British Colonel Patrick Ferguson
and the

Back Water Barbarians

British Col. Patrick FERGUSON, killed on 7 Oct 1780 at The Battle of King's Mountain, wrote the following broadside, circulated in North Carolina as an inducement to Tories to join the British cause - and the militia regiments he headed up, after he had learned that the "Back Water" men (his term for the rough and ready frontier militiamen) had crossed the Blue Ridge in pursuit of him. It is reprinted here as an example of the counter-accusations made by both sides in respect to barbarities.

Denard's Ford, Broad River,
Tryon County, October 1, 1780

Gentlemen:—Unless you wish to be eat up by an inundation of barbarians, who have begun by murdering an unarmed son before the aged father, and afterwards lopped off his arms, and who by their shocking cruelties and irregularities, give the best proof of their cowardice and want of discipline; I say, if you wish to be pinioned, robbed, and murdered, and see your wives and daughters, in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind—in short, if you wish or deserve to live, and bear the name of men, grasp your arms in a moment and run to camp.

The Back Water men have crossed the mountains; McDowell, Hampton, Shelby and Cleveland are at their head, so that you know what you have to depend upon. If you choose to be degraded forever and ever by a set of mongrels, say so at once, and let your women turn their backs upon you, and look out for real men to protect them.

PAT. FERGUSON, Major 71st Regiment.

(Published in the Virginia Gazette, November 11, 1780; Wheeler's North Carolina, ii., 103; Ramsey's Tennessee, 233, Draper's King's Mountain and Its Heroes, 204)

Barbarities were, in fact, committed by both sides, but each also exaggerated those of the other.On October 14, seven days after the battle, while camped at Bickerstaffs, Rebel Col. William Campbell issued a General Order in which he deplored "the many deserters from the army" and the felonies commited by them on the poverty-stricken people of the country. "It is with anxiety that I hear the complaints of the inhabitants on account of the plundering parties who issue out of the camp, and indiscriminately rob both Whig and Tory, leaving our friends, I believe in a worse situation than the enemy would have done." ()

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