Confronted by muggy heat and a tease of shade, 50 inquisitive minds gathered Tuesday on the lawn of Historic Brattonsville, poised and ready to experience 18th century backcountry life.
All of these minds belonged to teachers.
The teachers -- all teach grades ranging from kindergarten through 12 -- turned into students as they visited Historic Brattonsville as a part of a hands-on, weeklong study of American history.
The trip was funded by a National Endowment of Humanities Grant, which enabled all the teachers to receive a stipend. The class, called "Partisans and Redcoats: The American Revolution in the Southern Backcountry," was led by Melissa Walker, associate professor of history at Converse College. There will be another group of 50 teachers with this class at Brattonsville next week, she said.
The students met at Converse College and then rode the bus to Brattonsville. Walker added that the trip has been planned for 18 months. The students have come from states as far as Washington, Maine, California and Texas. Mark Samuel, 25 and an eighth-grade teacher in Houston, described the trip as fulfilling a passion.
"I love it," Samuel said. "People study history as a hobby, but for me, it is my life."
The 50 teachers were divided into three groups, which rotated into different sections of American history: the domestic lives of women, colonial medicine, slave life, the militia drill and the Battle of Huck's defeat. Each section was an hour long.
The scenery was draped with wooded cabins, old fireplaces, animals and other things to maximize the authenticity.
Pat Vessey, who re-enacted women's lives in the 18th century, said oral history has been apart of her life for a long time.
"A hands-on living approach can get anybody involved in history," she said, dressed in a neckerchief and apron.
Kay Moss re-enacted the medicinal methods that were used in pre-colonial times. Butcher knives as amputators and Hungarian fluid as anesthesia are examples of the differences in medical procedures compared to today, Moss said.
"My approach to history is not the facts, the battles, the presidents," said Moss, who Vessey refers to as her mentor. "It is the everyday life and technologies and the relationship of the people to the environment."
The slave narrative was performed by Kitty Wilson-Evans. She kept the attention of the teachers with her emotional -- and emphatic -- account of life as an black slave. Loyalty to their slaveowner and blacks being regarded as property were key points in her narrative, she said.
"We are getting better," she said, referring to the number of blacks as oral storytellers. "I just wish we had more."
The militia drill and Battle of Huck's defeat was performed by Chuck LeCount and Jon Failor. The Battle of Huck's defeat highlighted the first successful Patriot military effort in the South since the fall of Charleston.
The teachers' trip to Brattonsville was their first stop of their week. Today, they will go to Kings Mountain. Thursday, they will go to Cowpens before heading home Friday.
Site of Huck's Defeat moved
After much debate and some new archeological digging, the correct location of the Battle of Huck's Defeat has been found, says Chuck LeCount, the curator at Historic Brattonsville.
In the winter of 2006, the Culture & Heritage Museums hired the S.C. Institute of Archeology and Anthropology to procure evidence that could determine the location of the battle.
The discovery of rifle balls and other 18th century items helped determine the correct site, said LeCount.
"We are 95 percent certain that we have found the original battle field," LeCount said.
The battlefield is located 75 yards -- roughly three quarters of a football field -- behind the Historic Brattonsville site.
This new revelation will not alter the location of the historical reenactment of Brattonsville on Saturday, LeCount said.
-- Zettler Clay