Thursday, June 27, 2013

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site: British Camp Trail (Blog Hike #381)

Trail: British Camp Trail
Hike Location: Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
Geographic Location: north of ClintonSC (34.59244, -81.85229)
Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2012
Overview: A loop hike along the Enoree River to an old mill site.

Directions to the trailhead: Near Clinton, take I-26 to SR 56 (exit 52).  Exit and go north on SR 56.  Take SR 56 6 miles to the signed park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, and park in the blacktop parking lot in front of the Visitor Center.

The hike: The year was 1780, 4 years into the American Revolution, when British and Patriot focus would turn to the South Carolina backcountry as this region was called back then.  Having captured strategic Charles Town along the coast, the British were looking to seize control of the interior regions of South Carolina, from whence they could march northward and put down the rebellion once and for all.  To control the region, the British stationed militias of Loyalists, American colonists loyal to the British crown, at points critical for transportation and communication.  The ford of the Enoree River located at Musgrove’s Mill was one such point.
            On August 19, 1780, a Patriot militia led by Shadrack Inman arrived along the main road from the Broad River ford seeking to attack the Loyalist militia encamped at the Enoree River ford.  The hastily-drawn plan called for the majority of patriots to wait atop the ridge north of the river.  A small party would launch a brief attack at the river ford and then hastily retreat, thus luring the Loyalists to chase the retreating party uphill...right into the waiting majority.
            The plan worked to perfection except for the fact that there were more Loyalists than Inman had planned for.  Nevertheless, the Patriots won a significant victory, as the Loyalists took more then 10 times as many casualties as the Patriots.  Even better, many of the Loyalist leaders were killed or severely wounded, forcing the Loyalists to abandon their camp at the ford.  Unfortunately, Inman was also killed in the battle, and a major British victory at nearby Camden forced the Patriots to withdraw as well.
            The road connecting the fords on the Enoree and Broad rivers used by Inman is still used today, but in this area it is known as SR 56.  The 397 acre Musgrove Mill State Historic Site contains part of the battlefield, the ford, and the old mill site.  A Visitor Center contains a lighted map to retell the story of the battle.  Two short trails access the site, but they are on opposite sides of the river, and there is no connecting trail.  Thus, you have to drive from one trailhead to the other.  The British Camp Trail on the south side of the river is described in this hike, while the slightly longer Battlefield Trail on the north side of the river is described in the next one.
Trailhead: British Camp Trail
            From the Visitor Center, walk through the parking lot to a brown sign that says “British Camp Trail 1 mi.”  Most of this trail is dirt, but the initial segment is covered with mulch and features some wooden steps built into the ground.  At 0.1 miles, the trail curves right to follow what appears to be an old road.  The British Camp Trail is marked with red paint blazes and white metal diamond-shaped blazes.
            At 0.2 miles, you reach the edge of a grassy field and a stone monument to Mary Musgrove.  Even though her mill-owning husband Edward Musgrove remained neutral during the war, Mary Musgrove is credited for being a Patriot spy.  According to tradition, Loyalists would bring their wounded to the mill for care and treatment, where Mary would gain information and pass it along to her Patriot friends.
Monument to Mary Musgrove
            After passing through the sunny field, the trail reaches the river bank where it curves left to begin paralleling the river, heading upstream.  The maple, beech, and red cedar trees of the upland forest are replaced by floodplain forest, which features some good-sized sycamores.  The river to your right is mostly calm, but bedrock close to the surface creates a few small cascades.
            At 0.6 miles, you arrive at the historic mill site.  Little evidence of the mill remains save for an area of disturbed soil on which you stand and some concrete bases in the river.  Noticing how shallow the river is here will highlight this area’s strategic importance as a ford.
Enoree River at Musgrove Mill
            Past the mill site, the trail stays close to the river for a couple of hundred feet before curving left and climbing moderately but briefly to leave the floodplain.  At 0.9 miles, the trail crosses the dam that forms the park’s small fishing pond.  Some picnic tables invite you to stop and have a snack if they are not occupied by anglers.  On the other side of the dam, the trail crosses the park entrance road and, after passing through one final patch of forest, arrives at the parking area to complete the hike.
Trail crossing dam for park's fishing pond

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