The Battle of King's Mountain was an American Revolutionary war between Loyalist and Patriot militias, fought on the 7th October 1780. The military engagement took place in the present day's Cherokee County of South Carolina. The location of the battle was then approximately 9 miles South of Kings Mountain of the present North Carolina. The war is usually described as the largest military engagement in the American Revolution history fought entirely between Americans. Many people in the region were divided, where some fought for their loyalty to England and the rivals for independence. This paper will analyze in detail the Battle of King's Mountain.
The Battle of King's Mountain was preceded by the August 1780's Battle of Camden. The British had secured the victory of the Battle of Camden under the Charles Lord Cornwallis, the General. During the summer of the year 1780, Cornwallis moved into North Carolina with the main force while dispatching the British Major, Patrick Ferguson, the then inspector of militia for the Loyalists, to the backcountry of South Carolina in bid to protect his left flank from a speculated imminent guerilla attack. The troops engaged in minor battles along their way at places such as Cedar Springs and Wofford's Iron Works. After the Camden Battle loss, the Patriots decided to rest in their homes, located in the Western region of North Carolina. Led by Isaac Shelby, Benjamin Cleveland, John Sevier, Joseph McDowell, and Benjamin Campbell, the patriots then resolved to confront the Loyalists. The Patriots were commonly referred to as the 'Overmountain Men' due to their residence in present-day Tennessee.
Ferguson received intelligence regarding a planned attack from the Patriots. The major and militia inspector consequently issued a challenge to the patriots, warning them to retreat lest they suffer severe consequences. The patriot troops, however, rallied towards South Carolina's Backcountry, Gilbert town, to attack Ferguson's army. The loyalists learnt of the Patriot's plan through spies and Ferguson led them towards Charlotte, seeking protection from Cornwallis' main force. The troops camped at King's Mountain, located near the North Carolina border, and requested Cornwallis to provide reinforcement soldiers. Ferguson requested for "Three or four hundred good soldiers," which he cited that they would accomplish the mission (Walker 77). Major Ferguson had approximately 1,100 soldiers when he left Gilbert town. The Patriots realized that Ferguson and his troops had left Gilbert town. They pursued the loyalists further, leaving behind their weak men and horses at Gilbert town. The group received a reinforcement of approximately 400 South Carolinian men commanded by fellow colonels, including James Williams. A spy named Joseph Kerr informed the Patriots that the loyalists camped at King Mountains, approximately 30 miles away, and that Ferguson claimed to be the ruler of the region. The patriots 7 Colonels commissioned Benjamin Campbell to lead them in the battle. The over-mountain men then selected 900 best fighters and marched towards the Kings Mountain, where they reached on the afternoon of October 7th (Blevins 92).
Kings Mountain is a wooded and heavily rocky section of the Blue Ridges Mountains. The mountain is approximately 60 feet above the surrounding plain. Major Ferguson found the mountain to be an ideal campsite supposedly because of the plateau at the summit, which he considered too steep for enemy scaling. The length of the plateau is approximately 600 yards, while the width extends 70 feet on one end and 120 feet on the other.
The Patriot soldiers dismounted and tied up their horses at the bottom of the mountain. They further aligned themselves in the shape of a horseshoe around the mountain base while their leaders remained on horseback. Muskets were the primary weapons in the Battle of Kings Mountain as rifles were considered as hunting tools by most families on the frontier. The over-mountain men were skilled hunters who were used to killing fast-moving wild animals.
Two regiments of the over-mountain men initiated the war with two simultaneous open fires on the Loyalists at around 3 pm (Blevins 93). Two regiments under the command of William Campbell and Isaac Shelby began progressing up the mountain, taking advantage of the woody area to conceal in trees. The Loyalists initially managed to force back the Patriot regiments twice. However, they maneuvered by ensuring that one regiment advanced while the other one was being driven back. Simultaneously, the rest of the patriot troops reinforced the two regiments until they reached the summit of the mountain. Major Ferguson adorned in a checkered hunting shirt, which made the patriots easily notice him. The Loyalists commander similarly used a silver whistle to cue his troops (Blevins 93).
THE BATTLE ENDS
Ferguson finally got shot after a battle of approximately an hour. As such, the Loyalists surrendered by hoisting a white flag, and the war stopped. The over-mountain troops killed over 200 Loyalists (Blevins 93). The survivors were captured as prisoners and escorted by a contingent of Patriot troops to the jurisdiction of the Continental Army in Hillsborough the following morning. The victorious Patriots tortured and even killed some prisoners along the way. A jury appointed by a committee of Patriots tried the 'most obnoxious' Loyalists and sentenced some to death through hanging (Martin and Lender 172). Cornwallis withdrew back to Winnsboro's British post in South Carolina after learning of Ferguson's defeat.
The victory of the Patriots in the Battle of Kings Mountain "marked the turning point of the American Revolution" during entire America's conquest for independence (Blevins 92). The Over-mountain troops destroyed Cornwallis's left-wing army. The battle effectively stopped the British advancement towards North Carolina temporarily. The British defeat at Kings Mountain preceded another loss in the Battle of Cowpens of 1781.
Blevins, Leslie. The Longhunters: A Report on the History and Family of William Blevins Sr. of Virginia. Xlibris Publishing Company, 2012.
Martin, James, and Mark Lender. A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763-1789. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.
Walker, Melissa. The Battle of Kings Mountain and Cowpens: The American Revolution in the Southern Backcountry- Critical Moments in American History. Routledge, 2013.
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