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BAttle of Kings Mountain - History

BAttle of Kings Mountain - History

Battle of Kings Mountain 1780

Major Ferguson was patrolling North Carolina with a force of over 1,000 Tory supporters attempting to pacify the countryside. 1,200 militia men, most from North Carolina gathered to stop Ferguson and his troops. Ferguson realized that they were overtaking him, he organized his defenses atop King's Mountain,On October 7, 1780 the militia arrived at the base of the mountain and surrounded it. The defenders' losses quickly mounted and, when Ferguson was killed, the fight went out of the remaining soldiers. Of the Tory troops, 157 were killed, 163 were severely wounded and 698 were captured. The patriot militia lost only 28 killed and 62 wounded.

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After his back-to-back victories in Charleston and at Camden, Cornwallis was anxious to extend his control over North Carolina. He sent Colonel Ferguson, who commanded a force of American loyalists to the west, where he established a headquarters at Gilbert Town. His forces were being augmented with the arrival of additional loyalists. Ferguson's forces grew to 1,200 men. As his confidence grew, he issued an ultimatum, stating that they must " from their opposition to British arms' If not they would march, march, over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword", statement had the opposite effect from what he was hoping. Instead of cowing those opposing Great Britain, it galvanized support for them. Rebels gathered from far and near.

Fegurson realized he was in trouble and feared he would soon be outnumbered. He requested reinforcements from Cornwallis, but soon began marching his troops towards Charlotte and Cornwallis' additional soldiers.

Along the way Ferguson seems to have concluded that he would not be able to reach Cornwallis before being attacked by the colonials. He thus decided to make a stand on King's Mountain. He believed that despite being outnumbered the mountain would give his better train troops and advantage over attackers that would be forced to scale the mountain. On October 8th, 1780, the American rebels, led by Major Capbell, began an assault on the top of the mountain. 1,800 American rebels began their assault on the 1,000 Loyalists above.

Ferguson had assumed that the thick foliage surrounding the mountain would act as a natural barrier to the Americans scaling it. Instead it was the perfect camouflage. The Americans were able to climb the mountain while often maintaining cover behind trees and rocks. The Americans made there way up three sides of the mountain. When they reached the top they were able to put down withering fire on the unprotected loyalists. Within moments they tried to surrender. Ferguson tried to lead a charge down the mountain, but was cut down by fire within seconds.

The rebels showed no compassion towards the surrendering loyalists, killing many and even executing a few of the prisoners. King's Mountain was a major American victory. Over 300 loyalists were killed or wounded and over 600 were captured. Cornwallis was forced to abandon his plans to subdue North Carolina.


The Battle of Kings Mountain

After his success in battle at Camden, South Carolina, Revolutionary War General Cornwallis decided to march into North Carolina. The General sent Major Patrick Ferguson, a native of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, into the backcountry of South Carolina to protect his left flank. As a British officer, Ferguson was an advocate of light infantry, who had designed his own rifle and was successful in recruiting nearly 1,000 British loyalists in South Carolina to fight with him.

Ferguson arrived in North Carolina with his militia in early September 1780. He issued challenges to the locals to lay down their arms or suffer the consequences. He made it clear that he would kill anyone in his way and destroy their towns and homes.

Ferguson’s comments cultivated serious anger from the backcountry forces. Col. Isaac Shelby and John Sevier agreed that they should take the offensive. They called for a rendezvous on September 25 at Sycamore Shoals, now in Tennessee. On that day, Sevier and Shelby arrived, with 240 troops known as the “over the mountain men,” to join Col. Charles McDowell who was already there with 160 North Carolina riflemen. They were later joined by Col. William Campbell from Virginia with 400 troops. They would pick up another 100 troops in the area of Burke County, North Carolina. By October 1, they were near Kings Mountain with 900 eager to fight militia. The mountain was named for the King family that maintained a farm at the base of the mountain.

After receiving information on a pending attack, Ferguson decided to join Cornwallis near Charlotte. It was October 7, 1780, with the Patriots versus the Loyalists at Kings Mountain, close to the border of North and South Carolina.

Ferguson positioned his men atop the mountain expecting the high ground to give him the advantage. That the Patriots caught up with Ferguson was a complete surprise. Ferguson, who was well known for his silver whistle signals, ordered British troops into a bayonet charge down the mountain. The Patriot attack came from behind and they killed Ferguson, after which his men surrendered.


Contents

On October 14, 1780, Continental Army commander General George Washington chose Nathanael Greene, a Rhode Island Quaker officer, to be commander of the Southern Department of the rebel Continental forces. [7] Greene's task was not an easy one. In 1780 the Carolinas had been the scene of a long string of disasters for the Continental Army, the worst being the capture of one American army under Gen. Benjamin Lincoln in May 1780, at the siege of Charleston. The British took control of this city, the largest in the South and the capital of South Carolina, and occupied it. Later that year another Colonial army, commanded by Gen. Horatio Gates, was destroyed at the Battle of Camden. A victory of Colonial militia over their Loyalist counterparts at the Battle of Kings Mountain on the northwest frontier in October had bought time, but most of South Carolina was still occupied by the British. When Greene took command, the southern army numbered 2307 men (on paper, 1482 present), of whom only 949 were Continental regulars, mostly of the famous and highly trained "Maryland Line" regiment. [8]

On December 3, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan reported for duty to Greene's headquarters at Charlotte, North Carolina. [9] At the start of the Revolution, Morgan, whose military experience dated to the French and Indian War (1754–1763), had served at the siege of Boston in 1775. [10] Later he participated in the 1775 invasion of Canada and its climactic battle, the Battle of Quebec. That battle, on December 31, 1775, ended in defeat and Morgan's capture by the British. [11]

Morgan was exchanged in January 1777 and placed by George Washington in command of a picked force of 500 trained riflemen, known as Morgan's Riflemen. Morgan and his men played a key role in the 1777 victory at Saratoga along the Hudson River in upstate New York, which proved to be a turning point of the entire war. [12] Bitter after being passed over for promotion and plagued by severe attacks of sciatica, Morgan left the rebel army in 1779. A year later he was promoted to brigadier general and returned to service in the Southern Department. [13]

Greene decided that his weak army was unable to meet the British in a stand-up fight. He made the unconventional decision to divide his army, sending a detachment west of the Catawba River to raise the morale of the locals and find supplies beyond the limited amounts available around Charlotte. [14] Greene gave Morgan command of this wing and instructed him to join with the militia west of the Catawba and take command of them. [15] Morgan headed west on December 21, charged with taking position between the Broad and Pacolet rivers, and protecting the civilians in that area. He had 600 men, some 400 of which were Continentals, mostly the Marylanders. The rest were Virginia militia who had experience as Continentals. [16] By Christmas Day Morgan had reached the Pacolet River. He was joined by 60 more South Carolina militia led by the experienced guerrilla partisan Andrew Pickens. [17] Other militia from Georgia and the Carolinas joined Morgan's camp. [18]

Meanwhile, Lord Cornwallis was planning to return to North Carolina and conduct the invasion that he had postponed after the defeat at Kings Mountain. [19] Morgan's force represented a threat to his left. Additionally, Cornwallis received incorrect intelligence claiming that Morgan was going to attack the important British fort of American Loyalists at Ninety Six, in western South Carolina. Seeking to save the fort and defeat Morgan's command, Cornwallis on January 2 ordered cavalry (dragoons) Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to the west. [ citation needed ]

Tarleton was 26 years old and had enjoyed a spectacular career in his service with the British in the colonies. In December 1776, he and a small party surprised and captured Colonial Gen. Charles Lee in New Jersey. He served with distinction at the siege of Charleston and the Battle of Camden. Commanding the British Legion, a mixed infantry/cavalry force composed of American Loyalists who constituted some of the best British troops in the Carolinas, Tarleton won victories at Monck's Corner and Fishing Creek. He became infamous among Colonists after his victory at the Battle of Waxhaws, because his men had killed American soldiers after they had surrendered. In Tarleton's account published in the British Isles in 1781, he said that his horse had been shot from under him during the initial charge and his men, thinking him dead, engaged in "a vindictive asperity not easily restrained". [20]

Tarleton and the Legion marched to Ninety Six. After learning Morgan was not there, Tarleton decided to increase his forces. He asked for reinforcements of British regulars, which Cornwallis sent. Tarleton set out with his enlarged command to drive Morgan across the Broad River. [21] On January 12 he received accurate news of Morgan's location and continued with hard marching, building boats to cross rivers that were flooding with winter rains. [22] Receiving word that Tarleton was in hot pursuit, Morgan retreated north, to avoid being trapped between Tarleton and Cornwallis. [23]

By the afternoon of the 16th, Morgan was approaching the Broad River, which was high with flood waters and reported difficult to cross. He knew Tarleton was close behind. By nightfall he had reached a place called locally "Hannah's Cowpens", a well-known grazing area for local cattle. [24] Pickens, who had been patrolling, arrived that night to join Morgan with his large body of irregular militia. Morgan decided to stand and fight rather than continue to retreat and risk being caught by Tarleton while fording the Broad River. Learning of Morgan's location, Tarleton pushed his troops, marching at 3 a.m. instead of camping for the night. [25]

Continental force Edit

The size of the American force at Cowpens remains in dispute. Morgan claimed in his official report to have had about 800 men at Cowpens, which is substantially supported by historian John Buchanan, whose estimate is between 800 and 1000 men. [26] In contrast, historian Lawrence E. Babits, in his detailed study of the battle, estimates that the strength of Morgan's command on the day of the battle was closer to 1,900, composed of:

  • A battalion of Continental infantry under Lt. Col. John Eager Howard of Baltimore, with one company from Delaware ("Delaware Line"), one from Virginia, and three from the famous stalwart "Maryland Line" regiment, each with a strength of sixty men (300) [27]
  • A company of Virginia state militia troops under Captain John Lawson [28] (75) [29]
  • A company of South Carolina state troops under Captain Joseph Pickens (60) [30]
  • A small company of North Carolina state troops under Captain Henry Connelly (number not given) [28]
  • A Virginia militia battalion under Frank Triplett [31] (160) [32]
  • Three companies of Virginia militia under Major David Campbell (50) [33]
  • A battalion of North Carolina militia under Colonel Joseph McDowell (260–285) [34]
  • A brigade of four battalions of South Carolina militia under Colonel Andrew Pickens, comprising a three-company battalion of the Spartan Regiment under Lt. Col. Benjamin Roebuck, a four-company battalion of the Spartan Regiment under Col. John Thomas, five companies of the Little River Regiment under Lt. Col. Joseph Hayes, and seven companies of the Fair Forest Regiment under Col. Thomas Brandon. Babits states [35] that this battalion "ranged in size from 120 to more than 250 men". If Roebuck's three companies numbered 120 and Brandon's seven companies numbered 250, then Thomas's four companies probably numbered about 160 and Hayes's five companies about 200, for a total of 730.
  • Three small companies of Georgia militia commanded by Major Cunningham [36] who numbered 55 [37]
  • A detachment of the 1st and 3rd Continental Light Dragoons under Lt. Col. William Washington (82), who was a second cousin of Gen. George Washington. [38]
  • Detachments of state dragoons from North Carolina and Virginia (30) [39]
  • A detachment of South Carolina state dragoons, with a few mounted Georgians, commanded by Major James McCall (25) [40]
  • A company of newly raised volunteers from the local South Carolina militia commanded by Major Benjamin Jolly (45) [41]

Babits's figures can be summarized as follows: 82 Continental light dragoons, 55 state dragoons, 45 militia dragoons, 300 Continental infantry, about 150 state infantry, and 1,255–1,280 militia infantry, for a total of 1,887–1,912 officers and men. Broken down by state, there were about 855 South Carolinians, 442 Virginians, 290–315 North Carolinians, 180 Marylanders, 60 Georgians, and 60 Delawareans.

Morgan's forces were strengthened by these core elements of relatively seasoned troops and his own brilliance in leadership. His Continentals were veterans (Marylanders from the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn), and many of his militia, which included some Overmountain Men, who had fought at the Battle of Musgrove Mill and the Battle of Kings Mountain. The experienced British forces (and particularly their relatively young commander) were accustomed, especially in the Southern Theater, to easily routing often "green" militia, and could have underestimated the opposition.

British force Edit

  • The British Legion: 250 cavalry and 200 infantry, [42]
  • A troop of the 17th Light Dragoons (50),
  • A battery of the Royal Artillery (24) with two 3-pounder cannons [43] (177)
  • Light infantry company of the 16th Regiment of Foot (42) under Major Arthur MacArthur (334)
  • Light company of the Loyalist Prince of Wales's American Regiment (31)
  • A company of Loyalist guides (50)

A total of over 1,150 officers and men. [44]

Broken down by troop classification, there were 300 cavalry, 553 regulars, 24 artillerymen, and 281 militia. From these numbers, around half of Tarleton's force were Loyalist troops recruited in the colonies (531 out of 1,158). Tarleton's regular troops from the Royal Artillery, 17th Light Dragoons, and the 7th, 16th, and 71st Regiments of Foot were reliable and seasoned soldiers. [45] Tarleton's own Loyalist unit, the British Legion, had established a fierce reputation as formidable pursuers, being used to great effect at Waxhaws and Camden, [46] but had an uncertain reputation when facing determined opposition. [46]

Morgan's plan Edit

Daniel Morgan turned to his advantage the landscape of Cowpens, the varying reliability of his troops, his expectations of his opponent, and the time available before Tarleton's arrival. [47] Morgan knew that untrained militiamen, which comprised a large portion of his force, were generally unreliable in a pitched battle, and in the past had routed at the first hint of defeat and abandoned the regulars. [48] For instance, the Battle of Camden had ended in disaster when the militia, which comprised half of the American force, broke and ran as soon as the fighting started, leaving the American flank exposed. To eliminate that possibility, he defied convention by placing his army between the Broad and Pacolet rivers, thus making escape impossible if the army was routed. [ citation needed ] Selecting a low hill as the center of his position, he placed his Continental infantry on it, [49] deliberately leaving his flanks exposed to his opponent. With a ravine on their right flank and a creek on their left flank, Morgan reasoned his forces were sufficiently protected against possible British flanking maneuvers at the beginning of the battle. [50]

Morgan surmised that Tarleton would be highly confident and attack him head on, without pausing to devise a more subtle plan. He therefore arranged his forces to encourage this presupposed impetuosity of his opponent by establishing three lines of soldiers: one of sharpshooters, one of militia, and a main line of regulars and experienced militia. The first line was 150 select riflemen from North Carolina (Major McDowell) and Georgia (Major Cunningham). The second line consisted of 300 militiamen under the command of Colonel Andrew Pickens. The effect was the conspicuous placement of weak militia in the center-front, in order to encourage Tarleton to attack there. The skirmishers and militia screened the veteran Continental regulars, while inflicting damage as the British advanced. [ citation needed ] Morgan asked the militia to fire two volleys, something they could achieve, [49] and then withdraw to the left and re-form in the rear, behind the third line, under the cover of reserve light dragoons commanded by Colonel William Washington and James McCall. The withdrawal of the militia was, in effect, a feigned retreat which would further embolden Tarleton. [ citation needed ] The third line, on the hill, was manned by Morgan's most seasoned troops: around 550 Continental regulars comprising Brooklyn veterans: the famed Maryland Line and Delaware Line, supported by experienced militiamen from Georgia and Virginia. Colonel John Eager Howard of Baltimore commanded the Continental regulars, while Colonels Tate and Triplett commanded the experienced militia. The third line could be expected to stand and hold against the British force. Morgan expected that the British advance uphill would be disorganized, weakened both physically and psychologically by the first two lines, before engaging the third. The third line would also withdraw a short distance to add to the appearance of a rout. [ citation needed ]

In developing his tactics at Cowpens, as historian John Buchanan wrote, Morgan may have been "the only general in the American Revolution, on either side, to produce a significant original tactical thought". [51]

Tarleton's approach Edit

At 2:00 a.m. on January 17, 1781, Tarleton roused his troops and continued his march to Cowpens. Lawrence Babits states that, "in the five days before Cowpens, the British were subjected to stress that could only be alleviated by rest and proper diet". He points out that "in the forty-eight hours before the battle, the British ran out of food and had less than four hours’ sleep". [52] Over the whole period, Tarleton's brigade did a great deal of rapid marching across difficult terrain. Babits concludes that they reached the battlefield exhausted and malnourished. Tarleton sensed victory and nothing would persuade him to delay. His Tory scouts had told him of the countryside Morgan was fighting on, and he was certain of success because Morgan's soldiers, mostly militiamen, seemed to be caught between mostly experienced British troops and a flooding river. [53] As soon as he reached the spot, Tarleton formed a battle line, which consisted of dragoons on his flanks, with his two grasshopper cannons in between the British Regulars and American Loyalists. [ citation needed ]

Tarleton's plan was simple and direct. Most of his infantry (including that of the Legion) would be assembled in linear formation and move directly upon Morgan. The right and left flanks of this line would be protected by dragoon units. In reserve were the 250-man battalion of Scottish Highlanders (71st Regiment of Foot), commanded by Major Arthur MacArthur, a professional soldier of long experience who had served in the Dutch Scotch Brigade. Finally, Tarleton kept the 200-man cavalry contingent of his Legion ready to be unleashed when the Americans broke and ran. [ citation needed ]

A few minutes before sunrise, Tarleton's vanguard emerged from the woods in front of the American position. Tarleton ordered his dragoons to attack the first line of skirmishers, who opened fire and shot fifteen dragoons. When the dragoons promptly retreated, Tarleton immediately ordered an infantry charge, without pausing to study the American deployment or to allow the rest of his infantry and his cavalry reserve to make it out of the woods. Tarleton attacked the skirmish line without pausing, deploying his main body and his two grasshopper cannons. The American skirmishers kept firing as they withdrew to join the second line manned by Pickens's irregular militia. The British attacked again, this time reaching the militiamen, who (as ordered) poured two volleys into the enemy, especially targeting commanders. The British—with 40% of their casualties being officers—were astonished and confused. They reorganized and continued to advance. Tarleton ordered one of his officers, Ogilvie, to charge with some dragoons into the "defeated" Americans. His men moved forward in regular formation and were momentarily paused by the militia musket fire but continued to advance. Pickens's militia seemed to "flee" as usual, around the American left to the rear as planned after getting off their second volley. [54]

Taking the withdrawal of the first two lines as a full blown retreat, the British advanced headlong into the third and final line of disciplined Maryland and Delaware regulars which awaited them on the hill. The 71st Highlanders were ordered to flank the American right. John Eager Howard spotted the flanking movement and ordered the Virginia militiamen manning the American right to turn and face the Scots. However, in the noise of battle, Howard's order was misunderstood and the militiamen began to withdraw. It was now 7:45 am and the British had been fighting for nearly an hour. They were tired and disorganized, but they saw the Virginia militia on the rebels’ right withdrawing and believed the Americans were on the run. They charged, breaking formation and advancing in a chaotic mass. Morgan ordered a volley. Howard's "fleeing" militia suddenly stopped their withdrawal and made an about-face. The Virginians fired into the British at a range of no more than thirty yards, with massive effect, causing the confused British to lurch to a halt. John Eager Howard shouted, "Charge bayonets!" [55]

The Continentals in the center, as ordered, mounted a bayonet charge. Tarleton's force, faced with a terrible surprise, began to collapse some men surrendering on the spot, while others turned and ran. Howard's men charged forward and seized the two British grasshopper cannons. William Washington's cavalry came around from behind the opposite American left to hit the British on their right flank and rear. Pickens's militia, having now reorganized, charged out from behind the hill, completing a 360-degree circle around the American position to hit the 71st Highlanders on the British left flank and rear. Howard ordered the Virginia militia, whose withdrawal had brought on the British ill-fated charge, to turn about and attack the Scots from the other direction.

The shock of the sudden charge, coupled with the reappearance of the American militiamen on the left flank where Tarleton's exhausted men expected to see their own cavalry, proved too much for the British. Nearly half of the British and Loyalist infantrymen fell to the ground whether they were wounded or not. Their will to fight was gone. Historian Lawrence Babits diagnoses "combat shock" as the cause for this abrupt British collapse—the effects of exhaustion, hunger, and demoralization suddenly catching up with them. [56] Caught in a clever double envelopment that has been compared with the Battle of Cannae in ancient times, [57] many of the British surrendered.

When Tarleton's right flank and center line collapsed, only a minority of the 71st Highlanders were putting up a fight against part of Howard's line. Tarleton, realizing the desperate nature of what was occurring, rode back to his one unit left that was whole, the British Legion cavalry. He ordered them to charge, but they refused and fled the field. [58] The Highlanders, surrounded by militia and Continentals, surrendered. Desperate to save something, Tarleton found about forty cavalrymen and with them tried to retrieve his two cannons, but they had been captured, and he too retreated from the field. [6] It was now 8:00 a.m. and the battle had lasted approximately one hour. [6] In his retreat, Tarleton was able to escape capture by forcing a local planter named Adam Goudylock to serve as a guide. [59]

Morgan's army took 712 prisoners, which included 200 wounded. Even worse for the British, the forces lost (especially the British Legion and the dragoons) constituted the cream of Cornwallis's army. Additionally, 110 British soldiers were killed in action, and every artilleryman was either killed or incapacitated by wounds. [60] Tarleton suffered an 86 percent casualty rate, and his brigade had been wiped out as a fighting force. [6] John Eager Howard quoted Maj. McArthur of the 71st Highlanders, now a prisoner of the Americans, as saying that "he was an officer before Tarleton was born that the best troops in the service were put under 'that boy' to be sacrificed." [61] An American prisoner later told that when Tarleton reached Cornwallis and reported the disaster, Cornwallis placed his sword tip on the ground and leaned on it until the blade snapped. [62]

Historian Lawrence E. Babits has demonstrated that Morgan's official report of 73 casualties appears to have only included his Continental troops. From surviving records, he has been able to identify by name 128 Colonial soldiers who were either killed or wounded at Cowpens. He also presents an entry in the North Carolina State Records that shows 68 Continental and 80 Militia casualties. It would appear that both the number of Morgan's casualties and the total strength of his force were about double what he officially reported. [63]

Tarleton's apparent recklessness in pushing his command so hard in pursuit of Morgan that they reached the battlefield in desperate need of rest and food may be explained by the fact that, up until Cowpens, every battle that he and his British Legion had fought in the South had been a relatively easy victory. He appears to have been so concerned with pursuing Morgan that he quite forgot that it was necessary for his men to be in a fit condition to fight a battle once they caught him, though Cornwallis himself did press Tarleton to take aggressive action. [64]

Coming in the wake of the American debacle at Camden, Cowpens was a surprising victory and a turning point that changed the psychology of the entire war—"spiriting up the people", not only those of the backcountry Carolinas, but those in all the Southern states. As it was, the Americans were encouraged to fight further, and the Loyalists and British were demoralized. Furthermore, its strategic result—the destruction of an important part of the British army in the South—was crucial toward ending the war. Along with the British defeat at the Battle of Kings Mountain, Cowpens was a serious blow to Cornwallis, who might have defeated much of the remaining resistance in South Carolina had Tarleton won at Cowpens. Instead, the battle set in motion a series of events leading to the end of the war. Cornwallis abandoned his pacification efforts in South Carolina, stripped his army of its excess baggage, and pursued Greene's force into North Carolina. Skirmishes occurred at the Catawba River (February 1, 1781) and other fords. Yet, after a long chase Cornwallis met Greene at the Battle of Guilford Court House, winning a pyrrhic victory that so damaged his army that he withdrew to Yorktown, Virginia, to rest and refit. Washington seized this opportunity to trap and defeat Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown, which caused the British to give up their efforts to defeat the Americans. [ citation needed ]

In the opinion of John Marshall, "Seldom has a battle, in which greater numbers were not engaged, been so important in its consequences as that of Cowpens." [65] It gave General Nathanael Greene his chance to conduct a campaign of "dazzling shiftiness" that led Cornwallis by "an unbroken chain of consequences to the catastrophe at Yorktown which finally separated America from the British crown". [66]


Kings Mountain - October 7, 1780

While General Charles Lord Cornwallis marched his troops into North Carolina, Major Patrick Ferguson gathered Loyalist militia near Gilbert Town. Encouraged by his growing numbers, Ferguson demanded rebels in vicinity “desist from their opposition to British arms” or suffer Ferguson’s wrath. His edict had the opposite effect. Numerous bands of American partisans emerged from North Carolina, South Carolina, and modern-day Tennessee and rallied under the command of Colonel William Campbell. Ferguson got wind of Campbell’s gathering force and began to move toward Charlotte to rendezvous with Cornwallis.

For reasons that are still unclear, Ferguson halted his march on October 6 and camped his forces atop Kings Mountain. On October 8, Campbell’s American Patriots attacked Ferguson’s American Loyalists, fighting from tree to tree. Groups of combatants charged and counter charged up and down the slopes in a short, sharp fight. At the climax of the battle, Ferguson was shot to death while trying to leave a charge. His death marked the end of organized resistance. Ferguson’s command suffered 319 killed and wounded with 700 more taken prisoner. Campbell lost just 90.


An American Family History

The Overmountain Men were from west of the Appalachians and were soldiers in the American Revolution . They are best known for their victory in the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. They were called overmountain men because they lived west of, or over, the Appalachians.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was on October 7, 1780. Nine hundred patriots were led by militia Colonels William Campbell, John Sevier, Frederick Hambright, Joseph McDowell, Benjamin Cleveland, James Williams, John McKissack, and Isaac Shelby. Captains Joseph Winston and Edward Lacey commanded autonomous units. Shelby led men from what is now Sullivan County, Tennessee and Sevier led men from current day, Washington County. Campbell led men from Washington County, Virginia.

Major Patrick Ferguson commanded the loyalist militia of about 1,000 Americans.

Appalachian frontiersmen rallied at Sycamore Shoals and crossed the mountains to Kings Mountain near the border between North and South Carolina.

The patriots approached the base of Kings Mountain at dawn. Two parties, led by Sevier and Campbell, attacked the highest point. The other seven groups, led by Shelby, Williams, Lacey, Cleveland, Hambright, Winston and McDowell attacked the main Loyalist position.

Ferguson launched a bayonet charge against Campbell and Sevier's men. At first, the rebels retreated down the hill and into the woods, but Campbell rallied his troops and returned to the base of the hill and resumed firing.

Two more times, Ferguson launched bayonet attacks. During one of the charges, Williams was killed and McDowell wounded. But after each charge, the patriots returned to the base of the hill and resumed shooting.

Ferguson was killed and the loyalists surrendered.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the 13 colonies which became the newly formed United States.

Washington County, Virginia was formed from Fincastle County in 1777. It originally contained Sullivan County, Tennessee.

Washington County, Tennessee,was established in 1777 as Washington County, North Carolina. From 1784 to 1788,it was part of the State of Franklin.


Aftermath

Battle of Kings Mountain picture

The Battle of Kings Mountain lasted 65 minutes. The Patriots had to move out quickly for fear that Cornwallis would advance to meet them. Loyalist prisoners well enough to walk were herded to camps several miles from the battlefield. The dead were buried in shallow graves and wounded were left on the field to die.

Ferguson's corpse was later reported to have been desecrated and wrapped in oxhide before burial. Both victors and captives came near to starvation on the march due to a lack of supplies in the hastily organized Patriot army.

On October 14, the retreating Patriot force held drumhead courts-martial of Loyalists on various charges (treason, desertion from Patriot militias, incitement of Indian rebellion).Passing through the Sunshine community in what is now Rutherford County, N.C., the retreat halted on the property of the Biggerstaff family.

While stopped on the Biggerstaff land, the rebels convicted 36 Loyalist prisoners. Some were testified against by Patriots who had previously fought alongside them and later changed sides. Nine of the prisoners were hanged before Isaac Shelby brought an end to the proceedings. His decision to halt the executions came after an impassioned plea for mercy from one of the Biggerstaff women.

Many of the Patriots dispersed over the next few days, while all but 130 of the Loyalist prisoners escaped while being led in single file through woodlands. The column finally made camp at Salem, North Carolina.

Kings Mountain was a pivotal moment in the history of the American Revolution. Coming after a series of disasters and humiliations in the Carolinas—the fall of Charleston and capture of the American army there, the destruction of another American army at the Battle of Camden, the Waxhaws Massacre—the surprising, decisive victory at Kings Mountain was a great boost to Patriot morale. The Tories of the Carolina back country were broken as a military force.

Additionally, the destruction of Ferguson's command and the looming threat of Patriot militia in the mountains caused Lord Cornwallis to cancel his plans to invade North Carolina he instead evacuated Charlotte and retreated to South Carolina. He would not return to North Carolina until early 1781, when he was chasing Major General Nathanael Greene after the Americans had dealt British forces another defeat at the Battle of Cowpens.

After the battle, Joseph Greer of the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals (located at what is today the city of Elizabethton, Tennessee) set off on a 600 mile, month-long expedition to notify the Continental Congress of the British defeat at the battle. He arrived in Philadelphia on November 7. Greer's report of the American Patriot victory at Kings Mountain "re-energized a downtrodden Continental Congress."


Field Trip Friday: The History of the Battle of Kings Mountain

You&aposve heard of the American Revolution, one of the biggest and earliest wars in American history, but did you know that one of the most important battles fought during that war happened right here in York County? If you&aposve ever been to Kings Mountain National Military Park, then you&aposve walked the same steps that Patriot soldiers walked nearly 250 years ago! This battle took place on October 7, 1780 and was a vital part of America gaining the independence that you enjoy today.

Back in the day, before we were known as York County, this area was called the New Acquisition District. Each district was required to have their own militia, which is basically a military force made up of civilians rather than aਏormal army. This group of people wereꃊlled the New Acquisition Militia, who would go on and fight for our independence from Britain. 

Prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, some other important battles took place in South Carolina. In May 1780, Charles Town, now known as Charleston, fell - which was a huge loss for the Patriots. Immediately following the fall of Charles Town was another major loss for the Patriots just 17 days later, known as the Battle of Buford&aposs Massacre. However, the Patriots kept on fighting and moved on through the war. One of the next important battles happened at another York County site that may sound familiar - the Battle of Huck&aposs Defeat, which took place at present day Historic Brattonsville, on July 12, 1780. This battle was important because it was the first time in South Carolina history that the South Carolina militia had defeated British professional soldiers! This battle is often referred to as "the shot in the arm we needed" to be able to move on in the war.

Following the Battle of Huck&aposs Defeat were a series of small wins for the Patriots before another major loss at the Battle of Camden in August 1780. Nevertheless, as with Charles Town, the Patriots persisted. This led them to the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7,�. Known as "the turning point in the American Revolution," this battle was important for several reasons:

  1. The Patriots were outnumbered by British Loyalists by nearly 200 men
  2. This win boosted Patriot morale after the devastating defeat at the Battle of Camden
  3. It led to the retreat of the British forces - they had planned to invade North Carolina, but were forced to abandon that plan and change tactics


Winning this battle was such a big deal that Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander-in-Chief of all North American British forces, claimed it as "the first link in a chain of evils that resulted in the [British] loss of America." Even Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, chimed in - stating it was the "turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary War with the seal of our independence."

The best part is that the Patriots weren&apost even expected to win this battle, as the British Loyalists were already at the top of Kings Mountain, which is typically an advantage. However, they ended up losing because the British soldiers were aiming too high, resulting in their shots flying right over the Patriots&apos heads! One of the men that died here was Major Patrick Ferguson, leader of the Loyalists, whose grave is still at Kings Mountain National Military Park to this day.

The main takeaway of this lesson:

A lot of York County citizens were involved in this war since the very beginning in 1775, not just when Charles Town fell nearly five years later. The involvement of York County citizens in the New Acquisition Militia was key for the Patriots to end up winning the American Revolution.

Ever wondered what everyone involved in this war looked like? Take a look below at these paintings done by Thomas Kelly Pauley, a local artist who lives in York, SC:

 
Left: General Charles Cornwallis, the Loyalist credited with the Battle of Camden win
Right: Major Patrick Ferguson, the Loyalist whose death gave the Patriots the Battle of Kings Mountain win

 
Left: Major Horatio Gates, the Patriot who lost the Battle of Camden to Cornwallis
Right: Colonel Isaac Shelby, one of the Patriot leaders at the Battle of Kings Mountain


The Battle of King’s Mountain

There never has been any uncertainty as to the actual location of the ground on which the Battle of Kings Mountain was fought, but due to the defects and limitations in early maps, the battle has frequently been described as occurring in North Carolina. Many of the early maps show &ldquoKing Mountain&rdquo north of the boundary line, with none of the mountain symbols extending into South Carolina. As a result the battle was accredited to North Carolina.

In 1772 a portion of the boundary between the two Carolinas was surveyed from the Catawba River westwardly. The origin of this portion of the boundary was the center of the junction of the Catawba and the South Fork of the Catawba. From this junction the line was to run due west to the mountains and there connect with the boundary of the Cherokee Nation.

The Price and Strother map, engraved in 1808, which purports to be &ldquoThe First Actual Survey of the State of North Carolina,&rdquo shows the 1772 line crossing the Broad River 1¼ miles south of the east and west line through the junction of the Broad and the First Broad. This corresponds with the distance on the Gaffney quadrangle of the United States Geological Survey. By other checks of the 1772 line where it crosses streams, with the United States Geological Survey of the line, it is evident that both lines are one and the same.

Synopsis

During the summer of 1780, Ferguson and his provincial corps of 150 traveled through South Carolina and into North Carolina gathering support for His Majesty&rsquos cause. While marching through the upcountry of South Carolina, the Loyalists engaged in minor skirmishes with militia regiments. Some of those small battles happened at places like Wofford&rsquos Iron Works, Musgrove&rsquos Mill, Thicketty Fort, and Cedar Spring. However in August, after the Americans lost at the Battle of Camden, the Over Mountain Men retired to their homes in western North Carolina to rest before going after Ferguson again.

THE MARCH TO KINGS MOUNTAIN

Meanwhile in September, Cornwallis invaded North Carolina. His final objective was to march into Virginia. To protect his troops from guerilla attack, Cornwallis ordered Ferguson to move northward into western North Carolina before joining the main British Army in Charlotte.

In late September, Ferguson camped at Gilbert Town (in present day Rutherfordton). He sent a message to Colonel Isaac Shelby, whom he considered to be the leader of the &ldquobackwater men.&rdquo The message said that if Shelby and his men did not stop their opposition to the British, Ferguson would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders and &ldquolay the country waste with fire and sword.&rdquo The Patriots would have none of it.

On September 25, Patriot leaders and Colonels Charles McDowell, John Sevier, Isaac Shelby and William Campbell gathered at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River (in present day Tennessee). They marched five days over the snow covered mountains to the Quaker Meadows Plantation owned by McDowell&rsquos family (near present day Morganton). There, they were joined by more frontiersmen including those serving under Benjamin Cleveland and Joseph Winston. The troops marched toward Gilbert Town and Ferguson.

Spies told Ferguson the Patriots were on their way. Ferguson had stayed at Gilbert Town hoping to intercept another Patriot force, heading northward. Calling in reinforcements, the Scot began to march toward Charlotte to receive the protection of Cornwallis&rsquo main army. He sent an appeal to loyal North Carolinians &mdash for them to save themselves from the &ldquobackwater men&hellipa set of mongrels.&rdquo Late on October 6, Ferguson received word from his spies that the Americans were close behind him. Camping at Kings Mountain, near the North Carolina border, he sent a message to Cornwallis requesting reinforcements. &ldquoThree or four hundred good soldiers,&rdquo he wrote, &ldquowould finish the business. Something must be done soon.&rdquo Desperately short of provisions, Ferguson sent out a foraging party of 150 men. He then organized a defense and prepared to meet the enemy.

When the Patriots realized that Ferguson was not at Gilbert Town, they became determined to pursue and fight him. The soldiers followed Ferguson, leaving their weak comrades and horses at Gilbert Town. On October 6 at Cowpens in South Carolina, the Over Mountain Men were joined by 400 South Carolinians under Colonel James Williams and others. The soldiers learned from spy Joseph Kerr that Ferguson was definitely camped about 30 miles ahead in the vicinity of Kings Mountain. Shelby was especially pleased to learn that Ferguson was quoted as saying, that he &ldquowas on Kings Mountain, that he was king of that mountain and that God Almighty and all the Rebels of hell could not drive him from it.&rdquo

The seven colonels chose Campbell as their officer of the day to carry out the plans they adopted collectively. Fearing Ferguson would escape, the colonels selected 900 of their best men to pursue the Loyalists.

The Patriots marched through the night and the next day, through pouring rain and intermittent showers. They reached Kings Mountain the next day, Saturday October 7 just after noon.

Kings Mountain is an outlying portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A heavily rocky and wooded area, the mountain rises 60 feet above the plain surrounding it. The campsite was supposedly an ideal place for Ferguson to camp because the mountain has a plateau at its summit. The plateau is 600 yards long and 70 feet wide at one end and 120 feet wide at the other. The Scot considered the summit too steep to be scaled.

THE BATTLE BEGINS

Upon arriving at Kings Mountain, the Patriot soldiers dismounted. After tying up the horses, the soldiers formed in a horseshoe around the base of the mountain behind their leaders, who remained on horseback.

Ferguson was right in believing that his would be attackers would expose themselves to musket fire if they attempted to scale the summit. But Ferguson did not realize his men could only fire if they went out into the open, exposing themselves to musket fire. Most of the Patriot troops were skilled hunters who routinely killed fast moving animals. On this day, Ferguson&rsquos men would not find escape an easy task.

The fighting began around 3 p.m. when some of Ferguson&rsquos men noticed the Patriot soldiers surrounding the mountain. After a brief skirmish, the shooting began in earnest when two of the Patriot regiments opened fire on the Loyalists simultaneously. The Loyalists fired back but the Patriots were protected by the heavily wooded area.

The regiments commanded by Colonels Isaac Shelby and William Campbell marched toward Ferguson&rsquos men but were driven back twice by Loyalist fire. But as one regiment was driven back, another would advance. Ferguson had to shift his reserves from one place to another while continuing to take heavy losses from the concealed American sharpshooters in the trees. Eventually, other Patriot troops provided enough support that Shelby and Campbell&rsquos regiments reached the summit.

During the battle, Patrick Ferguson commanded his men with the use of a silver whistle. Many Patriot fighters later recalled hearing the sound of Ferguson&rsquos whistle over the sound of the rifle fire. The whistle and the checkered hunting shirt he wore over his uniform made the Scottish commander quite noticeable on the battlefield.

After nearly an hour of fighting, Ferguson suddenly fell from his horse. One foot was hanging in his stirrup &mdash several, perhaps as many as eight bullets were in his body. Some accounts say he died before he hit the ground. Other accounts say that his men propped him against a tree, where he died. Ferguson was the only British soldier killed in the battle &mdash all others were Americans, either Loyalist or Patriot.

Ferguson&rsquos second in command then ordered that a white flag of surrender be hoisted.

Despite the call for surrender by the Loyalists, the Patriots could not immediately stop their men from shooting. Many Patriots remembered that the infamous Colonel Tarleton had mowed down Patriot troops at Waxhaw despite the fact that the troops were trying to surrender. Eventually, the fighting at Kings Mountain stopped.

In all, 225 Loyalists were killed, 163 were wounded, 716 were taken prisoner. 28 Patriots were killed and 68 were wounded. Among the Patriot dead: Colonel James Williams of South Carolina.

BATTLE ENDS: PATRIOTS MARCH PRISONERS TO HILLSBOROUGH

After the battle, the victorious Patriots and the captured Loyalists had to camp together. Soon it became dark and the cries of the wounded were heard and often unheeded.

The next morning, the sun came out for the first time in days. Fearing that Cornwallis would soon be upon them, many of the Patriot militia left for their homes. A contingent of Patriots took the prisoners northward to the Continental Army jurisdiction in Hillsborough.

During the journey, a number of prisoners were brutally beaten and some prisoners were hacked with swords. A number of unjust murders took place &mdash not the Patriots finest hour. The injustices continued a week later when a committee of Patriots appointed a jury to try some of the so-called &ldquoobnoxious&rdquo Loyalists. 36 Loyalists were found guilty of breaking open houses, burning houses and killing citizens. Nine were hanged.

CORNWALLIS IS SHAKEN BY THE NEWS WITHDRAWS INTO SOUTH CAROLINA

Cornwallis was shaken when the news of Ferguson&rsquos defeat reached his headquarters. He remained in Charlotte a few days before withdrawing back into South Carolina to the British post at Winnsboro.

The British could not count on reinforcements from other South Carolina posts to help them &mdash the news of victory at Kings Mountain had revived Patriot hopes. The victory triggered bonfires and street dancing in cities held by the Patriots. Soon, Patriot leaders such as Thomas Sumter, Elijah Clarke and Francis &ldquoThe Swamp Fox&rdquo Marion stepped up their harassment of British troops. Patriot sympathizers increased their assaults on Tory neighbors.

COUNTDOWN TO YORKTOWN

Cornwallis was not inactive however. He sent Tarleton and a Major Wemyss in hot pursuit of Marion and Sumter. On November 9, Sumter was fully prepared when Wemyss attempted a surprise attack on his forces at Fish Dam Ford. Wemyss and 25 of his men were captured. Sumter then moved with 240 toward the British fort at Ninety Six. Tarleton stopped his pursuit of Marion and went to Fort Ninety Six. Deciding not to face Tarleton at that time, Sumter fled northward to Blackstock&rsquos Plantation. On November 20, Tarleton attacked Sumter&rsquos forces but to no avail. Tarleton lost 100 men while the Americans only lost three. Tarleton then rejoined Cornwallis.

Meanwhile, Clinton sent General Alexander Leslie to Virginia to prepare for battle there. Leslie was to be under the direct orders of Cornwallis. Cornwallis ordered Leslie to come to South Carolina &mdash he planned to resume his invasion of North Carolina as soon as Leslie arrived. Believing that Patriot leader Daniel Morgan planned to attack Fort Ninety Six, Cornwallis sent Tarleton to deal with the backwoodsman. Expecting Leslie to arrive in mid-January, Cornwallis planned to advance rapidly northward and cut off the two American armies (Nathaniel Greene&rsquos men in the South from George Washington&rsquos men in the North). He also hoped to stop the advance of Morgan&rsquos forces should they survive the expected encounter with Tarleton.

Cornwallis&rsquos hopes were dashed. Morgan&rsquos men soundly defeated Tarleton&rsquos Legion at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17. Morgan, who was ill with rheumatism and other ailments, joined Greene&rsquos army before returning to his home in Virginia. Greene saw that Cornwallis, who had left South Carolina, was getting further away from his train of supplies and provisions. Eventually, the two forces met in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Technically, the British won that battle but it was a Pyrrhic victory because British losses were high. One man in four was killed, wounded or captured.

Conclusion

Historians consider the Battle of Kings Mountain to be the &ldquoturning point in the South&rdquo in America&rsquos War for Independence. The victory of Patriots over Loyalist troops destroyed the left wing of Cornwallis army. The battle also effectively ended, at least temporarily, the British advance into North Carolina. Lord Cornwallis was forced to retreat from Charlotte into South Carolina to wait for reinforcements. The victory of the Overmountain Men allowed General Nathaniel Greene the opportunity to reorganize the American Army.

When British General Henry Clinton learned of his men&rsquos defeat at Kings Mountain, he is reported to have called it &ldquothe first link of a chain of evils&rdquo that he feared might lead to the collapse of the British plans to quash the Patriot rebellion. He was right. American forces went on to defeat the British ar Cowpens. A little more than a year after Kings Mountain, Washington accepted Cornwallis&rsquos surrender at Yorktown, Virginia.


BAttle of Kings Mountain - History

The basic facts about The Battle of King's Mountain speak for themselves, and need no interpretation: About 1,000 militiamen, the majority of them rough-hewn frontiersmen from "Overmountain" (west of the Blue Ridge) set out to bring down English Col. Patrick Ferguson and his troops, and on October 7th, 1780, and accomplished their goal—in only one hour.

Many theories have been advanced as to how these men able to manage what the entire Southern Campaign of the Continental Army had been unable to do, with the most common (and most likely) being that, despite their lack of formal military training, they were seasoned Indian fighters.

This does not, however, address the question of why they were willing to go King's Mountain. Most early Southern historians romanticized their motives ( 1), with the most commonly-held explanation being that they were patriotic zealots willing to die for their country, and secondarily. their anger over Col. Patrick Ferguson's threat to march over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword.

While both these explanations may contain more than a kernel of truth (and together form a logical explanation), and while ardent patriotism might certainly have been a factor, it has rarely been the primary rallying call for any battle. Furthermore, these early historians also fail to explain (other than in zealous patriotic phrases) why the percentage of men from the Overmountain counties who were Whig (Rebels, Patriots) was so much higher than the percentage who were Tory (Loyalists, Royalists)—at a time when the remainder of North Carolina was estimated to be roughly fifty-fifty divided in their loyalties. ( 2)

The most obvious reason, one that has been ignored by many historians, is that the Overmountain Men had no choice but to fight and to win—--not if they wanted to remain Overmountain.

The Overmountain Counties of Washington and Sullivan, North Carolina (present-day Tennessee) did not even exist until enacted by North Carolina's Revolutionary government (whose land policies, from the beginning, ignored both Royal Grants and Indian Treaties). With the exception of a few families who lived "North of Holston" on land earlier granted by Virginia Colony, the remainder of those who lived Overmountain were Intruders (white settlers on either Indian or Granville lands)—at least in the eyes of the British. And even the North of Holston settlers were actually Intruders, or would have become such once the North Carolina provincial government had figured out their land wasn't in Virginia (See Squabble State).

Two additional factors must also be entered into the equation of how and why the Overmountain men responded so strongly pro-Rebel : (a) They had chosen to live Overmountain, and this fact alone predisposed them toward independence—at every level and (b) They were hunters and killers by nature: This was how they survived, how they fed their families (man does not live by corn crops alone). ( 4)

Insofar as the Rebel leaders were concerned, regardless of where they lived, whether east or west of the Blue Ridge, victory had become a requirement—if there was to be Life After War As We Want It. North Carolina's Revolutionary government, including the counties of Sullivan and Washington, had been actively confiscating the estates of all Tories. ( 5) Would the British do the same if they regained control? All of the leaders, and many of their men (particularly land-owners) had taken positions so strong that there would be no going back if the British won, nor even if they "half-won," a possibility that had become a strong rumor during the summer after the Rebel defeats at Charlotte and Camden (the only two Major battles in the South in 1780—both of them lost).

According to this rumor, the British had come to the realization that Rebel sentiments were so strong in the Northern colonies and provinces that it would be impossible to ever recover them. In the Carolinas and Georgia, however, following the wins at Charlotte and Camden, there was talk of a negotiated settlement under which these three would remain British (along with Florida and the Bahamas). ( 6)

The Carolina and Georgia Whigs were well aware of this rumor, and also that the Continental Army was no longer expending much in the way of either men or money on the South. A Major Southern victory could go a long ways toward circumventing any plans for ten original colonies instead of thirteen, and the decimation of Col. Patrick Ferguson might force the northern colonies (including, of course, General Washington's own Virginia) to provide the necessary support to help turn the South around.

Whether there was any truth to the rumor may never be known, but among the facts that are known is that (a) British activity in the North was minimal in 1780 (b) they had moved a large detachment of both their fleet and their army to the south (c) a letter in May 1780 from Continental Congressman James Duane to General Phillip John Schuyler, both of New York, indicated that a ten-colony settlement had been privately considered and discussed by some members of Congress (d) General Washington was concerned lest Southern Whigs place too much importance on the victory at King's Mountain and (e) the general feeling of the Northern states, given the high British sentiment in the South, was that they should look to their own—which is exactly what was happened at King's Mountain. (ibid.)

Yet another factor, one which applied to all American militiamen, whether Tory or Whig, was that some militia duty was involuntary. Although it is well-documented that the Colonels "volunteered" for King's Mountain, this was not necessarily the case for the militiamen—on either side. Both the English and the Rebels had instituted the "draft," and the punishment for failing to appear for militia duty could range from fines to imprisonment and from confiscation of one's lands to execution for treason—regardless of whether one was a Whig or a Tory. ( 7)

Thus, even though the King's Mountain militiamen who were Overmountain are often referred to as "volunteers," they also included conscripts, a fact that may have contributed to the high rate of desertion after the battle. (desertions on the way to and during the battle appear to have been minimal). Most historians who have acknowledged this ( 8) have attributed it to their having had excellent reasons for having "faded off" off into the woods after the battle i.e., back home, their families had been left unprotected from Indian attacks. Also to be considered is the fact that their past Indian service had always been concluded upon achieving their goals, and the men freely permitted to depart immediately.

In the case of King's Mountain, however, after the battle, their leaders were burdened with hundreds of Tory prisoners whom the militiamen were expected to guard, and the precipitate departures of the Overmountain men were undoubtedly a major cause for the equally rapidly diminishing numbers of prisoners. ( 9)

Also to be remembered is that the Revolutionary War was, not just a rebellion against the English, but a Civil War, and King's Mountain not a battle between Englishmen and Americans, but American against American, neighbor against neighbor, and kinsman against kinsman. ( 10) There were only a handful of Englishmen present at King's Mountain, and even some of them, although English-born, had been residents of the colonies prior to the onset of the War, providing yet another possible explanation for the high numbers of Tory prisoners who managed to escape.

While many Whig militiamen may have lauded the subsequent Tory hangings (as has been alleged) at Gilbert Town, many others may have been sufficiently shaken by this turn of events that they actively aided their Tory relatives and neighbors in escaping (rather than just turning a blind eye). ( 11)

All of these factors, and more, make the battle at King's Mountain much more than a flat, one-dimensional history, whether over-romanticized or dehumanized. The Men of King's Mountain, both Whigs and Tories, were men—living, breathing, human beings with cares and concerns not all that different from those of our brothers, fathers and grandfathers who served in later American wars, and it is the telling of their real stories that most honors them.

________________
END NOTES

11 On Saturday 14 Oct 1780 at Gilbert Town, thirty Tory prisoners were tried and convicted by Whig Officers of various crimes allegedly perpetrated prior to the battle of King's Mountain, of whom nine were hung on the spot. (Lt. Anthony Allaire)


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