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Kings Mountain National Military Park

Kings Mountain was the battle which unquestionably turned the tide of the American Revolution in the southern states setting in motion an unbroken string of American victories that led, eventually, to the final British surrender at Yorktown. The battle took place on October 7, 1780, some five months after the British had established themselves in the Carolina's by capturing Charleston. The British plan was to subdue the south by drawing upon what they assumed to be a large loyalist population living in the region. A Major by the name of Patrick Ferguson was ordered to assist in this goal by recruiting and training troops from the area and turning them into a feared fighting force meant to intimidate those on-the-fence concerning their loyalties to come to the British side. He went a bit too far, however. Ferguson issued a proclamation that summer stating that Americans "must stop resisting British authority or face destruction with fire and sword." Intended to intimidate, the proclamation had the opposite effect. Settlers to the north on the wild edges of the Carolina's, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia saw this as a direct threat to their homes and way of life. Men for whom the war had little or no interest now turned upon those who would threaten them.

Marching from Sycamore Shoals in northeastern Tennessee, these now-famous Overmountain Men headed south, through the high mountains and into the piedmont, over 200 miles in search of Ferguson's force. They covered this 200 miles in little more than 10 days when, On October the 6th, 1780 it was discovered that Ferguson had set up position 30 miles away atop a ridge named Kings Mountain. The American forces numbered around 900 men and made the forced march to the battlefield by late the next morning. What they faced were approximately the same number of Loyalists, under Ferguson, dug in around the crest of the ridge. Though, technically, the Americans were under command of Colonel William Campbell the individual units were more loyal to their own than the whole and so the battle had a somewhat disjointed nature to it. The Americans attackers, though rather uncoordinated in their assaults, had the Loyalists' surrounded with no place to go. The steepness of the terrain might at first seem to favor the defenders above but the tactics of the two armies and the nature of the terrain negated that advantage. The ridge itself, though devoid of trees, was an island in a sea of trees...trees that the attackers gladly used to their advantage as sources of cover. The Loyalists above were trained in the traditional British style involving massed volley's and the use of the bayonet. In a forest engagement this style of fighting looses much of its effectiveness, to say the least. Hidden behind fat trees, the expert riflemen from over the mountains, could easily pick off soldiers above outlined against the sky. Inevitably, Ferguson's forces fell back, reforming into an ever-tightening circle atop the ridge. Surrender soon followed. Suffering 345 killed and wounded out of a force of 900, the utter defeat of this loyalist 'army' so shook the trust of would-be British sympathizers that civilian aid and volunteerism in the Carolina's all but vanished overnight. General Cornwallis was now on his own in increasingly hostile territory. After Kings Mountain would come Cowpens, after Cowpens would come Guilford Courthouse, after Guilford Courthouse would eventually come Yorktown. Thus, Kings Mountain, as British General Henry Clinton would later state was, "the first link in a chain of evils, that resulted in the total loss of America."

Kings Mountain National Military Park is located about a mile and a half south of the North Carolina state line about midway between Spartanburg and Charlotte. The battlefield is accessed by following a 1.5 mile interpretive loop trail which highlights the events of the battle and allows you to see both the American attackers perspective from below and the Loyalist perspective from above. Unlike other battlefield albums I have done, which try to arrange photos chronologically as events progressed, the disjointed yet simultaneous nature of the attacks at Kings Mountain mean that the best way to arrange the album was to simply follow the battlefield loop trail. Therefore, this album is essentially what you would see walking the path through the battlefield as it exists today...enjoy!

Battle Statistics

Continental Militia

Commanding Officer(s): James Johnston, William Campbell, John Sevier, Joseph McDowell, Isaac Shelby

Strength: 900

Casualties: 87 or 9.7% (29 killed, 58 wounded)

Loyalist Militia

Commanding Officer: Major Patrick Ferguson (killed)

Strength: 1,100

Casualties: 453 or 41.2% (290 killed, 163 wounded)


  • kw

    on May 22, 2013

    Thanks for sharing an important, yet little known bit of our country's history!!! (couldn't help but give a 'thumbs up' to so much beauty along the way-- hard to believe the battle fought and lives lost in such a pretty area as it is today!! So happy, too, for the foresight to protect this section of land!