Why the Battle of Blackstock's Farm is Important Today
On the weekend of October 15, 2022, my wife, Renee, and I participated in a Revolutionary War
reenactment in Union County at the Cross Keys Plantation on Old Buncombe Road called the Battle of Blackstock’s Farm. It was our first event dressed in authentic Colonial American garb, playing the roles of a backcountry South Carolina merchant and his wife. Throughout the weekend, we shepherded visitors. I performed as the Town Cryer, announcing the upcoming activities and events. Renee demonstrated hand-sewing techniques for Colonial clothing and taught how to make clay marbles and cornhusk dolls. The event was well-attended, with rare breaks for the reenactors and living history presenters.
Among the participants was Dr. Erick Nason, renowned American Revolution expert, and author, playing the role of Colonel Thomas Sumter, the Fighting Gamecock, leader of the Patriot forces. Don Crawley, a veteran reenactor, played the role of British foe Colonel Banastre “Bloody Ban” Tarleton of the Green Dragoons, feared horsemen of the British Legion. Dr. Adam Charles, professor of History at the University of South Carolina – Union, recounted various facets of the battle. Other participants demonstrated cooking, meat preservation without refrigeration, fire-starting without matches, rifle and musket lore, primitive camping, and blacksmithing.
Gearing up for reenacting and presenting is costly, so perhaps you wonder why someone would want to become involved in such events. Renee and I, along with other dedicated South Carolina reenactors, wish to preserve our Southern Revolutionary War history and South Carolina heritage. Our state’s public schools teach little about the critical involvement of our ancestors in throwing off the yoke of an authoritarian form of government. We wish to change this situation, as our children should understand what makes us Americans.
British statesman Winston Churchill once said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” He was not the only one to espouse this sentiment. As I have grown older, I have realized how true this statement is. We don’t have long memories of historical details, even when those details are what made America the Land of Liberty in the first place. By reenacting Revolutionary War events, teaching about the hardships overcome by Colonial Americans, and explaining the reasons our unique Declaration of Independence and Constitution came about, we hope to preserve our freedoms.
Further, resurrecting our own South Carolina involvement in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War is a matter of pride! Without our fighting backcountry pioneer ancestors, America would not have won the War of Independence. By ignoring our history, we court the return of an oppressive government through a lack of understanding.
So what? Ho hum.
Renee, as an educator, and I, as a writer, produce articles, books, and living history presentations to raise awareness of South Carolina’s deep involvement in the American Revolution. However, winning this war against tyranny required the combined efforts of all thirteen original Colonies. The happenings in each Colony had a bearing on them all. It was a sink-or-swim period in American history. We would rise as a free nation or become a vassal state ruled by a king. Overviews like this are excellent for the history classroom, but Renee and I want to remind everyone that our ancestors were real people with thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams – not just words on a page or entertainment on a screen.
To memorialize the Battle of Blackstock’s Farm is not to remember inane moments in time but to recall a turning point in a war that would make or break this country. Here, in our backyard, on November 20, 1780, about a thousand untrained militiamen, mostly South Carolina farmers from all around Union (Unionsville), stood up to an expert contingent of the dreaded British Legion under “Bloody Ban” Tarleton – most powerful army on earth – and defeated them. It was a defining moment in the war because it showed the struggling Patriots that they could beat the British Legion. Although this was one fight among many, further British defeats in South Carolina throughout 1780 and 1781 led directly to Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781.
So, what does this have to do with us today, especially small-town Southinians? Only the freedom of our great nation. By recalling the legacy of our forebearers and teaching it to our children, we instill pride in being South Carolinians and solidify our stance against forces constantly trying to erode the Five Freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution of the United States. These are Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition. We may worship as we please, say what we wish, write what we want, gather peaceably in groups, and make our desires known to our government without fear of incarceration or sanction. If we plan to remain a nation indivisible with “freedom and justice for all,” we must protect the Constitution. Because our backcountry ancestors fought for these rights and formed a new government “by the people, for the people,” we are the envy of the world.
Currently, the South Carolina American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission, along with local 250th Anniversary Celebration Committees around the state, are promoting research, preservation, and tourism of our state’s museums and battlegrounds. Why? The year 2026 marks the two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. While it is a national event, Renee and I believe it is even more important for South Carolinians to remember our deep Colonial roots and contribution to forming this great nation. It could not have happened without the good ole boys and girls from down South. Hey, this sounds like a bumper sticker!
For more information about our Backcountry South Carolina Revolutionary War ancestors, read Ford the Pacholet, an American Revolutionary War Novel Culminating in the Pivotal Battle of Cowpens. Find the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Hub City Books, and most other booksellers. You may contact Richard Meehan through his publisher, Noggin Universe Press (www.nogginuniverse.com).