Weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Day 3 || Featuring Lower Douglas Falls, Cowpens National Battlefield, Gaffney and Union, SC || Monday, July 4, 2016
This post is brought to you by Curtis!
On our third day of vacation we slept in a bit. We had plans for the day, but the majority of it was driving so we may as well get a bit more sleep while we can. After breakfast, we tidied up the cottage, said goodbye to Lars, and then went on our way.
I’ll admit that I probably had way too many plans for the day, and not nearly enough time to do them. But, by golly I was determined to see them all. First on my list was yet another waterfall – Lower Douglas Falls. This one appeared to be well off the beaten path. No interstates, few roads, perfect. Turns out I was wrong two-fold. First, it was a lot further off the path than I realized. As in eight-miles-of-forest-road-up-a-mountain off the path. Surely, I thought, with this much effort there will be next to no one there. Plus it’s more time to listen to an audio book (yes it took until now for me to realize that you can listen to audio books on your phone). Wrong. Turns out on the Fourth of July people go out and see waterfalls. Whatever, it was still a nice short walk in the woods to a nice waterfall. (Note from Jess: While we may have regretted doing this far out of the way hike, we realized later it was a good thing we did because it was our last hike in pleasant weather…spoilers, but what else can you expect from SC?)
After driving eight-miles-of-forest-road-down-a-mountain (while listening to the audio book; “The Martian” thanks for asking), we then rushed through Asheville and then truly began or trip home. Of course rather than driving on the interstate like normal people, we decided to take back highways through the mountains (and snagged another NC county). It was long and twisty, but quite enjoyable and showed us just how much more is out there. As I’m sure Jess has communicated, every time we go places we always end up discovering more places that we would like to visit and see. Turns out the world is pretty big and filled with lots of interesting things. Crazy.
We eventually made it back into South Carolina right around the lunch hour. Our second stop that both Jess and I wanted to hit was Cowpens National Battlefield, the last National Park administered site we had left to visit in South Carolina. Because what’s more patriotic than visiting a Revolutionary Battlefield on the 4th of July?? That’s right, nothing!
And now, yet another installment of the American Revolution in South Carolina.
Following the humiliating defeat of General Gates at Camden in August 1780, and then the thrilling American comeback at Kings Mountain and elsewhere by the Partisan Generals, the Continental Army finally fell into capable hands in December 1780. General Greene, the trusted Lieutenant of Washington himself, came on the scene to pit his army against Cornwallis’. With Greene came the return of Daniel Morgan, a skilled Colonel who had served under Gates at the battle of Saratoga.
From the get go, Greene proved himself a more competent commander than Gates. Greene, knowing that Cornwallis had designs for pushing through North Carolina into the heart of Virginia, positioned himself near the town of Cheraw, SC, Northeast of Camden and Cornwallis’ position, and positioned Morgan to the Northwest. This allowed it so that, should Cornwallis pursue one, Greene or Morgan would fall upon Charleston or Ninety-Six respectively. And if Cornwallis should pursue his plan into North Carolina, the two would join forces and harass him the entire way, leaving South Carolina to the Partisans.
In response, Cornwallis decided to split his army in two. He would command the expedition into North Carolina and deal with Greene as he came while a smaller lighter contingent would go after Morgan under the command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton.
Banastre Tarleton was a colorful commander to say the least. He had joined the British army at the age of 21 and had served in New York working his way up to the rank of Major. But Tarleton earned his notoriety in the Southern Theatre as the commander (Colonel at the age of 26) of the British Legion. During his command of the Legion, Tarleton became the boogey-man of the South. Known for his alleged brutality at the Battle of Waxhaws, and his troops speed and ferocity, they became known as Tarleton’s Raiders and he “Bloody Ban”.
Tarleton caught up to Morgan by the 16th of January, 1781 near the Broad River just south of the North/South Carolina border. Morgan, recently reinforced by some of General Pickens militia, quickly assessed the situation and decided that rather than continue to run, they should fight, and put together a plan that would make good use of the militia; men who were notorious for fleeing once the bullets began to fly.
Morgan’s plan was to have his army placed in three rows. The first, a picket line armed with rifles, was instructed to fire two volleys and then fall back to the second line of Picken’s militia. The militia were told to then fire two volleys and then file to the right and left exposing the regulars who would then take on the remainder of the force.
In traditional field tactics I believe that this battle plan, although effective, was overly simple and thus easy to foil. But fortunately for Morgan, Tarleton was rash. In reality, most every one of Tarleton’s battles had been in the form of a raid more than anything else. Surprise the enemy, rush in, do as much damage as possible, get out. Faced with even the most rudimentary tactics, Tarleton was likely to be overconfident.
And that is almost exactly what occurred. On the 17th, Tarleton’s men approached each line, elated when it disappeared in retreat, only to face another, stronger force. The Americans even added a third (although unintentional) trick. As the British charged the third and final line of the Continental army, a portion of the army began an orderly retreat due to confusion of orders. Believing that the battle was finally turning in their favor, the British broke ranks and charged the retreating contingent, only to have the Americans about face and fire a volley into their midst at close range. The British fate was sealed when the cavalry and Pickens force reorganized and completely surrounded what remained of the British line.
The battle was over in just over an hour and Tarleton’s Raiders had been completely defeated. All that remained was the young commander and his cavalry retreating back to the safety of Cornwallis. Many of the captured British officers blamed their defeat on the impetuousness of “That Boy”. What’s more, Tarleton’s Raiders represented the most experienced fighting men of all of Cornwallis command and there loss was felt during the next few months as Cornwallis pursued Greene through North Carolina.
Oddly, Cowpens was probably also the last major victory outside of Yorktown for the Americans to occur in the South (and maybe the North too, there wasn’t a lot going on up there). In North Carolina, Cornwallis won most of his battles against Greene, albeit at a very great loss. And Greene’s reconquest of South Carolina had no victories as stunning as Cowpens. Yet the victories at Cowpens and King’s Mountain were enough to sustain the spirit of the people for the remainder of the war. And although the actual battles at Hobkirk’s Hill and Ninety-Six were technically failures, Greene’s army continued to push through and take back South Carolina.
Today, Cowpens is much the same that it was on the day of battle (Alright, that’s only half true, the NPS is actively trying to make it that way. It would probably be a forrest if not.) Unlike King’s Mountain, there are only two memorials present on the grounds, and only one on the battlefield itself. This makes the visit not as exciting, but none the less interesting.
Unfortunately, on the day of OUR visit it happened to be 95 degrees with a stifling humidity factor. And after spending the weekend in much more temperate weather in the mountains, this was a bit to much to handle, especially for poor Charlotte. We ate a brief lunch and then continued our back highway route home.
Our next stop was a short one in Gaffney, SC to see “THE PEACHOID”. It’s just a water tower shaped like a peach. But at the same time, it’s a water tower shaped like a peach, so why wouldn’t you stop. Jess and Charlie stayed in the car while I grabbed pictures and a letterbox (well now we know why we actually visited there).
We then continued our way south towards Columbia. Along the way we passed through Union, SC and Union County (only five left in SC). We had intentions of passing by a historic plantation and then visiting Musgroves Mill (yet another minor Revolutionary Battle Site), but because it was still incredibly hot and showed no signs of abetting, we decided to simply push on to home.
Jess: And that was our 4th of July getaway! We also have a little video footage that one day may make its way to the internet, along with all the other footage on my phone/Gopro/computer, but for now, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programing of life in Charleston, coming up next on Saving Time in a Bottle. Thanks for reading! 🙂