Sandra Ardoin @SandraArdoin
It was 1780 and things weren’t looking good for the patriot side in the war for our American independence, especially in the south. However, things were about to turn around, mainly through the poor choices of the British and the determination of some courageous backwoodsmen.
Map showing route the over-mountain men took from the north to the south.
In May, Colonel Banastre Tarleton defeated about 400 Virginia patriots at the Waxhaws in South Carolina. They asked for mercy under a white flag, but received slaughter. The South Carolina battles were terrible blows for the patriot cause.
Later in the year, a Scotsman, Major Patrick Ferguson, sent notice to a group of Scots-Irish in the Appalachians to stop resisting the British or he would (among other things) “…lay their country to waste with fire and sword.” That was like waving a red flag in front of a bull!
After that and learning of the Waxhaws brutality, those self-sufficient and life-hardened over-mountain men gathered at a place called Sycamore Shoals and soon charged south toward Kings Mountain to make certain Ferguson knew what they thought of his threat. Joined by more patriots at Quaker Meadows and supported by fighting men from South Carolina and Virginia, a contingent of the best marksmen left their horses and encircled the mountain, climbing to surround and pick off the British at the top.
A couple months ago on a beautiful Saturday afternoon we took a drive to Kings Mountain National Military Park. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve passed the place, but never stopped. We explored the visitor’s center first to get the scoop on the battle. The Revolutionary War is not my time period of choice, but the story of these hardy and determined men intrigued me.
The trees were still shed of leaves, but what a glorious day for a hike. The mile-and-a-half paved path winds around and up, passing various markers and monuments along the way. At times, I scanned the rocky slope and pictured the patriots dodging and hiding among the trees and brush, climbing to meet Ferguson’s men on the top of the mountain—what turned out to be a fatal choice of location for a stand on the Major’s part.
Ferguson, who lost the use of his right arm due to being wounded in a previous battle, had been known
A marker for Major Ferguson who is buried on the mountain.
as a top marksman for the British. At one time earlier in the war, he had a clear shot of General Washington. For some reason, he chose not to take it. On the day of the battle he wore a red and white checked shirt, setting him apart from those around him and easily identified to be picked off. A little over an hour and the battle was over, Ferguson was dead, along with a number of his men, and 800 loyalists were captured.
The photo below contains one of my favorite tidbits from the battle—one of those things that a writer would want to include as “flavor” for a story. Since many of the loyalists didn’t wear a uniform, but regular clothing, it was hard to tell which side the man at the business end of your weapon was on. To keep the prospect of “friendly fire” down, the patriots placed a piece of paper in the band of their hats and the loyalists did the same with pine twigs.
Forgive my highly-unprofessional photos. 🙂 For an additional take, here’s an interesting video found on YouTube:
Have you taken a day trip to a historic place just for the fun of it? Did you arrive home with a new appreciation for a moment in history?