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Kings Mountain Photo Series

June 20, 2008

On Thursday morning, as part of our class on Insurgency and Counterinsurgency, we traveled by bus to Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina (near Charlotte, North Carolina). On the way there we were assigned a chapter from The American Creation by Joseph Ellis. The chapter’s title is “The Winter” and it is an exploration of the condition of the Continental Army during the winter of 1777-78. I know I’ve studied the Revolutionary War before, but reading this chapter made me realize that I hadn’t considered it carefully. I had just skimmed the surface in grade school text books, which is obviously not sufficient.

We saw how sentimental revolutionary lore often permeates our national consciousness and distorts our understanding of the horrors of war. Americans, even today, mistakenly believe that the ideals of patriotism or the spread of democracy can support a war, but George Washington recognized that as deceptive.

Men may speculate as they will—they may talk of patriotism—they may draw a few examples from ancient stories of great achievements performed by its influence; but, whoever builds upon it, as a sufficient basis, for conducting a long and bloody War, will find themselves deceived in the end. We must take the passions of Men, as nature has given them, and those principles as a guide . . . I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert that a great and lasting War can never be supported on this principle alone . . . For a time it may, of itself, push men to action—to bear much—to encounter difficulties; but it will not endure unassisted by interest.

At Kings Mountain we were given roles, with monologues taken from primary sources like personal diaries. We “hiked” the Battlefield Trail, which is a comfortably paved path around the crest of the mountain. (Check out my sandals. I was fine!) Every hundred yards or so we would stop and listen to a monologue. My assignment was to provide a broad historical context for the battle at Kings Mountain. I could have been a Patriot supporter, but a land owner rather than a soldier. My monologue set the stage for the Patriot troops surrounding and taking revenge upon the troops led by British commanders Tarleton and Cornwallis.

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russell crandall talks to the group

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kings mountain battlefield trail

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the sandals I wore on the hike

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kings mountain memorial

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role playing on kings mountain

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role playing on kings mountain

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  1. June 22, 2008 9:26 am

    This brings back memories.

    My dear ol’ dad is quite the passionate amateur historian. Since “retirement” he’s made a living building camp furnishings for museums, film sets, and reenactors: Living History Shop (

    He was contacted by Columbia Pictures and asked to build camp furnishings for Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot.” Astute negotiator that he is, his reply was, “Sure, as long as my son and I can get parts in the film.”

    And so I found myself in South Carolina, September-October, 1999.

    For two weeks or so I was a Revolutionary War soldier (a member of the militia), learning how to march, drill, maneuver and fire in formation. Covered in film makeup and fake blood. Acting near realistic sets made of fiberglass and trees with stapled-on leaves. Long intense days which began at 3:30 AM with drum and fife wake-up call for breakfast and makeup/wardrobe, and ended at 7:30 PM with an exhausted shower in the temporary facilities they’d set up on that beautiful farm.

    King’s Mountain was a field trip on our day off, a chance to appreciate the history we were attempting to recreate.

    Favorite line from the film: “Why trade one tyrant three thousand miles away, for three thousand tyrants one mile away?” I still ponder that one.

    As part of a rag-tag, motley β€” and despised by the British β€” local insurgency movement…a movement which did not fight “fair” according to conventional rules of war, I was reminded of one universal principle: one man’s “terrorist” is another man’s “freedom fighter.”

    Depends who posseses the victorious quill pen at the conclusion of the conflict.


    Yes, I did meet Mad Max.

  2. June 22, 2008 1:12 pm

    It sounds like you had an interesting and educational adventure. I like Joseph Ellis. “Founding Brothers” provides some interesting insight on early American history. “American Sphinx” is a good read on Thomas Jefferson. As always, the pictures are way neato. Have a great day πŸ™‚

  3. June 23, 2008 9:41 am

    Wow, Rick, that is awesome!

    Thanks, Johnny.

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