After Major Patrick Ferguson's threat to the men who had settled in the mountainous areas of present-day Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina was received, Colonels Isaac Shelby, John Sevier and William Campbell met and organized several militia companies. They were later joined by Benjamin Cleaveland's company and John Winston's Company as well as militia troops from South Carolina and Georgia. See Overmountain Victory March. These troops chased Ferguson and finally met up with him 7 Oct 1780 at Kings Mountain.
Kings Mountain, a mountain on the edge of the Blue Ridge near present-day Blacksburg, South Carolina, has a plateau at the top of it shaped like a shoe or boot. Ferguson had gathered all of his wagons in the center and had spread his men, 1075 Tories (also called Loyalists, colonial settlers who were loyal to the King of England).
The battle opened when the 900 patriots went up the mountain. The mountain was covered at the base by an old forest, many trees were large and the floor of the forest was covered in damp leaves from the intermittent showers throughout the previous night. Although the patriot strategy was to have all the companies attacking at once, six of the companies became bogged down in swampy type areas and were delayed. The two others continued on and opened the battle about 3pm on 7 Oct 1780.
In choosing the location of the battle, Ferguson failed to account for the fact that at the top of the mountain, with tree lined sides, his men would be out in the open, while the patriot militia (well trained in shooting moving hunting targets) would be concealed by trees and rocks and that shooting down hill makes many of the projectiles go over the heads of their intended targets.
Ferguson used a whistle to issue commands to his troops. Whenever possible, his men would do a bayonet charge at the patriots, forcing them to flee down the mountain. As soon as they got to the wooded cover, the bayonet charge would cease and the loyalists would return up the mountain. The patriots would regroup and continue up the mountain again as well. After an hour, with heavy loyalist losses, Colonels Sevier, Shelby and Campbell reached the top and attacked Ferguson's rear. Loyalists were being driven back into their camp at the "toe" of the mountain. Some loyalists started to raise white flags of surrender. Ferguson cut down all the white flags. Ferguson was gathering his officers together and attempting to break through the patriot ring when he was shot down from his horse. His foot was caught in his stirrup and he was dragged for several feet before his men were able to stop the horse and release his foot. Ferguson was shot between four and eight times (different accounts say a different number). Some accounts say that Ferguson was killed immediately, others that he was propped up against a tree and died while both sides watched. Ferguson is buried on Kings Mountain.
Captain Abraham DePeyster, second in command after Ferguson, took charge and offered to surrender after Ferguson's death. However, because of the treatment patriot forces had received in the past, including the slaughter of surrendering troops at Waxhaws, some of the patriot forces did not immediately quit fighting. The commanders took charge and the fighting stopped. The patriots killed 244 loyalist troops, wounded 163 and took 716 captive. Of the patriot forces, only 29 were killed and 58 wounded. The dead were buried in shallow graves on the mountain. The wounded who were unable to walk were left and the captives were marched down the mountain.
“This is a place of inspiring memories. Here less than a thousand men, inspired by the urge of freedom, defeated a superior force entrenched in this strategic position. This small band of patriots turned back a dangerous invasion well designed to separate and dismember the unitedcolonies.
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.”
Part of a speech by President Herbert Hoover, October 7, 1930, atop Kings Mountain. commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the battle.
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