Friday, October 19, 2012


This week Frank and I took a leaf-peeper drive along South Carolina’s Route 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway. Our first stop was Cowpens Nation al Battlefield. As at any battlefield we’ve visited there isn’t much to see in the lay of the land – you have to use your imagination. We stopped off first at the information center.  They’ve got just about the best battle presentation we’ve ever seen.  It is a narrated summary of the war to the date of the Battle of Cowpens, and later to the surrender at Yorktown,  complete with a fiber optics display on two large maps: one map of the south in general, and one map of the battlefield.  Later we took the loop road drive around the battlefield and, with the presentation in mind, could get a better idea of what went on where.
I wrote the following article for the July 2011 issue of Living @ Sun City Carolina Lakes.  As today is the anniversary of the surrender at Yorktown I thought it appropriate to use the article again.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, formalizing the conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The conflict was all but ended south of the Mason-Dixon Line on October 19, 1781, with the British surrender Yorktown, Virginia, only 330 miles from here as the crow flies.
The Redcoats are going! The Redcoats are going!
Coming from one of the North Atlantic states I was fairly well schooled in the northern events of the Revolutionary War, but it never kept my interest for too long, seeming to be just a series of names, battles, and dates that I had to memorize for a test. Moving to the South has awakened my interest. 

Since my school days I’ve learned that some of our ancestors, especially the more noted ones, had a lot more going on in their lives than just leading the nation. Fourth grade history and the study of American Revolution never mentioned that Benjamin Franklin was quite the ladies’ man or that Thomas Jefferson had a concubine. Interesting! 

Fourth grade history in the North also never mentioned much about the role of the South in that war, and it was probably the same in reverse for students in the South. Nor did it mention what it was like for those on ‘the other side’ – in this case, the English on the other side of the pond.

Queen Charlotte
Did you know that King George III was married to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz?  That wouldn’t have interested me before, but, living where I do just south of Charlotte, now it does. Poor guy: wars going on all the time, suffering from a mental illness that may have been a blood disorder, he had troubles galore. And some upstarts in the American colonies wanted things like “no taxation without representation,” and they had other objections to being mere colonies. They wanted their independence.  Think of it from George’s point of view: it was appalling.

If it weren’t for the South we might all be British.  Though the primary action of the opening years of the war was in the north, at the same time the persistent southern forces were handling British actions in Charleston and eastern Florida, and nagging at the British and Loyalists whenever they could. The North began to get help from the French, and in the last major battle there they defeated the British at Saratoga in 1777.  Still the British remained a large presence in the north, harrying and engaging the forces in a series of smaller battles. 

The same year as Saratoga, the southerners did lose Savannah, their biggest city, to the British.  Then Charleston went, and the Americans retreated in defeat to the Carolinas. There they met the British in several engagements: one of them was the Battle of the Waxhaws.  For about a year it didn’t look good for the American cause, but then the tide turned and they won at Kings Mountain and Cowpens.  The British kept at it, winning some battles, but at great cost to themselves. Finally the American southern, northern, and naval forces came together in Yorktown to defeat the British and accept their surrender.  King George lost control of Parliament to the factions within his own country that were suing for peace with the Americans, and that, in a nutshell, was that.  

Of course, the Revolution can’t be covered in 600 words. There’s so much to be learned, seen, and enjoyed.  You can begin on the internet researching the Southern states’ Revolutionary War Trails, starting at, or hit the brochure racks at the highway visitor centers.  Our nations’s history will keep you busy and entertained for a long time to come.



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