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Community joins in Buford Battleground clean-up

By Greg Summers

By late Saturday afternoon, Feb. 9, the 20-yard metal dumpster between the Daughters of the American Revolution monument at Buford Battleground and the monument placed there during the 226th anniversary was full of brush and yard debris for the second time.

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An inspection of the 2-acre property shows a few sawed-up limbs on the ground that wouldn’t fit into the dumpster.

There are also several mounds of fresh-raked leaves on the back of the tract near a barbed-wire fence where cattle do what cattle do.

A closer look is also a case of what you don’t see, too.

The bronze emblem from the front of Sons of the American Revolution monument is missing, probably stolen by an uncaring thief who is oblivious to what happened there about 3 p.m. May 29, 1780.

The only thing that shows an emblem was ever affixed there is a stark, carved-out shape in the top of the granite marker.

“It was there in December,” Ken Obriot said of the missing emblem. “Some low-life, I guess. What could they get for something like that, a couple of dollars?”

When it comes to the Buford Battleground, Obriot, a veteran himself, pays attention and is as passionate about the site as he is his motorcycle. When it comes to enjoying a backyard ride, he said there is nothing better than camaraderie and a little fresh air.

That’s how he learned about the battleground, which is due south of the Pageland Highway/Rocky River Road intersection. He found it during a “live-to-ride/ride-to-eat” sojourn with the Sun City Carolina Lakes Motorcycle Club about two years ago.

It’s the sort of spot most motorists speed by without a second thought, though some, including Obriot, still care about what happened there. He’s never forgotten that day or their chance meeting with “Miss Emily” Carnes Franklin, who was there raking leaves.

She told them when the smoke cleared, 113 of Buford’s men were dead and 253 men were taken prisoner, including 150 men who were wounded by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s Green Dragoons.
Tarleton’s troops showed no mercy that day in a one-sided battle that earned the British commander his “Bloody Ban” nickname.

According to “The Buford Massacre” by local historian Louise Pettus, an American soldier who was there said the average number of saber and bayonet wounds per soldier was 16.

Franklin also told them how local residents were forced at gunpoint to bury 84 soldiers in a mass grave, around which the current memorial stands and later, bury another 25 in a still-undiscovered grave somewhere on the battlefield.

“The loss of life in such a brief amount of time (about 15 minutes) is staggering,” Obriot said. “Think about the horror of it. These soldiers need to be honored. They paid the ultimate sacrifice.”  

Stirring words from a man who isn’t even from here. The Michigan-born and raised Obriot moved to Lancaster County about three years ago from Pennsylvania.

Buford’s troops weren’t from here, either.

None of that matters, Obriot said. The only thing that matters is what the 11th Virginia Regiment did there 233 years ago, and how their courage is credited with changing the fight for America’s independence.
Wayne Roberts, an archaeologist for the S.C. Department of Transportation, said in a past interview that the Buford Massacre “got everybody who was sitting on the fence off of it.”

“You know, there is nothing pretty about death and war,” Obriot said. “We seem to have forgotten that. These men were our first American veterans. No one speaks for them. How quickly we seem to forget.”

The Friends of Buford Massacre Battleground are speaking in their place.

That’s why they, along with other supporters and Buford High School JROTC students, were at the battleground this past weekend to clean it up. It’s a place where backyard motorcycle rides include raking brown, decaying hardwood leaves into piles and cutting up tree branches with chainsaws.

Obriot said the Buford Battleground is also a place where community service intertwines with local history.

“It’s a joy to see that light bulb come on when you describe what happened here to a younger generation,” Obriot said. “We are finally getting the message through that this is their history and roots. If we can get them interested in it, the better off we are.”

Contact copy editor Gregory A. Summers at (803) 283-1156.