GATHERING OF THE PATRIOTSTHE
It will be recalled that following the defeat of General Gates at Camden
on the 16th of August, Cornwallis issued immediate instructions to his
two flying groups under Tarleton and Ferguson, to pursue Colonel Sumter,
who, following the dispersion of Gates's forces, had the only organized
corps of patriots in South Carolina. These instructions, together with
detailed information of the magnitude of the defeat of the troops under
Gates, reached Ferguson on the 19th. Immediate preparations were made to
comply with the orders, and at 7 in the evening Ferguson put his column
in motion. At that moment an express arrived from Colonel Innes, who was
on his way from Ninety Six to join Ferguson, informing him that he had
been attacked at Musgroves Mills, on the Enoree River on the 18th, with
severe loss, and asking for support, as his militia had deserted him. Ferguson
altered his plans and marched in the direction of Innes, crossing the Broad
The troops which had engaged the Loyalists and Tories on the Enoree
were commanded by Colonels Williams, Shelby, and Clarke. Following this
success, a move against Cruger, commanding at Ninety Six, was contemplated,
but just at this time word was received of the defeat of the patriots at
Camden two days before, and following a council of the commanders it was
decided to rejoin McDowell's corps. Due to the nearness of Ferguson, the
much northward, encumbered by prisoners, was one of many difficulties,
and it was with great relief that Williams's party rejoined McDowell's
corps in the mountains at Gilbert Town, to which point the latter had retired.
Here the seriousness of the cause of the patriots was discussed. It was
thought that Ferguson would immediately [Page 18] advance to overtake them, and further withdrawal into the mountains
seemed expedient. It was proposed by Shelby and Sevier, who were from the
counties of North Carolina where the waters flowed to the westward, and
now part of Tennessee, that the troops should disband, and all return to
their homes to raise an army of volunteers to defeat Ferguson, or any other
leader who might operate along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge. This
proposition received general support, and Shelby and Sevier, with their
followers, departed for their backwater homes, and word was sent to the
leaders of Wilkes and Surry Counties to embody their followers and prepare
for a rising.
This was a period of great distress to the patriotic cause throughout
the entire State. It was only the mountains that furnished refuge for those
who still refused to accept British sovereignty, and a number of refugees,
especially those who had borne arms against the King, were seeking protection
within their barriers.
Following the quick withdrawal of Colonel Williams and his confederated
command from Musgroves Mills, Ferguson made no effort to pursue him. His
marches from day to day were short, and on the 23d of August he left his
command to go to Camden to confer with Cornwallis, rejoining his troops
September 1, with the news that his Provincial Corps were to be separated
from the army and act on the frontier with the militia. During the following
week he marched to the northward, and on the 7th of September his command
crossed into North Carolina, and he, with about 50 of the American volunteers
and 300 militia, proceeded to Gilbert Town, to surprise a party of patriots
who were reported there. On the following day the remainder of the command
moved to the Broad, where on the 10th their commander rejoined them.
While Ferguson was at Gilbert Town he paroled one of his prisoners and
sent him into the mountains with a message to the leaders there, "that
if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms, and take
protection under his standard, he would march his army over the mountains,
hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword."
The effect of this message was to augment the determination of the mountain
leaders to get together their men with all speed possible and march against
their hated enemy. The magnitude of their undertaking was fully appreciated,
especially as many of these mountain settlements were of but recent creation,
and the inhabitants not very numerous, and without security from the Cherokees,
except such as was furnished by their own trusty rifles.
As the adjacent territory of Virginia was equally interested in stopping
the advance of this hostile invader, cooperation and assistance of the
Washington County troops was sought. Early in September the county lieutenant, Col. Arthur Campbell, was in Richmond, and in an interview with the Governor of Virginia was informed of the measures about to be taken to retrieve the misfortunes of the troops under Gates and Sumter. He returned to his western home imbued with the idea of the part his militia should take in the ensuing campaign, and at once showed a willingness and desire to cooperate in the undertaking that Shelby, Sevier, and others were engaged in.
Ferguson's withdrawal southward from Gilbert Town on the 10th of September
was for the purpose of rejoining the main part of his command, which had
taken a stand on the Broad to keep a lookout for a reputed body of Georgians
who were approaching. The following morning he put his assembled command
in motion, and on the 12th led a small party to the head of Cane Creek
in Burke County, in pursuit of McDowell and his refugee followers, who
were on their way over the mountains to seek shelter pending the assembly
of the various county regiments that were to move against Ferguson. A slight
skirmish resulted, but McDowell's force was able to extricate itself and
continue its retirement with but few losses. The pursuit was continued
on the 15th and 16th to the banks of the Catawba, where, at Quaker Meadows,
was the home of the McDowells, but the pursuers arrived too late, as the
refugees were well on their way into the mountains.
In the ensuing week Ferguson campaigned from the Catawba to the Second
Broad, and on the 23d entered Gilbert Town for the [Page 20] second time. The following day was busily occupied in receiving 500
of the inhabitants of the contiguous territory, who came in to profess
their allegiance to the King. It was on this day that intelligence was
received from Colonel Cruger of an action which had just occurred at Augusta
and to which reference will be made, as it had a decided bearing upon Ferguson's future plans.
Early in September Colonel Clarke assembled a body of troops and marched
to attack the British post at Augusta. He reached his destination on the
14th and found that the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Browne,
with the assistance of some friendly Indians, had taken a position in a
fort about 3 miles from Augusta. Clarke invested the position for five
days, when he retired upon the approach of Cruger, who had hastened with
assistance from Ninety Six, upon learning of the danger to this frontier
post. It is known that Cruger's message to Ferguson informing him of these
events reached the latter at Gilbert Town on the 24th, five days after
Clarke withdrew from the vicinity of Augusta to fall back upon the protection
of the mountains. This retirement placed him between Cruger and Ferguson,
and Cruger asked the latter to cooperate with him in cutting Clarke off
before he could reach a retreat in the mountains. With this plan in view,
Ferguson left Gilbert Town on the 27th and moved to the Broad, and then
to the Green River to await in the vicinity of their junction further intelligence
of Clarke. By the 30th, however, Ferguson knew that his efforts to intercept
Clarke on his return to the mountains were unsuccessful, as the latter
had taken another route. In the meanwhile Cruger found that the pursuit
of Clarke would carry him too far from Ninety Six, and as he was responsible
for its safety, he returned to that post. At this time Ferguson was in
possession of the definite information of the advance of the army of mountain
men, who had started their march from Watauga on the 26th.
Reference has been made to the retirement of Col. Charles McDowell from
his home, with his band of soldiers and refugees. He reached the shelter
of the backwaters with a force of 160 men [Page 21] from Burke and Rutherford Counties. To this rendezvous on the Sycamore
Flats, bordering the Watauga, about 2½ miles southwest of the present
town of Elizabethton, Col. Arthur Campbell sent his brother-in-law, Col.
William Campbell, with 200 militia from Washington County, Va. Later on
he led to the same place an additional force of 200 men who joined the
first group. It was necessary for Col. Arthur Campbell to return to the
county under his jurisdiction and take measures to protect it from the
invasion of hostile Indians. Shelby, at the head of 240 men from Sullivan
County, and Sevier, with an equal number from Washington County, N. C.,
joined at the designated meeting point on the Watauga on the 25th of September.
David Ramsey, in his history of South Carolina, written in 1808, said
that "hitherto these mountaineers had only heard of war at a distance,
and had been in peaceable possession of that independence for which their
countrymen on the seacoast were contending." They embodied to check the
invader of their own volition, "without any requisition from the Governments
of America or the officers of the Continental Army." Each man set out with
a knapsack, blanket, and gun. All who could obtain horses were mounted;
the remainder afoot. There is a tradition that before starting out on the
journey from which many would never return, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterian
clergyman of the settlement invoked a blessing and besought divine protection
and guidance for the army.
The highway of their great adventure followed the only roadway connecting
the backwater country with the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in North
Carolina. Leaving Sycamore Flats, the column marched up Gap Creek to its
headwaters in Gap Creek Mountain, and there turned eastward and then south,
following around the base of Fork Mountain to Toe River, and on up that
stream to one of its tributaries. Here the route continued in a southerly
direction until the top of the mountain was reached, between Roan High
Knob and Big Yellow Mountain. From the mountain top, descent was made along
Roaring Creek to the North Toe River. It is stated [Page 22] in the diary of Ensign Robert Campbell that the mountains were crossed
and descent to the other side was started before camp was made for the
night. Snow was encountered in the highlands, for an elevation of 5,500
feet was reached in this march. On the top of the mountain there was found
a hundred acres of beautiful tableland, and the troops were paraded, doubtless
for the purpose of seeing how they were standing the march, which was about
26 miles to this point. Campbell's diary states that the second night—that
of the 27th—they rested at Cathey's plantation. This is placed by Draper
at the junction of Grassy Creek and North Toe River. The diary does not
mention the camping place of the 28th. On this day McDowell, who had previously
left the column to go to his home in Rutherford County, returned with such
information as he had been able to secure relative to the movements of
Ferguson. The night of the 28th a council of officers was held, at which
it was agreed that an experienced officer was needed to take command of
all separate county units. It was decided that Colonel McDowell should
convey a message to General Gates, asking that General Morgan or General
Davidson be sent to them to take over the command.
Tradition has it that on reaching Gillespie Gap the troops divided,
one group, including Campbell's men, moving south to Turkey Cove, the others
going easterly to the North Cove on the North Fork of the Catawba. Ensign
Campbell's diary gives the information that the fourth night, the 29th,
Campbell's men rested at a rich "Tory's," and this place has been identified as being in Turkey Cove.
The following day the men who had camped at North Cove marched southeast
down Paddy Creek, while those from Turkey Cove marched southerly down the
North Fork and then easterly down the Catawba. The two forces joined on
the banks of the Catawba near the mouth of Paddy Creek, and continued down
the Catawba to Quaker Meadows, the home of the McDowells, where camp was
made, after a march of about 27 miles for the southern [Page 23]
column and about 23 for the northern. During the five days which had
elapsed since leaving Sycamore Flats, about 80 miles had been covered.
Here the marching column of 1,040 men was joined by Colonel Cleveland
with the men from Wilkes and Major Winston with the men from Surry, 350
in all, making a combined strength of 1,390. The time was now opportune
for Colonel McDowell to depart for General Gates's headquarters, with the
request of the several colonels that a general officer be designated for
the command, and after turning his regiment over to his brother, Maj. Joseph
McDowell, he departed on this mission the 1st of October.
We left Ferguson on September 30, at which time he had given up hopes
of cutting off Clarke's force. His camp was at Step's plantation, 12 miles
from Denards Ford of the Broad River. Being aware that the gathering hordes
of the enemy were either at a concentration point east of the Blue Ridge
or approaching it, Ferguson wrote to Cruger on the 30th informing him of
this new threat, and suggested that it would be well if the district of
Ninety Six called out more of its militia.
The following day Ferguson began his withdrawal from the vicinity of
the mountains. He marched to Denards Ford, where he camped, and issued
his last appeal to the inhabitants of the region to join the militia serving under the King. As it is typical of the inflammatory proclamations put forth by both Whig and Tory during this period of violent passions it is
Denards 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 five and bear the name of men, grasp your arms in
a moment and run to camp.
The backwater 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.
Major, Seventy-first Regiment.
Ferguson continued his march at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the 2d, proceeding
4 miles, then forming fine of action and lying on his arms all night. The
following morning he got under way at an early hour, and after a long march
down the Broad, halted for the night at Tate's plantation, 1 mile after
crossing Buffalo Creek. These three marches brought Ferguson's command
38 miles nearer Charlotte Town and Cornwallis than was his camp of September
29 and 30. From Tate's plantation, where he remained until 4 O'clock the
morning of the 6th, to Charlotte Town was 50 miles. In this position he
could feel sufficiently close to the main army to be reinforced from it
should the necessity arise. At the same time further intelligence would
be received of the route taken by the mountain men, and their probable
intentions; and a reply to his letter of September 30 could be awaited.
Cruger's reply, which was dated October 3, was probably received at Tate's
plantation, and doubtless prompted Ferguson to leave that camp and take
up a position from which to offer battle. This letter was found on Ferguson's
body, and as it was somewhat mutilated, its complete contents is not known.
Nothing in the letter indicated that Cruger was going to take any immediate
action. He said:
I don't see how you can possibly [defend] the country and its neighborhood
that you [are] now in. The game from the mountains is just what I expected.
Am glad to find you so capitally supported by the friends to government
in North Carolina. I flattered myself they would have been equal to the
mountain lads, and that no further call for the defensive would have been
[made] on this part of the Province. I begin to think our views for the
present rather large.
Cruger evidently believed that Ferguson had a difficult situation to face,
but that he was equal to the emergency, and, without [Page 25]
doubt, this was Ferguson's opinion also. At this time he knew the mountain
men were in the vicinity of his camp site of September 30, 28 miles away,
and that a day's march of those who were mounted would bring the enemy
upon him, so in going to "Little King Mountain," as Allaire designates
the place, on the 6th, and taking up a position which was most favorable
for defense, and remaining there for 24 hours before the enemy came in
sight, Ferguson acted with deliberation and with full intent to engage
in battle, did the enemy take the initiative. The "Little King Mountain"
position was about 36 miles from Charlotte Town, and had Ferguson desired
to avoid battle with the mountain men, he could have marched on the morning
of the 7th halfway to army headquarters.
The letter which Ferguson wrote to Cornwallis October 6, in which he
said, "I am on my march towards you, by a road leading from Cherokee Ford,
north of Kings Mountain. Three or four hundred good soldiers, part dragoons,
would finish the business. Something must be done soon. This is their last
push in this quarter," is indicative of the subordinate commander whose
duty it is to keep his superior informed of the forces opposed to him,
and, when the enemy is in such strength as to be a serious menace, to suggest
that reinforcement would insure a more certain success. In this letter
Ferguson mentioned that "they are since joined by Clarke and Sumpter."
Ferguson had the mistaken idea that Clarke, on his withdrawal northward
from Augusta to the mountains, had joined the mountain men. Some of the
men of Sumter's command, under Colonel Williams, did join about this time,
as will be noted later.
When the mountain men left their rendezvous on the Catawba October 1,
they marched to the southward, up Silver Creek, past Pilot Mountain, and
from thence down Cane Creek in the direction of Gilbert Town. Although
the several organization commanders had sent to Gates for an officer to
command, it was considered unwise to continue further without coordinated
leadership, and on this day a conference was held which resulted in the
selection of [Page 26] Colonel Campbell to command all the groups, until a general officer
should arrive. The command was intrusted to the colonel of the Virginia
regiment to prevent dispute were an attempt made to name a leader from
the North Carolina colonels.
On the 2d the march was continued toward Gilbert Town, from which Ferguson
had departed five days previous. Continuing on to the south, the Cowpens
were reached on the 6th, the march being directed toward Ninety Six, as
it was thought Ferguson was falling back in the direction of Cruger. At
the Cowpens Col. James Williams, of South Carolina, with 400 men, joined.
This new party was made up largely of groups of Sumter's men from South
Carolina, under Colonels Hill and Lacey, of men from Lincoln County under
Graham, Hambright, and Chronicle, and a small number embodied by Colonel
Williams in North Carolina. On the 2d of October Williams had written to
General Gates that with a force of 450 horsemen he was in pursuit of Ferguson,
and that he expected to join the mountain men in the accomplishment of
Colonel Campbell was informed by the new arrivals that the enemy lay
encamped somewhere near the Cherokee Ford of the Broad River, and plans
were made for immediate pursuit. A council of the principal officers was
held, and it was decided to select 900 of the best horsemen and leave the
weak horses and footmen to follow as fast as possible.
Time was pressing, and the necessity for immediate action great, for
if Ferguson continued his withdrawal in the direction of Charlotte Town
another day's march, he would be so near the main army that to engage him
would be a most hazardous enterprise. As soon, therefore, as the selected
group was formed, the command mounted, and at 8 o'clock started on its
long night ride, which the next day was to terminate in the encounter so
Cherokee Ford of the Broad was crossed early in the morning, and the
march continued along the northeast road topping the ridge between Buffalo
and Kings Creeks. Information was received from several people as to Ferguson's line of march the day before, and [Page 27] finally as to the mountain top on which his camp was established. This
camp site could best be reached by way of the main highway running from
North Carolina in a southeast direction to Yorkville, S. C., so the eager
patriots hastened their march to gain this road, passing Antioch Church
and Ponders Branch, and stopping on the way only long enough to gain additional
information. When the highway was reached, the column turned southeast,
and after crossing Kings Creek began the gradual ascent of the rugged hills
which lay between the creek and the enemy's position. An uncomfortable
rain had added to the weariness of the sleepless marchers, but about noon
the weather cleared, the sun shone with grateful warmth, and the nearness
of the quarry added zest to the chase.
About a mile from Kings Creek the road passed between two slight knobs,
and as the patriots emerged from the bottom of the ravine between these
knolls, they found themselves upon a small plateau, overlooking to the
southeast a sharp ravine, the far side of which terminated in a ridge,
part of which was a hundred feet higher than the plateau, and on which
Ferguson stood and offered battle. The broadside silhouette of the ridge
was visible about 700 yards away, but the tree-covered slopes hid its occupants from view.
Continuing along the highway to the southeast for several hundred yards,
to a point where the plateau terminates and the road begins its descent
into the ravine, a better view of Ferguson's position was obtained. Beyond
this point the column could not proceed until definite plans for the attack
had been determined upon. The characteristics of the mountain on which
Ferguson was making his stand were known to several of Campbell's command,
and this information imparted to his leaders. While halted in the position
which they had now reached, with the mountain occupied by the enemy in
sight, the plan of battle was finally agreed upon. They could see a ridge
about 600 yards long, the general direction of which extended north 52º east. The highest point of the ridge was near its southwest end, from which
point, toward the southwest, [Page 28] there was a gradual dropping off of 20 feet to a very narrow hogback,
then a widening out of the terrain into a gently sloping, narrow plateau,
which extended due north to the place where the column had debouched from
the ravine between the two knobs.
From the highest point of the ridge, along its crest to the north, east,
there was a gradual descent for 400 yards, then a very sharp drop to the
highway. The northern face of the ridge descended to a stream which flows
into Clarks Fork. The south face of the mountain was unknown to the leaders,
except as described by those familiar with its features. From them it was
learned that another stream led from the south of the mountain, and that
several slight spurs projected from the ridge to the east and southeast,
which gradually flattened out into comparatively level ground.
The plan of attack decided upon was to surround the mountain and trap
its defenders in a band of fire, constantly decreasing in diameter as the
mountain sides were scaled. To accomplish this maneuver, the command was
divided into four parts, which were to be led in four columns abreast to
the place from which the separate columns would proceed to their respective
positions. The interior columns were composed of the men from Virginia
and from Sullivan County, Campbell leading his men in the right column
and Shelby his men in the left. The right flank column was made up of men
from Surry, the Nolichucky, and Burke; Major Winston being at the head
of the column, followed by Colonel Sevier. The detachment commanded by
Major McDowell was joined to Sevier's command. The left flank column was
composed of the men from Wilkes and those who joined the preceding day
from the two Carolinas under Colonel Williams. Major Chronicle was at the
head of this column, followed by Colonel Cleveland. The senior officer
who accompanied the Lincoln County men into action was Lieutenant Colonel
Hambright, but he waived his right to command in favor of Major Chronicle.
The right and left flank columns were about the same strength, and each
equaled that of the two regiments constituting the interior columns.
In this order the several columns proceeded from the plateau into the
bottom of the ravine north of the mountain. Here the right and the two
interior columns halted, dismounted, tied their horses to trees and bushes,
and left a small group of men in charge. The left column continued its
march around the east point of the mountain, thence southwestwardly, to
Shelby's men were deployed in the vicinity of the highway, from which
position they were to attack the eastern extremity of the ridge. Campbell
was on Shelby's right, along the bed of the stream. These two regiments
were first in position, and had the most difficult terrain on their front,
due to the sharpness of the slope and the height of the crest. Beyond Campbell,
on his right, was McDowell, and then Sevier. The deployment of the latter
was along the stream line leading up to the narrow hogback just southwest
of the highest elevation of the ridge.
When the units in the left column reached their positions south of the
mountain, they dismounted and formed fine, with Winston, at the head of
the column, connecting with the right of Sevier at the hogback. On the
right of Winston was Chronicle, then Cleveland, with Williams between Cleveland and Shelby. All of the commanders cautioned their men to hold their fire until near the enemy, and to reform their ranks, if broken, and renew the fight. Appeal was made to their patriotism and love of liberty, although
this was not necessary, as every man went into battle resolved to fight
as long as life lasted.
Ferguson's Provincials and militia were formed on the summit of the
ridge, which varied in width from 30 to 60 yards. His camp and wagon train
were established here also. The crest was comparatively level within the
narrow confines indicated, and free from trees. Rock outcroppings provided
a limited amount of cover for firing positions. Pickets had been placed
in the direction of approach of the enemy, to give warning of his presence.
The attack started at 3 o'clock, with the driving in of the covering
forces. The center of the patriot army, under Campbell and [Page 30Shelby, was the first to engage the enemy. The Virginia and Sullivan
County men advanced up the steep slopes, taking cover behind rocks and
trees, with a fair field of fire, as the underbrush was not thick. Their
attack was sustained for about 15 minutes while the flank groups proceeded
to their several positions, when the fire became general around the entire
mountain. The groups then closed in, and Campbell's and Shelby's men almost
reached the enemy lines, but here they were met by Ferguson's Provincial
Corps, and at the point of the bayonet driven down the mountain. Their
officers bravely rallied them, however, and under cover of rocks and trees
the enemy fire was returned. The Provincials now in turn fell back before
the sure marksmanship of the mountain men, and were pursued to the top
of the crest, where a second time they resorted to the bayonet, and again
forced the retirement of Campbell's and Shelby's men, but only to the point
where, from behind cover, they had time to reload their rifles, and by
their deadly fire stop the onrush of the enemy and compel their return
once more to the ridge top.
When pressure of the right and left wings began to be felt by Ferguson,
new dispositions had to be made of his forces to meet the situation. The
parts of the encircling band composed of the men of McDowell and Sevier
on the north, and of Williams, Cleveland, Chronicle, and Winston to the
south of the mountain, closed in toward the crest of the ridge, and on
its southwest extremity the enemy was cleared from the summit, and forced
in a northeasterly direction into a huddled group.
About this time Campbell's and Shelby's men succeeded in gaining the
portion of the ridge on their front, driving all before them, back into
the group that the closing of the wings was compressing. The defenders
of the mountain were now in sore straits. The losses among the Provincial
Corps were heavy. These troops had fought with great heroism, but their
numbers were too few to win alone. The Tory militia endured the contest
as long as was to be expected of them. Ferguson's survivors were surrounded
by an enemy fiercely determined to fight for complete victory.
It was evident that nothing could be done to better the situation and
snatch victory from defeat, and Ferguson determined to cut his way through
the band of fire and escape. He, with several of his officers, made this
desperate move, but was shot from his horse and killed instantly. Captain
De Peyster, the second in command, bravely continued the fight for a brief
time, but the confusion was so great, and his compact group of followers
such a vulnerable target, that further resistance was suicidal, and a white
flag was shown.
It was some time before the firing could be stopped. Units had become
disorganized and intermingled during the fierce conflict, and all firing
did not cease at the time De Peyster surrendered his command. Then, too,
there were some who refused quarter to many of the Tories who asked for
it, in retaliation for the treatment which they heard had been accorded
Buford's command at the Waxhaw on May 29. To the cry, "Buford's play,"
many of the wounded were hurried into oblivion. The total number of Tories
killed and wounded in this action was 334, and of this number 206 were
The battle lasted an hour and five minutes. The report of this engagement,
prepared by Colonels Campbell, Shelby, and Cleveland, and submitted to
General Gates between three and four weeks after the battle, stated that
the official provision returns for the 7th of October, found in camp, gave
an enemy strength of 1,125 men. The losses given in the report for the
Provincial Corps were 19 killed, 35 wounded, 68 prisoners; total, 122.
The Tory losses were 206 killed, 128 wounded, 648 prisoners; total, 982.
The combined totals give a strength on the battle field at the time of
the action of 1,104, as no one escaped. In addition to Colonel Ferguson,
the Provincial Corps had one captain killed; and among the Tories, two
Colonels and three captains loft their lives, and one Major was wounded.
The losses in the patriot army, as given in the report, were 28 killed
and 62 wounded, a total of 90. The Virginia regiment suffered the heaviest
losses. Campbell's command had 13 [page 32]
officers killed or mortally wounded. The Lincoln County men lost their
leader, Major Chronicle, and Colonel Williams received wounds from which
he died the following day. The booty captured included 17 baggage wagons
and 1,200 stand of arms.
A defeat so overwhelming as that suffered by Ferguson's command is rare
in warfare. His position on Kings Mountain was selected after mature deliberation.
The top of the mountain was just large enough to serve as a battle ground
for his command and to provide space for his camp and wagon train. Water
was near and plentiful. The advance of the attackers would be impeded by
the slopes of the mountain. When attacked he could expect that retreat
would be rendered hazardous by flanking or encircling detachments, a condition
he desired, as his militia would be put to the necessity of fighting instead
of fleeing. A better position on which to make a stand and fight could
not have been found.
That he underestimated the valor of the mountain men is unquestionable.
Their reputed superiority in numbers did not deter him from offering battle,
otherwise he would have continued his march on the 7th in the direction
of Charlotte Town. But had he known that these crusaders from the mountains
would stand and fight with a fierceness heretofore unexperienced in his
southern campaign, he would have been more discreet and less valorous.
His epitaph, written by his brother officers and published in the New York
Gazette of February 14, 1781, rings with affectionate praise and admiration
for his many admirable qualities as a man and soldier.
The leaders of the patriots, and the men whom they commanded, were honored
with the thanks of their several legislatures; and the thanks of Congress
were given in a resolution of the 13th of November, as follows:
Resolved, That Congress entertain a high sense of the spirited
and military conduct of Colonel Campbell, and the officers, and privates
of the Militia under his command, displayed in action of the 7 of October,
in which a compleat victory was obtained over superior numbers of the enemy, advantageously posted on King's Mountain, in the state of North Carolina; and that this resolution be published by the commanding officer of the southern army, in general orders.