Lesson Plan: Overview

The Battle of Huck's Defeat

Grade Level: 8th

Battle of Huck's Defeat

Academic Standards

Standard 8-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution—the beginnings of the new American nation and South Carolina’s part in the development of that nation.

8-2.1 Explain the interests and roles of South Carolinians in the events leading to the American Revolution, including the state’s reactions to the Stamp Act and the Tea Act; the role of Christopher Gadsden and the Sons of Liberty; and the role of the four South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence—Edward Rutledge, Henry Middleton, Thomas Lynch Jr., and Thomas Heyward Jr.


Social Studies Literacy Elements
K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships
O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories

Historical Background Notes

The emphasis of the American Revolution shifted to the South in 1780. In May, General Benjamin Lincoln was forced to surrender Charles Town - the largest surrender by Patriot forces in the American Revolution. The British, under Lord Charles Cornwallis, planned to secure the South by relying on help from Loyalists and marching North to join the other British. Sir Henry Clinton offered a parole that many South Carolinians took. However, after Buford's Massacre (May 29) in the Waxhaws, many in the Backcountry renounced the parole. Clinton also required a new oath that many Patriots refused to take.

The British commander in Camden, Lord Rawdon, sent Captain Christian Huck to silence Rev. John Simpson, a Presbyterian minister in the Backcountry, who was opposed to British authority. Huck was attached to Banastre Tarleton's New York Volunteers, a large Tory militia. They roamed in the region between the Broad and Catawba Rivers, targeting William "Billy" Hill, William Bratton, and John McClure.

On July 11, Huck arrived at Bratton's home (now known as Brattonsville) where he threatened Mrs. Martha Bratton if she did not tell where Col. Bratton was. She refused and sent Watt, a Bratton slave, to warn the Patriots. Huck proceeded to Williamson's Plantation (the exact site of which is not exactly determined at this time)

At dawn of July 12, Bratton and John McClure divided their patriot miltita and attacked Huck. The battle lasted about an hour. The British lost 25-50 killed, many wounded, and 29 captured. Huck was killed. The Patriots lost one man. The result of Huck's defeat was that many backcountry Carolinians rallied around the Patriots and fought in October's battle at Kings Mountain.


Primary Sources
Bratton, John. William Bratton’s Account of Huck's defeat. n.d. (43/1018). South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston, South Carolina.
Bratton, William William Bratton Junior's Reminiscences of Huck's Defeat . Transcribed by Michael C. Scoggins. York County Historical Center, Rock Hill, South Carolina. July 2001.
Hill, William . Col. William Hill's Memoirs of the Revolution. ed. A.S. Salley. Columbia, S.C.: The State Co., 1921.
Secondary Sources
Thomas, Sam. The 1780 Presbyterian Rebellion. Courtesy of the York County Culture and Heritage Commission. Accessed 31 August 2004.
"National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet." Available from http://www.archives.gov ; Internet, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Education Staff. Accessed 31 August 2004.

Lesson Plans

This lesson asks students to analyze different historical accounts of the same event to try and find out "what really happened." The lesson will take one class period of approximately 90 minutes.
1. For context, students will first read The 1780 Presbyterian Rebellion and the Battle of Huck's Defeat
2. Students will be given Col. Bratton's primary source account of the Battle of Huck's Defeat. They will work in pairs to transcribe it.
3. After a period of time, students will be given a transcription of Col. Bratton's account along with the National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet. After completing the document analysis worksheet, students will read Col. Hill's account and compare it with Col. Bratton's account.
4. The class will discuss the difficulties in transcribing. More importantly, the class will discuss the process by which history is interpreted. For example, what distinguishes a primary source from a secondary source? How do primary sources inform Sam Thomas's secondary account ( The 1780 Presbyterian Rebellion and the Battle of Huck's Defeat ) of the battle? What biases are apparent in the Thomas secondary account?
5. Extension activity: Students will pretend to be either a Patriot or a Loyalist soldier and will write a diary or letter account of the battle
6. Students will pretend they are a Brattonsville artifact, and will write a first person account of the battle-from the point of view of that artifact.

Teacher Reflections

The lesson on the Battle of Huck's Defeat or the Battle of Williamson's Plantation provided an extension of lessons I had done in the past. I have always felt that it was important for the students in my classes to know about this small battle that occurred so close to where they live. Most of my students have been to Brattonsville by the time they are in the eighth grade, and the investigation into this battle increases their knowledge of the importance of local history. As Jefferson Smith said in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, "History is more than just words in a book."

When I approached Kevin Lynch about this lesson, he gave me materials that were used at the reenactment of the battle. He then referred me to Michael Scoggins at the Historical Center of York. The Historical Center and Brattonsville are both part of the History, Culture, & Heritage Commission of York County. Michael has done extensive research on the battle and graciously shared his thesis paper and resources with me. One of the resources was William Bratton, Junior's Reminiscences of Huck's Defeat , an account of the battle that was dictated to his son sometime in the 1800s. Sam Thomas, Curator of the History, Culture & Heritage Commission, has also written much about the battle. Both of these men were invaluable in preparing this lesson.

The students had been introduced to primary sources and had used some transcribed sources before this lesson. This was the first one where they had an actual copy of the handwritten document. Their first reaction was one of "I can't read this," which gradually changed to "This is pretty cool." I made the mistake of giving the entire document to my first class to transcribe. Not only was that overwhelming for them, it was a disaster in terms of time. Learning from that mistake, I gave another class the entire document but assigned each pair of students one section to transcribe. This was much more successful and taught me that it was much better to give them small bites of documents to work with rather than to try the entire document at once.

Another thing that helped was to have the pairs of students read portions of the document aloud to each other. Again, this was not as overwhelming to them in terms of understanding. I have found that often when they hear the person's words instead of just reading them, they comprehend better. Perhaps in hearing things said, they don't concentrate as much on the differences in terms used then and now or in the differences in spelling.

Last semester's lesson dealt mainly with William Bratton's account of the battle. Since it was the first time I had done a lesson exactly like this, I had the students concentrate on one document. I have added Col. William Hill's account to the lesson for this semester. The students will know about Col. Hill because they will have studied Hill's Iron Works and its importance to early York County. (I think there is an opportunity for another primary source lesson with this topic.)

I created a set of questions for the students to use to help them focus on the key aspects of Bratton's story. This seemed to help all of the students, especially the ones who have a lower level of reading.

Using the example of William Bratton telling his story to his son to write was an excellent springboard to teach the students about talking with their parents, grandparents, or other adults about their experiences. I gave them a chance to think about stories that they had heard in their families and how these stories are often handed down from generation to generation. We talked about how they have an opportunity to record stories just as John Bratton recorded his dad's except now they have many more ways of recording stories. In a future lesson, an extension of this lesson may be to interview a family member or friend about their memories of an important historical or family event in order to preserve it for their family. This is a way to teach the student that our present is tomorrow's history.

An activity that I used in review of the Revolutionary War unit was to have students tell the story of one of the events from the viewpoint of an object that was present. Several students told the story of Huck's Defeat from the viewpoint of the scythe or sickle that threatened Mrs. Bratton. This proved to be a popular activity with the students who could use their creative writing to show an understanding of an event.

This is a lesson that will definitely be used, refined, and shared with the other members of the history department of my school.

Student Assessments

Assessment of student learning from the written activities will follow these guidelines:

A = The student demonstrates an extensive knowledge of the events leading up to and during the battle. The grammar is correct and the content is free of errors.

B = The student demonstrates a basic knowledge of the events. The grammar is correct and the content has only minor errors.

C = The student demonstrates some knowledge of the event. There are grammatical and content errors.

F = The student demonstrates little knowledge of the event. There are numerous errors.

Examples of Students Work

The Threatening Scythe
Just a Scythe


Cynthia Jonas
York Junior High School, South Carolina