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Title: Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 22
Author: Mackenzie, George C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 22" ***

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    [Illustration: U. S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, March 3, 1849]

                     Stewart L. Udall, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                      Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_


This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System
administered by the National Park Service of the United States
Department of the Interior. It is printed by the Government Printing
Office and may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
Washington, D.C. 20402—Price 55 cents.

                            _Kings Mountain_
                         NATIONAL MILITARY PARK
                             South Carolina

                        _by_ George C. Mackenzie

    [Illustration: Frontiersman with rifle and plow.]

                                                 Washington, D. C., 1955
                                                          (Reprint 1961)

_The National Park System, of which Kings Mountain National Military
Park is a unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic, scientific, and
historic heritage of the United States for the benefit and inspiration
of its people._



  THE WAR IN THE SOUTH BEGINS                                          2
  THE SOUTHERN CAMPAIGN                                                2
  CONQUEST OF GEORGIA AND SOUTH CAROLINA                               3
  WHIGS AND TORIES IN 1780                                             6
  THE GATHERING OF THE MOUNTAIN MEN                                   11
  THE MARCH FROM SYCAMORE SHOALS                                      12
  THE PURSUIT TO KINGS MOUNTAIN                                       15
  THE BATTLE OF KINGS MOUNTAIN                                        19
  THE MEANING OF THE VICTORY                                          26
  PATRIOT COMMANDERS AT KINGS MOUNTAIN                                27
  MAJ. PATRICK FERGUSON                                               34
  THE FERGUSON RIFLE                                                  36
  YOUR GUIDE TO THE AREA                                              39
  ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PARK                                           42
  HOW TO REACH THE PARK                                               44
  ABOUT YOUR VISIT                                                    44
  RELATED AREAS                                                       45
  ADMINISTRATION                                                      45
  SUGGESTED READINGS                                                  46

    [Illustration: _The United States Monument, erected 1909._]

    [Illustration: Rifle, powderhorn, and bullets.]

The Battle of Kings Mountain _on October 7, 1780, was an overwhelming
blow struck by American patriots against British forces engaged in the
relentless Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. The military
importance of this sharp engagement was described in strong and
realistic terms by Sir Henry Clinton, then commander in chief of the
British forces in North America. He spoke of the battle as “an Event
which was immediately productive of the worst Consequences to the King’s
affairs in South Carolina, and unhappily proved the first Link of a
Chain of Evils that followed each other in regular Succession until they
at last ended in the total loss of America.”_

Kings Mountain was a surprising action that halted the triumphant
northward movement of Lord Cornwallis, British commander in the South,
who had undertaken to subdue that section in a final effort to end the
Revolution. Though far removed from the main course of the Revolution,
the hardy southern Appalachian frontiersmen rose quickly to their own
defense at Kings Mountain and brought unexpected defeat to Cornwallis’
Tory invaders under Maj. Patrick Ferguson. With this great patriot
victory came an immediate turn of events in the war in the South.
Cornwallis abandoned his foothold in North Carolina and withdrew to a
defensive position in upper South Carolina to await reinforcement. His
northward march was thus delayed until January 1781, giving patriot
forces an opportunity to organize a new offensive in the South. After
Kings Mountain there also came a sharp upturn of patriot spirit in the
Southern Piedmont which completely unnerved the Tory organization in the
region. This renewed patriot resistance led eventually to the American
victory at Yorktown in 1781. The engagement at Kings Mountain was not
only a memorable example of the individual valor of the American
frontier fighter, but also of the deadly effectiveness of his hunting

    [Illustration: _Sir Henry Clinton, commander in chief of British
    Forces in America during the Southern Campaign._ Courtesy New York
    Historical Society.]

                     _The War in the South Begins_

At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 the struggle between
the American patriots and British forces was fought mainly in the New
England and Middle Atlantic colonies. The driving of the royal governors
from North and South Carolina soon revealed to the British the
importance of holding the southern provinces. Early in 1776 the British
War Office sent a combined military and naval expedition to the coast of
the Carolinas in an effort to restore the King’s authority. Hopes of
gaining a foothold in North Carolina were quickly shattered. Patriot
militia decisively defeated loyalists of the Cape Fear area on February
27, at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. Sir Henry Clinton, who had
landed a small force near Wilmington, withdrew from the State. Clinton,
and the British fleet under Sir Peter Parker, then undertook the
conquest of Charleston, S. C. The successful defense of Fort Moultrie,
on Sullivan’s Island, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, closed with
the brilliant American victory of June 28. Thoroughly discouraged, the
British expedition left the South and the first attempt to conquer it
ended in failure.

                        _The Southern Campaign_

In 1778 the British again turned to the South in their final major
campaign to end the American Revolution. Military failures in the North
during 1777-78 and a strong belief in southern loyalist strength
encouraged the British War Office to undertake a full-scale southern
invasion in the autumn of 1778. The American-French alliance following
the British defeat at Saratoga and the threat of French intervention
also made it urgent for the British to move southward. They hoped to
obtain food and recruits in the South and an effective base from which
to attack the remaining patriot armies in the East. A British military
and naval expedition was also to assemble in the Chesapeake Bay area and
from that point aid the British forces in the South to crush patriot
resistance. This time the British were confident of success. They
strongly doubted that the South, thinly populated and torn by sectional
strife between patriot and loyalist groups, could unite and fight off
the invader.

                _Conquest of Georgia and South Carolina_

The ports of Savannah and Charleston were vitally needed to support the
new invasion and the British set out first to capture them. At the
direction of Sir Henry Clinton, the first British landing was made in
Georgia, and Savannah fell on December 29, 1778. By February 1779,
Augusta and other key points in the State were captured, and by summer
the British dominated Georgia. Their first move against Charleston ended
in failure in June 1779, but they successfully forestalled a combined
French and American attempt to recapture Savannah in the fall of that

    [Illustration: _Lt. Gen. Earl Charles Cornwallis, British commander
    in the South, 1780-81._ Courtesy Clements Library, University of

The fortunes of war turned further against the southern patriots in
1780. Returning to Charleston in the spring of 1780, Clinton besieged
the city with overwhelming numbers and forced the surrender of Gen.
Benjamin Lincoln’s American garrison on May 12. The loss of this large,
well-equipped army was a marked disaster for the patriot cause in the
South and greatly strengthened the British position in South Carolina.
Soon Clinton could depart for New York by sea, leaving Lord Cornwallis
in command of a large British force which in a few months quickly
occupied fortified points in much of the State.

    [Illustration: _British campaign in the Carolinas during 1780 before
    the Battle of Kings Mountain._]

      _After Charleston Ferguson was sent to Ninety Six to raise troops
          and drive Whig bands from the foothills._
      _Cornwallis destroyed an American army under Gates—August 16,
      _Cornwallis invaded North Carolina and captured
          Charlotte—September 22, 1780_

    [Illustration: _Gen. Horatio Gates, American commander in the South
    during most of 1780._ Courtesy Emmet Collection, New York Public

    [Illustration: _Scene at the Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780,
    which gave the British almost complete control of South Carolina._
    From a painting by Chappel. Courtesy The Caroliniana Library,
    University of South Carolina, Columbia.]

Believing South Carolina to be largely subdued, Cornwallis now began a
northward march for the purpose of invading and overrunning North
Carolina. His plans were upset temporarily by the advance of a new
American army under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates, the patriot
victor at Saratoga. Appointed by Congress to succeed General Lincoln as
American commander in the South, Gates had reached North Carolina in
July. Moving southward to capture the important British post of Camden,
S. C., he commanded an army composed of veteran Delaware and Maryland
continental troops and raw Virginia and North Carolina militia. In a
surprise meeting for both forces near Camden on August 16, 1780, Gates’
tired and disorganized army was crushingly defeated by Cornwallis. The
last large organized American army in the South had been destroyed, and
the British, more than ever before, appeared to be invincible. Their
triumph at Camden opened the way for the resumption of Cornwallis’
triumphant march and the invasion of North Carolina in September 1780.

                       _Whigs and Tories in 1780_

The British victories at Charleston and Camden in the summer of 1780
increased the bitter strife between the loyalists (Tories) and the
patriots (Whigs) in the South. Both groups had been active in partisan
warfare since the invasion of Georgia in 1778. Cornwallis’ march through
South Carolina greatly encouraged the Tories. Many of them from the
coastal and interior regions of the Carolinas now joined him as active
recruits. Overawed by British force, other inhabitants of this area
renewed their allegiance to the King or remained neutral to escape
damage to themselves and their property. To counteract the Loyalist
movement, daring partisan leaders including Francis Marion, Thomas
Sumter, and Andrew Pickens, now took the leadership in strengthening
Whig resistance. Desperate and unexpected assaults by day and night upon
the advancing British and their outposts quickly began throughout the
lowlands and upcountry. While Cornwallis was gathering supporters by
threats and force or by allowing only Loyalists to trade, the Whigs
remained steadfast in their devotion to personal and political freedom.
Soon the merciless nature of the Tory attacks upon outlying Whig
settlements and Whig guerrilla fighters so disgusted the neutral
citizens of the region that many of them turned to the Whig cause.

The seriousness of the day-to-day combat between Whig and Tory in the
Carolinas is shown in a military report of the time.

  The animosity between the Whigs and Tories of this State renders their
  situation truly deplorable. There is not a day passes but there are
  more or less who fall a sacrifice to this savage disposition. The
  Whigs seem determined to extirpate the Tories and the Tories the
  Whigs. Some thousands have fallen in this way in this quarter, and the
  evil rages with more violence than ever. If a stop cannot be put to
  these massacres, the country will be depopulated in a few months more,
  as neither Whig nor Tory can live.

The southern Whigs included among their numbers both rich and poor. They
were people who placed principle above personal gain. They came, or were
descended from people who had come, from Western Europe to America to
escape religious and civil persecution and to find a new life where the
dignity of the individual would be respected.

    [Illustration: _Recruit for the British Army._ Drawing by H. W.
    Bunbury, London, 1780. Courtesy New York Public Library.]

Among these immigrants were numerous Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. They
had settled first in the eastern sections of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Later, they migrated in considerable numbers to the interior of the
Carolinas and present-day eastern Tennessee. As they cleared new land
for settlement and established their churches, they enjoyed for the
first time complete religious and civil liberty. Moreover, they believed
in the family as the important unit in all human life and patterned
their lives accordingly. The invasion of the South now threatened to
destroy their democratic society. They also feared it would lead to the
loss of their hard-won individual liberty and force them to give up
their right to develop the frontier and its resources as they wished.

              _The British Threaten the Carolina Frontier_

When Cornwallis began his march from Charleston, Maj. Patrick Ferguson
had been detached to lead a smaller Loyalist force into the western
section of South Carolina. Ferguson was ordered to use the settlement of
Ninety-Six as a base from which to organize Tory militia, subdue
rebellious Whigs, and reestablish British civil government in the
upcountry. He was also to protect the western flank of Cornwallis’
advancing army.

One important stronghold in the Carolinas remained undisturbed by
Cornwallis’ victories and the Tory raids in the summer of 1780. This was
the region of the foothills and ranges of the Appalachian Mountains
which stretched through northwestern South Carolina, western North
Carolina, and into the present eastern Tennessee. Here, the independent
mountain yeomen, largely of Scotch-Irish descent, were establishing a
new frontier and protecting their crude homes from the nearer threat of
the border Indians. Their free pioneer life had existed without
interference from the King’s officials, and they were little concerned
with the main course of the war on the seaboard. Rumors of Ferguson’s
activities in the upcountry brought forth a few adventurous mountain men
in the summer of 1780. After fighting brief actions with Tories east of
the mountains, however, these frontiersmen retired. Victory by such
border fighters at the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill, on August 18, 1780,
caused some of the mountain leaders to fear that Ferguson would soon
attempt to avenge this defeat.

Ferguson did not immediately pursue the mountain men. With the news of
Cornwallis’ success at Camden, he had also received urgent orders to
search the upcountry for the patriots under Col. Thomas Sumter. This
plan was interrupted by news of Musgrove’s Mill and by orders calling
Ferguson to a meeting in Camden with Cornwallis. Here, he was informed
of the British commander’s determination to invade North Carolina at
Charlotte in September. Ferguson also learned that his Provincial Corps
of American Loyalists was to be detailed from the post of Ninety-Six to
join his Tory militia. Finally, he was directed to move with his
strengthened force through upper South Carolina and across the North
Carolina border, crushing the remaining patriots and rousing the
back-country Tories. His advance was intended to protect the rear and
western flank of Cornwallis’ army which reached Charlotte on September

On September 7 Ferguson pushed across the western North Carolina border.
At Gilbert Town (the present Rutherfordton), he issued his famed threat
to the back country which aroused the horde of mountain men who
eventually brought disaster upon him at Kings Mountain. He expected at
Gilbert Town to surprise some of the mountain leaders who had retired
there for safety after Musgrove’s Mill. In August, however, they had
agreed to return to their homes across the mountains and raise a
volunteer army to resist Ferguson’s advance.



    [Illustration: _A frontier North Carolina settlement similar to
    those from which came the Kings Mountain patriots._ Courtesy Charles
    Scribner’s Sons.]

    [Illustration: “_Gathering of the Mountain Men at Sycamore Shoals._”
    From a painting by Lloyd Branson. Courtesy Tennessee State Museum,

Remaining at Gilbert Town during most of September, Ferguson was a
constant menace to the bordering region. From his headquarters, early in
the month, he tried to frighten the mountain leaders into submission. To
carry out this plan, Ferguson paroled Samuel Phillips, a prisoner, and
sent him into the mountains with a message to Col. Isaac Shelby, who
commanded the patriot militia of Sullivan County, N. C. According to a
well-known account, Ferguson, in this message, solemnly warned Shelby
and the other mountain people “that if they did not desist from their
opposition to the British arms, he would march his army over the
mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and
sword.” He followed this threat with action and pursued a patriot party
to the slopes of the Blue Ridge before returning on September 23 to his
temporary base at Gilbert Town.

                  _The Gathering of the Mountain Men_

At the headwaters of the Watauga, the Holston, and the Nolichucky
Rivers, in present-day eastern Tennessee, news of Ferguson’s actions was
received with growing alarm by the back-country settlers. Their
freedom-loving leaders were spurred in their determination to gather a
volunteer force with all possible speed for a surprise attack that would
destroy the British invader. Meeting at Jonesboro, Shelby and Col. John
Sevier, head of the militia in Washington County, N. C., hurriedly
adopted a plan for immediate action. They sent forth a final appeal for
volunteers, some of whom would remain behind to protect the settlements
from the Indians while the main force marched quickly after Ferguson.
Additional support was sought urgently from Col. Charles McDowell and
Col. Benjamin Cleveland, who commanded other fighting men from the North
Carolina border. Pleas for help were also sent to the local militia
leaders of adjoining Washington County, Va. After consultation, it was
agreed that Col. William Campbell would bring a strong body of Virginia
militia. All volunteers were urged to gather by September 25 at Sycamore
Shoals, on the banks of the Watauga, near the present site of
Elizabethton, Tenn.

On that date over 1,000 of the mountain men assembled at the designated
meeting place. In appearance, it was a rough but resourceful looking
gathering. Many of the fighters wore hunting shirts of buckskin,
breeches and gaiters of tan home-dyed cloth, and wide-brimmed hats
covering long hair tied in a queue. Each was equipped with a knapsack,
blanket, and long hunting rifle; most were mounted on horses, but some
were on foot. With some had come members of their families and friends
to see them off on their dangerous mission. Notable among the militia
units present was that of Col. William Campbell which numbered 400 men.
To reach Sycamore Shoals many of his men had traveled almost as far as
they would in the final march to Kings Mountain.

The gathering was made memorable by the inspiring words of the Reverend
Samuel Doak, a pioneer Scotch-Irish clergyman of the Watauga
settlements. On the eve of their departure, he sought the Lord’s
blessing upon these brave men. To inspire and prepare them for the
hardships they faced, he retold vividly the biblical story of the rise
of Gideon’s people against Midianites and of the defeat of those
oppressors. At the close of his stirring sermon he urged the mountain
men to take as their battle cry: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”

                    _The March From Sycamore Shoals_

On the following day, September 26, the great adventure of the mountain
men began, and they left Sycamore Shoals on their march over the
mountains. Five days later, after covering about 90 miles, they arrived
at Quaker Meadows, on the Catawba River. The first part of their route
followed old hunting and Indian trails, difficult at times for passage
by either man or beast, and this proved to be the most rugged portion of
their march to Kings Mountain.

Nearing the crest of the mountains on September 27 in snow that stood
above their bootstraps, members of the expedition were alarmed by the
desertion of James Crawford and Samuel Chambers. Not only were the
patriots afraid that the deserters would warn Ferguson’s camp, but also
that the traitors would alert the Tories of the region. Despite fears of
a possible ambush, the patriots crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains safely
on September 29. The two units, into which the volunteer army was
divided, passed, respectively, through Gillespie Gap and what is
believed to have been McKinney’s Gap. Shortly afterwards, they were
reunited at Col. Charles McDowell’s plantation, at Quaker Meadows, near
the present site of Morganton, N. C. Here they rested during the evening
of September 30.

In the meantime, Col. Charles McDowell rejoined the patriots on
September 28. Before the expedition left Sycamore Shoals, he had
undertaken to secure the support of North Carolina patriots living east
of the mountains. He brought cheering news on his return. He reported to
his colleagues, that, according to his latest information, Ferguson was
still at Gilbert Town. Of immediate interest was his news that Col.
Benjamin Cleveland and Maj. Joseph Winston were rapidly approaching with
350 North Carolinians from Wilkes and Surry Counties. He also reported
rumors that South Carolina patriots were gathering under the command of
Col. James Williams.

    [Illustration: _The Council Oak, near Morganton, N. C., under which
    the patriot leaders decided to continue the pursuit of Ferguson._
    (This is a view about 1895; the tree was later destroyed in a

The arrival of Cleveland and Winston on September 30 and the night of
pleasant relaxation at the McDowell home raised the spirits of the
mountain men. The following day, October 1, they continued their
southward march to a gap of South Mountain near the headwaters of Cane
Creek. Here they camped during inclement weather through October 2.

While the men rested, the leaders of the expedition met in an evening
council to review the progress of the march. First, measures were
adopted to correct disorders in the columns resulting from the weariness
of the march. More important, however, was the election of Col. William
Campbell to serve as temporary commander of the combined volunteer
units. In recognition of Col. Charles McDowell’s seniority, he was
entrusted on October 1 with a mission to General Gates’ headquarters to
request a permanent commander. He was instructed to ask for the
assignment of either Gen. Daniel Morgan or Gen. William Davidson of the
American Continental Army. McDowell’s regiment was turned over to his
brother, Maj. Joseph McDowell.

    [Illustration: ROUTE OF MOUNTAIN MEN]


Unknown to the patriot expedition, Major Ferguson’s army in the meantime
had hurriedly left Gilbert Town. Two messages that he received made this
withdrawal advisable. In the first, received September 25, Lt. Col. J.
H. Cruger, commander of the British post at Ninety-Six, requested
Ferguson to intercept a band of Georgia patriots under Col. Elijah
Clarke. This group was reported to be moving northward to join the main
body of mountain men. In the second message, English agents in the
Watauga settlements furnished Ferguson with the first warning of the
rising of his formidable back-country enemy.

Ferguson immediately sent couriers in all directions to enlist the
support of the Tories within the nearby region. Others were sent to call
back all Tories who had been temporarily furloughed. On September 27 he
headed south in the direction of Ninety-Six, reaching the Green River on
September 30. There he received further information concerning the
movements of the mountain men from Chambers and Crawford who had several
days before deserted the patriot army.

From this point Ferguson sent an urgent message to Cornwallis at
Charlotte calling for reinforcements. Ferguson also informed Cornwallis
of his intention to hasten toward Charlotte with the hope that his
pursuers would be deceived into the belief that Ninety-Six was the
destination of his retreat. This communication was received by
Cornwallis after the battle, too late to be of any help. A second
message sent to Colonel Cruger requesting 100 men, brought no better
results—only the terse reply that his garrison totaled but half that

The following morning Ferguson left the vicinity of the mountains and
marched his corps 12 miles to Denard’s Ford of the Broad River. Moving
at 4 p. m. on October 2, Ferguson crossed the river, marched 4 miles,
and lay all night in an armed camp. On October 3, he hastened his march
eastward toward Charlotte along a route to the north of the main Broad
River. Near Buffalo Creek, he camped at the plantation of a loyalist
named Tate. Here he rested his men and awaited expected reinforcements
and further information concerning the movements of the patriots.

Ferguson was now becoming anxious about the safety of his army. In
another message to Cornwallis on October 5 from Tate’s plantation, which
was 50 miles from Charlotte, he advised his commander:

  I am on my march towards you, by a road leading from Cherokee Ford,
  north of Kings Mountain. Three or four hundred good soldiers, part
  dragoons, would finish the business. ⌈Something⌉ must be done soon.
  This is their last push in this quarter and they are extremely
  desolate and ⌈c⌉owed.

                    _The Pursuit to Kings Mountain_

The American patriot force meanwhile had moved cautiously southward down
Cane Creek toward Gilbert Town on October 3. The following day, they
learned that Ferguson had withdrawn from the town. At the time, he was
miles away, camping at Tate’s plantation. Although the mountain men were
disappointed that they could not engage Ferguson at Gilbert Town, they
did not permit this to dampen their hopes. They now took up a relentless
pursuit of his retreating army.

By the evening of October 4 they had pushed farther southward and camped
near Denard’s Ford on the Broad River. At this point they temporarily
lost Ferguson’s trail. Continuing southward, however, on October 5 they
completed a march of 12 miles and rested that night at Alexander’s Ford
on the Green River. On October 6 they pressed forward another 21 miles
to reach the Cowpens. This point in South Carolina was so named because
of the extensive cattle enclosures owned there by Hiram Saunders, a
wealthy Tory. Ferguson’s hope that the mountain men would be misled and
continue southward toward Ninety-Six was a false one. From the Cowpens,
the route of the frontier army was to be generally southeastward toward
the Broad River and then north and east to Kings Mountain.

Along their route to the Cowpens, the mountain men were favored by good
fortune. They received accurate information from patriot supporters in
the region regarding the country through which Ferguson’s corps had
passed in its retreat toward Kings Mountain and Charlotte. Their spirits
were also spurred by Col. Edward Lacey, of South Carolina, who visited
the patriot camp on the Green River to report that a large body of North
and South Carolina militia was ready to join the expedition at the

As early as September 23, Col. James Williams, of South Carolina, with
the permission of North Carolina patriot authorities, had issued a call
for patriot recruits from the border of both States. His appeal was
headed: “A call to arms: Beef, bread, and potatoes,” and resulted in the
assembling of 400 men. Included were the forces under local militia
leaders, such as William Hill, Edward Lacey, James Hawthorne, Frederick
Hambright, William Chronicle, and William Graham. When on the afternoon
of October 6, these forces were united with Colonel Campbell’s command
at the Cowpens, the combined volunteer army numbered approximately 1,790

At the Cowpens the report of a patriot spy named Joseph Kerr that
Ferguson was only a few miles ahead in the vicinity of Kings Mountain,
confirmed earlier rumors of the British force’s position. To overtake
Ferguson without delay, the leaders of the patriot expedition chose from
their various commands a select group of stalwart fighting men, all
mounted, who immediately rode ahead during the night of October 6
towards Kings Mountain. The exact strength of this advance party is not
known, but it is certain to have exceeded 900 men.

By this time, Ferguson’s army was already encamped upon the top of
King’s Mountain. From Tate’s plantation, his route on October 6 for 16
miles followed the old Cherokee Ferry Road between Buffalo and Kings
Creek. He crossed a branch of Kings Creek near Whisnant’s mill site and
continued along the old Ridge Road to the main branch of Kings Creek.
Fording this creek, Ferguson bore off in a northeastward direction
toward what is known today as Hambright’s Gap. Later in the day, he led
his force through this gap toward the vital ridge of Kings Mountain,
about three-quarters of a mile beyond.

    [Illustration: _The Kings Mountain Battleground, showing the north
    slope of the ridge, on the left, and the original Chronicle marker
    in the background._ Sketched by Benson J. Lossing during his visit
    to the area on January 8, 1849.]

The decision to post his army on the top of this ridge represented a
change of his plan to push forward and join Cornwallis at Charlotte. It
was a decision hard to understand when it is realized how close he was
to the security of the main British army. It is generally believed,
however, that Ferguson made the decision deliberately and with the
definite intention of meeting the patriots in battle. That he felt
secure in this position is shown from his letter of October 6 to
Cornwallis, which stated: “I arrived to day at Kings Mountain & have
taken a post where I do not think I can be forced by a stronger enemy
than that against us.” Ferguson was also known to be a vain man.
Operating with the largest independent command of his military career,
it is probable that he could not resist the temptation to seek for
himself the glory of still another victory.

Meanwhile, the picked group of mountain men rode through the night
toward their objective under the cover of a drizzling rain. To keep the
flint locks of their weapons dry, bags, blankets, or even hunting shirts
were wrapped around them. To add to their difficulties, a number of
Campbell’s men lost their way in the darkness. By the morning of October
7 they were rounded up and the progress of the march was delayed very

The Americans approached the scene of the battle with great caution.
Their path was along the same route as that followed by Ferguson on the
preceding day. They passed near his campsite at Tate’s plantation where
they expected to find a covering-force on the east bank of the Broad
River. To avoid possible discovery at this point, they crossed the river
at Cherokee Ford, 2½ miles below. By the forenoon of October 7 the men
and their horses showed the effects of the tiring overland march from
the Cowpens. Despite the suggestion by a number of the leaders that a
halt be called, Colonel Shelby is reported to have replied: “I will not
stop until night, if I follow Ferguson into Cornwallis’ lines.”

    [Illustration: “_The Battle of Kings Mountain._” From a painting by
    F. C. Yohn.]

It was not long before the patriots learned definitely that Ferguson was
but a few miles ahead, posted on Kings Mountain. Constantly on the alert
for Tories who could be expected to warn him of their approach, they
followed the Ridge Road past present-day Antioch Church. From this point
they proceeded in a northerly direction to an old colonial road leading
from North Carolina to what is now York, S. C. This road, which ran in a
southeastward direction, led them over Ponder’s Branch and a tributary
of Kings Creek to Hambright’s Gap, not far from the site of the coming

Kings Mountain ridge, upon which the encounter soon occurred, extends
600 yards in a northeasterly direction and forms but a small part of the
16-mile Kings Mountain range. The summit of the ridge, which was stony,
stood about 60 feet above the surrounding country and was 60 to 120 feet
wide. One of its main disadvantages was that the tree line stood almost
to its top. This enabled an expert rifleman to fire effectively from
ample cover on either side of the ridge upon individuals on its crest.

About a mile from the ridge the patriot leaders called a halt, the
horses were hitched, and final battle instructions given the men. They
were formed into 2 lines, each consisting of 2 columns, and were ordered
to proceed on foot. Each detachment was to take a preassigned position
at the base of the ridge to complete the encirclement of Ferguson’s
corps. The right flank column was composed of detachments under Major
Winston, Colonel Sevier, and Major McDowell, with Winston’s force at the
head of the column. The right and left center columns were commanded
respectively by Colonels Campbell and Shelby. The left flank column
included the forces of Major Chronicle, Colonel Cleveland, and Colonel
Williams, with Chronicle’s force at the head of the column. As the march
on the ridge began, Major Winston was detached with a number of men from
Wilkes and Surry Counties to make a long detour to the right. It is
believed that the purpose of Winston’s assignment was to close quickly
Ferguson’s most logical line of retreat from the ridge.

Facing the advancing frontiersmen, Ferguson had a force of 1,104 men.
These included, in his Provincial Corps, some 100 Rangers who had been
selected from the King’s American Rangers, the New Jersey Volunteers,
and the Loyal American Regiment. The remainder of his force consisted of
about 1,000 Tory militia. His officers included Capt. Abraham de
Peyster, second in command, and Lt. Anthony Allaire, adjutant, both from
New York. Dr. Uzal Johnson, of New Jersey, was surgeon for the British

                     _The Battle of Kings Mountain_

After passing through Hambright’s Gap, the frontier detachments moved
rapidly into their preassigned positions around the ridge. Seeking cover
in the wooded ravines, the patriots advanced, and Campbell and McDowell
hurriedly passed through the gap at the southwestern end of the ridge.
They took positions respectively on the southeastern and eastern slopes.
Sevier formed along the western slope, while Shelby took position on the
northwestern slope. Meanwhile, the other patriot detachments were
forming along the bottom of the ravine leading around the northern and
northeastern base of the ridge.

Ferguson’s main camp was near the northeastern end of the ridge, but his
picket line extended along the crest nearly to its southwestern end.
About 3 p. m., as the patriots began to encircle the ridge, Ferguson’s
pickets sounded the alarm and engaged the advancing mountaineers in a
brief skirmish. Then, as they reached their positions, Campbell and
Shelby almost simultaneously opened the main attack. From the crest the
Tories and Provincials replied with a burst of trained volley firing.
But Campbell’s and Shelby’s men moved steadily up the slope Indian
fashion, from tree to rock. For 10 to 15 minutes they maintained their
attack, while the other patriot detachments moved into position around
the ridge.

While the trained Tory force “depended on their discipline, their
manhood, and the bayonet,” the mountain men relied upon their skill as
marksmen. According to an eyewitness account of this phase of the battle
“the mountain appeared volcanic; there flashed along its summit and
around its base, and up its sides, one long sulphurous blaze.” Ferguson
believed steadfastly in the effectiveness of the bayonet charge, but the
terrain at Kings Mountain proved “more assailable by the rifle than
defensible with the bayonet.”

As the two patriot commands neared Ferguson’s lines, the Tories charged
and drove them down the slope at the point of the bayonet. Though they
had no bayonets, the patriots rallied at the foot, and the unerring
markmanship of their deadly Kentucky rifles forced their pursuers to
retire. Slowly following the retreating Tories and Provincials,
Campbell’s and Shelby’s men were again driven down the rugged incline by
the Tory bayonets. Taking cover behind trees and rocks, the two patriot
commands again forced the Tories to retreat toward the crest.

Much of the volley firing of the Provincials and Tories, with their
muskets and a possible scattering of Ferguson breech-loading rifles, was
aimed too high. It passed harmlessly over the heads of the two patriot
detachments, which now pushed even higher toward the crest. As the
Tories began their third bayonet charge upon Campbell and Shelby, they
were suddenly attacked along the northern and eastern slopes by the
other patriot detachments. Moving to meet the patriot attack from these
quarters, the Tories allowed Campbell and Shelby to gain and hold the
southwestern summit.

Now completely surrounded, Ferguson’s disorganized and rapidly
decreasing force was gradually pushed toward its campsite on the
northeastern end of the ridge. In this desperate situation, with attacks
and counterattacks raging on all sides, the piercing note of Ferguson’s
silver whistle urging his forces on continued to be heard above the
shooting and shrill whoops of the mountaineers. Suddenly, Ferguson
attempted to cut through Cleveland’s lines near the northeastern crest,
but was struck from his horse by at least eight balls fired by the
mountain sharpshooters. He died a few minutes later.

    [Illustration: _Capt. Abraham de Peyster, second in command to
    Ferguson at Kings Mountain._ Courtesy New York Historical Society.]

Captain de Peyster assumed command and attempted to rally the confused
surviving Tories and Provincials, but his efforts were useless and he
ordered a surrender. During the bloody 1-hour engagement that raged
along the heavily wooded and rocky slopes, the mountaineers gained a
complete victory. They were veterans of countless frontier clashes, even
though untrained in formal warfare and, with a slight loss of 28 killed
and 62 wounded, had killed, wounded or captured Ferguson’s entire force.

Order and quiet were not immediately restored to the rugged battlefield.
A number of patriots continued to fire into the group of defenseless
Tories, because it was not known that a surrender had begun. Others
fired upon the Tories to avenge the merciless slaughter of Col. Abraham
Buford’s patriot force by Col. Banastre Tarleton’s British raiders at
the Waxhaws in South Carolina, on May 29, 1780.

While Dr. Uzal Johnson of Ferguson’s corps tended the wounds of patriots
and Tories alike, others buried Ferguson’s body and those of the Tory
dead on the battlefield. Of the patriots killed in the engagement, only
four—Maj. William Chronicle, Capt. John Mattocks, William Rabb, and John
Boyd—are buried there. They share a common grave at the site of the
Chronicle markers.

    [Illustration:              TROOP POSITIONS
                          THE BATTLE OF KINGS MOUNTAIN
                                _SOUTH CAROLINA_]

    [Illustration: _Gen. Nathanael Greene, American Commander in the
    South, 1780-81._ Courtesy Emmet Collection, New York Public

    [Illustration: _General Greene (left) meets General Gates at
    Charlotte, N. C., to assume command of the Southern Department of
    the Continental Army in December 1780._]

The patriots rested on the battleground overnight. On Sunday morning,
October 8, they started the homeward march. One week later they reached
Bickerstaff’s plantation near Gilbert Town with their prisoners. The
frontiersmen had not dared delay their march, for they feared Cornwallis
would send Colonel Tarleton in pursuit to avenge Ferguson’s defeat. At
Bickerstaff’s, a court martial was held and 30 Tories were condemned to
death; of these, 9 were hanged and the remainder spared. Since an
investigation showed that these 9 Tories had robbed, pillaged, and
committed more serious crimes, the patriots believed they were justified
in this action. They also wished to retaliate for similar types of rude
justice rendered so often in the past by the British.

    [Illustration: “_The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown,
    Virginia, 19 October 1781._” From a painting by John Trumbull.
    Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery.]

The patriot detachments reached Quaker Meadows on October 15 with the
prisoners. From this point they were marched northward toward Virginia;
this was in accordance with the instructions of October 12 from General
Gates, the American commander in the South. On October 26, Colonel
Campbell entrusted Colonel Cleveland with the safekeeping of the
prisoners and, with Colonel Shelby, called upon General Gates to
determine the fate of the remaining Tories.

Meanwhile, the volunteer army melted away. Most of its members lost no
time in returning to their home settlements. As the number of troops
guarding the prisoners declined, escape became easy. After a long period
of indecision, the remaining Tory prisoners were finally moved to
Hillsboro, N. C., and exchanged. The mighty army of mountain men, whose
very existence confounded Ferguson, now vanished as quietly as it had

                      _The Meaning of the Victory_

The lifting of the spirits of the patriots in the Carolinas and the
renewal of their will to resist the British invader were important and
immediate effects of Ferguson’s defeat at Kings Mountain. News of this
decisive victory spread rapidly through the region, bringing out
stronger patriot militia forces in North Carolina and from nearby
Virginia. It also revived patriot guerrilla warfare in South Carolina.
Tories in the Carolinas became greatly discouraged and disorganized. The
British did not immediately sense the importance of this sharp
improvement in patriot morale and were inclined to discount the loss of
the relatively small Tory force under Ferguson. At the headquarters of
the British forces in New York it was even denied that the battle had
taken place.

The unexpected success of the patriots at Kings Mountain caused a delay
of almost 3 months in Cornwallis’ northward advance. This was a serious
loss of time which had a far-reaching effect upon his campaign in 1781.
The immediate turn of events in the war in the South that came with the
victory at Kings Mountain forced Cornwallis to abandon his foothold at
Charlotte, in the unfriendly territory of North Carolina. Fearful that
the patriots would try to regain control of key posts in South Carolina,
he retreated to Winnsboro, in the upper part of that State. Here he took
up a defensive position during the first part of the winter of 1780-81
to await reinforcements sent south by General Clinton. Although ill
during most of this period, Cornwallis attempted to regain the support
of his former Tory allies in the region and to plan a second invasion of
North Carolina.

Patriot leaders took advantage of his enforced halt at Winnsboro and
organized a new offensive in the South. At Charlotte, early in December
1780, Gen. Nathanael Greene replaced General Gates as American commander
in the South, with the resolve to “recover this country or die in the
attempt.” Greene divided his small, ill-equipped army into two partisan
forces and directed them to distract Cornwallis by threatening Camden on
his right and Ninety-six on his left. This daring plan gave Greene the
military initiative in the Carolinas during 1781.

It led to the notable patriot victory at the Cowpens, on January 17, and
was followed by the strategic American withdrawal across North Carolina,
which dissipated Cornwallis’ strength and strained his supply line. On
March 15 Cornwallis overtook Greene and forced him from the field at the
Battle of Guilford Courthouse, but British losses were so serious that
Cornwallis retired to Wilmington, N. C., for rest and new supplies. All
of these actions were important links in the chain of events after Kings
Mountain which led Cornwallis along the road to Yorktown. From
Wilmington, Cornwallis undertook his dramatic campaign in Virginia which
ended with his surrender on October 19 to General Washington’s
victorious American and French forces at the siege of Yorktown. The 6
years of war in the American Revolution were over and American
independence was assured.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Joseph McDowell, commanding patriots from Burke
    County, N. C._]

The Kings Mountain expedition and engagement illustrate the
characteristic vigor of the untrained American colonial frontiersman in
rising to the threat of border invasion. These events are memorable as
examples of the personal valor and resourcefulness of the American
frontier fighter, particularly the Scotch-Irish, during the Revolution.
The battle is a stirring record of the mountain man’s unerring
marksmanship. It was truly a hunting-rifle victory.

                 _Patriot Commanders at Kings Mountain_

The patriot leaders at the Battle of Kings Mountain were of Irish,
Scotch, Welsh, English, French, and German ancestry. Six militia
colonels and two militia majors, who were in command of the eight
detachments which surrounded the battle ridge, are selected for
particular mention. The list includes Isaac Shelby, John Sevier, and
William Campbell, without whom there would have been no expedition to
Kings Mountain. Others of importance in the list are Benjamin Cleveland,
Frederick Hambright, James Williams, Joseph McDowell, and Joseph

_Col. Benjamin Cleveland_ was born May 26, 1738, near Bull Run (later of
Civil War fame), in Prince William County, Va. As he grew to manhood, he
received little if any education beyond the lessons that a hazardous
life on the frontier could teach. Later, when he settled in Wilkes
County, N. C., he is reputed to have been the equal, if not the
superior, of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone as both hunter and Indian

His life was filled with adventures all of which added to the respect
and admiration in which he was held by his friends. He despised the
Tories and often showed his ruthlessness toward them. At Bickerstaff’s
plantation, he is believed to have been most responsible for the hanging
of 9 Tories after the Battle of Kings Mountain, and on other occasions
he also displayed his familiarity with the use of the rope.

In later life, he served as a justice of Pendleton County Court, in the
region of the Tugaloo River, near the western border of South Carolina.
It has been reported by his associates, among them Gen. Andrew Pickens,
that he frequently dozed on the bench and it often was necessary to
awaken him when his snoring interfered with the court proceedings.

With the passage of years, Cleveland is said to have attained the
impressive weight of 450 pounds. It was always a question, when he came
as an overnight guest, whether this would prove too much for any bed in
the house. His excessive weight became a source of considerable
embarrassment and was partly the cause of his developing a case of
dropsy, with which he suffered for a number of years before his death.

In October 1806, when he was in his 69th year, Cleveland died at the
breakfast table. He was outlived by his wife, son, and two daughters.
They buried him in the family burial ground on his old plantation, in
the forks of the Tugaloo and Chauga Rivers.

_Lt. Col. Frederick Hambright_, who came with his parents from Germany
to America at the age of 11, lived from 1727 to 1817. He is believed to
have received a sound education that fitted him well for his activities
in later life. About 1755 he moved from Lancaster County, Pa., to
Virginia where he married Sarah Hardin. In 1760, he settled near the
South Fork of the Catawba River in North Carolina.

As Hambright became immersed in the “American melting pot,” he took part
in battles against the Indians and the British. He served also in the
provincial congress of the State of North Carolina. The value of his
services was recognized by promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel
of militia.

This was the rank he held in 1780 when he received such a severe thigh
wound in the action at Kings Mountain that he was forced to resign his
commission. Finally, on March 9, 1817, at the age of 90, Hambright died
on property he had purchased in later life in the vicinity of Kings
Mountain. He is buried in the old Shiloh Presbyterian Church cemetery,
not far from the present park boundary.

    [Illustration: _Maj. Joseph Winston, commanding patriots from Surry
    County, N. C._]

_Col. James Williams_ was born in the late 1730’s at the family home in
Hanover County, Va. Upon the death of both his parents, when he was
still quite young, he moved to Granville County, N. C., to live with his
brother John. The latter was an able jurist and helped James to gain a
little education.

In his thirties, James Williams moved to Laurens County, S. C., where he
worked as a farmer, miller, and merchant. Here he was chosen a delegate
to the provincial congress of South Carolina and later made a member of
the local Committee of Safety just before the outbreak of the
Revolutionary War. As he pursued his several vocations, he made a good
living for his wife and eight children.

After the outbreak of war with England, Williams served ably in many
actions, including Brier Creek, Stone Ferry, Savannah, and Musgrove’s
Mill. Williams has been compared, in soldierly qualities, to “Stonewall”
Jackson. He was the only one of the colonels in the Battle of Kings
Mountain who died from a wound received in that action. He was in his
early forties. An eminent American historian paid him this tribute: “A
man of exalted character, of a career brief but glorious.”

_The McDowell brothers_, Charles and Joseph, were representative of the
landed gentry of the piedmont section of North Carolina. Maj. Joseph
McDowell (February 15, 1756, to August 11, 1801) commanded the troops of
his brother at Kings Mountain. Joseph McDowell had the further
distinction of being among the men of Kings Mountain who later helped
win the brilliant American victory at the Cowpens.

Joseph McDowell’s home was at the family plantation known as “Quaker
Meadows.” He grew up there and later served in many Revolutionary War
battles under the watchful eye of his older brother Charles. After peace
was made, he engaged actively in politics on local and national levels.

While serving as a member of the North Carolina Conventions of 1788 and
1789, he opposed ratification of the proposed State constitution,
because it did not include a bill of rights. A few years later
(1797-99), as a member of Congress, he opposed passage of the Alien and
Sedition Acts. Because of his stand on these issues and others he came
to be recognized as one of the leaders of the Democratic Republican
Party in western North Carolina. “Throughout his life,” according to a
local historian, “he was the idol of the western people of North

    [Illustration: _Col. John Sevier, commanding patriots from
    Washington County, N. C. (now eastern Tennessee)._]

    [Illustration: _Col. Isaac Shelby, commanding patriots from Sullivan
    County, N. C. (now eastern Tennessee)._]

_Maj. Joseph Winston_ was from a distinguished family of Yorkshire,
England, a branch of which settled first in Wales. Later, this family
group migrated to Virginia. Joseph was born on June 17, 1746, one of
seven sons, all of whom served in the Revolutionary War. He received a
fair education for that day, which prepared him not only for years of
successful military service, but also for a postwar career in the State
Legislature and in Congress.

At the age of 17, he joined a company of rangers and took part in an
expedition against the Indians on the frontier. This was the beginning
of his military service which ended after the Battle of Guilford
Courthouse. In that engagement he answered Gen. Nathanael Greene’s call
for troops by coming to his assistance with 100 riflemen.

Winston represented his district, first Surry County and then Stokes
County which was formed from it, in the State Senate for eight different
terms. On the national scene, he served in Congress from 1792 to 1793
and 1803 to 1807. As a presidential elector, he voted for Thomas
Jefferson in 1800 and James Madison in 1812.

Joseph Winston died on April 21, 1815. He was survived by his wife and a
number of children. Among them were triplet boys who lived to become a
major general, a judge, and a lieutenant governor.

_Col. Isaac Shelby_ was born December 11, 1750, near North Mountain, Md.
He was the son of Evan Shelby, who emigrated from Wales to America in
1735. In 1771 the Shelby family moved to the Holston country in
Virginia. Here young Shelby acquired the elements of a plain English
education and spent much of his time fighting the Indians and the
British. Between 1775 and 1780, with rank first of captain and then of
major, he explored the wilds of Kentucky.

Shelby is said to have had a sturdy, well-proportioned build with
strongly-marked features, and to have been of florid complexion. He had
a good constitution that withstood the rigors of frontier life where
fatigue and privation were every-day occurrences. His bearing was
impressive, and, although he maintained a dignified reserve, he was
affable and possessed of a pleasing personality.

He married Susannah Hart on April 19, 1783, at Boonesborough, Ky. The
young couple settled on land Shelby had staked out for himself in 1782,
when he was a commissioner to adjust pre-emption claims on the
Cumberland River. Eleven children were born of their marriage.

Shelby devoted tireless energy to the creation of the New State of
Kentucky. With the adoption in 1792 of a State constitution by the
convention of which he was a member, his efforts were rewarded. Shortly
after, he became the first governor of Kentucky.

After Shelby left the governor’s mansion, he performed several other
public services. Among the most important of these was his command of
4,000 Kentucky volunteers in the American army of Gen. William Henry
Harrison, during the Canadian campaign in 1813. He was stricken with
paralysis in 1820 and died of apoplexy 6 years later.

Shelby’s friend and associate _John Sevier_ (whose name was anglicized
from Xavier), likewise was well suited to frontier life. Sevier, born to
Valentine and Joana Goode Sevier on September 23, 1745, was of Huguenot
ancestry. The Sevier family lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia
where they farmed and traded with the Indians.

Sevier received a haphazard education, but this was in keeping with the
times. It included schooling at Fredericksburg Academy and the Staunton
School. At 16 he left school to marry Sarah Hawkins. About 7 months
after her death in 1780, he married Catherine Sherrill, the “Bonny Kate”
in song and story of the Tennessee frontier.

Wherever this leader of varied training, great courage, and personal
magnetism went, he brought change. Moreover, from the day he founded the
town of New Market, Va., where he engaged in trade as a merchant,
innkeeper, and farmer, until his death September 24, 1815, his actions
stirred controversy.

In December 1773, he moved with his family to the Holston River
settlements. Here he helped to create the short-lived “State of
Franklin” of which he became governor. After the “state” was dissolved
and the area fully reincorporated into North Carolina, his enemies
circulated an unfounded report that he had used it to further his own
fortunes. The report gained such wide acceptance that he felt impelled
to move far out on the frontier. His was a reputation that was made and
then damaged, but his fall from grace was only temporary. He later took
advantage of the movement to form the State of Tennessee and, regaining
his political influence, became its first governor in 1796.

Among the more unhappy experiences of Sevier’s later life was a feud
that developed between him and an ambitious young judge, Andrew Jackson.
Although Jackson brought charges of land frauds against Sevier, the
political career of the Kings Mountain hero, which included three more
terms as governor between 1803 and 1807, was not damaged. These two
strong men with conflicting ambitions never reconciled their grievances.
In the eyes of the electorate, Sevier’s record of 33 victories in 35
battles was deserving of high regard and he was duly rewarded at the

Sevier lived to be 70 years old and came to be known as “Nolichucky
Jack.” His adventurous spirit characterized him to the end. Even as late
as 1812, following the outbreak of America’s second war with England, he
advocated bringing “fire and sword” to the Creek Indian Country.

Colorful as were the other patriot leaders, _William Campbell_ of
Virginia, who has been described as a man of commanding appearance, was
an equally imposing figure. He was born in 1745 in Augusta County, Va.,
to Charles Campbell and the daughter of John Buchanan, Sr., who fought
in the Wars of Scotland. As William Campbell reached maturity, he stood
6½ feet tall, was amiable when not enraged, and devoted to the cause of

    [Illustration: _William Campbell Preston, who is said to have
    closely resembled his grandfather, Col. William Campbell, patriot
    commander at Kings Mountain, of whom no likeness can be found._ From
    a portrait by John Wesley Jarvis. Courtesy The South Caroliniana
    Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.]

William was an only son and received a good education from competent
teachers. When 22 years old, he moved with his mother and four younger
sisters to Fincastle County, Va. The family settled on the fringe of the
Holston country on land that had been purchased before the death of his
father. This family plantation came to be known as “Aspenvale” and was
near the present town of Abingdon, Va.

Like Shelby and Sevier, Campbell was interested in both the military and
civil affairs of his community. Upon the outbreak of the War for
American Independence, he raised the first militia company in
southwestern Virginia to support this cause. In September 1775, Capt.
William Campbell and his company of frontiersmen marched to Williamsburg
and joined the Virginia regiment commanded by Patrick Henry.

When Campbell realized the British were trying to persuade the Cherokee
Indians to attack the frontier settlements, he feared for the safety of
his mother and sisters. Disappointed in his hope of resigning his
commission and returning home for their protection, he did find
happiness at the time by winning Elizabeth Henry, a sister of Patrick
Henry, for his wife.

In 1777, Washington County was formed from Fincastle and Campbell made
lieutenant colonel of militia. He was promoted to the full rank of
colonel in April 1780; this was the rank he held at the Battle of Kings
Mountain. For his services there he received praise from Gates,
Washington, the Virginia Legislature, and the Continental Congress.
Virginia presented him with a horse, saddle, and sword at public
expense. Lord Cornwallis, with oblique recognition of Campbell’s prowess
as a foe, threatened him with instant death should he be captured by the

Before Campbell finally resigned his commission, on March 20, 1781, he
and his command, a small force of riflemen, fought well at the Battle of
Guilford Courthouse. He then enjoyed a brief term of office as a member
of the House of Delegates from Washington County. Within a short time,
however, he was recalled to duty, this time to serve under General
Lafayette in Virginia. His military services were considered
indispensable and the war was not yet won.

William Campbell’s final service to his country was brief for, on August
22, 1781, while on active duty, he died after a short illness. He was
buried at Rocky Mills, Hanover County, Va. There his body remained until
1823, when it was removed to “Aspenvale” for interment in the family
burial ground. He was survived by a daughter and his wife, who remarried
and lived until 1825.

Such were some of the leaders in the drama—successful and honored in
peace as in war. It is doubtful that any of them, however, reached
greater heights than during that action, one October day, on the slopes
of Kings Mountain.

                        _Maj. Patrick Ferguson_

On June 4, 1744, Patrick Ferguson was born to Judge and Ann E. Murray
Ferguson at Pitfour, the family estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Patrick was one of a family of six children in which he had an older and
younger brother and three sisters. Ferguson’s father, Lord Pitfour, the
Second Laird, had restored the family fortune lost by the First Laird of
Pitfour as a result of unfortunate speculation in the South Sea Company.
His children did not lack for the comforts normally enjoyed by the
offspring of gentry. They were fortunately endowed also with a family
background of learning and culture.

With this background, it is not surprising that young Patrick’s
education was started at an early age. Any hopes or expectations that
his parents may have had, however, of developing him as a scholar were
short lived. After finishing the little schooling he received at a
military academy in London, Ferguson decided to use his ability as a
horseman and hunter and to become a soldier.

At the age of 15 a commission was purchased for him, and he entered upon
active service on July 12, 1759, as a cornet in the Royal North British
Dragoons. With a slight frame, Ferguson was not an individual of
commanding appearance, and it might have been thought that he was poorly
suited to military service. This shortcoming was made up in soldierly
determination, and he was also blessed by inheritance with a serious
disposition, unusual ability, sound judgment, and energy in ample

From the plains of Flanders and Germany to the spur of the Kings
Mountain range, where he was killed, Ferguson demonstrated his soldierly
qualities. For example, on June 30, 1760, he displayed his
characteristic contempt for danger at the Battle of Minden. In this
action he returned in the face of enemy hussars to retrieve a pistol
which dropped from his holster as his horse jumped a ditch. Such an
action was to be expected of him, if he was to be worthy of his name,
which was derived from the Gaelic “Feargachus,” meaning one of a bold,
haughty, and fiery disposition.

It was difficult for his mother to watch Ferguson embark on a military
career at such an early age. On August 14, 1762, her brother, Maj. Gen.
James Murray, wrote her from Quebec: “You must no longer look upon him
as your son. He is the son of Mars and will be unworthy of his father if
he does not give proofs of contempt of pain and danger.”

    [Illustration: _Bust of Maj. Patrick Ferguson, British commander at
    Kings Mountain._ Courtesy John Wilson Smith, Peterhead, Scotland.]

Sickness interrupted Ferguson’s service in the field from 1762 to 1768.
He was not idle during the period of his recovery in Scotland and
entered actively into public discussion of the extension of the militia
laws of England to Scotland. This activity gave him some early insight
into the problem and prepared him for the role he later played in the
Carolinas as Inspector of Militia. He enjoyed a second leave of absence
from military service just prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary
War. In this period he pursued an intensive study of military science
and tactics and developed the Ferguson rifle.

In 1777 Ferguson was sent to America with the reputation of being one of
the best, if not the best, marksmen in the British army. At the time he
held a captaincy, which was attained on September 1, 1768. He was in
command of a corps of at least 100 riflemen, whom he had personally
trained in the use of his new breechloading rifle. During the earlier
years of his service in America, Ferguson participated in numerous
actions in the North. Among these was the Battle of Brandywine on
September 11, 1777, in which he was so severely wounded in the right arm
that its usefulness was impaired during the remainder of his life.

Ferguson was inured by years of service to such hardships. His loyalty
was rewarded on October 25, 1779, when he was promoted to the rank of
major. A few months later, at the start of the British expedition
against Charleston, he was given the temporary rank of lieutenant
colonel. His ability and personal magnetism enabled him to win the
respect of all his associates, and his success as an officer was as
notable in the South as it had previously been in the North.

This was his last campaign, and, in its course, he demonstrated a sense
of fairness and a degree of humanity that earned him the respect of many
of the people of the South. As the opportunity permitted, he attempted
to persuade many of these Americans to renew their oath of allegiance to
the King of England. His success won the admiration of his associates,
among whom was General Stuart of Garth, who wrote upon the demise of
this soldier: “By zeal, animation, and a liberal spirit, he gained the
confidence of the mass of people....”

Even more revealing of his character are the following lines written
from America by Ferguson to his mother to calm her fears for his safety:
“The length of our lives is not at our command, however much the manner
of them may be. If our Creator enable us to act the part of honour, and
to conduct ourselves with spirit, probity, and humanity, the change to
another world whether now or fifty years hence, will not be for the

                          _The Ferguson Rifle_

Great as Maj. Patrick Ferguson’s success was as a soldier, probably his
most outstanding achievement was the development of the first
breech-loading rifle to be used by troops in battle. This arm, which is
known as the Ferguson rifle, was expected by its inventor to bring
revolutionary changes to gunnery practices. In the patent, which was
granted by the British Patent Office on December 2, 1776, Ferguson
describes it as “... an arm which unites expedition, safety, and
facility in using with the greatest certainty in execution, the two
great dessiderata [sic] of gunnery never before united.”

This rifle corrected many inadequacies of earlier breechloaders. Its
center of interest was the screw-plug attached to the trigger guard
which passed directly through the breech of the barrel from the bottom
to the top. This plug had from 12 to 14 rapid twist threads so that with
one turn of the trigger guard the loading aperture in the top of the
barrel could be opened or closed. The single-screw thread on breech
plugs of earlier breechloaders made it necessary to rotate the trigger
guard three or four times to open or close the breech. The Ferguson
screw-plug had the further advantage of being so designed that it never
came completely out of its socket.

For years prior to its invention, gunsmiths had given thought to the
development of a rapid-firing rifle. Patrick Ferguson believed he had
invented such an arm; he hoped it would prove its effectiveness when
tried under battle conditions in the War for American Independence.

Firing tests of the new weapon were conducted in the summer of 1776 at
the Blackheath and Woolwich Arsenals, in England. Because of its
remarkable performance, it was also demonstrated before the King at
Windsor. In the course of a series of tests, and with a high degree of
accuracy, Ferguson fired 6 shots per minute at a target 200 yards
distant from a stationary position and 4 shots when advancing at a
4-mile-an-hour pace. He then wet the inside of the barrel, and fired
effectively after a minute to prove the worthiness of this weapon in
inclement weather.

Ferguson missed the target only three times during these tests, which
impressed most favorably the high army officers who witnessed them. The
tests proved that the Ferguson rifle was a weapon of infinitely greater
accuracy and rapidity of fire than the “Brown Bess,” the regulation
musket of the British army.

After Ferguson was granted the patent on his rifle, arrangements were
made for the manufacture of a limited number, probably 200 in all. The
names of all the gunsmiths who produced this arm in the last years of
Ferguson’s lifetime and for a short time thereafter are not known with
certainty. They were made, however, by Durs Egg, Barbar of Newark,
Barker of Birmingham, Innes of Edinburgh, Newton, and Wilson of the
Minories. In all likelihood, Durs Egg completed the greater part of
Ferguson’s order for the new military weapon with which to arm his rifle

Three distinct types of rifle, depending upon the use intended for the
weapon, were made—those with the proportions of a musket for the foot
soldier, lighter models for the officers, and sporting arms. There was a
variation of 48 to 60 inches in the length of these weapons; and a
corresponding variation in the length of the barrels, which were either
octagonal or round in shape. Their bores ranged in size from five-eights
to three-quarters of an inch and were slightly larger than the usual
bore of the long American rifle. Their rifling consisted of 6 or 8
grooves. These were equally spaced and completed at least three-quarters
of a turn in the length of the barrel.

    [Illustration: _These views of the Ferguson rifle show the unique
    features of its breech mechanism._]

The earliest use of the Ferguson rifle was on American soil by riflemen
whom Major Ferguson had personally trained. It was used at the Battle of
Brandywine and is said to have been used later, with possibly a few
having been in action at Kings Mountain. The successful use of this
rifle in battle is sufficient proof that its inventor had made a notable
contribution to military technology and developed a most effective arm.
Unfortunately, it was at least 90 years ahead of its time.

What happened to these Ferguson rifles continues to be a matter of
conjecture. While Ferguson convalesced after the Battle of Brandywine,
his rifle corps was disbanded and his rifles put in storage by Sir
William Howe. Later, an undetermined number were withdrawn from storage
for further service. Though it can be assumed a number were destroyed in
action and others carried off for use as new hunting rifles, a large
number still remain unaccounted for.

Today there are only a few known specimens of this arm. Although those
still in existence are largely in private ownership, there are several
on public display in America. Two such arms are in the National Museum
in Washington, one of which was originally given by Ferguson to
Frederick de Peyster, the most important example in this country. The
Rudolph J. Nunnemacher Arms Collection at Milwaukee, Wis., also has one
of these weapons, as does the museum at the United States Military
Academy, West Point, N. Y.

The National Park Service is fortunate in owning two Ferguson rifles.
One of these, perhaps the second most important example in the United
States, is in the museum at Morristown National Historical Park,
Morristown, N. J. It is marked with the initials P. F., indicating it
was very probably inspected personally by Patrick Ferguson. The other is
in the Kings Mountain National Military Park Museum. Though one
occasionally hears of a Ferguson rifle for sale, their acquisition is a
collector’s dream.

                        _Your Guide to the Area_

The battlefield ridge is the most outstanding feature of the park.
Beginning at the Administration and Museum Building, numbered markers
have been placed at the principal points of interest along the trail.
These markers correspond with the numbered paragraphs below and with the
numbers on the guide map. For the best story on the ground, it is
suggested that you follow them in the order given.


Before you set out on the self-guiding, walking tour of the battlefield
ridge, you will enjoy a visit to the park museum in this building.
Colorful displays and exhibits explain simply and clearly the causes and
results of the Battle of Kings Mountain and the turn of events that
followed it in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. A
series of exhibits trace the origin of the mountain men, tell the story
of their uprising, and show their route of march to Kings Mountain.
Other displays explain the progress of the British invasion of the South
and the movement of Ferguson’s corps before the battle.

Among the featured exhibits are the battlefield diorama, typical arms of
the mountain men, an electric map showing routes of the forces engaged
in the battle, and examples of the Kentucky and Ferguson rifles. The
diorama is a three-dimensional reenactment in miniature of a typical
Kings Mountain battle scene. The original Ferguson rifle came from
Scotland and is one of the park’s prized possessions.


Close to this location Tory soldiers fired upon the advancing
frontiersmen. This was the first warning to Ferguson that he was about
to be engaged in battle. Shortly before, other patriot units passed here
toward assigned positions on the southwest and southeast slopes of the
ridge. They followed an Indian trail closely paralleled by the route of
the main park drive.


The first shot of the battle was the signal for all the patriot units
that were in position around the base of the ridge to commence their
attack. Here Sevier and Campbell merged their forces as they engaged
Ferguson’s Provincial troops in bitter hand-to-hand fighting. They
gained ground, only to lose it again, as they were repulsed by repeated
bayonet charges. But by their heroic action near this spot, patriot
troops on the northeast end of the ridge were enabled to complete the
encirclement of Ferguson’s position.


This spot marks the southwestern end of Ferguson’s battle position,
which extended the entire length of the ridge. The Centennial Monument
erected in 1880 to commemorate the American patriots who defeated
Ferguson is also located at this point. It is placed upon ground that
was overrun by the men of Shelby, Sevier, and Campbell who, by their
gallantry, forced Ferguson’s troops to retire toward the British


Bitterly fighting all the while, Tory forces were gradually pushed back
along the top of the ridge in this area. Here Ferguson had hoped to
establish a position from which he could better withstand the relentless
attack of the mountain men.

    [Illustration: _The Chronicle Markers. On the left is the original
    stone, erected 1815, which was replaced with the newer marker in
    1914. These stones mark the graves of Maj. William Chronicle, Capt.
    John Mattocks, William Rabb, and John Boyd; patriots killed in the

                        SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
                      WILLIAM RABB AND JOHN BOYD,

                THIS PLACE ON THE 7TH OF OCTOBER, 1780.

                           MACLEAN IN 1815._



After constant attack from all sides for nearly an hour, Ferguson’s
troops were forced into the clearing at this point which has changed
little since 1780. At this time Ferguson was killed and the command
passed to Capt. Abraham de Peyster, who very shortly realized that
further resistance was useless and in this area surrendered the
remaining Tory troops.

The impressive monument or obelisk at this location was erected in 1909
by the United States Government to memorialize the significant American
victory at Kings Mountain.


Near this spot and in the late stages of the engagement, Ferguson,
riddled with at least eight balls, fell from his white charger. One
battle account states that one of these balls was fired by Robert Young,
who is reported to have said in referring to his rifle, as he took aim
and fired at Ferguson: “I’ll try and see what Sweet-Lips can do.” The
small marker stands where the British commander is believed to have been
mortally wounded.

    [Illustration: _The Centennial Monument, erected in 1880 through
    public and private subscription._]


This was first marked by the granite block to the northeast of the pile
of stones. The tablet on the opposite side was dedicated October 7,
1930, by President Hoover on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial
Celebration. The rock pile originates from the Scottish tradition of
placing a cairn over the grave of a fallen Chieftain.


On July 4, 1815, Dr. William McLean visited the battlefield and
dedicated the gray soft stone on your left. It stands at the grave of
his friend, Maj. William Chronicle, who is buried here with Capt. John
Mattocks, William Rabb, and John Boyd. It is one of the oldest
battlefield markers in the country. One hundred years later, in 1914,
the Kings Mountain Association of Yorkville (now York), S. C., erected
the newer marker to preserve the time-and-weather-worn inscription on
the original.


One of the principal advantages of Ferguson’s campsite was its water
supply which continues to originate from several sources. This is one of
two springs to which the wounded of both sides are believed to have made
their way for water. About 200 yards ahead, where the trail makes a
hairpin turn to the right, you will pass a second spring on your left
which was probably also used during the battle.


As you move up the trail to the upper parking area, you pass through the
lines of Shelby and Sevier, coorganizers of the patriot march to Kings
Mountain. Along the way are points where they began their attacks which
were timed with the movements of Campbell’s men on the opposite slope of
the ridge.

                      _Establishment of the Park_

Kings Mountain National Military Park was established by act of Congress
on March 3, 1931. This was the climax of years of effort by individuals
and patriotic organizations to win national recognition for the area.

A series of dedicatory celebrations had previously focused public
attention upon it. The first of these celebrations, in 1815, was
primarily local in nature. It did, however, mark the date when the first
memorial stone was placed on the battlefield. This was in memory of
Major Chronicle and three other South Fork boys, who were buried in a
common grave. It was also the forerunner of the more elaborate
celebrations held in 1855, 1880, 1909, and 1930. Despite inadequate
means of travel and few access roads, they were all well attended.

The centennial observance of 1880 is of particular interest. To insure a
successful celebration, the Kings Mountain Centennial Association was
formed in 1879, composed largely of men from the towns of Kings Mountain
and York. These citizens sponsored the purchase of 40 acres of the
battleground and the erection of an appropriate monument. Generous
contributions were received from individuals and the State Legislatures
of North and South Carolina, resulting in the acquisition of most of the
battlefield ridge and the construction of the Centennial Monument.

Soon after the celebration, the Kings Mountain Centennial Association
was disbanded. Ownership of the battleground was transferred to the
Kings Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, with
headquarters in York, S. C. These patriotic ladies used their influence
to win the support of the Congress of the United States for the idea of
establishing a national historical shrine at the battleground. They were
encouraged also by increased public support for their project. When the
Congress appropriated $30,000 on June 16, 1906, for the erection of a
new monument, the reaching of their goal was not too far away. The
monument was completed in time for the celebration of 1909 and was
dedicated before dignitaries from Tennessee, Virginia, the Carolinas,
and Georgia. It is an 83-foot obelisk of white marble and stands as a
symbol of the recognition by the Federal Government of the significance
of the Battle of Kings Mountain.

    [Illustration: _Marker at the grave of Maj. Patrick Ferguson. The
    mound of stones follows a Scottish custom of placing rock cairns
    over graves._]

                            TO THE MEMORY OF
                         COL. PATRICK FERGUSON
                         SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT,
                        HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY.
                         BORN IN ABERDEENSHIRE
                            SCOTLAND IN 1744
                         KILLED OCTOBER 7, 1780
                              IN ACTION AT
                            KING’S MOUNTAIN
                          WHILE IN COMMAND OF
                          THE BRITISH TROOPS.
                         A SOLDIER OF MILITARY
                        DISTINCTION AND OF HONOR
                             THIS MEMORIAL
                        IS FROM THE CITIZENS OF
                      THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
                     OF THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP AND
                       PEACE BETWEEN THEM AND THE
                        ERECTED OCTOBER 7, 1930

The celebration of October 7, 1930, provided the final impetus to the
movement for the establishment of a national military park at Kings
Mountain. One year ahead of the celebration, President Hoover was
invited to be the guest of honor. His address at the celebration was
heard by an estimated 80,000 people and wide press coverage of the
speech brought nationwide attention to Kings Mountain. His presence also
gave the prestige of his office to the long-standing proposal that the
area was deserving of greater national recognition.

Although Kings Mountain National Military Park was finally established
151 years after the battle it commemorates, the Federal Government did
not at first own any of the land included in the park. In 1933,
responsibility for the development of the site was transferred by
Presidential executive order from the War Department to the National
Park Service of the Department of the Interior.

On September 24, 1935, the Kings Mountain chapter of the Daughters of
the American Revolution, located in York, S. C., donated the 40 acres of
the battleground to which the chapter held title. This was the nucleus
of the park, and additional lands acquired between 1936 and 1940 raised
the total holdings within the area to the present 4,012 acres.

                        _How to Reach the Park_

The park is best approached over North Carolina Route 216 from U. S. 29,
which is 4 miles to the north, and is equidistant from Charlotte, N. C.,
and Spartanburg, S. C. It is also accessible over South Carolina Route
161 from York, S. C.

                           _About Your Visit_

You may obtain further information about this and other areas of the
National Park System at the Administration and Museum Building near the
main parking area. With the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day,
this building is open daily, with museum hours from 8:30 a. m. to 5 p.
m. on weekdays and from 9:30 a. m. to 6 p. m. on Sundays. Park personnel
is available at this building to assist individuals and organized groups
of visitors. To assure such assistance to large groups, it is advisable
that arrangements be made in advance with the superintendent of the

A beautiful amphitheater is situated a short distance east of the
battlefield ridge, near the main park road. An outdoor historical drama
on the Battle of Kings Mountain has been presented here in late summer
during recent years. Adjoining the park on the east is Kings Mountain
State Park where you may picnic and swim in season.

    [Illustration: _Museum and Administration Building, Kings Mountain
    National Military Park._]

                            _Related Areas_

Three other areas administered by the National Park Service are related
to this park as a result of the sequence of events set in motion by the
Battle of Kings Mountain. They are Cowpens National Battlefield Site,
near Gaffney, S. C., Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, near
Greensboro, N. C., and Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown, Va.

To the west, the Blue Ridge Parkway, also administered by the National
Park Service, runs through a part of the country which many of the
mountain men crossed en route to the engagement at Kings Mountain.


Kings Mountain National Military Park is administered by the National
Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior. A
superintendent, whose address is P. O. Box 31, Kings Mountain, N. C., is
in immediate charge.

                          _Suggested Readings_

Alden, John Richard, _American Revolution 1775-1783_, The New American
Nation Series, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1954.

Bailey, J. D., _Commander At Kings Mountain_, Gaffney, S. C., 1926.

Draper, Lyman C., _Kings Mountain And Its Heroes_, Peter G. Thomson,
Cincinnati, 1881; Dauber and Pine Bookshops, New York, 1929.

Ferguson, James, _Two Scottish Soldiers, “A Soldier of 1688 and
Blenheim, A Soldier Of The American Revolution,”_ D. Wyllie & Son,
Aberdeen, 1888.

George, J. N., _English Guns and Rifles_, Small Arms Technical
Publishing Company, Plantersville, S. C.

Scofield, John, “Patrick Ferguson’s Rifle,” _The American Rifleman_,
December, 1941.

Wallace, Willard M., _Appeal to Arms, “A Military History of the
American Revolution,”_ Harper & Brothers, New York, 1951.

                       ★ U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1972 0—487-136

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                       HISTORICAL HANDBOOK SERIES

   (Price lists of National Park Service publications may be obtained
                 from the Superintendent of Documents,
                          Washington 25, D.C.)

  Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields
  Custer Battlefield
  Custis-Lee Mansion, the Robert E. Lee Memorial
  Fort Laramie
  Fort McHenry
  Fort Necessity
  Fort Pulaski
  Fort Raleigh
  Fort Sumter
  George Washington Birthplace
  Guilford Courthouse
  Hopewell Village
  Jamestown, Virginia
  Kings Mountain
  The Lincoln Museum and the House Where Lincoln Died
  Manassas (Bull Run)
  Montezuma Castle
  Morristown, a Military Capital of the Revolution
  Petersburg Battlefields
  Scotts Bluff
  Statue of Liberty
  Vanderbilt Mansion

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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