South Carolina Revolutionary War Road Trip
Did you know more Revolutionary War battles happened in South Carolina than in any other state? Explore the battlefields, historic sites, and museums with this 10-part series of road trips across the state.
The American Revolution in South Carolina began in Charleston. But the Revolutionary War in South Carolina started in the Ninety Six District. For decades prior to the war for independence, the district was a low priority for the colonial government based in the coastal city. But suddenly, the frontier district was essential and the place where the first shot was fired in the state.
Patriot leaders from Charleston rushed into the backcountry to secure the residents’ allegiance they had ignored for decades. Loyalists used their resentment to build a militia and secure the district for the British. And it all culminated at the Battle of Ninety Six.
Go on a road trip to explore the Revolutionary War through South Carolina’s Old 96 District. Find out where you can learn more about the battles and people involved at historic sites. See where you can spend the night and get something to eat. And explore a few charming towns along the way.
This post is proudly sponsored by Old 96 District and South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions.
Road Trip Map
How to use this map: Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the star beside the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.
Charles Hammond House
Charles Hammond was born in Virginia in 1716. He became a prominent landowner and merchant along with his younger brother, LeRoy. When the American Revolution began, Loyalists pressured the Hammonds to join their cause or suffer consequences.
The brothers instead chose to flee to South Carolina. In the 1770s, Charles Hammond built a magnificent home on the frontier near the Savannah River. LeRoy and his son LeRoy Jr. operated a ferry crossing the river. Together, the extended family founded Campbeltown – today known as North Augusta.
In 1776, Colonel LeRoy Hammond joined Andrew Williamson’s militia during the Cherokee Campaign. Three generations of Hammonds served in the Patriot militias throughout the Revolutionary War. Samuel Hammond was the most traveled in the family, serving in the Continental Army at battles in New Jersey and Georgia and later commanding militia units at Cowpens and Kings Mountain.
When Riverview Park was built in North Augusta, the Hammonds were reinterred in the family cemetery at the Charles Hammond House. The house is currently being renovated into a charming bed and breakfast. Imagine sleeping in the house built by a Revolutionary War Patriot!
Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center
The Edgefield County Historical Society was founded in 1939 to preserve the history of the county known as the birthplace of ten South Carolina governors. In 2004, an 1840 plantation house was moved to a lot on Main Street and opened as the Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center.
Visitors can explore exhibits about the county’s history, agriculture, and cultural heritage. A small exhibit showcases the skirmishes and battles of the Revolutionary War. The William Miller Bouknight Theatre features theatrical and musical performances throughout the year.
Horn’s Creek Baptist Church
In the decades before the American Revolution, the Ninety Six District was a contentious frontier of criminals, equally criminal vigilantes, and brave settlers. When the Revolutionary War began, the district was divided between Loyalists and Patriots. And they sought any opportunity to attack the other.
In 1781, Patriot Captain Thomas Key attacked a British outpost on Horn’s Creek manned by a Loyalist militia. Captain John Clark was killed during the attack, and three Loyalists were captured. Later that same year, Loyalists attacked a Patriot blockhouse in retribution.
Horn’s Creek Baptist Church was founded in 1768. The church was built in 1784 near several skirmishes between the Patriots and Loyalists. The Edgefield County Historical Society preserves the church as a meeting space and museum. Tours have to be scheduled in advance for the remote church on a gravel road. Interpretive signs explain the Revolutionary War battles, the history of the Regulators in the Ninety Six District, and the church’s founding.
Since its founding, Edgefield has been the heart of an agricultural industry throughout the county. Known as the home of ten South Carolina governors, the town was also the home of Strom Thurmond, a United States senator, for almost fifty years. A statue in the town square dedicated to Thurmond overlooks the small town.
Park anywhere around the square – traffic is typically light, and it takes less than ten minutes to walk to all the shops and restaurants. Visit the Carolina Moon Distillery to sample their craft spirits. Across the street, the D.A. Tomkins Library serves as the town’s visitor center with travel guides and an intriguing county timeline.
Get something to eat at Mario’s Pizzeria, the newest restaurant in town. At Christine’s Farm to Fork, you can browse a menu of appetizers, entrees, and steaks made with local ingredients. The Old Edgefield Grill is the most interesting place to dine in town, located inside a converted house. Get a table on the covered front porch or inside one of the rooms with views through towering windows.
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In the late 1800s, Greenwood developed as an important railroad hub for passenger and freight trains crisscrossing the East Coast. Today, the city is one of the most exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations in South Carolina.
The Inn on the Square is the premiere downtown lodging. The boutique hotel features comfortable rooms, the Fox & Hound Lounge, and complimentary hot breakfast for guests.
Main Street and Maxwell Avenue are the heart of downtown Greenwood. At Main & Maxwell, browse a bevy of local artisans’ work. The Greenwood Museum interprets the city’s history with full-size recreations of a general store and dress shop.
Start the day with breakfast at West End Café, a small local restaurant with made-to-order meals. Later in the day, get something to eat at Montague’s or Fat Daddy’s BBQ. For the best evening in Greenwood, start with dinner at Mill House Pizza, continue with drinks at Good Times Brewing, and then hurl axes at a wooden target at Maxwell Axe Company.
Enjoy a different kind of evening with a rare opportunity to watch a movie under the stars. The Highway 25 Auto Drive-In is one of only three drive in movie theaters remaining in South Carolina. You can watch a double feature on three screens for a single admission price per person. But first, get something to eat at the concession stand operated by restauranteurs Tommy and Carolyn McCutcheon.
Ninety Six National Historic Site
At the beginning of the American Revolution, Patriot leaders in Charleston rushed to secure Cherokee neutrality. The South Carolina Council of Safety – the defacto government at the time – sent a shipment of gunpowder and lead on the Cherokee Path through the Ninety Six District. The load was meant for the Cherokees to continue hunting deer for food and skins to trade.
But the load was captured by Loyalists under the command of Patrick Cunninghman just a few miles north of Ninety Six. The Council of Safety immediately dispatched Colonel Andrew Williamson to capture Cunningham. When he arrived in Ninety Six with some 550 militiamen, they built a temporary stockade fort around the town’s new courthouse. Shortly after, Cunningham came with 2,000 Loyalists and surrounded the fort for two days.
The Battle of Ninety Six from November 19-21, 1775, was South Carolina’s first significant engagement of the Revolutionary War. Although it ended in a truce with all parties retreating, it produced the state’s first casualty of the war.
Did You Know?
Ninety Six National Historic Site preserves one of the most interesting American Revolution sites in the country. It is the only remaining earthen star-shaped fort in the country, site of the longest siege of the Revolutionary War, and contains the only remaining Revolutionary-era tunnels – although the tunnels are sealed.
After almost five years of relative peace, the war returned to the Ninety Six District in 1780. After the Fall of Charleston, the British rushed to secure important inland towns and trading routes. Lieutenant Colonel John Harris Cruger was sent to Ninety Six with orders to build a fort and protect the town. Arriving in late August, he supervised the construction of the Star Fort.
On May 22, 1781, General Nathanael Greene arrived in Ninety Six with a fresh force of Continental soldiers. He laid siege to the Star Fort and nearby stockade fort that lasted 37 days – the most prolonged siege of the Revolutionary War. Despite his efforts, Greene never captured the fort and finally retreated into North Carolina. But a few days later, Cruger was ordered to abandon the fort and retreat to Charleston.
Today, Ninety Six National Historic Site preserves these battlefields and the remarkably intact Star Fort. A self-guided, paved trail weaves through the park to a recreation of the 1775 stockade fort, through the site of the original town, and past the Star Fort. The visitor center features a high-quality historical film that brings this history to life on the small screen.
Clinton is a small town near the intersection of Interstates 26 and 385. The town’s biggest attraction is Presbyterian College. Founded in 1880 by Dr. William Plumer Jacobs, the college was his answer to the problem of providing good education to orphans in the region. Today, the four-year college features a gorgeous campus worth a drive through at the very least.
Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
After Cornwallis pummeled Gates at the Battle of Camden in mid-1780, the British quickly crossed the backcountry unchallenged. So, when a unit of British regulars camped at Edward Musgrove’s mill on the Enoree River, Lieutenant Colonels Isaac Shelby, Elijah Clarke, and James Williams knew they had a chance for a much-needed Patriot victory.
On the morning of August 19, Captain Shadrack Inman took 25 men across the Enoree River and feigned surprise at bumping into a British encampment. The British gave chase, crossed the river, and ran into the Patriot’s ambush. By the end of the battle, the British commander was dead, 150 more were dead or wounded, and 70 were captured.
The Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site preserves the site of the British encampment on the Enoree River, though nothing remains of Musgrove’s mill today. Hike the short trail to the river and read the interpretive signs along the way. Then, drive across the river and park near the battlefield for another trail and interpretive signs.
South Carolina Revolutionary War Road Trips
Read the other articles in this 10-part series:
And be sure to read this additional article: