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Smoke erupted from a line of soldiers. Dressed in brilliant white paints and vibrant red jackets, they stood out against the backdrop of a lush green field. Across the field, militiamen in drab blue and brown coats returned fire, covering the area with a thin smoke. Moments later, a small cavalry, with swords drawn, thundered across the field. This was my first Revolutionary War reenactment, and it was beautiful!
The Battle of Huck’s Defeat is an annual reenactment of the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation during the Revolutionary War. Organized by Historic Brattonsville, the reenactment is held at the historic site where the historic battle took place in 1780.
I was thrilled to attend the event after learning about it earlier in the year. Although I had seen several Civil War reenactments, including the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War in Charleston years earlier, I had never seen a Revolutionary War reenactment. I spent the weekend in nearby Rock Hill, discovered an excellent sweet treat, and had a fantastic time at the event.
Here is my travel guide to the Battle of Huck’s Defeat at Historic Brattonsville in South Carolina.
1780 was a rough year for South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. Charleston was captured and, along with it, the only real army in the south. Governor John Rutledge fled to North Carolina, leaving the state without any leadership. Encouraged by the success, General Charles Cornwallis moved inland and captured Camden.
Captain Christian Huck was a British officer and member of Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion. In July, Huck was ordered to sweep through the South Carolina backcountry in search of new militia members to bolster their ranks. However, Huck, with a deep hatred of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who had settled this area, instead raided villages, burned homes, and hung anyone he felt was a traitor to the crown.
On July 11, 1780, Huck’s detachment of about 120 soldiers and dragoons came to the plantation home of Patriot Colonel William Bratton. After learning Bratton was not there, Huck threatened his wife and then made camp at the nearby plantation home of James Williamson.
As soon as Huck left, Bratton’s wife, Mary, quickly sent a slave named Watt to alert Colonel Bratton about the situation. The next morning Bratton’s 150 men attacked from three different directions simultaneously. The battle was a resounding defeat for the British; Huck was killed, and only twenty-four British soldiers escaped.
READ MORE: 10 Awesome Things to Do in Rock Hill, SC
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Getting to Historic Brattonsville
Getting to Historic Brattonsville is relatively easy on any typical day, but during the Battle of Huck’s Defeat, you cannot trust your GPS! Brattonsville Road from McConnells Highway to Percival Road is closed during the reenactment to allow visitors to safely cross the road.
There were signs placed along McConnells Highway noting a detour, however since I did not know to look for them, I missed them. The state police officer was kind enough to tell me how to find them when I turned onto Brattonsville Road.
The best way to get to Historic Brattonsville during the Battle of Huck’s Defeat is to take SC Highway 101 (Mobley Store Road) or SC Highway 165 (Brattonsville Road) from near Chester.
Parking and Admission
For the Battle of Huck’s Defeat event, a large grassy field just south of the historic site is used for parking. Handicap accessible parking is located at the Visitor Center, where visitors typically park on a regular business day.
I thought one of the coolest aspects of the entire event was the entrance. Visitors pass through an old barn where they pay admission of $5-$8 per person. After admission is paid, visitors are released into the historic site with a brochure containing the event schedule.
Battle of Huck’s Defeat Annual Event
The Battle of Huck’s Defeat is a two-day event the weekend after the historical date of the battle on July 12, 1780. Of course, with the reenactment in mid-July, it was very typically hot and humid. All-day, I heard the rumbles of distant thunder, but the storms never reached the reenactment.
The event was rather gargantuan. Historic buildings were open with docents giving guided tours, living history reenactors demonstrated life on the frontier, military demonstrations pierced the air throughout the day, and it all culminated with the thrilling reenactment battle.
The 800-acre Historic Brattonsville had over two dozen historic structures from the 18th and 19th centuries to explore. The Colonel William Bratton House, built in 1766, is one of the oldest structures on site. Although it has been moved, it’s the original house where William Bratton lived shortly before fighting in the Battle of Huck’s Defeat. At the Homestead House, I found several docents giving guided tours of the two-story home built in 1826 by Bratton’s son.
As I walked around the historic site, I found various camps with living history reenactors portraying frontier settler life. At a camp near the McConnell House, various reenactors were cooking meals on an open fire, cleaning their guns, and having conversations with the visitors. Across the road, a gentleman in excellent 19th-century clothing was playing the fiddle.
As soon as I arrived at the event, I was guided toward a field beside the Smith House and Gin House. Strange looking devices had been set into a grassy field with small rings hanging from hooks. Soon enough, the cavalry slowly trotted onto the field, and a thrilling demonstration began.
Throughout the day were various musket firing demonstrations and military drills, including some for children. A canon boomed through the air once or twice. Of course, the best military demonstration of all was just around the corner.
Battle of Williamson’s Plantation
The day’s activities culminated with the reenactment of the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation, alternatively called the Battle of Huck’s Defeat. Along with the other visitors, I was corralled to a viewing area beside the grassy field behind the Gin House.
The Smith House, a small one-story log home, was used as “Bratton’s House” from the battle. A large group of British regulars in vibrant red coats lounged with a few militiamen. Everything was calm. Suddenly, men began shouting, drawing their weapons, and loading powder. Smoke erupted from a line of soldiers in front. The battle had started.
When I looked at the time stamp on my photos later, I realized the entire reenactment only lasted ten minutes. But it was like watching Fourth of July fireworks; ten minutes felt like an hour. When the battle was finished, a thin smoke lingered over the grassy field where several soldiers had fallen, and the cavalry that had thundered past was long gone.
I travel full time, but despite that, I rarely visit a place twice. I just don’t have the time. But over the years, I have crafted a small list of things I try to do every year. Go for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Spend a weekend at the beach. And now, attend the Battle of Huck’s Defeat. It was the most thrilling reenactment I had ever seen.
Tips for the Event
Here are a few additional tips to help you make the most of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat at Historic Brattonsville.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Almost the entire site is grassy fields and dirt trails.
- Bring lots of water. July in the South Carolina backcountry can be hot and humid (it was 95 degrees with near 100% humidity when I visited)
- Bring an umbrella or compact rain jacket. Summer thunderstorms are notorious about spontaneously popping up out of nowhere. They usually don’t last long, but they can be very wet. Be prepared.
- Head to the Visitor Center for an air-conditioned respite. The Orientation Room plays a 15-minute video about the Battle of Huck’s Defeat, and the room is air-conditioned! It’s the perfect place to escape the sun, heat, and humidity for a few minutes. I watched the movie twice!
- Bring cash for food and drinks. The Visitor Center gift shop has a cooler with bottled water and soda. There was a vendor area selling drinks and hot dogs in a shaded area beside the Visitor Center.
Where to Eat, Sleep, and Play
Historic Brattonsville is kinda in the middle of nowhere. It’s easy to reach from the interstate for travelers, but you won’t find lodging or food nearby.
My recommendation is to make the Battle of Hucks’s Defeat a weekend getaway. I attended the event on both Saturday and Sunday because I wanted to see the reenactment twice, and because if it rained one day, I could catch it the next.
For those reasons, stay in nearby Rock Hill. It’s only a thirty-minute drive and an easy drive at that. When you first roll into Rock Hill after the event, head over to PW’s Gourmet Ice Cream for a sweet treat. When you’re ready for dinner, try Legal Remedy Brewing, where you can enjoy a flight of their craft beer along with a fantastic full dinner menu.
My top recommendation for staying in Rock Hill is Hampton Inn. Comfortable rooms, excellent customer service, and they have one of the best free breakfast spreads of any hotel chain I’ve ever visited.
Holiday Inn is another excellent option for staying in Rock Hill. Along with comfortable rooms, this hotel has an indoor swimming pool and exceptional amenities. You’ll have to fork over $20 for breakfast, though.
La Quinta is another hotel I recommend in Rock Hill. Their comfortable rooms include a full suite with either two queen beds or a king bed with a sleeper sofa, perfect for traveling families.