Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

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About the Battle of Musgrove Mill

As you drive along Highway 56 between Spartanburg and Clinton, you may not know it, but you’ll pass within yards of the site of an important Patriot victory during the American Revolution. Just before you cross into Laurens County you’ll pass a line of trees on the right hand side of the highway near Green Leaf Drive. On the other side of those trees is a clearing where the Battle of Musgrove Mill took place.

river flowing around foundation of washed out bridge - stone foundation remains in background
Washed out bridge along British Encampment Trail at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. Without this bridge, the park is separated in two by the Enoree River

In the late 18th Century, Henry Musgrove owned a home and grist mill nearby. He had hoped to live his remaining years in peace, so he remained neutral in the war. His property, unfortunately, included one of the few fords across the Enoree River. Both sides saw the importance of this small piece of land, and the inevitable conflict was set up.

In 1780 the British established an outpost at Musgrove’s home and mill and garrisoned it with 200 loyalists. By August of that same year, Patriot Colonel Charles McDowell crossed into northern South Carolina and set up a camp at Cherokee Ford. His plan was to raid British outposts in the Carolina backcountry, and one of his first targets was Musgrove Mill. Both sides saw the ford as the key to control of the Carolina backcountry.

A Much Larger Enemy Force Was Encamped at Musgrove Mill

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The British Encampment Trail Loops Around the Property along the Enoree River where the fords in the river was located and Musgrove’s Mill once stood.

On August 17, 1780, one day after General Horatio Gates ill fated assault on Camden, McDowell sent 200 Patriot militiamen under command of Colonels Isaac Shelby, Elijah Clarke, and James Williams to take the ford and drive the British Loyalists from Musgrove’s Mill. By August 18th, they had arrived near Musgrove’s ford in the Enoree River. They made camp and sent out scouts to access the British defenses. To their shock they discovered that the garrison at the mill had been reinforced with not only 100 loyalist militia men but 200 British regulars on their way to join Major Patrick Ferguson near Kings Mountain.

Realizing that they were outnumbered by more than two to one, the Patriot command trio knew that a frontal assault would be foolhardy. Retreat wasn’t an option either. Because of the speed at which they traveled to the enemy camp, their horses where exhausted and would need to rest before returning. When their position was spotted by an enemy patrol, the Patriots knew that they would have no choice but to stand and fight.

Backwoods Warfare at Musgrove’s Mill

Knowing the odds, the Patriots chose to set a trap for the British troops. In a clearing about a half mile north of the ford, they set up a defensive position with whatever brush and fallen timber they could find. Captain Shadrach Inman and his band of 20 horsemen where sent to cross the Enoree River to draw the British troops into the ambush.

The plan worked. As Captain Inman and his men retreated back to the Patriot lines, the British forces followed in pursuit. As they approached the ambush, the Loyalists saw the trap they were being led into, and opened fire on the Patriots. But they fired too soon, so their shots never hit their marks. The Patriots, however, held their fire until the Tory forces where in range.

The British Make a Final Push to Try and Secure Victory at Musgrove Mill

Marker at the Musgrove Mill battle field
The Battlefield Trail loops around the site of the battle and has interpretive signs detailing the progress of the battle for Musgrove’s Mill.

The battle wasn’t over yet. The American forces were not only facing loyalist militias but British Regulars as well. The Red Coats where well trained and disciplined. They weren’t about to waver. They affixed bayonets and charged the patriot’s right flank. The bayonet was the super weapon of revolutionary era battles. Enemy forces would crumble at the sight of Red Coats advancing as sunlight glistened on the sharp point of the bayonet. Unequipped to respond in kind, the Patriots at Musgrove Mill almost fell to this devastating attack.

But Isaac Shelby had one more surprise for the British. He commanded a group of Overmountain Men he kept in reserve. These where frontiersmen from across the Appalachian Mountains. They lived hard lives and weren’t afraid of a fight. When ordered into the fray, they fell upon the British shrieking Indian war cries. These Overmountain men must have seemed like wild animals to the British forces who were unaccustomed to such a ferocious attack. After a number of Tory officers where killed, the British discipline broke down and they began a retreat.

Aftermath of the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill

As the British fled and the Patriots took chase, word came to both sides of the American defeat at the Battle of Camden. Knowing that Tory reinforcements would soon arrive, the Patriot forces chose to take their victory and return home.

Coming on the heals of the Patriots loss at Camden, the Battle of Musgrove Mill provided a much needed moral booster to colonial forces. It demonstrated that the British could be defeated, and their loss showed the British that controlling the Carolina backcountry would not be as easy as they thought.

Visiting Musgrove Mill Battleground Today

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Visitor’s Center at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

Henry Musgrove’s home and grist mill are both long gone. Even the ford has been washed away, but you can still visit the historic site. A visitor’s center located near the site of the original home has displays and exhibits that tell the story of the mill and battle.

A picnic shelter is available on a first come first served basis as well as picnic tables across a pond built in the early 20th century.

A kayak launch is located on the horseshoe falls side of the park, and fishing is allowed in the Enoree River and the park lake. Fishing poles are available at the visitor center.

Hiking Trails at Musgrove Mill

Musgrove Mills has two short hiking trails, but they are separated by the Enoree River with no connection withing the park. In order to hike both, you’ll have to get in your care and drive down Highway 56 to the other side of the park.

British Encampment Trail

Accessible from the visitor center side of the park, this one mile trail will take you around the area where the British were camped. It runs down to and along the Enoree river past the location of the ford and the location of the grist mill. Signs along the trail point out important locations and give insights to life at the time.

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Horseshoe Falls at Musgrove Mill Historic Site near the start of the Battleground Trail.

Battlefield Trail and Horseshoe Falls at Musgrove Mill

Trail through woods with sign reading "Battleground Trail 1.3 miles
Start of Battleground Trail at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site near Clinton, South Carolina

Follow the signs along Highway 56 to the Horseshoe Falls area. This 1.3 mile trail starts at the observation deck for the falls and runs around the battlefield. Interpretative signage tells the story of the battle from the background through its unique place in American history.

Fast Facts about Musgrove Mill Battleground State Historic Site

Type:Historic Site – Revolutionary War Battleground
Admission:$3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 & younger free
Location:398 State Park Rd, Clinton, SC 29325
Phone(864) 938-0100
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Things to do: Learn about the battle of Musgrove Mill, hiking, fishing, picnicking, waterfall, special programs throughout the year

Map to Musgrove Mill Battleground State Historic Site