Friday, November 9, 2018

Taylor saves Sumter

Image result for fishdam ford battle marker
The Patriot fires blazed hot by the banks of the Broad River on November 9, 1780.  Colonel Thomas Taylor had convinced General Sumter of prudent measures against an impending attack.

British Major Wemyss and his band of loyalists charged into the light of the fires, intent on finally killing General Thomas Sumter and his warriors.  What they found was an empty camp.
Confused and suddenly stifled by the shift in realities, the Red-Coats began to feel about in search of their prey.  Silhouetted against the firelight they were easy targets for the Patriot forces lying in the shadows and trees beyond the camp.  A sudden and deadly fire quickly decimated the British forces.  Major Wemyss went from hunter to hunted within moments.

Wemyss had a list of all of the homes and plantations that he had destroyed.  Sumter is said to have burned that list for fear his men would seek immediate justice by killing the British commander.
Sumter, as a result of the decisive action of Colonel Taylor, was able to claim victory over another of Cornwallis’ commanders.

Sumter’s men; having participated in the pivotal victory over British Major Patrick Ferguson at King’s Mountain the month before, now can claim their share of honors over a formidable leader of the eastern wing of Cornwallis’ army.
Next up, another rematch against “Bloody” Tarleton.(1)

Freedom Reigns!

(1)    Parker’s Guide to the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, John C. Parker Jr.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Revenge could not wait

Revenge could not wait, smallpox or not. Captain Robert Harrison was a dangerous menace to all Patriots. He would be found bedridden by a scouting party on October 14, 1780 near the Antioch community in Kershaw County.
Before the fall of Charleston, the Harrison brothers lived in a run-down log cabin near the Lynches River, east of Bishopville, SC.  They slept on animal skins strewn about the floor.  Near the sandy roadway, by a Ferry crossing, they lived with the pungent smell of dead fish and stagnant water.(1)

Then Charleston fell to the British and the Red-coats made their way inland towards Camden and Cheraw. With the Continental army in disarray, all was working out well for the King’s men.  Camden was occupied, and the fortifications were continually improved around the camp. Those seeking protection from the Empire were urged to come in and get it.
But the summer heat and mosquitoes took their toll on the troops and Cornwallis was faced with a serious problem of keeping an army in the field. If he did not act soon, all the gains would be for naught. The rebels would recognize a weakness and make trouble for those who had already pledged loyalty to the King. (2)

An opportunity was recognized by the Harrison men. The more enterprising of the brothers, John, convinced Lord Cornwallis that it would be a good idea to give him and two of his siblings (Robert and Samuel) commissions in the army.  They would raise upwards of 500 men as a corps of Loyalist Rangers and help defeat the rebels.

Thus, they began their campaign of legal murder and robbery throughout the PeeDee area under the British command of Major James Wemyss.  Burning homes and plantations, they quickly became hated by their neighbors and known as bandits.  Even British Major “Bloody Tarleton” would refer to them as “men of fortune” instead of soldiers. (3)

A week after the Patriot victory at King’s Mountain,  Captain Robert Harrison was found bedridden in a house off present-day SC Hwy 34. He was a victim of smallpox and yet another statistic of medical infirmities that plagued the British soldiers in camp. Quarantined away from the troops until his blistered body succumbed to the viral disease or beat it back, he was helpless and ostracized.

The band of rebels, bolstered by the success of their compatriots in the upstate, kicked in the door to the house and found him.  Not willing to take a chance on the disease doing their bidding, they killed him where he lay.

By the end of the war, Samuel would be dead as well.

John, on the other hand, retired as a Colonel in east Florida with the wealth he had taken from his years of murder and robbery under the King’s commission.

Freedom Reigns!

(1) Parker’s Guide to the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, John C. Parker Jr.
(2)  The British Soldier in America, Sylvia Frey

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mr. and Mrs. William Moore

William Moore was a bold and fearless fighter during the Revolutionary war.  Taking up his rifle and horse, he would leave his wife at home to confront the British before they came to his doorstep.

 On making the long journey from Abingdon, Virginia with Colonel Campbell, he proved himself in the eyes of his leader.  He was selected at Cowpens, SC to be a part of the flying column.  This 900-man force was culled from the bigger army that had come and camped at Cowpens in the hunt for Major Ferguson.  Moore headed off with this fast-moving contingent that ultimately surrounded the British at Kings Mountain.

The warriors that fought with Campbell were described by an injured Tory, Drury Mathis, as darting about the mountain during the battle “like enraged lions.” Drury went on to say, “they were the most powerful looking men he had ever beheld; not over-burdened with fat, but tall, raw boned, and sinewy, with long matted hair…” 

William Moore was among these men of the mountains.  During the battle he was wounded badly in the leg and it was amputated in the field to save his life.  Moving back over the mountains on a 10-day journey was not something he could do.  Potential for infection was too high and a lack of medical supplies a reality.  He was left in the care of nearby good Samaritans while his compatriots made the long journey home.

Once at home, they gladly recounted their tails of victory to all who would listen.  An air of joy permeated the community as the warriors returned.

Among the listeners was Mrs. Moore who inquired about her husband’s fate.  

Hearing that her husband had been wounded and was still in the area where British General Cornwallis was, she saddled her own horse and immediately set out in search of her loved one.

Back across the November mountains and down through North Carolina she rode with bold determination to find her loved one. She camped beneath the stars and elements.  She forded rivers and streams.  Her journey was as like and long as the army that preceded her, but without the company of thousands of men.

Bold and fearless she rode on with determined spirit, until at last she found him.

Their story certainly had the makings of a ballad.  He, leaving home to protect her and she, leaving home to find and care for him.  They loved and lived to be a ripe old age.  Their story was a source of pride and a touchstone of patriotic fervor for the family generations afterward. (1)

Freedom Reigns!

(1)    King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of King’s Mountain, October7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It, Lyman Draper, Anthony Allaire

Monday, October 8, 2018

Robert Henry with the South Fork boys

Impaled by bayonet and concealed by the powder smoke, Robert Henry, a mere 16 years of age, was forced to lay prostrate and helpless as the battle went back and forth at Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.
The bayonet charges were a mainstay in the British army and Major Patrick Ferguson had taught his loyalist troops well.  With shouts of Huzzah to the King they fired their muskets at close range and charged down the rocky portions of Kings Mountain faster than the Mountain men could reload their rifles.
Through the understory of sourwood, dogwood and rhododendron the two armies sought out each other to kill. 

Robert Henry’s leader, Major Chronicle, fell mortally wounded at the head of his warriors.  He was heard yelling, "Face to the hill!" just before he was shot down. Several other men in Henry's militia from Lincoln County would meet a like fate as they turned upwards to meet the enemy.

They were nearing the top of the rise when Ferguson’s men surged towards them.

Robert Henry was able to kill the red coated soldier coming for him at the last moment, but not before the bayonet skewered him through his hand and into his thigh.  He was immobilized and helpless as the powder smoke hung heavy in the air. So, he waited in agony and feared that he might be discovered and finished off by another soldier of the realm.
The British charged down the rocky hillside with professional skill. Henry’s fellow Patriots would fire their rifles and race away only yards ahead of the cold steel; buying time to reload.
Once their rifles had been recharged, the South Fork boys returned and pursued the British back up the mountainside.
On the way back up Henry’s friend kicked him free of the bayonet- hurting more coming out than when it went in.  Henry grabbed his rifle and followed after them up the steep bank.

For over an hour the fighting raged up and down the mountain on all sides. Then the Patriots rolled up and over the mountain and pushed the red coats into a tight circle, east of their encampment. 

Lt. Hambright, who took command after Major Chronicle went down, was wounded a stone's throw away from where British Major Ferguson was killed. Within sight of each other, each had shouted "Huzzah!" as they urged their men to fight.  

The battle was won and the next day the prisoners were marched away.

Robert Henry stared down the Grim Reaper and shared in the glory of the victory that autumn day. He was carried to his nearby home to heal.  

At home, a day or so after the battle, Henry and his two escorts were visited by Tories in disguise.  These Tories immediately took information of the defeat of Major Ferguson to Lord Cornwallis and rumors of a mighty Patriot army in the west caused great concern.

Cornwallis retreated out of Charlotte. His troops spent restless nights on the road after being misdirected by local guides. He set up winter camp in Winnsboro, SC to lick his wounds.  

Here, at Kings Mountain, a lowly 16 year old private fought the greatest nation in the known world on some of the hottest contested ground in the war. He would turn with others to face a precipice fortified by one of the King's fittest soldiers.  Within an hour's time, he was charged in anger with bullet and blade and was impaled and left for dead.  He was then rescued and gave battle to the enemy until victory was won.

In a moment when a fledgling nation was only a hope and the life of a teenager was only fodder for tyranny's sake, Robert Henry measured up to his rite of passage.

Freedom Reigns!

King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of Kings Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It, Lyman Draper

Monday, September 24, 2018

Benjamin Cleveland

Colonel Benjamin Cleveland was of the same bold character as Daniel Boone and found his most delightful pleasure in hunting rather than plowing. As a young man he was often found in the woods hunting and gathering pelts.

Two of his childhood friends were Thomas Sumter and Joseph Martin.  Sumter would later be known as the “Gamecock” in the struggle for freedom in South Carolina.  Martin would become the Indian agent for the fledgling new nation trying to curtail the Cherokee uprisings caused by the British in the back country.

Cleveland trekked off to Kentucky after hearing Daniel Boone talk with great admiration of the hunting lands.  He and his friends were robbed by Indians and sent packing on foot, back to the Watauga region around Wilkes County, NC.  After recuperating from his journey he marched back over the mountains to retrieve the horses from the very Indians that had stolen them.  In a show-down with the main suspect Indian, Cleveland narrowly escapes a tomahawk and a gunshot from the enraged guilty party.  He was able to ride away with the property reacquired and a feather in his cap of self-confidence.(1)

Cleveland would brag that his ancestor was the Oliver Cromwell who was renowned for his leadership of England.  Benjamin owned a copy of  "The Life and Adventures of Mr. Cromwell, Natural Son of Oliver Cromwell” and would point to it when making this claim.(2)  If one can speak of something and thereby cause it to be, simply by applied belief, then it is probable Benjamin Cleveland identified with the "bigger than life" persona of Oliver Cromwell. Cleveland’s intrepid spirit certainly was as bold as Cromwell; or at least the character of the biography, Cromwell’s son.  At close to six feet in height and weighing in at a solid 300lbs of big muscle, few would wish to dispute Cleveland's force of nature.

Cleveland’s men were brutal and confident.  Ever portraying an aura of wildness, some would wear Scottish Tartans and Kilts that they had taken off dead Highland Scot Tories at the Battle of Moore’s Bridge in 1776.(3)  They were rough men who mirrored the personality of their leader and were known to the Tories as “Cleveland’s Devils”.(4)

During the Revolution, Benjamin Cleveland was busy running about the upcountry of North Carolina with his men chasing Tories.  It was in the midst of this action when the call went out from Isaac Shelby and John Sevier to rally and meet Major Ferguson’s threats head on.  

Prior to the Battle of King’s Mountain, Cleveland made an impassioned speech to his men who understood life and death in their extremities. Matter of fact in its delivery, it spoke to the unfettered resolve of the men under his command.  “My brave fellows!  We have beat the Tories before, and can beat them again.  They are all cowardly.  If they had the spirit of men they would have joined your fellow citizens in supporting the Independence of this Country.  When engaged, you are not to wait for the word of command from me.  I will show you how by my example on how to fight.  I can undertake no more.  Everyman must consider himself an officer, and act on their own judgement.  Fire as quick as you can, and stand as long as you can without tiring.  When you can do no better, get behind a tree or retreat.  I beg you not to run away, but if you do make it a point to return to battle as quickly as possible, and renew the fight.”(5)

Born and raised into a mindset of independence and self reliance, he bravely fought his way in and out of battle.  His exploits reverberate in Freedom's call even today. He was a feared and revered and was one of the heroes of King's Mountain. 

After the war he moved to Oconee County, SC and is buried on private property near Westminister, SC off of Hwy 123. In the Madison community, close to the Savannah River, an obelisk bearing his name can be found near the Madison Baptist Church. (6)

Freedom Reigns!

(1) Before They Were Heroes at King’s Mountain, Randell Jones
(3) Ghosts of Yadkin Valley, R.G. Absher

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Signal Fires

Signal Beacons of Gandor used in NC mountains during the revolution?

Local folklore in and around Wilkes and Caldwell Counties in NC reveal the story of Martin Gambill. His 100-mile journey to warn the Patriots of the British invasion into the mountains is the stuff of Legends.  The story goes that the watch fires that had been placed upon the top of the mountains as an early warning system did not reach into the Watauga area where a good portion of the Liberty men resided.  Thus he volunteered to ride with the news. (1)(2)

Historical record of watch fires in the North Carolina theater of operations is spotty at best.  It will take longer to research than this author has available as of this writing.  We find evidence of similar watch fires used in the northern theaters of operation as Washington ordered them placed in the Hudson Hills in New York and the Watchung Mountains of New Jersey.  The latter of these was memorialized in a Baron Dekalb report.
In the Watchung Mountains these fires of freedom had three main purposes: “to call out the militia, to indicate the approach direction of the British and to direct the subsequent movements of the militia. There were also instructions on their construction and placements.  Twenty-three signal pyres were constructed in the New Jersey mountainsides and manned by close to two dozen soldiers each. (3)

Later, DeKalb fought and died at the Battle of Camden, SC in the Southern Theater of Operations months before Kings Mountain. General Gates, his commanding officer at Camden, was still around Hillsborough, NC and recognized by the Patriots there as having Continental authority.  It is not a hard leap to suspect that there is some truth to the legend of these watch-fires, even if they did not look quite as stately as the fictitious Gandor beacons.

Though the record is thin on these watch fires being a part of the Southern Continental strategy, it certainly causes this author to want to dig deeper. It is not hard to fathom signal fires on the top of Table Rock, Grandmother and Grandfather Mountains and the smaller precipices further down Highway 64, or even into the Pisgah National Forest. It harkens back to the warning fires of the Peel towers in Scottish castles. (4) 

And these Patriots were most definitely of the Scots Irish heritage.

Freedom Reigns!

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Davenports

“If you want your horses fed, feed them yourself," replied ten-year-old William Davenport to Tory leader John McFall in September of 1780. Channeling his father's courage he would become a leader in his own right as he grew older.  The Davenport College for Women in Lenoir, NC was formed through his philanthropy.

John McFall served in Major Ferguson’s 1000-man army in the mountains and helped to subdue the rebel element there.  All through the mountain back country Ferguson’s men would search for the patriot militiamen and turn their wrath on rebel families when the men folk were not at home.  The women and children were turned out and the property was destroyed.  With nowhere to go, these refugees of liberty were found wandering and living off the land with bare clothes upon their backs. 

A poor and emotional sight that would help induce the back-country inhabitants to rise up against the Brits.

McFall and his men had rushed the Davenport home near Wilson Creek at the John’s River in search of Captain Martin Davenport of the Burke County militia.  The good Captain was off serving in the field so McFall forced Mrs. Davenport to feed his band of Loyalists.  When young Davenport boldly refused McFall’s demands and took up his father’s independent spirit, McFall whipped him. 

McFall would pay eternally for his misstep and swing from the hangman’s noose during the time of reckoning a few weeks later.(1)

A few years after the war the Davenport’s moved further up into the mountains off the Toe River.  Captain Martin Davenport sought freedom and independence in the solitude of the mountains just west of the Linville caverns.  He would become a hunting guide, an entertainer to foreign guests, protector of the poor and a coroner.(2)
The young William Davenport would become a prominent member of the community around Lenoir as well.  He was a magistrate, State representative and State Senator.  The Davenport Women’s College was his namesake and the buildings upon that hill still house an elementary school as well as the Caldwell Heritage Museum.(3)  Freedom Reigns!

(1) King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It, Lyman C. Draper, Anthony Allaire

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

the McDowells

In September of 1780 British Major Patrick Ferguson raised his army of over 1000 men and headed up into the North Carolina Mountains. Going through present day, Chesney, SC and onto Rutherfordton, NC., his army would live off the land as they worked their way from community to hamlet. On the general route laid out by the old Hwy 64 in NC., they rousted leaders and families to subdue the rebellion.

Ferguson had missed Colonel Isaac Shelby who had already made good his retreat over the mountains. But the left-wing commander of Cornwallis’ army had caught the scent of NC militia Colonel Charles McDowell and his force of about 160 men. McDowell was headed for the Watauga river valley in Tennessee, which is northwest of the present-day Beech Mountain snow resort of North Carolina.

Charles and his band of warriors had gone into South Carolina to stall Cornwallis and lend aid where they could.  McDowell was a prominent man in his community and he and his wife manufactured gunpowder in the Quaker Meadows of Morganton, NC.  McDowell had been appointed as a Colonel in the Burke County, NC militia and his brother, Joseph (a Major), served under him in all their military engagements. 

They had hoped to battle the King’s men in South Carolina and keep them away from their homes.  Colonel McDowell had sent out forces that won at Fort Thicketty and Musgrove Mill and the McDowells had done their duty and given aid and sword wherever they could.  Now they were on the retreat. (1)

As brothers they were a force to be reckoned with.  Where one, Charles, had the confidence of the local leaders; the other, Joseph, was a true fighter who inspired the men from Burke County and beyond. 

When Ferguson marched up old Hwy 64, the McDowells were ready for him at the headwaters of the Cane Creek.

The Patriots, though outnumbered, had laid an ambush up on the high ground and challenged the Lobster backs, led by their British Major.  On September 12, 1780 Patriot shots were fired from concealed positions and the Loyalists recoiled from the initial surprise, but they rallied.  With rifle and bayonet, Ferguson’s men began to make headway toward the Patriot lines up the hill. 
 Joseph McDowell

Joseph McDowell was heard swearing and yelling for his men to stand and die with him if need be, and that he would never yield!(2)  Rifle fire would mix with yells, screams and smoke in that shadow of the South Mountains. The Patriots fought for time and freedom to make good their escape.

The Brits only left the field after they claimed victory, but they came up short in the fray. Bones from the fight were still found four decades later, strewn across the battlefield. These remnants of the dead seemed to belie the viewpoint of victory that Ferguson’s men professed.   In the end, both sides lost men. 

But the McDowells were able to make good their escape. The Brits made their way back to Gilbert town with an unknown number of dead and wounded. Among the wounded was one Captain James Dunlap, a veteran of the Queen’s Rangers and leader of a troop of Loyalist mounted riflemen. Out of action for some time and convalescing from a serious wound to the leg, he would not see action again with Major Ferguson.

Dunlap was sheltered in a Loyalist home and could not move with the army.  He would later be shot by the Patriots seeking revenge for the death of Noah Hampton in South Carolina. His attackers failed to make sure he was dead, though, and he dodged their attempt to end his life. Rumor, lies and a false grave were utilized to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.

Perhaps the most telling result of this “check” by McDowell on Ferguson was what happened in the next few weeks.  Word got out to the countryside of the intrusion of the King’s forces into the mountain regions. In a short time, Ferguson begins to hear that an army of mountaineers are coming like a fog out of the high valleys across the Blue Ridge.  Coming for him!  

A Reckoning was coming!  Freedom Reigns!

(2)King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: A History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It., Lyman C. Draper, Anthony Allaire

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Twin Poplars

The Twin Poplars of Peace

Local legend has it that over 280 years ago the Catawba and the Cherokee Indians were locked in a brutal and savage conflict in the smoky hills around Lenoir, North Carolina.  So many warriors were killed on both sides that the leaders came together to talk peace, not as victor over vanquished, but as equals.  Distrust an enmity were conquered and peace was least temporarily.  The symbol of that peace would be two trees and their ability to grow together.

Written language was an unknown to these fearless people on both sides. Sequoyah did not develop the Cherokee written language until over 70 years later, consequently there is no known text of this conflict and treaty. The historical record from our own Revolution seem to at least confirm the opposing relationships between these two tribes. The Cherokee aligned with the British and the Catawba fought alongside of the Patriots almost 40 years afterward.

Near the headwaters of the Catawba River we find road signs like Warrior Rd., Twin Poplar Ln. and Indian Grave Road that seem to memorialize what the history books do not.  Boone NC beckons the modern-day traveler, but coves cut into the mountains just off of Highway 321 harbor the stuff of local folklore. 

The war ranged all through these coves and valleys. Some of the burials are rumored to have occurred in the caves that are shared by bear and coyote to this day. Dirt roads now cover the foot trails and hunting paths from the past.  Black top and development roll over the creeks and crevices where the warriors would drink and hide. Private land with title and tax have replaced the free range of the Indians of a bygone era.

With the energetic and knowledgeable help of Cindy Day, the Director of the Caldwell Heritage Museum, and her equally magnanimous colleague Lisa Ward, the Twin Poplars were found rising  like ancient pillars in the secluded local lands.  With each cautious step down the wet and steep terrain, we were transported back in time. 

The mountains in this part of the country breath and give off a haze that paint the landscape blue as the peaks rise with a smoky mist.  The trees were draped in this phenomenon as we made our way to their base.  Nature would paint a sacred picture to this cathedral of peace and lend itself to bolster the story even more.

The Legend of the Twin Poplars suggests that the leaders of this ancient and violent war came together and tied two poplars as a symbol of the peace.  If the poplars were to grow together, then their peace would survive. 

To the naked eye it does appear that the bases of each tree, separated as they are, have their own individual root systems.  Their trunks being so far apart, it would seem implausible for them to have grown together without some artificial help from man.  Whether that help came from the indigenous tribes of yesteryear or some farmer thereafter is but speculation.

When hurricane Hugo came through in 1989 much of the forest was decimated by the high winds that swept up into the mountains from the coast.  Old growth trees were a natural victim and many feared that the twin poplars would not survive.  As the curious probed the deadwoods after the storm they rejoiced to find them still standing tall and proud.

We may never know if the Legend of the Twin Poplars is fact or fiction.  It is certainly, though, a story of folklore that resonates within us and causes us to reapply ourselves to the convictions of peace and harmony.  Their natural appearance in the wood certainly gives majesty to our walk upon this earth and heaps credit on the Creator for His good work.  Whatever the origin of their union, these ancient poplars and their union are a natural monument to the better parts of our human nature.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Isaac Shelby

Isaac Shelby was definitely not a “fence sitter” during the war with the mother country.  He was, as a son of his father Evan Shelby, a proponent by deed of the Fincastle Resolutions and had resolved to "live and die" while never surrendering his "inestimable privileges".(1)  He understood Freedom and slavery.  He understood the Quebec acts as intolerable to his Protestant background, his sense of justice and his rights as a citizen to have a say in how one is governed.

Later in life he would be called “Old King’s Mountain." 

He won that nickname at the age of 29 on the wet, steep hillsides of King’s Mountain. There, British Col. Patrick Ferguson waited for his approach. Along with Shelby came over a thousand Patriot warriors from Over the Mountain.  

Ferguson had a poor view of Shelby and the Over the Mountain men.  In his mind they had run from him at Wofford's Iron Works (Battle of Cedar Springs) in Spartanburg. The band of rugged Patriots had taunted the King's men from a hill and led them on a merry chase that left Ferguson frustrated.

The British leader also considered them a group of thieves who had settled in the lands off limits to British subjects.  

Having just missed Shelby and the others at the battle of Musgrove Mills on August 19th, 1780, he set out in pursuit towards Gilbert Town, near present day Rutherfordton, NC.  

Ferguson was seeking a fight and
 grew more confident as the Loyalist poured into his camp for safety.

His letter to Cornwallis revealed a positive attitude towards the number of loyalists coming into camp. Ferguson then made ready to gather more supplies and search for cattle to feed his growing army. (2)

But Ferguson was unaware that he was being tricked and was in a chess match with his betters. Shelby, along with his fellow leaders at Musgrove Mill, convinced the inhabitants of the mountain regions around Gilbert Town to take shelter under the King's protection. By doing this they would be able to save their cattle that they had hid away in the mountain passes for the Patriot cause.

Ferguson's soldiers sallied forth out of camp in search of beef among the Patriot farmers.  Finding a herd they began their work of preparing the meat for the meals.  As they were well into their work, Ferguson was informed that they had been decimating the herds of three of his own loyalist men.  Ferguson had been duped by Colonel Shelby and British influence in the area suffered even more.

About that same time, Colonel Ferguson paroled an Over the Mountain prisoner in his entourage and sent him with a message to Isaac Shelby in particular.  Samuel Philips found Shelby and relayed the message, "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."  Philips, ever the soldier, then set about giving particulars on the makeup of Ferguson's army to Colonel Shelby.

Shelby and the leaders at Musgrove Mills had foreseen that Ferguson had plans for their mountain homeland even before he had left the South State.  They had agreed to begin recruiting an army to confront Ferguson as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Now was the time. 

Shelby would take the lead and find John Sevier and other leaders and start towards the invading army.  Dispatches and messengers were sent throughout the mountains.

They came in droves.  Hundreds from different counties and valleys converged on the meeting places in Morganton and Gilbert Town.  They came, on horseback and on foot, with a purpose to confront the threats of Colonel Ferguson and the British realm.  These were wild hunters of hearty stock who understood Freedom and self government.  They were armed with rifles and were expert marksmen. They came over the snow covered mountains and down through the valleys.  They forded mountain streams and rivers while keeping their powder dry.  They came on knowing that they might not come back.  They came in droves. With Colonel Shelby....They came for a Reckoning!

Ferguson, at first, did not comprehend his peril. He allowed his personal biases to not see his enemy for what it was...a battle-hardened foe led by Colonel Shelby (and others).  He either couldn't or wouldn't see that Shelby was neither awed by British might nor one to lose a fight.  Colonel Ferguson lingered, hoping to cut off Georgia Patriot Col. Elijah Clarke coming from Augusta, Ga. He would wind his way back down the mountain passes, stall for a little more time for Clarke to appear.  The Redcoats would then feint southwest towards Ninety Six and ultimately head east to draw on support from Lord Cornwallis. Clarke never showed, but Shelby and company came on with a purpose and closed the distance.

Cornwallis was easily within reach at Charlotte, NC had Ferguson simply been prudent. But Ferguson chose the small mountain spur of King's Mountain to make his stand.  He had trained and bragged about his group of Loyalists in his camp and now that confidence would be tested. Ferguson trusted in his position and his loyal troops numbering close to 1000 men at arms.  He would even boast about his chosen defensive position and swore it could not be taken.(3)  

After being on the march for 2 weeks, Colonel Shelby made sure the British threats were answered. On October 7, 1780 the Mountain men surrounded the summit and were urged to do their duty; and if they did, the day would be won.

Image result for isaac shelby

Drawing on his experience fighting the Shawnee, Shelby would tell his men at King’s Mountain, “Be your own officer...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.”(4) 

The battle raged for just over an hour and Ferguson was left dead on the field.  His words to Colonel Shelby had inflamed the Patriot zeal and left the British leader cold and prostrate.  Shelby, by contrast, stood erect, unscathed and was every bit in control of his men and his duty.

After the battle of Kings Mountain and before the march off the precipice, the prisoners were ordered to line up and shoulder rifles that were stacked. An elderly loyalist of King George feigned old age as a reason for not picking his up.  Shelby slapped him with the flat edge of his sword and said, that he(Shelby) had brought one so the tory could take one away.  The tory jumped to, grabbed a rifle and got into line.(5)

In 1781 Shelby would fight under Francis Marion and add more wins to his war record.

He would later become the first and fifth governor of Kentucky and serve in the War of 1812.(6)

Fearless, determined and able, Colonel Shelby was one of the many heroes of King's Mountain and the Revolution in the South.  He was followed and feared in the cause of Liberty all throughout his life and the Country owes him great respect and gratitude.

Many towns and counties were named in his honor, including the North Carolina city just north of Kings Mountain.  Freedom Reigns!

(3) Before They Were HEroes at King's Mountain, Randell Jones
(4) The Battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens: The American Revolution in the Southern Backcountry, Melissa A. Walker
(5) History of the Upper Country of SC, Logan