Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

First Stop.

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

The trick to traveling across country with 6 people in a minivan is getting out of the van every 3-4 hours.  In an attempt to meet this goal, we stopped at some pretty random places.  We also stopped at some great places that we should have visited a long time ago.  Our very first stop on this trip was just over the line in South Carolina at Kings Mountain National Military Park.  The battle of Kings Mountain is famous as a turning point in the Revolutionary War—the British lost a lot of Loyalist (American colonists who supported the British crown) support and the southern Patriots (American colonists rebelling against British control) were greatly buoyed by the win.

The part of the battle that resonated loudly with the Southerners in my minvan was, of course, the tale of the Overmountain Men.  As British commanders General Lord Charles Cornwallis and Major Patrick Ferguson marched north and inward from a victory in Charleston, their Loyalist troops were beleaguered by small guerrilla warfare attacks from North Carolina militia groups under Colonel Isaac Shelby and Colonel Charles McDowell.  Frustrated by these attacks, Ferguson apparently threatened to “march this army over the mountains, hang your leaders, and lay waste your country with fire and sword.”  The land “over the mountains” was part of the Carolinas at the time, although it would become Tennessee after the Revolutionary War.  Regardless of the name, the area was populated with rugged folk who were surviving without the benefit of city comforts like colonists on the coast.  They had been alternately battling and negotiating with the Indian tribes over land while openly flouting the British Treaty of Lochaber which banned English settlement in parts of the region.

Now I realize that Ferguson didn’t have the benefit of watching Patrick Swayze in Next of Kin.  But I have to wonder if British military commanders ran around England kicking ant hills or knocking hornets’ nests out of trees with sticks.  Because threatening the land and lives of a bunch of backwoods country folk is begging for a swarm of angry rednecks to come storming out of the trees and over the hills with every ounce of fire power that they can carry.  Which is exactly what happened.  Ferguson’s threat gathered men from current day Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with an estimated 1400 men heading to battle.  Ferguson and his Loyalists ended up stranded on the the top of Kings Mountain, surrounded by Patriot forces—the patriots primarily being frontiersmen well-used to the territory and very experienced with long guns.  Ferguson died there on the hill, along with many of his men, and the loss at Kings Mountain led Cornwallis to abandon his plans to invade North Carolina.

But before we start waving the stars and stripes around and celebrating the Patriot victory, it’s important to remember the reality of the battle at Kings Mountain.  The reality is that Major Patrick Ferguson was the only regular British soldier in the battle.  Every other participant was just a colonist turned soldier by the events of the day, an entire army of Americans turned against one another.  Uniforms and official attire were so lacking that the one of the informational plaques along the trail reported combatants used either a piece of paper or a bundle of twigs stuffed into their hats to identify each other as Patriot or Loyalist, respectively.  Impossible to know how many men died from “friendly fire” under those circumstances, but discouraging to consider how many times we’ve found ourselves as our very own enemy.

The battlefield trail is a mile and a half paved route through the woods and up the mountain.  The trail is studded with informational plaques, memorials, and monuments to commemorate the participants of the battle.    Some are fancy….

and some are not.

But the surroundings make it easy to imagine the fear and chaos these men faced while climbing into gunfire and bayonets on the hilltops or watching their opponent advance steadily on their position by moving from tree to tree, rock to rock; each side working its advantage.

In the visitor center we discovered a light-up map of the battle, which is our favorite type of battle display.  We’ve encountered several of these interactive maps at battlefield sites and they are very helpful for understanding exactly how the battle played out.  With the push of the button, lights will display the progress of each army across the map, with brilliant flickers along skirmish lines.  We could see how clearly Ferguson was surrounded, watch as Patriots advanced and retreated three time under bayonet charges before finally reaching the hilltop, and even follow the path of Patriots as they quickly exited the area with their prisoners of war the next day.  A simple but effective display for a generation raised on the buttons and lights of iPads and smartphones.

From there we hit the road for Caesars Head State Park where I had planned a more adventurous hike to Raven Cliff Falls.  There was no pavement here….

which is exactly what I was looking for to break up the car ride.  The 2.2 mile trail to the falls can be steep or rocky at times but it’s very manageable.  There was only a small section of stairs, which is the main criteria by which I judge hiking trails.  There should not be stairs on trails.  Trails are enjoyable, stairs are exercise.  Pretty clear cut to me.  At the overlook, we looked over at the falls.  The kids were not particularly impressed since, after 2.2 miles, the waterfall was still a good distance away.

But the kids didn’t want to man up for another 4 miles to get to the base of the falls, so we looked and then headed back to the car.  Believe it or not we still had more driving and a final stop.  I know.  Nothing says “vacation” like packing in the sights to see and places to be.

We arrived in Atlanta and checked into an Airbnb apartment on Peachtree St.  Which doesn’t tell you anything because every other street in Atlanta is named Peachtree.  But it was downtown so we walked through Centennial Olympic Park and the CNN center, by the Tabernacle and Margaret Mitchell Square, and listened to 3 minutes of music at Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint before leaving because we were too hungry to wait 45 minutes to eat.  The apartment had a cute little balcony so we ate our dinner looking at the skyscrapers and the crowded sidewalks and felt very urban.  Also, glad for the security at the front desk because cities take a bit of adjustment for me.  I have to remind myself that homeless camps and deserted buildings with smashed windows and trash all over the streets can be normal for the city and not a sign that my family is about to die in a mugging or a drive-by shooting.  While walking on the street I have to hold my purse close to my body and keep Little from staring and pointing at strangers doing strange things and try not to look lost and even though I am very clearly, obviously lost.  It’s exciting and interesting and scary and exhausting all at once.  Which makes visiting a city exactly like living in a city.

We ended our first day of vacation with a ride on SkyView Atlanta.

Which is very touristy but also fun.  Well, it’s fun when the ferris wheel isn’t actually turning because the turning (and the creaking and motor whining) is the scary part.  And it’s fun when the kids aren’t rocking the gondola because that’s terrifying.  And it’s fun for the first few trips around but 5 times around is way  overdoing it and more than I paid for (or wanted) with my Groupon.

We weren’t done with Georgia yet but we were done for the day.  And thanks to Airbnb we had beds for all the kids and a separate bedroom for the adults.  Unlike all the cheap hotels we crammed into last year.  Of course, this year the kids decided they were too big to share beds, even full size beds.  So despite all my extra planning to keep kids from sleeping on the floor on hotel rooms, a couple kids slept on the floor in the family room of the apartment.  Because just when you think you’re ahead of the game, some kid changes the rules.

Welcome to family vacation.  Where if your family members aren’t complaining about something, you’d be afraid they were dead. 😉


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