Battle of King’s Mountain

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            The Battle of King’s Mountain was fought on October 7, 1780 at King’s Mountain, North Carolina. It is believed that this victory of the American Forces (the Patriots or Whigs) over the Loyalist or Royalist (American Tories) led by English Colonel Patrick Ferguson had brought the tides to turn for the Americans in the American Revolutionary War. The decisive victory of the Americans had great effects on the result of the war. This victory was very rare in those times. It shook the British General Cornwallis and his army and forced them to withdraw from his camp at Charlotte to South Carolina in Winnsboro 1.

 Cornwallis is commanding officer of English Forces in the Southern Provinces which had been conquered. He led the campaign of the English Army to conquer the South Province. He aimed to advance further to the north. He occupied North Carolina and planned to march to Virginia. He ordered Col. Ferguson to take the American Loyalist and march northward to the west of North Carolina and eventually, they will meet up with English main army in Charlotte. Its purpose is to augment Ferguson’s troops by gathering the loyalist (Americans who are loyal to the King of England) around the western North Carolina 2.

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Army War College, “Historical Statements Concerning the Battle of King’s Mountain  and the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina”.
2.      Royalist Account of the Battle of King’s Mountain, “Rivington’s Royal Gazette”.

3.      Benjamin Sharp, “The Battle of King’s Mountain”.

Ferguson’s troops arrived at Gilbert Town (near the present day Rutherfordton) in late September. He wrote a letter to Colonel Isaac Shelby. He sent this letter to Col. Shelby because he thinks Shelby is the leader of the forces on the mountains of North Carolina. He mentioned in his letter that if Shelby and the mountain men do not surrender and be under the power of the King of England, his army will march to mountains. They would hang the leaders and burn their villages 3.

                   The letter sent by Ferguson angered those who live in the mountains. They decided to attack Ferguson at all costs. Officers have joined forces in the planned attack on their hated enemy 3.

The Battle of King’s Mountain was fought by brave men from both sides. The troops Ferguson commanded were Americans who came and lived in the Provinces before the revolution. He has carefully picked around a hundred officers and men. These experienced militia men were taken from battalions in New York and New Jersey. They were Loyalists who offered their services to the King because they believe that the British can protect their lands and possessions 1.

The men commanded by the officers at King’s Mountain were refugees who did not want to submit to the King. The refugees were fewer, but they knew that they were not going to return to their homes until Ferguson and his troops were defeated 3.

Ferguson’s letter was sent to Sullivan County, North Carolina (Tennessee today) to Col. Shelby which rode to immediately pass the word to neighboring Colonel of Washington County, John Sevier. The made an agreement that they would gather men as many and as fast as they could and marched to attack Ferguson in surprise before he could prepare. The Colonel of the Washington County at Virginia was also convinced to join the attack. They rendezvous at Watauga on September 25, 1970. Col. Charles McDowell and Col. Andrew Hampton and their army from the Burke and Rutherford Counties, N.C. had joined at Watauga. The assembled men were about 1,000 of strength and they marched the following day across the mountains. On the 30th, they were joined by troops from Wilkes and Surry Counties led by Cols. Benjamin and Joseph Winston. Their numbers had increased to 1,400 1.

They are well aware that they have proper authority to execute what they planned and they also knew that their men were not experienced in field battles. So, they agreed to send Col. McDowell to General Gates, commander of the Continental Army, to request for an able General to command their combined troops. In the meantime, they had elected Col. Campbell to be the commander of the troops before the appointed arrives for them to continue their marched to Gilbert town 3.

As they approached Gilbert Town, words got to them that Ferguson was alarmed because of their approach. He left Gilbert Town and withdrew to Candem where the British main army was stationed 2.

The officers had met up and they contemplated that they had to pursue Ferguson into whatever ends. They left the foot soldiers and the weaker horses, which were ordered to follow as quickly as possible and pursue with 900 mounted men to catch up with Ferguson 3.

They met up with troops from Granville, County led by Col. James Williams and Sumter’s old troops from South Carolina under Cols. Hill, Lacey and Graham. They were also accompanied by militiamen from Lincoln County, North Carolina and some South Carolinas under Col. Andrew Hambright and Major William Chronicle, respectively. They were also on pursuit of Ferguson and his army. They advise them of Ferguson’s location. He was atop on King’s Mountain 1.

He obviously had this position because it’s higher ground and perfect for offering a battle. This position favorable for defense he had sense that his enemy was just in the vicinity of his camp and a day’s ride would bring the enemy in to him. He never left his position for 24 hours and waited for the enemy to attack. He had the full intention to engage in battle. It is because if he wanted to avoid battle he would have left to join Cornwallis, he would reach his destination before his pursuers could reach him 1.

The battle started at three in the afternoon. The troops of Col. Campbell and Col. Shelby attacked first. The militia men from Virginia and Sullivan County were able to advance and sustain their attack for about fifteen minutes while the group bringing up the rear went to their respected positions. Then the groups closed in while Campbell’s and Shelby’s men advanced towards the enemy lines. They were met by Ferguson’s troops. But the mountain men were able to fight back by returning fire 1.

Ferguson’s troops were pushed back and were pursued to the top of the mountain. The mountain men had only a few seconds to spare in reloading their rifles. They came back to their position by the rocks and trees to reload their weapons before again advancing to the top of the mountain 1.

During the battle, the King’s Mountains defenders used bayonets and rifles while the attackers relied on marksmanship. They were expert hunters as a result of their continuous conflicts with the Indians. Ferguson thought that his position on higher ground was safe from any attack. He also has confidence that his troops were commanded and well-trained by good officers. However, their skills at handling rifles were not as good compared to the mountain men 1.

Ferguson’s troops were surrounded by the men of the officers who joined forces. The men of McDowell and Sevier were on the north, of Williams, Cleveland, Chronicle and Winston on the south side of the mountain. They closed in, and the enemy went to the northeasterly direction. Ferguson started to feel the pressure of the right and left wings 1.

Meanwhile, Campbell’s and Shelby’s men have gained the portion of the ridge on their front and drove their enemies towards another group. By this time losses were heavy among the Provincial Corps. Although they fought with bravery, their number was nothing compared to the mountain men. The remaining of the Provincial Corps fought to their limit. The survivors among these troops were surrounded the mountain men who were determined to achieve the victory 1.

Knowing that defeat was about to befall him, Ferguson planned to escape. But before he, with some of the leaders under him, can get any farther, he was shot and killed. One of Ferguson’s officers, Captain De Peyster, continued the battle for a little while before he realized that it was to no avail. They were all vulnerable targets. A white flag was shown 2.

When De Peyster raised the flag, there was still commotion and confusion. The firing did not stop right away. Many were killed from the Provincial Corps. The number of dead was 206. Many were wounded and others were taken prisoners 1.

The battle ran for an hour and five minutes. Too many lives were lost. A report submitted to General Gates showed that there were a total of 1,104 men from the enemies. Of this, 225 were killed, 13 wounded and 716 prisoners from the Provincial Corps and the Tories. Included in the casualties were one dead captain from Col. Ferguson’s troops, two colonels and three captains dead and a major wounded from the Tories 4.

Among the Whigs, 28 were killed and 2 were wounded. Under Campbell, 13 officers were either killed or wounded. Major Chronicle of the Lincoln County was also dead while Colonel Williams was wounded but died eventually. The loot included 17 baggage wagons and 1,200 weapons. Although Ferguson made deliberate preparations before the battle ensued, his mistake was that he undermined the skills and bravery of the mountain men. Moreover, the mountain men were very familiar with the terrain 4.

News about Ferguson’s defeat reached General Cornwallis and the people in Charlotte Town two days after the battle. This news caused depression and fear among the Loyalists, even to Cornwallis. Several factors such as weakness of his army, the poverty of North Carolina and the total ruin in his militia caused him and the main army to leave North Carolina 1.

4.   Campbell, Cleveland, and Shelby, “A Formal Report”.


Army War College. Historical Statements Concerning the Battle of King’s Mountain  and the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina: United States Government Printing Office, 1928.

Campbell, Cleveland, and Shelby. “A Formal Report.” 1780.

Royalist Account of the Battle of King’s Mountain. “Rivington’s Royal Gazette.” 1781.

Sharp, Benjamin. “The Battle of King’s Mountain.” 2000.

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