Fourteen years ago, historian Michael Scoggins started research that would lead to the discovery of an American Revolutionary battlefield.
Scoggins and other leaders with the Culture and Heritage Museums and York County finished that journey on Saturday, by dedicating the location of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat.
Scoggins and other leaders say it’s the most significant new feature added to the 775-acre Historic Brattonsville site in more than a decade.
The July 12, 1780, Patriot victory in the Battle of Huck’s Defeat is also known as the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation. It happened near James Williamson’s 18th century plantation, on land that is now part of the Brattonsville plantation.
“It’s going to help York County tell the story of what happened in the Revolutionary War,” Scoggins said Saturday, as leaders held an opening ceremony for the battlefield and a ribbon-cutting for a new interpretive trail.
A wood frame has been erected at the site where the Williamson home stood. Painted cutouts of soldiers representing the British and American forces have been placed on the battle field to illustrate what happened.
The CHM also commissioned Charlotte painters Don Troiani and Dan Nance to visually capture the story of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat in artwork, which was on display during the weekend celebration.
The new quarter-mile gravel trail, which is part of the attraction, features a series of interpretive kiosks that illustrate the details of the battle and tell the story of the Williamson and Bratton families.
“What we’re doing here is we’re really ramping it up,” Scoggins said. “York County has never had anything like this before. We’re trying to put this battlefield on the map.”
The events were part of a weekend of events surrounding the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat.
“There are not a lot of places like this,” Scoggins said about Brattonsville. “We’ve got the ancestry, the original plantation buildings here to tell the family story.”
Saturday events featured two battle re-enactments. In addition to the Battle of Huck’s Defeat, re-enactors also portrayed the 1870 Battle of Musgrove Mill, which happened near Laurens, when about 200 Patriot militiamen defeated a combined force of approximately 300 British Loyalist militiamen and 200 provincial regulars.
Re-enactors like Al Pratt and his wife, Elizabeth, from Chester, who are members of the 84th Highland Immigrants, came to teach visitors about life in the 18th century.
Al Pratt is a retired history teacher who enjoys telling groups of children about the typical medical care, food and pay for a Revolutionary War soldier.
And Ken Ketchum of Matthews, N.C., a member of the 18th New Acquisition Milita, demonstrated how soldiers made early matches, called lucifers, using pieces of wood coated with melted sulfur. Ketchum and many other re-enactors spent the weekend camping at Brattonsville.
Scoggins said Huck’s Defeat is significant because it marked a change in the course of the war. After Charleston fell in May 1780, he said, the prospect for victory looked bleak.
“The British were pretty confident at that point,” he said. Huck’s Defeat marked the first time after the fall of Charleston that Patriot militia forces defeated British regular solders.
The destruction of Capt. Christian Huck’s British Loyalist force by militia forces helped revive the morale of people in South Carolina just when British victory seemed inevitable. It also set the stage for more significant Patriot victories.
The exact location of the battle had always been a mystery, but Scoggins said he began historical research in 2000.
The Culture & Heritage Museums hired archaeological researchers from the University of South Carolina beginning in 2006.
During the archaeological research, Scoggins said, they found musket balls, uniform buttons and pieces of dinner ware and pottery around the site where the house once stood.
Site manager Kevin Lynch said plans are in the works to add more features, including tours that would be guided by an electronic tablet device that the site would provide visitors to create “a more interactive experience.” That feature is not yet ready, he said.