October 2014 – Columbia, South Carolina

Having learned my lesson, the next trip was only a couple of hours to Barnyard RV Park in between Lafayette and Columbia, South Carolina on Wednesday, October 8.  Barnyard RV Park is directly behind Barnyard Flea Market on US 1.  This is a huge flea market that is open on the weekends, which gives us something to do in a couple of days and did block most of the noise from the highway.  The RV Park itself is one of the cheapest we have stayed in, but it was still a nice park.  We had a pull-through site that was easy to get and out of with a duck pond (read that as drainage collection from the flea market) with a few ducks.  Each site had a cement patio and picnic table, so it was a good value.  It was amazing that this park filled up every night with large RVs parked along the road in the park that did have water and electric hookups and it would be less than half full by noon the next day, except over the weekend when it stayed full.  I expect a number of the RVs that stayed a single night were snow birds heading south for the winter, although one individual we talked to was from Florida heading to the Smokies for the fall colors.  For $180 a week I would stay there again.

Campsite

On Thursday, it was time to take in the National Parks in the area, which was Congaree National Park.  This is a the largest remaining hardwood bottomland forest of old-growth trees.  It contains a number of national and state champion size trees, including loblolly pine and bald cypress.  I had been to the Congaree in the mid-90s looking at Neil Pederson’s research locations where he was studying loblolly pine regeneration following Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  Not only has the Congaree been upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park, but the Visitor Center had changed a lot.  Even though the National Park is over 26,000 acres, only a small part is easily accessible by foot.  There are a couple of trails that leave from the Visitor Center, the most popular being a 2.4 mile trail on a raised boardwalk.   Kal and I went on this hike prior to lunch and it is certainly the longest walk we have taken on a boardwalk!!  About a fourth of the boardwalk was closed due to damage from an ice storm last winter, but you could still reach an overlook of Weston Lake, an ox-bow lake.  We either did not see any of their champion trees, or they did not have any signs for them, but we did see some VERY big hardwood and loblolly pine trees.  I strongly recommend everyone experience an old growth forest that has never been logged and the Congaree is an excellent example of a hardwood bottomland forest.  October is a great time to visit the Congaree as the mosquito population was low, the weather was cool, and the forest was beautiful.  We also took about a 2 mile hike through their upland loblolly pine forest.  I was glad to see that the National Park Service have now come to the conclusion that fire is a natural part of the ecosystem and have initiated prescribed fires to mimic nature as close as they can.  The upland forest had been burned about two years ago and even though they killed a number of trees in one area, it is starting to look more like the savannah conditions you would expect in a natural forest.

BigLoblolly GregInSandhills PilieatedWoodpecker

We had two goals on Friday.  First, we wanted to do something a little different so we decided to check out the South Carolina State Museum in downtown Columbia.  Second, we were excited to see Landon Donovan’s final game with the US Soccer Team in their game against Ecuador.  When we looked at the State Museum on the web it appeared to be a large museum covering 4 floors with the option to see a show in the Planetarium, take in a 4D show, or a program about dinosaurs.  Neither of us had been to a planetarium in years and we were both interested in viewing the night sky.  Our first impression from outside the museum was not very impressive, since the building was old with a planetarium attached to the side.  There is a good reason for the old structure, since this is he old Columbia Mills Building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.  When it opened in 1894, it was the first textile mill that was totally electric being the first industrial installation of General Electric using electric generators that were the largest at the time.  The textile mill produced cotton duck cloth continuously through World War II, providing jobs and housing for workers throughout the Great Depression.  Once we stepped inside we realized we had underestimated the size of the museum, it is the largest museum in the southeast!  It has 4 large floors full of exhibits in four disciplines: art, cultural history, science, and technology.  Many of the exhibits are interactive for young visitors, especially the natural history on the first floor.  After seeing exhibits of the different ecosystems in South Carolina we took in the program at the Planetarium.  We were hoping for a program about the sights in the night sky and we did get about 10 minutes of this.  Most of the program was a short movie about the history of the telescope.  This was kind of neat because I had never seen a movie shot using a camera designed for the curved ceiling of a planetarium.  Whereas, an Imax movie is very large and impressive, imagine a show that totally surround you everywhere you look!  Pretty neat.  We then ate lunch and continued to the second floor of the museum.  I recall interesting exhibits about the first steam locomotive, cars (I saw my first model T), and electronics.  I saw a tape recorder and radio that looked identical to ones my parents owned in the 1960s. I especially liked the extensive exhibit on the history of forestry in South Carolina.  They had a film clip about the importance of steam engines to the harvesting of the original old growth forests with their drag line skidders, narrow gauge railroads, and loaders all driven by steam.  The exhibit provided good information on the changes in forestry from the cut and leave to pine plantations for the production of pulpwood and finally to the multi-use objectives of today.  They did a good job.  After another 3 hours of exploring the museum we finally got to the history of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  I frankly don’t remember much about this area and did not even finish the museum as I had all I could handle.  You can ask anyone in my family, I LOVE museums and can not get enough.  Well I found my limit to be about 5 hours now.

Friday evening we watched Landon Donovan play his final game with the US Soccer team.  He only played about 30 minutes, but in that time he was a key player in Diskerud’s goal, almost had an assist with Altedore for a goal, and bounced the soccer ball off the goal post himself.  In my opinion, he is the best soccer player the US has produced and we are both big fans, especially after seeing him live in the Gold Cup game a year ago in Baltimore.

On Saturday, we had our first visitor come and stay a few days with us.  My sister, Suzy, came from Tennessee to spend part of her Fall Break, staying with us for a long weekend through Monday night.  Once we got her settled in, we walked about 100 yards to take a look at the Barnyard Flea Market.  I suppose this is not the largest flea market, but it is certainly larger than any flea market I have ever been too.  I suppose this is not saying much since I don’t remember ever going to a flea market.  I assumed it would be a very large garage sale, but this was not really the case.  This wasn’t a collection of families trying to get rid of stuff out of their garage, but a collection of small business offering just about anything and everything for sale.  We saw everything from motorcycle gear, vintage records, clothing, food, toys, magazines, coins and other collectables, hunting gear, kitchen implements, bicycles and scooters, etc.  It was an amazing collection and even though we were just wandering it took over an hour to walk through it all.  We only made some very small purchases because we had to keep reminding ourselves that we just got rid of all of our “stuff” and don’t have the room for any more “stuff”.

SuzyAndKal

Sunday was our chance to take Suzy out to show us what our life style is all about.  We went to visit Historic Camden Revolution War Site outside Camden, South Carolina.  I had thought this was part of the National Park System, but we found out it is only affiliated with the National Parks and is operated by the state.  When we got there it was obvious what this meant.  There is no actual Visitor Center as you would expect at a National Park and all the buildings were closed on Sunday!  I had tried to find out the operating times on the web and could find nothing even on the official website for Historic Camden! I am not sure what more we would have learned if the buildings had been open, but it was still a disappointment.  At the time of the Revolutionary War, Camden was the largest town in the backwoods of South Carolina.  After capturing the main Continental Army in the south when the siege of Charleston ended, General Cornwallis had little opposition in the interior of South Carolina.  He moved his army of 2500 British regulars, Hessian professionals, and Loyalist Militia to occupy Camden.  They improved the defenses of Camden with a wooden palisade around the town and creation of 6 redoubts outside the palisade.  Although the Battle of Camden was fought about 9 miles north of town, the original town of Camden was burned when the British withdrew in 1781 and the residents decided to rebuild the town to the north of the ruins.  They have reconstructed part of the palisade and some of the redoubts. They have also moved some period homes and buildings to the location of Historic Camden to provide some examples of living conditions at the time.  After exploring the outside of the buildings and reconstructed palisade and redoubts, we moved on to the Battlefield itself.  The Continental Army had been either captured at Charleston or driven from South Carolina in May, 1780 ending with the Battle of Waxhaus, north of Camden.  The Continental Army reformed along with patriot militias from Virginia and North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina where General Gates, the Hero of Saratoga, was given the command. He quickly moved the army to counter General Cornwallis’ move to Camden.  His army consisted of 3700 men, of which only 1500 were Continental Army forces.  General Cornwallis had roughly 2100 men, of which all but 600 militia were veteran soldiers.  Not knowing where their opponents were exactly the opposing calvary ran into each other at 2:00 am on August 16, 1780.  After a brief engagement the cavalry disengaged and both sides formed up their units along the Great Wagon Road and waited until dawn.  General Gates had placed 2500 untried North Carolina militia on his left flank facing some of the best British regulars.   Following a volley and bayonet charge by the British, the militia broke and fled the field.  General Gates got caught up in this retreat and fearing his entire force was in retreat, he quickly left the battle himself.  In actuality his troops on the right flank were holding until there were attacked on their left flank and rear by Major Tarleton’s cavalry.  Following was a general defeat of a second Continental Army, losing over 2000 men and North Carolina was now open to the British.  The battlefield itself is not very big since it lasted only an hour between two opposing lines of soldiers.  There is a nice walking trail with informative interpretive signs on both sides of the highway, which generally follows the Great Wagon Road.  While it describes the area to be open fields with scattered trees during the Revolutionary War, the area now is a dense loblolly pine plantation.  There is a battlefield trail on both sides of the highway with little else.  We found it interesting, but a little disappointing after seeing the efforts made at other Revolutionary battlefields.

RedoubtLookingOutBattlefieldSign GregAndSuzy

Monday was a quiet day spent relaxing with Suzy, watching some old movies on the TV and just enjoying each others company.    Suzy left early on Tuesday morning since the weather had turned nasty.  We were under a tornado watch beginning at 9:00 through 1:00.  She ran into some heavy rain and wind in the mountains west of Asheville, but got home to Tennessee within a problem.  We carefully watched the weather all morning, but we did not even see any rain until after lunch.  The bad weather for the area never materialized even though the tornado watch was extended until 9:00 that evening.  There was heavy rain to both the west and north of Columbia and east along the coast, but we did not see any heavy rain or wind, much less anything more severe.  I know we will eventually be caught by severe weather, but so far we have only had some close calls.  I could not imagine all the people in the RV park trying to get into the 3 small bathrooms available at the Barnyard RV Park.  Kal talked to one of the long term residents of the park (5 years) who stated the worst they had seen bounced his RV around a bit, but they had never sought shelter in the bathrooms.  I don’t think we will ever by that brave (or foolish).  I don’t intend to find out how strong the wind has to be to move our RV!!

 

October, 2014 – Spartanburg, South Carolina

When I made the reservation for the Spartanburg KOA I was looking at the location using Google Earth, which does not show distances.  It is just over the state line into South Carolina, so I was thinking it would be a short trip from Jacksonville, North Carolina.  I learned my lesson to check the distance using mapquest. Although it was just over the state line, it was over 5 hours to the west.  In fact, we were going to be just an hour and a half from Asheville, where we were at the beginning of September.  In any case, we had reservations so we got on the road as soon as we could on Wednesday.  After our experience with traveling over 4 hours to northern North Carolina and almost running out of gas, we knew we were going to have to find a gas station.  Most of the trip was not on an Interstate and the GPS unit did not show any truck stops on the route.  Plenty of gas stations with diesel gas, but we needed a station that could accommodate a 35 foot RV trailer.  We noticed trucks pulling onto the highway from a gas station by the side of the highway about an hour and a half down the road, so we decided to fill up the tank even though the “miles to empty” was saying we could go 100 miles further than we needed.  Either we did not fill up the tank before our trip before (which I think I remember was the case) or there is something funny about the “miles to empty”.  In any case, a full tank with only 3 to 3.5 hours to drive should be more than we need.  For lunch we found a Walmart parking lot that was easy to get in and out of with a shady spot for us to eat our sandwiches and we were good to go.  The trip was long, but we both agreed it was not as bad as we thought it would be.  However, I am going to be more careful about the distance.  We would both prefer driving only 2-3 hours between stops.

BirdBathCampsite

Bird Bath??

On Thursday, we both felt ready to see the sights even with the long drive the day before and we did not have far to go.  I had purposely chosen the KOA campground because of its proximity to two National Battlefield Parks, both Cowpens and Kings Mountain were within 30 minutes.  Both of these parks are Revolutionary War battles and we choose to go to Cowpens National Military Park first, because I thought it happened earlier than the battle at Kings Mountain.  Although the two battles were just over 3 months apart, I was wrong about the order.  The reason for my confusion is because Cowpens was the location where the Over Mountain Men from Sycamore Shoals met up with militia from South Carolina and Georgia, they were in hot pursuit of Major Ferguson who they caught at Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.  Three months later Colonel Tarleton, on January 17, 1781 engaged the Continental Army under General Morgan.  It goes to show the importance of Cowpens at the time as a location known to everyone in the backwoods.  After taking Charleston and defeating the Continental Army again at Camden and Waxhaws, it would appear that General Cornwallis would be unopposed in stopping the Revolution in the South.  However, he did not count on the fighting spirit or the guerrilla tactics of the patriot militias.  As we learned from a very energetic park ranger at Cowpens, there were small skirmishes all over South Carolina in 1780, nearly all of them between patriot and loyalist militia.  In fact, a map he showed us looked like shotgun blasts all over the state.  Cornwallis may have put a stop to the revolution along the coast where most of the towns and population lived, but he had not counted on the backwoods patriots, especially the Scots-Irish living in the mountains of South and North Carolina.  After the defeat of the Continental Army at Camden and Waxhaws, General Gates was replaced with General Nathaniel Greene, who’s main strategy was to keep from losing the rest of the Continental Army.  He used a series of hit and run tactics to bleed the English troops who’s supply line was long and vulnerable.  We split his forces into three parts to make it more difficult for Cornwallis to find him and sent General Daniel Morgan to the west to threaten Cornwallis’ left flank.    General Cornwallis sent his light brigades under Colonel Tarleton to counter Morgan.  The light brigade are some of the best and most professional of the troops under General Cornwallis and he expected a quick and decisive defeat of the inferior Continental Army.  Tarleton had 1150 soldiers, mostly highly trained and experienced English troops, while Greene’s Continental Army numbered less than 400.  However, Greene’s forces had been augmented by South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia militia bringing his total force to closer to 1900 men, although many had not seen battle.  They met at Cowpens, which was a well known location for grazing local cattle for export to the coast.  Attempting to catch them before they could cross the flooding Broad River, Tarleton pushed his men without camping the night before.  Greene did not build any defenses.  Instead he split his forces into three groups. The first group was his sharpshooters made up of long rifles which were much more accurate at long range then the British muskets, although much slower to load and fire.  Their job was to kill off as many of the British forces as they could, especially the officers, and fall back to the second line before the British closed in range for a bayonet charge.  The second line was made up mostly of militia.  Their orders were to get off two rounds and then retreat around to the left to be reformed in the rear.  The third line was his veteran Continental Army and Virginia militia that were hidden behind a slight rise in the ground.  The plan worked to perfection.  By the time the English troops made it to the third line they were already exhausted and most of the officers were dead.  When they ran up against the steady line of the Continental regulars they buckled and were quickly surrounded by the cavalry and militia that had circled around this third line.  Tarleton lost his entire force and Cornwallis had lost about 25% of his troops which were most of his best soldiers.  After the defeat at Kings Mountain and here at Cowpens, Cornwallis was needing a decisive victory.  He commenced to chasing Greene north to the Dan River and ultimately to a very expensive victory at Guilford Courthouse.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Battle Field Walk with the Park Ranger who spent over an hour giving us his well thought out theories about the battle that at times conflicted with the official version.  For instance, the official version makes a big deal of this being one of the few examples of a “double envelopment” of the English forces, since both flanks were turned by the charge of the cavalry and militia coming around the third line.  However, our guide points out that about 10% of the English soldiers were patriot POW’s that had agreed to join them after their defeat at Camden in order to be fed, they had been marching hard for 3 days and had been on the march since 2 that morning, and they had just been decimated by the first two lines losing nearly all of the officers, and the third line had been hidden until they charged into them trying to catch the retreating second line.  It is his opinion that they had simply had enough and gave up when their line of retreat was cut off.

ParkRanger ThirdLine

On Friday, we wanted to continue our education since I was now very curious about how Kings Mountain fit into the Revolutionary War.  If you have been reading my blog up to now, you will recall that about a month ago we were at Sycamore Shoals in Tennessee and learned about the mustering of the Over Mountain Men.  You will recall that up to this point in the war the mountain men of Virginia, North, and South Carolina were more engaged and concerned with attacks from the Cherokee Indians (who were being supplied by England).  However, when Major Ferguson threatened to burn their homes unless they stayed out of the War, it inflamed them and they set out to catch Ferguson first.    At this point in the War, Major Ferguson’s job was to recruit loyalist militia in western South Carolina and set up outposts to defend their supply lines.  Part of his force had recently been defeated at Musgrove Mill to the south and his intentions was to put a stop to these tactics by threatening their homes.  He got exactly the wrong response.  The Over Mountain Men marched through an early snow in the mountains to counter the threat.  They were met in North Carolina with militias from Virginia and at Cowpens with militias from South Carolina and Georgia.  Learning of this threat Ferguson was taking his loyalist militias towards Cornwallis in Charlotte, North Carolina and the patriots were determined not to let this happen.  It was known that Major Ferguson did not get along with either General Cornwallis or Colonel Tarleton and both of them refused to send any reinforcements, so Ferguson was forced to face these mountain men alone.  He choose the high ground of Kings Mountain believing it to be a perfect defensive position.  Needing to hurry the patriots sent 900 men on horseback to catch Major Ferguson before he could get to Cornwallis, only a day’s ride away.  When they arrived on the afternoon of October 7, 1780 they immediately surrounded the mountain and attacked.  The slopes of Kings Mountain are heavily wooded and the patriots used it to their advantage.  Their tactics were those they used to fight the Indians, firing from behind trees using the longer range of their long rifles.  When the loyalists mounted a bayonet charge, the patriots would immediately retreat down the mountain only to regroup and start again.  Eventually they gained the top of the mountain and had the English in a crossfire.  Major Ferguson would not let his troops surrender and continued to fight until he was shot and killed.  It was reported that at least 50 patriots fired at Major Ferguson at approximately the same time and he was hit with at least 7 shots knocking him off his horse.  The loyalist militia quickly surrendered and General Cornwallis had suffered his first major defeat losing about 25% of his troops to a bunch of backwoodsmen.  This was not even the Continental Army, but just militiamen that mostly went home following the battle!  A very important victory for the patriots who showed once and for all that they could defeat the English.  It made a huge impact on their morale and recruitment efforts.  I should also mention the museum at the Visitor Center.  It is VERY well done!  There are a series of presentations within the trunks of very large hardwood trees (simulations, not real wood) that would have been common at the time.  The presentations give a very good sense of living at the time, what the local militia (both patriots and loyalists) lives would have been like, and the conditions and tactics of the battle from both perspectives.  They also have a phone system you can use as you walk around and on top of Kings Mountain about the battle and aftermath.  We were also in a hurry as a cold front was coming and it started raining as we were leaving the park.

GregAndMonument  Hilltop

When we were at Cowpens on Thursday, October 2 we found out that the weekend was the Rev War Weekend for the area leading up to the anniversary of Kings Mountain on Tuesday, October 7.  There were activities planned for Cowpens, Kings Mountain, the local Gaffney Visitors Center and Art Gallery, and the Walnut Grove Plantation, a county park starting on Saturday.  We decided it would be fun to participate in some of these and returned to Cowpens where they were going to have some Colonial Crafts Demonstrations.  We were a bit disappointed to find out this was limited to a gentleman demonstrating the dyeing of yarn and a group of volunteers in colonial dress doing cooking demonstrations.  We had a great time talking with both of them as we were early enough that there were very people there and it was windy and cool now that the cold front had passed through. The gentleman demonstrating wool dyeing had spent years at Williamsburg, Virginia trying out a number of recipes, one of which he was demonstrating using walnuts to give his yarn a dark brown stain.  It was going to take all day on the boil to set the stain.

DyeingDemo CookingDemo

Saturday night was a lot of fun since Auburn was going to play LSU in football.  We watched Alabama losing to Ole Miss and with Oregon losing it was our chance to move up in the ratings, if we could beat LSU.  Even though the Alabama game was on CBS, which we got on cable, Auburn’s game was on ESPN which for some reason was not part of the cable system at the KOA.  This was very strange since their cable included the NFL, MLB, and NHL networks, but not ESPN??  We had been told at the desk at the KOA that the Applebees in Gaffney carried all the games on TV at the bar, so we went their for dinner and some beers to watch the Auburn game.  Thankfully, we were about the only patrons at Applebees at 7 pm that were interested in watching football, so they put the Auburn game on their largest TV over one side of the bar.  By sitting at the bar we had a great view of the game.  We had a great time with the waitress and bar tender, watched a great game (Auburn dominated LSU), and enjoyed the 4 (maybe 5) beers I had following dinner.  While we don’t anticipate having to find a sports bar (or Applebees) in the future to watch Auburn football, it sure is a great way to watch the game.

That night the temperature dipped into the 40s and it was time to try out our propane heater.  It fired up just fine and we went to bed.  Within a half hour the smoke alarm in the living room went off and there was a distinct smell of something burning although there was little discernible smoke in the air.  We turned the furnace off and opened up the two vents in the living room.  The smoke alarm stopped wailing after a minute, but what were we doing wrong?  Kal checked out for information on the web and I went back to bed.  She found that new heating systems will often smoke initially, but they will settle down afterwards.  So we turned the thermostat down to 65 degrees and went back to bed leaving one of the vents open and running in the living room.  About an hour later the alarm went off again and I got up to turn the other vent on.  Again the alarm quit after about a minute and I went back to bed.  I recall being woken up twice more with the alarm sounding just a couple of times before going quiet, but the two vents was keeping it very chilly in the RV.  The next morning we turned up the thermostat to run the furnace continually with the vents open and fans running until there was no more smell of something burning in the RV.  We hoped it was better since the temperature was going to be even colder Sunday night.

After sleeping late following the rough night with the furnace and a slight hangover, I did not feel up to a big day on Sunday. So we settled for a mile and a half hike around the Land owned by the KOA.  They have a small beaver pond and intermittent stream that they keep clear of brush for the campers to walk around.  I certainly felt better after the hike and I worked on the blog while Kal went shopping at an outlet mall just up the Interstate at Gaffney.

Monday was laundry day and working on the blog, since most of the state parks were closed.  We also drove up to Saluda, North Carolina to have lunch with Bryna.  We needed to pick up our new stickers for the truck tags which we had sent to Bryna and I needed her help as a pharmacist to get my prescription with Walgreens corrected.  But the main reason was to spend a couple of hours with Bryna in a very nice small mountain town.

KalAndBryna

Yes, you will now see pictures with Kal in them as we bought me a small camera of my own!!!

On Tuesday we ventured out to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site which is another Revolutionary War battle site.  As the name implies Musgrove Mill is located on the Enoree River at a well known ford at the time.  The battle occurred on August 19, 1780, just 3 days after the defeat of the Continental Army in Camden.  Part of General Cornwallis’ strategy was to establish outposts in the backwoods to provide supplies and secure locations for troop movements.  The most well known of these was known as Old Ninety-Six and Star Fort to the west.  Another was located at Musgrove Mill where about 200 local loyalist militia were stationed to protect the ford across the Enoree River and to use the mill for supplies.  The patriot militia were using hit and run tactics to disrupt these supplies and were on the lookout for loyalist militia they could attack.  Learning that Musgrove Mill had about the same number of troops, so they decided to raid the encampment.  However, on August 18 the loyalists were reinforced with about 100 additional loyalists and 200 provincial troops on their way to join up with Major Ferguson.  They learned this fact from a local farmer, but they ran into an English patrol so they had lost the element of surprise and were going to have to fight.  Using guerrilla tactics they sent 20 soldiers on horseback to fire on the encampment from across the river.  The English gave chase, although few were on horseback.  The remainder of the patriots were hidden behind trees at the top of the ridge on both sides of the road.  Even though the loyalist troops outnumbered them by more than 2 to 1, their advantage of the long rifles from behind trees and the fact the English were advancing uphill after chasing the horses on foot, proved to be too much for them.  When they broke, the Patriots gave chase back to the river killing 63 Torries.  While not a significant battle, it is an example of how the local militia, as well as, militia from Georgia and North Carolina, fought back after the defeat of the regular Continental Army at Camden.  It was soon after this battle that Ferguson made his fateful threat to burn the homes and sack the homes of anyone who supported the patriots, that incited the Over Mountain Men to join the patriot cause that led to Ferguson’s defeat at Kings Mountain.  The Visitor Center at the State Historic Site is very small with only a few displays.  It does include a table display with lights that details the battle.  However, the table was not working when we got there, since they were doing some work on the electricity in the Visitor Center.  Instead, the Park Ranger provided a full accounting of the battle using the table to show the battle, which I am certain was as good or better than the prerecorded program.  We also found out that he had worked a number of years at the Tuskegee Airmen Historic Site and lived just off the Auburn campus near the library.  We had a great time exchanging stories about both Auburn and Tuskegee.  There is also a short walk around the Visitor Center and along the river which is situated at the mill’s location and loyalist encampment.  After crossing the river there is another easy walk up to and around the battlefield.  They have a series of interpretive signs along the path that provides an excellent accounting of the troops that fought there and details about the battle, which lasted for only about an hour.  For anyone interested in the Revolutionary War, I would certainly include a visit to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site.

GregOnTrail KalOnTrailEnoreeRiver

September 2014 – Jacksonville, North Carolina

The weather Wednesday morning started with a light rain and the weather forecast called for periods of rain all day with chances of thunderstorms in the afternoon all down the coast.  We had no choice so we closed the RV up in the rain.  Kal spent as much time as she could either inside the RV getting it ready or in the truck while I hooked it up.  I got pretty wet, but the day was warm so it was not really a problem.  We drove south along the coast down US 17 to Jasksonville, which is about 30 miles north of Wilmington.  It was about 3.5 hours and we even got lucky and found a small rest stop that we could pull the RV into along the highway after about 2 hours.  We pulled into Cabin Creek Campground about 1:00 in the afternoon and thankfully the rain had stopped for the time being.  While not as nice a campground as North River that we left it was not quite a parking lot and the pull through site was easy to pull into.  Cabin Creek is right on US 17 which is a very busy four lane highway, so there is constant noise from the cars and semis.  As we discovered over the week there was also noise from low flying Osprey helicopters that would rattle the RV and the occasional dull thump and pops from small explosions and weapons firing.  Cabin Creek is surrounded on three sides by Camp Lejune with active training of our Marines!!  I knew we would be close to Camp Lejune, but I did not realize we would be in the midst of their training facilities.  In any case, we started hooking up the RV of which the first step is to plug in the electric land line.  I immediately realized I had left our expensive electric surge protector plugged into the pedestal at North River Campground.  While I continued the hookup procedure, Kal called the campground to verify that we had left it there.  If this unit did not cost over $400, we would have left it there, but for that amount of money we had to go back after it.  So we finished the setting up of the RV and jumped back into the truck to head back to North River Campground.  It took us another 3.5 hours to return, so it was now just after 6 in the evening.  They had found the unit at our site and had it for us in the office.  They were very nice about the situation and said they could have mailed it to us, except this would be difficult in our situation and we needed the unit to protect the RV where we were.  So we  had another 3.5 hour drive back down south and with a break for dinner at a small Mexican restaurant it was almost 11 before we got back to our RV.  Thankfully the unit indicated the electric power we had hooked to was in good shape and we did not hurt the RV.

Campsite

After spending over 10 hours in the truck the day before, neither of us wanted to go anywhere on Thursday.  Besides Kal tried to turn on our fireplace the next morning to take the chill out of the RV and it would not come on.  We used an extension cord to verify the fireplace was working and determined the electrical outlet was faulty.  We figured out which breaker the outlet was on and it was fine.  Therefore, all I had to do was to take the outlet out and hopefully find a loose wire.  This turned out to be much harder then I thought since it is located at the back of the cabinet next to the fireplace with the woofer on the floor next to the outlet.  It was dark and a tight squeeze and we could not figure out how to remove the outlet.  We turned to an outlet in the bedroom that we could easily get to in order to figure it out.  Actually it turns out that removing the outlet from the wall it real simple, however getting into the wires meant pushing in on four tabs simultaneously while pulling on the back.  This proved to be too much for me even with the outlet in the bedroom, much less in the dark with my head stuck into a small cabinet.  Thankfully, in my frustration I plugged the fireplace back in and it worked!!  I didn’t really fix anything, but I put the outlet back into the wall and we have used the fireplace many times since with no problems.

By Friday, we were ready to head out and do some site-seeing.  We decided to start with some state historic sites saving the Cape Lookout National Seashore to Sunday or Monday.  There are two Confederate forts south of Wilmington in State Historic Sites, one on either side of the Cape Fear River.  We went first to Fort Fisher on the spit of land between Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.  In July of 1862, Colonel William Lamb expanded the existing batteries along the coast to protect the blockade runners bringing supplies into Wilmington, a vital supply line for the Confederacy and the Army of Virginia.  The Union blockade found it difficult to effectively block entrance into the Cape Fear River since there were two inlets into the Atlantic Ocean separated by over 20 miles of land.  Colonel Lamb created an earthen fort by covering wooden bomb shelters and magazines with sand over 30 feet high.  Sand would absorb any cannon shots from the Union ships, as opposed to brick forts which are found in other locations along the coast.  Therefore, the cannons positioned in the batteries that made up Fort Fisher were a serious deterrents to Union blockade ships and protected the blockade runners coming from Bermuda and the West Indies carrying vital supplies.  It wasn’t until January, 1865, very late in the Civil War, that the Union landed troops and took Fort Fisher.  Most of the Fort is now gone with all of the batteries along the ocean lost to beach erosion over the years and a significant part of the Fort that extended from the Ocean to the Cape Fear River was removed to create a small airstrip when Fort Fisher became Camp Davis in 1940 to train anti-aircraft artillery units.  What is left is still impressive since it was built using nothing more than shovels, especially when you understand that there are wooden rooms underneath each of the mounds.  This construction method led to an interesting attempt by the Union to collapse the tunnels.  It was believed that a sufficiently large explosion near the fort would collapse the fort from the sonic waves. The USS Louisiana was filled with 215 tons of gunpowder and towed into position in the shallows below Fort Fisher.  At 1:40 am on Christmas Eve, 1864 the Louisiana exploded with a terrific blast and shock wave.  Although it woke up the Confederate soldiers manning Fort Fisher, it did no other damage.  What a fiasco!  Outside of a nice museum and film there is not much left to see of the fort which extended for miles down the coast.  We did travel down to Battery Buchanan at the end of the point where the Confederates surrendered and ate our picnic lunch.

Earthworks GregAtCannon GregOnBoardwalk

We still had the afternoon available so we proceeded on to Fort Anderson that is on the inland side of Cape Fear River and protected the shipping lanes up the river to Wilmington during the Civil War.  It also fell to the Union forces just days after Fort Fisher, who then proceeded to take Wilmington virtually unopposed in February, 1865.  While the GPS said these forts are separated by only 5 miles, it was necessary to drive all the way back 20 miles to Wilmington in order to cross the Cape Fear River and 20 miles south again.  It took over an hour to drive to Fort Anderson.  As it turns out, Fort Anderson is not the main purpose of this location.  Fort Anderson is much better preserved than Fort Fisher due to better protection from erosion and major storm surges.  However, Fort Anderson is built over the remains of Old Brunswick, which was established in 1726 by Maurice Moore as a planned community with lots laid out and sold.  It became a bustling port for tar, pitch, and turpentine during the early 1700s.  With two consecutive royal governors, Brunswick also was a political center for the North Carolina colony.  In September, 1748 two Spanish ships attacked the port capturing slaves and burned much of the town.  The citizens retook the town after a couple of days driving the Spanish back to their ships, one of the ships caught fire and sunk.  In 1765 the colonists challenged the collection of duties required by the Stamp Act and halted their collection eight years before the Boston Tea Party.  With the completion of the Tryon Palace in New Bern, the Colonial Governor William Tryon moved from Brunswick and with the growth of Wilmington as the major port, Brunswick’s future began to wain.  Their were only a few people still living in Brunswick when the British burned it in the spring of 1776 during the Revolutionary War.  Today the only above ground evidence of the old port is the remains of St. Phillips Church.  It took many decades to build St. Phillips beginning in 1729 and not completed until 1768.  It was burned in 1776 only 8 years later.  It’s walls still stand at the site marking the location of Old Brunswick.  There have been numerous archeological efforts that have found most of the foundations of the homes that are not covered over by Fort Anderson uncovering a lot of artifacts from the Colonial Period.  The short video about the history is very well done and the museum is outstanding.  It provides a lot of information about the history and artifacts found on the site.  The walk through the excavated foundations and through the remains of Fort Anderson is also well done.  However, the signage along the walk needs to be updated as much of it has weathered to the point it is no longer readable.  Still exploring the ruins of Old Brunswick made a great afternoon.

GregAtExcavation GregAtFortAnderson

Saturday we spent primarily watching soccer in the morning and football in the afternoon, even though Auburn’s game against La Tech was not shown on our cable.  We did take a couple of hours to visit Moores Creek National Battlefield so I could buy the lapel pin since the Visitor Center was closed when we were there last spring.  We also watched their short video about the battle and it’s significance as one of the battles that began the Revolutionary War, especially in North Carolina and the southern colonies.

Sunday was finally warm and sunny after three days of clouds and light rain.  We picked the perfect day to visit Cape Lookout National Seashore.  Even though the Visitor Center is located on Harkers Island which includes a couple of short hiking trails, the National Seashore can only be reached by ferry.   The Harkers Island Visitor Center was a disappointment as it included very little information about the ecology or history of Cape Lookout.  We understood that most of this information is located on Core Banks as well as the Lighthouse.  So we bought tickets for the ferry, grabbed our lunch, and took off for the island.  This turned out to be a great idea as the ferry pilot was a wealth of information about the barrier islands.  We took a side trip close to Shackleford Island where we saw a few of the wild horses that make up the herd on the island.  It is believed these horses are descendants of horses that were either brought to the islands or, more likely, survivors of Spanish shipwrecks.  They are certainly Spanish stock and survive on the islands by digging for fresh water using their hooves to dig shallow holes that fill up with water from the high water table.  We found out later that we could have gotten off on the island to get pictures of the horses, catching the next ferry over to the lighthouse.  We did get some pictures, but it would have been great to spend some time on the island.  After disembarking the ferry we proceeded immediately to the ocean side of the southern Core Banks to watch the ocean while we ate lunch.  We then spent time looking at the Lighthouse and the museum in the Lighthouse Keepers’ house.  I learned that there was an extensive system of Life Saving Stations all along the East Coast, including the Outer Banks.  These stations were manned by Life Savers, a uniformed service that merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the US Coast Guard.  Their service was focused on saving the crews of ships that ran aground or were shipwrecked during storms, which meant they were attempting these rescues during the worst weather.  The shoals at Cape Lookout were especially dangerous since shallow sand shoals extend over 20 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.  We also learned about the constant rolling of the barrier islands towards the mainland and how hurricanes continue to change the location and accessibility of the inlets through the islands.  For instance, it was a hurricane that separated the Core Banks from Shackleford Islands in 1933.  There is also a “Mule Train” that takes visitors to Cape Lookout Historic Village, although you actually ride in a trailer pulled by a truck.

LighthouseAndHouse ShacklefordHorse1

Monday we spent in the campground doing laundry, working on my blog and cleaning the RV.

On Tuesday we took a chance and went to Kinston, North Carolina to see the remains of the CSS Neuse, a Confederate Ironclad warship.  The CSS Neuse, virtually identical to its sister ship CSS Albemarle, was built in 1862-3 at Whitehall, North Carolina.  It was equipped with two 6.4 inch Brooke rifled cannon that could pivot to shoot out any of 4 gunports.  The CSS Neuse never saw action as a river ironclad, since she ran aground on a mudbank in the Neuse River attempting to attack forces near New Bern.  In March 1865, she was ordered to cover the retreat of the Confederate forces from Kinston from the advancing Union Army.  She kept the Union Army from crossing the river and then was burned and sunk before being captured.  The CSS Neuse set on the river bottom for just under 100 years when efforts were began to raise her.  To lighten the boat all of the existing interior structures that had survived the fire were removed (the cannons and iron had already been salvaged over the years) which was terrible.  The wreck would have been much more valuable and interesting if these structures had not been destroyed.  What does remain of the ironclad, which is just the lower hull, is now housed inside a museum in downtown Kinston.  Only the first of three phases of the museum is currently completed, so there is not much to see except the wooden hull with a plastic frame for the rest of the outside, which is still very impressive.  The rest of the museum has a lot of potential when it is finished some day.  Be sure to see the CSS Neuse II which is the only full scale reproduction of a Civil War Ironclad.  It provides a much better understanding of its dimensions and is located just a couple of blocks from the museum.

CSSNeuseFrame1 GregAndNeuseII