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Battleground tribute

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Site of Buford’s Massacre draws 200 for annual commemoration

By Greg Gregory

America’s independence was conceived in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, David Reuwer of the S.C. Battlefield Trust told a crowd gathered in Buford on May 25.
“But the bloody labor and delivery room is right here in South Carolina,” Reuwer shouted during the 239th commemoration of Buford’s Massacre on what he called “sacred ground” in eastern Lancaster County.
More than 200 attended the service, some coming from as far away as Virginia and Florida.
In a one-sided rout on May 29, 1780, British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s mounted Green Dragoons’ killed most of Col. Abraham Buford’s 11th Virginia Regiment near the present-day intersection of Pageland Highway and Rocky River Road in the community that bears Buford’s name.
In less than 15 minutes that day, 113 patriots were dead, 150 were wounded and 53 were missing. The average number of saber and bayonet wounds per soldier was 16.
“We’re here today to tell their story and honor their memory,” said Greg Ohanesian, a Bennettsville attorney and member of the S.C. Society Sons of the American Revolution.
Nat Kaminski, another member of the group, noted that 1780 was a dark time in our country’s history. The British had launched a military campaign designed to crush all resistance and wipe out the Continental Army in the south.
“Things could not have looked grimmer for that patriot cause, but the fact is this bloody battleground left southern patriots seething,” Kaminski said. 
Instead of deflating American resolve, the massacre strengthened it, tipping the scales in the fight for liberty, said Ken Obriot, of the Friends of the Buford Massacre Battleground. The friends group helps preserve the site.
Colonists who had been sitting on the sidelines, Obriot noted, joined forces with the patriots to help drive the British out the Carolinas and to their eventual surrender at Yorktown.
“What happened here ignited the colonies and people of this region against the British…. It was an unbearable cruelty, yet its outcome preserved our freedom,” he said.
Ohanesian noted that the Feburary 1967 death of his uncle in Vietnam spurred him to join the military. Ohanesian, who also had a cousin killed in action there, said when those we know and love get hurt or killed, it’s time to take a stand.
“We’ve all had people in our families that have made great sacrifices, and I appreciate all of them,” he said.
Franklin honored
Congressman Ralph Norman honored the legacy of Emily Franklin at the annual commemoration.
The unofficial ambassador and caretaker of the battleground site, “Miss Emily” died in June 2017 and Norman presented her son, Ed Franklin, with the copy of the resolution recently read into the Congressional Record to honor her, along with an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. He also presented a congressional coin to Ed Franklin.
Norman noted that Emily Franklin had a lifelong passion and resolve to preserve and protect the battlefield soil where patriot blood was spilt.
The mass grave at the site, dug by community residents after the battle, contains the bodies of 84 Virginians killed that day. Franklin was a descendant of the Rev. Jacob “Preacher” Carnes, who at age 17 was forced by British troops to help dig the grave.
Before placing a wreath on the monument wall patio, Norman paraphrased Winston Churchill’s admonition that doing your best isn’t always good enough. With freedom, he said, we may have to do whatever is required.
“These men did what was required,” Norman said.  

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Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at (803) 283-1156.