visitor from California.

"It was great! :)" wrote someone from Chicago.

The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 17, will travel the state and be an educational tool.

The best time to see it is on successive Saturdays -- June 14, 21 and June 28 -- when American Revolutionary War in South Carolina experts will give lectures on dimensions of the war.

But the posters themselves are eloquent in telling what is among the most compelling sagas of any of the 13 original colonies.

The first poster reminds the reader that the times leading up to the outbreak of war between the colonies and Great Britain was "a time of great turmoil." When war came, the colonies were having to go up against the "mightiest army and navy on earth," and "the outcome was far from certain."

In 1775, even before the British tried to land on South Carolina soil and a year before the Declaration of Independence was written, a major battle between South Carolina revolutionaries -- called Patriots -- and Loyalists took place in the Upstate town of Ninety-Six for the stores of gunpowder kept there.

The next five years saw various skirmishes and battles, including a Patriot campaign to drive the Cherokees out of South Carolina. But the war came to the state in earnest in 1780, when the British landed in Charleston and captured not only the city, but 6,000 Patriot soldiers.

That military occupation brought to South Carolina the notorious British Gen. Banastre Tarleton, whose troops were rumored to have slaughtered American Patriots who were trying to surrender. Tarleton's occupation triggered guerrilla warfare against the British across the Palmetto State.

Later in 1780, the South Carolina Patriot forces surrounded a large force of Loyalists at Kings Mountain and, remembering war crimes attributed to Tarleton's men, butchered the loyalists who were trying to surrender. The Patriots killed or wounded 1,104 Loyalists, while suffering only light casualties.

That battle, a disastrous defeat for the British, proved a "turning point" in the American Revolution. By then the French and Spanish governments had decided to back the Americans.

Two years later, the British had had enough and gave up. South Carolina had been bathed in blood, but a new nation was being born.

"Great information on our S.C. history!" wrote a visitor from Ware Shoals.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.


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Source: State (Columbia, SC)