The Battle of King's Mountain

The Battle of King's Mountain was fought inn South Carolina on October 8th, 1780 during the American Revolution. It is very important because it was one of the major turning points of the war. In 1779, with the British northern army holed up in New York by the American army under George Washington, the British decided to turn their focus to the Southern colonies. The British army under Cornwallis moved by sea to Charleston, and captured it and most of its garrison on May 12th, 1780 with a very low number of casualties. He then began moving north through South Carolina, destroying the remnants of the American army as he went. The British were also able to recruit over 1000 Loyalist, and they were placed under the command of Major Patrick Ferguson, a brave officer and one of the best shots in the British army. Cornwallis moved the army up to Charlotte, North Carolina. He placed Ferguson with his militia toward the west to guard his left flank.

At this point, the American army in the South was virtually non-existent. On September 10th, 1780 Ferguson issued a message where he declared to the American farmers that he would, “march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste to their country with fire and sword.” The men he addressed were Scotch-Irish frontiersmen, and his message had the opposite effect of what he hoped. Instead of frightening them into submission, he stirred them up to resistance. The “Over Mountain Men:” the frontiersmen from west of the Allegheny Mountains, began gathering and were joined with other groups of militia from Virginia and elsewhere. They numbered in all around 1,400 men.

When Ferguson heard of their advance, he began falling back towards Charlotte. The Patriots followed, and they heard that he made camp on King's Mountain within one day's march of Charlotte on the night of October 6th. In order to be able to attack them before they reached Charlotte, the Patriot commanders picked 900 men and rode to intercept the British. They reached King's Mountain at 3:00 PM on October 7th, 1780.

Me at the battle marker

The Patriot militia was able to surround the mountain without the Loyalists being aware of their presence. They were organized into 8 groups of 100 to 150 men. Before they went forward, Colonel Isaac Shelby gave them this order:
When we encounter the enemy, don't wait for the word of command. Let each one of you be your own officer, and do the very best you can, taking every care you can of yourselves, and availing yourselves of every advantage that chance may throw in your way. If in the woods, shelter yourselves, and give them Indian play; advance from tree to tree, pressing the enemy and killing and disabling all you can. Your officers will shrink from no danger-they will be constantly with you, and the moment the enemy give way, be on the alert, and strictly obey orders.1
With this order, the Patriots went forward with a yell. They caught the Loyalists completely by surprise, but they were able to form before they were overrun. The Patriots used the cover of trees and rocks on the mountainside, and shot down many of their opponents. Finally Ferguson ordered a bayonet charge, to drive the Patriots back. They surged forward, and drove the Patriots back, but as soon as they returned from the charge the Patriots returned again, using cover and picking off the Tories.
The slope which they charged up

Several more times the Tories charged, but the Patriots just melted back and then returned again in full strength. After an hour the Loyalists had suffered heavily. They were driven back to their camp at the top of the mountain, and their defense began to break down. The Patriots had already surrounded them, so there was no way to escape. Some of the Tories began to surrender, but Ferguson knocked down their white flags with his sword. Finally Ferguson gathered his men to try to make a last charge to attempt to break the Patriot line and escape, but as they charged the Patriots fired a volley and Ferguson fell from his horse, hit with seven bullets.
The Patriots hid behind rocks and trees

With their leader killed, the Loyalists surrendered and asked for quarter. The militia began shooting the survivors, because of what the British commander Banastre Tarleton had done to a group of defeated Patriots. But finally the officers gained control and the rest of the Tories were taken as prisoners. The battle had lasted on 65 minutes.

Where the British commander, Major Patrick Ferguson was killed
His grave marker

The Loyalists had suffered 244 killed, 163 wounded and had 668 taken prisoner. The Patriots had 29 killed and 58 wounded. Virtually none of the Tories escaped.

The Anniversary monument

The Battle of King's Mountain was crucial to the American cause. First of all, it gave a great boost to the American morale which had fallen greatly with the loss of South Carolina. Second it forced Cornwallis to retreat after it previously appeared that there was nothing stopping him from capturing North Carolina and Virginia. Also through this battle, the Loyalist militia was destroyed as a military force. King's Mountain was the only battle of the American War for Independence with no British troops involved. It was brothers against brothers. That is why Thomas Jefferson said that it was "The turn of the tide of success.” And Theodore Roosevelt said, "This brilliant victory marked the turning point of the American Revolution."

President Herbert Hover said,
This is a place of inspiring memories. Here less than a thousand men, inspired by the urge of freedom, defeated a superior force intrenched in this strategic position. This small band of patriots turned back a dangerous invasion well designed to separate and dismember the united Colonies. It was a little army and a little battle, but it was of mighty portent. History has done scant justice to its significance, which rightly should place it beside Lexington and Bunker Hill, Trenton and Yorktown, as one of the crucial engagements in our long struggle for independence.2

1 King's Mountain and it's Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain. by Lyman C. Draper. (Cincinnati: Peter G. Thomson Publisher, 1881) Google Books. p. 196

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