ELEMENTS OF OUR AMERICAN PROSPERITY by Professor Steven H. Carpenter 1876

Professor Stephen H Carpenter

Professor Stephen H Carpenter

ELEMENTS OF OUR [American] PROSPERITY An Oration By Steven H. Carpenter, LLD., Professor In The University Of Wisconsin. Delivered At Madison, Wisconsin, July 4th, 1876.

Fellow-citizens—We are met to day to celebrate the demonstration of a great truth; the truth that Liberty is not the baseless dream of visionary enthusiasts; that a government by the People may be stable and lasting. Tried by the vicissitudes of a century, this Republic has withstood every shock, and has passed from a dimly-seen hope to a magnificent reality. It has gathered under its protection men of every language, and proved that Freedom is the Right of man by uniting them into one People, by the firm bond of loyalty to the same great truth.

Youth has no Past. Its active energy sees only the Present. Age has a past, to which it fondly looks, when its waning strength seeks solace in recalling the prowess of its early years, and boasts of deeds no longer possible to its lessened vigor. We have no musty records to search, no far-reaching history to recall. Our heroic age has hardly passed. Our golden youth has not yet stiffened into the harshness of an iron present. The memory of those still living holds the fresh records of our progress. Men whose natural force has not yet abated have seen our weakness grow to power, have seen the wilderness transformed into a blooming garden, and stately cities rise as by the enchanter’s wand from the untamed soil. But shall not youth glory in his strength? Shall a just pride not lay hold of present achievement as well as past glory? Behind us are gathered the materials for our heroic history. Age is hastening after us, and to-day we turn the first century of our national existence.

There is a power in Antiquity—in the feeling that behind us is a long line of noble ancestors, a solid inheritance in the glories of the Past. It curbs the wayward strength of youth, and adds dignity to the compacted vigor of manhood. This advantage is rapidly coming to us. We have a common inheritance in the heroism of the Revolution.

On an occasion like this when we stand at the summit of a century of unbroken success, our minds alternately follow the lead of Memory casting her proud glance backward over the brilliant past, and Hope casting her confident gaze into a future full of greater promise. “We look backward over the slow receding years of the century just closed, and we see a little band of heroes, jealous of their God given rights, seeing not the weakness of their numbers, but only the strength of their cause, with a sublime confidence in the ultimate victory of right, resolutely facing the foremost power of the world. Looking out into the deepening darkness that shrouded the coming years of almost hopeless struggle, they boldly, almost defiantly proclaimed not merely their own right to liberty, but the right of man to self-government. They struck a blow for humanity.

That contest was not the mere shock of contending armies; it was the fiercer shock of contending ideas. It was not the maneuvering of legions on the field of battle; it was the marshaling of principles in a struggle that should determine whether the world should go forward, and offer a new field for the enlarging powers of man, or whether it should stagnate on the dead level of old ideas, stupidly satisfied with the good it had gained.

At last, after eight years of struggle, of alternate victory and defeat, Freedom was secured, but their allotted work was not yet done. A nation was to be formed out of the discordant elements which the pressure of necessity had forced into a temporary union. Statesmanship was to complete the work of generalship, and unite into a compact whole the fragments thus far held together by a loose cohesion. Our revolutionary fathers proved equal to the task, and by this victory over passion, by succeeding where all other men had failed, they placed the world under everlasting obligation. Other patriots had fought as bravely, had endured as heroically; but no other patriots so conquered self, so vanquished prejudice, so laid the foundations of a nation in mutual concession for the general good.

God is a prompt paymaster. The reward was not long deferred. The period of unexampled prosperity followed. All the world claimed the privilege of sharing the benefit of our sacrifices. They swarmed in upon us from every nation of Europe, attracted by a fertile soil, a healthy climate, and the more alluring promise of a free government. At the close of the Revolution the entire population of the United States numbered but three millions. They were mostly confined to the narrow strip between the Allegheny Mountains and the sea. Here and there adventurous bands had crossed, over into the fertile plains beyond, only to find their advance stubbornly contested by the Indians who refused to leave, without a struggle, the hunting-grounds of their fathers. The valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi were still an unbroken wilderness, except where French traders or Missionaries had established their posts to seek the goods or the good of the red man, or where sturdy pioneers had made their precarious settlements. The great Lakes were almost unexplored, and the districts adjoining were still more unknown. Marquette, Allouez and La Salle, had pushed their daring discoveries into this remote region, but theirs was the genius of discovery, not of settlement. The French could discover and subdue, but they could not organize.

It is but eighty years since this vast region, stretching from the Allegheny Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, was opened to settlement. Men now living have seen the western line of civilization creep timidly from the boundaries of New York and Pennsylvania, push steadily westward through the forests of Ohio, cross the fertile prairies of Indiana and Illinois, sweep with hardly a perceptible check beyond the Mississippi, strike boldly across the vast plains of the West, climb the heights of the mountains, descend the further slope of the Sierras, to meet a resistless barrier only on the distant shores of the Pacific Ocean. Men now living have seen this waste wilderness converted into a blooming garden, covered with fruitful harvests, and dotted with the peaceful homes of more than ten millions of people. The Indian has retreated before his fate; barbarism has yielded to civilization. The niggardly gifts of Nature have been replaced by the wealth that plenty pours with a full hand into the lap of industry. Labor here reigns king, unvexed by any rival. The air hums with the busy whirr of machinery. The engine flashes by, weaving, like a gigantic shuttle, the bonds that bind distant States in one community of interest.

Let us not stand mute in stupid admiration of our present greatness, but let us in the spirit of true philosophy seek to discover the basis upon which our prosperity rests, and the laws and controlling forces by which our success has been wrought out. A true civilization rests upon a moral basis. The civilization of the old world had made physical well-being its highest ideal, but it did not prove capable of indefinite expansion: it could not rise; it could not advance. Here civilization laid hold of moral forces, and pressed forward with a power well-nigh resistless. Physical good soon reaches its limit. Even that art that aims only at material beauty soon attains its highest ideal, and falls back upon itself to minister to passion and to hasten the ruin of the glittering culture which it has created, that conception of the true nature of man that considers him as a moral force, and not a mere intelligent machine, that looks at nature from its spiritual side, that fixes the ideal of civilization not on the low level of mere physical improvement, but on the higher plane of intellectual and moral culture, that aims at perfect manhood, and rates birth or wealth below character, affords the only ground for a safe and steady advance. This great truth was emphasized on every battle-field of our late war. The idea of freedom won. That conception of human society that graded men according to physical accidents yielded to the superior power of that idea which, ignoring all physical differences, upon the broad basis of human equality, organized society according to the theory of equal rights and equal and exact justice to all.

Three steps led to our present unexampled prosperity.

Declaration of Independence

The first was the Declaration of Independence which first distinctly enunciated to the world the doctrine of Equal Rights. It was a decided step in advance to ignore all accidental differences, and to unify all mankind on the single principle of absolute equality. The Declaration was a defiant challenge of the old theory of government; it called in question principles quietly acquiesced in for centuries. To assert the rights of the people was a great step, but it was a step that might lead downwards to anarchy, and through anarchy to despotism, as in France, as well as upward to Liberty and free government. The other half of the truth must be told in the equally definite assertion of the absolute and inherent need of government—thus accurately adjusting the political relations of the citizen. Man demands government no less imperatively than liberty; he demands government, because only through it can he secure liberty.

The presence of a common enemy, and the manifest need of union held the States together until the close of the revolutionary war. When the compulsion of this necessity was no longer felt, the need of a closer bond—one originating from within, and knit from well-defined principles, securing a union by the recognition of ends yet to be gained in common, beyond the mere acquisition of liberty—soon became evident. Liberty is only a condition of good government rendering it possible; it is not a cause compelling it. The yoke of foreign domination had been thrown off; the yoke of self-government must yet be put on. The need for something more than had yet been gained was shown by a loss of public respect for the general government, disordered finance, depreciated currency, with all the evils incident, mutual jealousies, conflict of jurisdiction between the States themselves; between States and the general government, threats of armed collision; the most alarming systems of anarchy threatened the public weal, until all that had been gained by eight years of war seemed on the point of being lost for want of a far-sighted statesmanship to resolutely grapple with and solve the problem now presented. There was but one way out of these difficulties—to go forward, to assert as clearly the right of the nation to protection against anarchy as the Declaration had asserted the right of man to protection against tyranny; to build upon the foundation that had been so heroically laid in times of war and trial; to sow the vacant field with ideas that promised a fruitful harvest, and no longer leave it to grow up to thorns that promised only increasing irritation. Happily for us, the men of that day were not wanting in the great crisis. Upon the firm basis of Equal Rights as laid down in the Declaration of Independence, they built the solid superstructure of Constitutional government. From scattered, discordant fragments, they compacted a new nation.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillThe second step towards the prosperity of this people was taken in the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. This was not simply an alliance between States. That had already been secured by the Articles of Confederation, the utter inadequacy of which could no longer be concealed. This was a union of the people—the birth of a nation—an assertion of the right of man to government, as the Declaration of Independence was an assertion of his right to liberty.

The greatest victories of those days that “tried men’s souls” were not won on the field of battle, where man meets man in the rude shock of brute force, but in the senate chamber, where mind meets mind in the conflict of principles, where inveterate prejudice gives way to the calm pressure of reason, where narrow selfishness yields to the demands of enlarged patriotism. The adoption of the Constitution was such a triumph. To have been the first to take this step in advance is glory enough for any nation. Speaking of the Constitution, Lord Brougham says: “The regulation of such a union upon pre-established principles, the formation of a system of government and legislation in which the different subjects shall not be individuals, but States, the application of legislative principles to such a body of States, and the devising means for keeping its integrity as a [Con]Federacy, while the rights and powers of the individual States are maintained entire, is the very greatest refinement in social policy to which any state of circumstances has ever given rise, or to which any age has ever given birth.” Says De Tocqueville: This theory was wholly novel, and may be considered as a great discovery in modern political science. It was not only because she had championed the Rights of Man that America placed the world under lasting obligation; it was also because she established Freedom upon rational principles, had harmonized Liberty and Law, and thus made a durable democracy possible, that the world looks to her example to learn the way to lasting liberty.

Ordinance_of_1787The last, and no less important step, was taken when the Ordinance of 1787 was adopted for the government of the North-west territory.. The adoption of this Ordinance antedates the adoption of the Constitution, but its influence in national affairs was subsequent to the immediate influence of that instrument. This document shows an enlarged and advanced view of the powers and duties of government. It enunciates several principles which were also incorporated into the Constitution of the United States. It laid down the broad and then quite novel principle of absolute religious toleration; it asserted the inviolability of contracts, thus placing the authority of integrity above that of legislatures; it first clearly uttered the sentiment now so familiar that “Religion, Morality and Knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged;” it insisted upon keeping good faith with all men, and demanded justice even for the Indians, who had for ten years been waging a cruel and bloody war against the settlers in this very territory; it at once and forever prohibited slavery, and thus led the way to its final eradication from this country.

We need trace our history no further. Here we find the grand secret of this unexampled prosperity and the conditions of our future success. In this triple recognition of the rights of man, the just limits of government, and the paramount claims of Religion, Morality and Education, we find an ample explanation. Upon the foundation of Equal Rights, as laid in the Declaration of Independence, a Constitutional government was erected upon the immovable pillars of Religion, Morality and Knowledge, based not on arbitrary enactment and secured by force, but resting still more firmly in the conscientious regard of the people. We have no religion defined by the State and enforced by law; we have what is better, Religion voluntarily practiced by the people. We do not have an education thrust upon the people by compulsion; we have what is better, a people who do not need the coarse stimulus of this coercion. In the recognition of these moral forces as determining the condition of mankind, we may find the reason why we have succeeded in securing at the same time liberty for the people and stability for the government. Until taught by our example, the world believed that liberty was but another name for license and lawless anarchy; that stability was the prerogative of despotism. But the tottering thrones and fleeing kings of the Old World have proved that the arm of Force is not strong enough to hold a kingdom stable, and that the government is most firmly seated that rests upon conceded rights, and guards the rights of the people with a sleepless jealousy.

The nations of the world are met in the City of Peace to offer us their heartfelt congratulations, bringing the accumulated treasures of art and industry to grace this glad occasion. Fit place for such a gathering, fit occasion for such a celebration! It is the Festival of Peace, as well as the birthday of Freedom. Industry bends its tireless energies to lighten the pressure of wearisome labor. Art, hand in hand with Toil, brings her treasures to grace our holiday. Even grim-visaged War puts on the garb of Peace, and with an awkward smile displays his death-dealing enginery in bloodless repose. The sword-girt, mail-clad warrior is no longer the world’s hero. The conqueror is no longer the ideal man. The hero of to-day is the Inventor who elevates mind by freeing muscle, who bends his blest endeavors to lift the yoke of labor from the bowed necks of the toiling millions.

The nations are all here, and this friendly gathering utters anew the greeting of Heaven, “Peace on Earth, goodwill to Men.” We do not celebrate this day alone. Others share in our joy. Every nation on the globe above the lowest level of barbarism gives us a hearty God-speed, for there is not a people that does not feel the beneficent impulse which our example has given the world. Liberty has a new meaning since man has proved that a king is not a necessary evil; that the majesty of right is above the majesty of man; that the sway of justice is more enduring than the rule of force. This grand truth, first proclaimed by the heroes of the elder days, first demonstrated by our convincing example, has been wrought into the convictions of men by the steady pressure of our advancing prosperity. Well may the world join us in celebrating this peaceful triumph, for all men have part in our glory and share our gain. Our Declaration of Independence gave a voice to the half-formed thoughts of humanity, and brought to man a-knowledge of his inalienable rights. Our Constitution has made true liberty possible not only for this nation, but for all mankind.

RevWarVetMarkerThe Dead too are here:—not dead, but living in the deeds which they wrought and in the affectionate remembrance of their fellowmen. Their immortal spirits see the fruits of their labors, and today they rejoice with us. From Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill; from the stubborn contest with cold and hunger at Valley Forge; from Cowpens, King’s Mountain; from Saratoga and Yorktown; from every nameless battle-field of the Revolution; from the fresher graves of our last and sternest war, their jubilant spirits throng in upon us to-day, and join in the gladness of the grand chorus of praise that swells up before the throne of the God of Nations. The sea, too, gives up its dead. From every ocean grave, from the quiet depths of Erie and Champlain, those who sunk to their peaceful rest amidst the noise and tumult of battle rise to join us in the celebration of this day which their valor and devotion bequeathed to us. They are all here: I need not speak their names. Time would fail me to mention the surrounding cloud of exulting witnesses. The Golden Gates stand wide open to-day, and well may Heaven join Earth in celebrating a day like this. We do not exult over the blood-stained triumphs of War; we rejoice in the victories of Peace. We boast not of conquest; we glory in Freedom. We count not the struggle; we see the gain.

Then let us celebrate this day with glad rejoicing, for it is a day fit to be remembered through all time. Through a frail infancy, through a wayward youth, Freedom has passed forward to the full strength and the maturer powers of a vigorous manhood. The nation has attained its majority. Let all the World join in our rejoicing. Let all Nature, from the heights of Summer, crowned with her most gorgeous beauty, with every inarticulate symbol, voice the universal joy, as she joins man in his jubilant chorus of praise to the Giver of all good.

See also: 
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
AMERICAN FREE INSTITUTIONS; THE JOY AND GLORY OF MANKIND by Dr. J. Sellman 1876
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
THE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by Col Robert G Ingersoll
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
The Betrayal Of �We The American People’ Our Nation! Our Birthright!
Public Servants Who Fasten Themselves on the Public Treasury Like Leeches
OUR REPUBLIC! By Jeremiah Taylor at Providence, R. I., July 4th 1876
THE PERPETUITY OF THE REPUBLIC by Joseph Kidder July 4th 1876
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)
THE GENIUS OF AMERICA by Hon. Dr. Felix R. Brunot July 4, 1876
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
DANIEL WEBSTER AND OUR AMERICAN FLAG
Battle of King's Mountain

History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part I 1765 to May, 1780

King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain October 7th, 1780 and The Events that Led To It.

By Lyman Copeland Draper, Peter Gibson Thompson, Anthony Allaire, Isaac Shelby (1881)

1768 to May, 1780.

Causes of the Revolution—Alternate Successes and Disasters of the Early Campaigns of the War—Siege and Reduction of Charleston.

For ten years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, the great question of taxation without representation agitated the minds of the American people. They rejected the stamps, because they implied a tax; they destroyed the tea, because it imposed a forced levy upon them without their consent, to gratify the insatiate demands of their trans-Atlantic sovereign, and his tyrannical Ministry and Parliament. Should they basely yield one of their dearest rights, they well judged they might be required, little by little, to yield all. They, therefore, manfully resisted these invasions as unbecoming a free people.

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

See also History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part XV October-November, 1780

See also October 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain

When, in 1775, Great Britain determined to enforce her obnoxious laws, the people, under their chosen leaders, seized their arms, forsook their homes and families, and boldly asserted their God-given rights. A long and embittered contest was commenced, involving mighty interests. Freedom was threatened—an empire was at stake. Sturdy blows were given and received, with various results. The first year of the war, the Americans beat back the British from Lexington and Concord, and captured Crown Point, but were worsted at Bunker Hill; they captured Chambly and St. Johns, and repulsed the enemy near Longueil, but the intrepid Montgomery failed to take Quebec, losing his life in the effort.

Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge

Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge

The second year of the contest, which brought forth the immortal Declaration of Independence, proved varying in its fortunes. The Scotch Tories in North Carolina were signally defeated at Moore’s Creek, and the British, long cooped up in Boston, were compelled to evacuate the place: and were subsequently repulsed at Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston; while the Americans, on the other hand, were defeated at the Cedars, and were driven from Montreal, Chambly and St. Johns, worsted at Long Island and White Plains, and lost Fort Washington, on the Hudson. Meanwhile the frontier men of Virginia, the Carolinas, East Tennessee, and Georgia, carried on successful expeditions against the troublesome Cherokees, whom British emissaries had inveigled into hostilities against their white neighbors.

The Battle of Germantown - October 24, 1777

The Battle of Germantown – October 24, 1777

Yet the year closed with gloomy prospects—despair sat on many a brow, and saddened many a heart—the main army was greatly reduced, and the British occupied New York, and the neighboring Province of New Jersey. Washington made a desperate venture, crossing the Delaware amid floating ice in December, attacking and defeating the unsuspecting enemy at Trenton; and, pushing his good fortune, commenced the third year of the war, 1777, by securing a victory at Princeton. While the enemy were, for a while, held at bay at the Red Bank, yet the results of the contests at Brandywine and Germantown were not encouraging to the American arms, and the British gained a firm foot-hold in Philadelphia. And subsequently they captured Forts Clinton and Montgomery, on the Hudson.

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Farther north, better success attended the American arms. St. Leger, with a strong British and Indian force, laid siege to Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk ; but after repelling a relieving party under General Nicholas Herkimer, he was at length compelled to relinquish his investiture, on learning of the approach of a second army of relief, retiring precipitately from the country ; while the more formidable invading force under General John Burgoyne met with successive reverses at Bennington, Stillwater, and Saratoga, eventuating in its total surrender to the victorious Americans.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

In June, 1778, the fourth year of the war, the British evacuated Philadelphia, when Washington pursued their retreating forces, overtaking and vigorously attacking them at Monmouth. A large Tory and Indian party defeated the settlers, and laid waste the Wyoming settlements. As the result of Burgoyne’s signal discomfiture, a treaty of alliance between the new Republic and France brought troops and fleets to the aid of the struggling Americans, and produced some indecisive fighting on Rhode Island.

George-Rogers-ClarkThe adventurous expedition under George Rogers Clark, from the valleys of Virginia and West Pennsylvania, down the Monongahela and Ohio, and into the country of the Illinois, a distance of well nigh fifteen hundred miles, with limited means, destitute of military stores, packhorses and supplies — with only their brave hearts and trusty rifles, was a remarkable enterprise. Yet with all these obstacles, and less than two hundred men, Clark fearlessly penetrated the western wilderness, killing his game by the way, and conquered those distant settlements. Though regarded at the time as a herculean undertaking, and a most successful adventure, yet none foresaw the mighty influence it was destined to exert on the subsequent progress and extension of the Republic.

hero_of_vincennes1Varied fortunes attended the military operations of 1779, the fifth year of the strife. The gallant Clark and his intrepid followers, marched in winter season, from Kaskaskia across the submerged lands of the Wabash, sometimes wading up to their arm-pits in water, and breaking the ice before them, surprised the garrison at Vincennes, and succeeded in its capture. The British force in Georgia, having defeated General Ashe at Brier creek, projected an expedition against Charleston, and progressed as far as Stono, whence they were driven back to Savannah, where the combined French and Americans were subsequently repulsed, losing, among others, the chivalrous Count Casimir Pulaski. At the North, Stony Point was captured at the point of the bayonet, and Paulus Hook surprised; while General John Sullivan’s well-appointed army over-ran the beautiful country of the Six Nations, destroying their villages, and devastating their fields, as a retributive chastisement for their repeated invasions of the Mohawk and Minisin settlements, and laying waste the lovely vale of Wyoming.

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The war had now dragged its slow length along for five successive campaigns, and the British had gained but few permanent foot-holds in the revolted Colonies. Instead of the prompt and easy conquest they had promised themselves, they had encountered determined opposition wherever they had shown the red cross of St. George, or displayed their red-coated soldiery. Repeated defeats on the part of the Americans had served to inure them to the hardships of war, and learned them how to profit by their experiences and disasters.

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island - 1776

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island, Charleston, S.C. – 1776

Surrender of Hessian troops to General Washington
New efforts were demanded on the part of the British Government to subdue their rebellious subjects; and South Carolina was chosen as the next field of extensive operations. Sir Henry Clinton, who had met such a successful repulse at Charleston in 1776, and in whose breast still rankled the mortifying recollections of that memorable failure, resolved to head in person the new expedition against the Palmetto Colony, and retrieve, if possible, the honor so conspicuously tarnished there on his previous unfortunate enterprise.

Cape_St_VincentHaving enjoyed the Christmas holiday of 1779 in New York harbor, Sir Henry, accompanied by Lord Cornwallis, sailed from Sandy Hook the next day with the fleet under Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, transporting an army of over seven thousand five hundred men. Some of the vessels, however, were lost by the way, having encountered stormy weather in the gulf-stream—one bark, carrying Hessian troops, was dismasted and driven across the ocean, an ordnance vessel was foundered, while several transports were captured by bold and adventurous American privateers, and most of the horses for the expedition perished. The place of rendezvous was at Tybee Bay, near the entrance to Savannah river, whence Clinton, on his way towards Charleston, was joined by the troops in Georgia, making his force nine thousand strong, besides the sailors in the fleet; but to render his numbers invincible beyond all peradventure, he at once ordered from New York Lord Rawdon’s brigade, amounting to about two thousand five hundred more.

Battle of Charleston

Battle of Charleston

Charleston, against which this formidable British force was destined, was an opulent city of some fifteen thousand people, white and black, and was garrisoned by less than four thousand men—not near enough to properly man the extended works of defence, of nearly three miles in circumference, as they demanded. Governor Rutledge, a man of unquestioned patriotism, had conferred upon him by the Legislature, in anticipation of this threatened attack, dictatorial powers, with the admonition, ‘to do every thing necessary for the public good; “but he was, nevertheless, practically powerless. He had few or none of the sinews of war; and so depreciated had become the currency of South Carolina, that it required seven hundred dollars to purchase a pair of shoes for one of her needy soldiers. The defeat of the combined French and American force at Savannah the preceding autumn, in which the South Carolinians largely participated, had greatly dispirited the people; and the Governor’s appeal to the militia produced very little effect. The six old South Carolina regiments had been so depleted by sickness and the casualties of war as to scarcely number eight hundred, all told; and the defence of the city was committed to these brave men, the local militia, and a few regiments of Continental troops—the latter reluctantly spared by Washington from the main army, and which, he thought, was “putting much to hazard” in an attempt to defend the city, and the result proved his military foresight. It would have been wiser for General Benjamin Lincoln and his troops to have retired from the place, and engaged in a Fabian warfare, harassing the enemy’s marches by ambuscades, and cutting off his foraging parties; but the leading citizens of Charleston, relying on their former success, urged every argument in their power that the city should be defended to the last extremity. Yet no experienced Engineer regarded the place as tenable.

abatis1On the eleventh of February, 1780, the British forces landed on St. John’s Island, within thirty miles of Charleston, subsequently forming a depot, and building fortifications, at Wappoo, on James’ Island; and, on the twenty-sixth of that month, they gained a distant view of the place and harbor. The dreaded day of danger approached nearer and nearer; and on the twenty-seventh, the officers of the Continental squadron, which carried one hundred and fifty guns, reported their inability to guard the harbor at the bar, where the best defence could be made; and “then,” as Washington expressed it, “the attempt to defend the town ought to have been relinquished.” But no such thought was entertained. Every thing was done, that could be done, to strengthen and extend the lines of defence, dig ditches, erect redoubts and plant abatis, with a strong citadel in the center.fn1

Preparations, too, were steadily progressing on the part of the enemy. On the twenty-fourth of March, Lord Cornwallis and a Hessian officer were seen with their spyglasses making observations; and on the twenty-ninth, the British passed Ashley river, breaking ground, on the first of April, at a distance of eleven hundred yards from the American lines. At successive periods they erected five batteries on Charleston Neck.

Late in the evening of March thirtieth, General Charles Scott, commanding one of the Virginia Continental brigade, arrived, accompanied by his staff, and some other officers. “The next morning,” says Major William Croghan, “I accompanied Generals Lincoln and Scott to view the batteries and works around town ; found those on the Cooper river side in pretty good order, and chiefly manned by sailors ; but the greater part of the remainder not complete, and stood in need of a great deal of work. General Scott was very particular in inquiring of General Lincoln as to the quantity of provisions in the garrison, when the General informed him there were several months’ supply, by a return he had received from the Commissary. General Scott urged the necessity of having officers to examine it, and, as he expressed it, for them to lay their hands on it.”fn2

A sortie was planned on the fourth of April, to be commanded by General Scott—one battalion led by Colonel Elijah Clarke and Major Lee Hogg, of North Carolina; another by Colonel Elisha Parker and Major Croghan, of Virginia, and the light infantry by Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens; but the wind proved unfavorable, which prevented the shipping from going up Town creek, to fire on the enemy, and give the sallying party such assistance as they might be able to render, and thus it failed of execution. General William Woodford’s Virginia brigade of Continentals arrived on the sixth, and some North Carolina militia under the command of Colonel George F. Harrington. They were greeted by the firing of a feu de j’oie [bonfire], and the ringing of the bells all night.fn3

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

Admiral Arbuthnot’s near approach to the bar, on the seventh of April, induced Commodore Abraham Whipple, who commanded the American naval force, to retire without firing a gun, first to Fort Moultrie, and afterward to Charleston; and the British fleet passed the fort without stopping to engage it—the passage having been made, says the New Jersey Gazette fn4 while a severe thunder storm was raging, which caused the ships to be “invisible near half the time of their passing.” Colonel Charles C. Pinckney, who commanded there, with three hundred men, kept up a heavy cannonade on the British ships during their passage, which was returned by each of the vessels as they passed—the enemy losing fourteen men killed, and fifteen wounded, while not a man was hurt in the garrison.fn5 One ship had its fore-topmast shot away, and others sustained damage. The Acteus transport ran aground near Haddrell’s Point, when Captain Thomas Gadsden, a brother of Colonel Christopher Gadsden, who was detached with two field pieces for the purpose, fired into her with such effect, that the crew set her on fire, and retreated in boats to the other vessels. The Royal fleet, in about two hours, came to anchor within long shot of the American batteries.

By the tenth of April, the enemy had completed their first parallel, when Clinton and Arbuthnot summoned the town to surrender. Lincoln answered: “From duty and inclination I shall support the town to the last extremity.” A severe skirmish had previously taken place between Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens and the advance guard of the enemy, in which the Americans lost Captain Bowman killed, and Major Edmund Hyrne and seven privates wounded. On the twelfth, the batteries on both sides were opened, keeping up an almost incessant fire. The British had the decided advantage in the number and strength of their mortars and royals, having twenty-one, while the Americans possessed only two;fn6 and the lines of the latter soon began to crumble under the powerful and constant cannonade maintained against them. On the thirteenth, Governor Rutledge was persuaded to withdraw from the garrison, while exit was yet attainable, leaving Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden with five members of the Council.

CowpensOn the same day, General Lincoln, in a council of war, revealed to its members his want of resources, and suggested an evacuation. “In such circumstances,” said General Mcintosh, ” we should lose not an hour in attempting to get the Continental troops, at least, over Cooper river; for on their safety, depends the salvation of the State.” But Lincoln only wished them to give the matter mature consideration, and he would consult them further about it. Before he met them again, the American cavalry at Monk’s Corner, which had been relied on to keep open the communication between the city and the country, were surprised and dispersed on the fourteenth ; and five days later, the expected British reinforcements of two thousand five hundred men arrived from New York, when Clinton was enabled more completely to environ the devoted city, and cut off all chance of escape.

A stormy council was held on the nineteenth, when the heads of the several military departments reported their respective conditions—of course, anything but flattering in their character. Several of the members still inclined to an evacuation, notwithstanding the increased difficulties of effecting it since it was first suggested. In the midst of the conference, Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden happened to come in—whether by accident, or design, was not known—and General Lincoln courteously proposed that he be allowed to take part in the council. He appeared surprised and displeased that a thought had been entertained of either evacuation or capitulation, and acknowledged himself entirely ignorant of the state of the provisions, etc., but would consult his Council in regard to the proposals suggested.

In the evening, an adjourned meeting was held, when Colonel Laumoy, of the engineer department, reported the insufficiency of the fortifications, the improbability of holding out many days longer, and the impracticability of making a retreat; and closed by suggesting that terms of honorable capitulation be sought from the enemy. Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden, with four of his Councilors, coming in shortly after, treated the military gentlemen very rudely, the Lieutenant-Governor declaring that he would protest against their proceedings; that the militia were willing to live upon rice alone, rather than give up the town on any terms; and that even the old women had become so accustomed to the enemy’s shot, that they traveled the streets without fear or dread; but if the council were determined to capitulate, he had his terms ready in his pocket.

Mr. Thomas Ferguson, one of the Councilors, declared that the inhabitants of the city had observed the boats collected to carry off the Continental troops; and that they would keep a good watch upon the army, and should any attempt at evacuation ever be made, he would be among the first to open the gates for the admission of the enemy, and assist them in attacking the retiring troops Colonel C. C. Pinckney soon after came in abruptly—probably having been apprised by the Lieutenant-Governor of the subject under discussion—and, forgetting his usual politeness, addressed General Lincoln with great warmth, and in much the same strain as General Gadsden, adding that those who were for business needed no council, and that he came over on purpose from Fort Moultrie, to prevent any terms being offered to the enemy, or any evacuation of the garrison attempted; and particularly charged Colonel Laumoy and his department with being the sole authors and promoters of such proposals.fn7

It is very certain, that these suggestions of evacuation or capitulation, occasioned at the time great discontent among both the regulars and militia, who wished to defend the city to the last extremity, and who resolved, in view of continuing the defence, that they would be content, if necessary, with only half rations daily.fn8 All these good people had their wishes gratified—the siege was procrastinated, and many an additional death, suffering, sorrow, and anguish, were the consequence.

General Lincoln must have felt hurt, it not sorely nettled, by these repeated insults—as General Mcintosh acknowledges that he did. When matters of great public concern result disastrously, scape-goats are always sought, and all participants are apt to feel more or less unamiable and fault-finding on such occasions. Or, as Washington expressed it, referring to another affair, “mutual reproaches too often follow the failure of enterprises depending upon the cooperation of troops of different grades.” Looking at these bickerings in the light of history, a century after their occurrence, one is struck with General Lincoln’s magnanimous forbearance, when he confessedly made great sacrifices in defending the place so long against his better judgment, in deference to the wishes of the people, who, we may well conclude, were very unfit judges of military affairs.

sfmuralcutAt another council of officers, held on the twentieth and twenty-first, the important subject of an evacuation was again under deliberation; and the conclusion reached was, “that it was unadvisable, because of the opposition made to it by the civil authority and the inhabitants, and because, even if they should succeed in defeating a large body of the enemy posted in their way, they had not a sufficiency of boats to cross the Santee before they might be overtaken by the whole British army.”fn9 It was then proposed to give Sir Henry Clinton quiet possession of the city, with its fortifications and dependencies, on condition that the security of the inhabitants, and a safe, unmolested retreat for the garrison, with baggage and field pieces, to the north-east of Charleston should be granted. These terms were instantly rejected. On searching every house in town, it was found that the private supplies of provisions were as nearly exhausted as were the public magazines.

On the twenty-fourth, at daybreak, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson sallied out with two hundred men, chiefly from Generals Woodford’s and Scott’s brigades, surprising and vigorously attacking the advance flanking party of the enemy, bayoneting fifteen of them in their trenches, and capturing a dozen prisoners, of whom seven were wounded, losing in the brilliant affair, the brave Captain Thomas Gadsden and one or two privates. A considerable body of the enemy, under Major Hall, of the seventy-fourth regiment, attempted to support the party in the trenches; but were obliged to retire on receiving a shower of grape from the American batteries.fn10 A successful enterprise of this kind proved only a momentary advantage, having no perceptible influence on the final result.

StandIt is said Colonel C. C. Pinckney, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens, assured General Lincoln they could supply the garrison with plenty of beef from Lempriere’s Point, if they were permitted to remain on that side of Cooper river with the force then under their command; upon which the Commissary was ordered to issue a full allowance again. But unfortunately the first and only cattle butchered at Lempriere’s for the use of the garrison were altogether spoiled through neglect or mismanagement before they came over. These gentlemen, are said, also, to have promised that the communication on the Cooper side could, and would, be kept open. Being inhabitants of Charleston, and knowing the country well, perhaps the General, with some reason, might be inclined to the same opinion; and besides furnishing the garrison with beef, they were to send a sufficient number of negroes over to town for the military works, who were much wanted. But Colonel Pinckney with the greater part, or almost the whole of his first South Carolina regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens with the light infantry were recalled from Fort Moultrie and Lempriere’s fn11—and thus ended this spasmodic hope. Probably this failure caused a strict search to be made, about this time, in the houses of the citizens for provisions; “some was found,” says Major Croghan, ” but a much less quantity than was supposed.”

The Americans were not slow in perceiving the utter hopelessness of their situation. On the twenty-sixth, General DuPortail, an able French officer and Engineer-in-Chief of the American army, arrived from Philadelphia, having been sent by Washington to supervise the engineer department. He frankly informed General Lincoln that there was no prospect of getting any reinforcements very soon from the grand army—that Congress had proposed to General Washington to send the Maryland Line to their relief.fn12 As soon as General DuPortail came into the garrison, examined the military works, and observed the enemy, he declared the defences were not tenable—that they were only field lines; and that the British might have taken the place ten days ago. “I found the town,” wrote DuPortail to Washington, “in a desperate state.”fn13 He wished to leave the garrison immediately, while it was possible; but General Lincoln would not allow him to do so, as it would dispirit the troops. On learning General DuPortail’s opinion, a council was called the same day, and a proposition made for the Continental troops to make anight retreat; and when the citizens were informed of the subject under deliberation, some of them came into the council, warmly declaring to General Lincoln, thatif he attempted to withdraw the troops and abandon the citizens, they would cut up his boats, and open the gates to the enemy. This put an end to all further thoughts of an evacuation.fn14

As late as the twenty-eighth, a supernumerary officer left town to join the forces in the country; but the next day the small party remaining at Lempriere’s Point was recalled, the enemy at once occupying it with a large force; and thus the last avenue between the city and country was closed. General Lincoln informed the general officers, privately, this day, that he intended the horn work as a place of retreat for the whole army in case they were driven from the lines. General Mcintosh observing to him the impossibility of those then stationed at South Bay and Ashley river, in such a contingency, being able to retreat there, he replied that they might secure themselves as best they could. And on the thirtieth, in some way, Governor Rutledge managed to convey a letter to General Lincoln, upon which the General congratulated the army, in general orders, on hearing of a large reinforcement, which may again open the communication with the country.fn15 It was the old story of drowning men catching at straws.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the daily details of the protracted siege. Some of the more unusual occurrences only need be briefly noticed, so that we may hasten on to the melancholy catastrophe. Eleven vessels were sunk in the channel to prevent the Royal fleet from passing up Cooper river, and enfilading the American lines on that side of the place; while a frigate and two galleys were placed above the sunken obstructions, to cooperate with the shore batteries in thwarting any attempt on the part of the enemy for their removal.

But the work of destruction went steadily on. Cannon balls by day and by night went streaking through the air, and crashing through the houses. One morning, a shell burst very near Colonel Parker, a large piece of which fell harmless at his feet, when he said, with much composure, “a miss is as good as a mile;”fn16 and, that very evening, while the gallant Colonel was looking over the parapet, he was shot dead. Shells, fire-balls, and carcasses, ingeniously packed with combustibles, loaded pistol barrels, and other destructive missiles, were thrown into the city, setting many buildings on fire, and maiming and destroying not a few of the citizens and soldiery. On one occasion, when a pastor and a few worshipers, mostly women and invalids, were gathered in a church, supplicating the mercies of heaven on themselves and suffering people, a bomb-shell fell in the chuch-yard, when all quickly dispersed, retiring to their several places of abode.

Some of the cases of fatality were quite uncommon. Mever Moses’ young child was killed while in the arms of its nurse, and the house burned down. A man and his wife were killed at the same time, and in the same bed. A soldier who had been relieved from serving at his post in the defence of the city, entered his humble domicile, and while in the act of embracing his anxious wife, with tears of gladness, a cannon ball passed through the house, killing them both instantly. Many sought safety in their cellars; but even when protected for the moment from the constantly falling missiles of death and destruction, they began to suffer for want of food, since all the avenues to the city for country supplies, had been cut off.

General Moultrie has left us a vivid picture of this period of the siege: “Mr. Lord and Mr. Basquin, two volunteers, were sleeping upon the mattress together, in the advanced redoubt, when Mr. Lord was killed by a shell falling upon him, and Mr. Basquin at the same time had the hair of his head burnt, and did not awake until he was aroused from his slumbers by his fellow soldiers. The fatigue in that advanced redoubt was so great for want of sleep, that many faces were so swelled they could scarcely see out of their eyes. I was obliged to relieve Major Mitchell, the commanding officer. They were constantly on the lookout for the shells that were continually falling among them. It was by far the most dangerous post on the lines. On my visit to the battery, not having been there for a day or two, I took the usual way of going in, which was a bridge that crossed our ditch, quite exposed to the enemy, who, in the meantime, had advanced their works within seventy or eighty yards of the bridge, which I did not know. As soon as I had stepped upon the bridge, an uncommon number of bullets whistled about me; and on looking to my right, I could just see the heads of about twelve or fifteen men firing upon me from behind a breastwork—I moved on, and got in. When Major Mitchell saw me, he asked me which way I came in? I told him over the bridge. He was astonished, and said, ‘Sir, it is a thousand to one that you were not killed,’ and told me that he had a covered way through which to pass, by which he conducted me on my return. I staid in this battery about a quarter of an hour, giving the necessary orders, during which we were constantly skipping about to get out of the way of the shells thrown from their howitzers. They were not more than one hundred yards from our works, and were throwing their shells in bushels on our front and left flank.”fn17

Under date of the second of May, Major Croghan records in his Journal, which is corroborated by General Mcintosh’s Diary, that the enemy threw shells charged with rice and sugar. Simms tells us, that tradition has it, that it was not rice and sugar with which the shells of the British were thus ironically charged, but wheat flour and molasses—with an inscription addressed: “To the Yankee officers in Charleston,” courteously informing them that it contained a supply of the commodities of which they were supposed to stand most in need. But the garrison could still jest amid suffering, volcanoes and death. Having ascertained that the shell was sent them from a battery manned exclusively by a Scottish force, they emptied the shell of its contents; and filling it with lard and sulphur, to cure them of the itch, and sent it back to their courteous assailants, with the same inscription which originally accompanied it. “It was understood,” says Garden, “after the siege, that the note was received, but not with that good humor that might have been expected, had it been considered as jeu d’esprit, resulting from justifiable retaliation.”

“Provisions,” as we learn from Johnson’s Traditions, “now failed among the besieged. A sufficiency had been provided for the occasion; but the beef and pork had become tainted and unfit for food.” But the British “were misinformed,” says Moultrie, “if they supposed us in want of rice and sugar.” Of the latter article, at least during the earlier stages of the siege, such was its plentifulness that it was a favorite amusement to pursue the spent hot shot of the enemy, in order, by flinging sugar upon the balls, to convert it into candy. But towards the close of the siege, the supply of sugar must have become limited. “On the fourth of May,” says Major Croghan, “we received from the Commissary, with our usual allowance of rice, six ounces of extremely bad meat, and a little coffee and sugar. It has been very disagreeable to the northern officers and soldiers to be under the necessity of living without wheat or Indian bread, which has been the case during the whole siege.” So that the Scotch jokers who sent their shot, laden with either rice and sugar, or flour and molasses, ironically hinting at the deficiencies of the beleaguered garrison, did not, after all, hit very wide of the mark.

carronadecrewClinton, on the sixth of May, renewed his former terms for the surrender of the garrison. With the limited store of provisions on hand, with no prospects of receiving further supplies or reinforcements, and with the admission on the part of the Engineers that the lines could not be maintained ten days longer, and were liable to be carried by assault at any time, General Lincoln was disposed to accept the terms tendered; but he was opposed by the citizens, as they were required by Clinton to be prisoners on parole, when they wished to be regarded as non-combatants, and not subject to the rigorous laws of war. It was only putting off the evil day for a brief period; and again the twentyfour and thirty-two pound carronades, the mortars and howitzers, belched forth their shot, shell and carcasses upon the devoted town and garrison, setting many buildings on fire, and keeping up the most intense excitement. So near were now the opposing parties, that they could speak words of bravado to each other; and the rifles of the Hessian Yagers were so unerring, that a defender could no longer show himself above the lines with safety; and even a hat raised upon a ramrod, was instantly riddled with bullets.

Captain Hudson, of the British Navy, on the fifth of May, summoned Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island to surrender; the larger portion of its garrison having previously retired to Charleston. Lieutenant-Colonel William Scott,fn18 who commanded, sent for answer a rollicking reply: “Tol, lol, de rol, lol—Fort Moultrie will be defended to the last extremity.” The next day, Hudson repeated his demand, threatening that if he did not receive an answer in fifteen minutes, he would storm the fort, and put every man to the sword. Scott, it would seem, was at first disposed to resort to bravado of the “last extremity” character; but recalled the officer bearing it, saying on further reflection the garrison thought better of it—the disparity of force was far too great—and begging for a cessation of hostilities, proposed terms of surrender, which were granted by Captain Hudson. The surrender formally took place on the seventh.fn19 Thus the historic Fort Moultrie, which four years before had signally repulsed a powerful British fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, now surrendered to the enemy without firing a gun.

revolutionary_warThe seventh of May was further noted by an unfortunate disaster—the partial destruction of the principal magazine of the garrison, by the bursting of a shell. General Moultrie had most of the powder—ten thousand pounds—removed to the north-east corner of the exchange, where it was carefully bricked up, and remained undiscovered by the British during the two years and seven months they occupied the city. Another summons was sent in by Clinton on the eighth—a truce was granted till the next day; when Lincoln endeavored to secure the militia from being considered as prisoners of war, and the protection of the citizens of South Carolina in their lives and property, with twelve months allowance of time in which to determine whether to remain under British rule, or dispose of their effects and remove elsewhere. These articles were promptly rejected, with the announcement on the part of Clinton that hostilities would be re-commenced at eight o’clock that evening.

“After receiving his letter,” says Moultrie, “we remained near an hour silent, all calm and ready, each waiting for the other to begin. At length, we fired the first gun, and immediately followed a tremendous cannonade—about one hundred and eighty, or two hundred pieces of heavy cannon were discharged at the same moment. The mortars from both sides threw out an immense number of shells. It was a glorious sight to see them, like meteors, crossing each other, and bursting in the air. It appeared as if the stars were tumbling down. The fire was incessant almost the whole night, cannon balls whizzing, and shells hissing, continually among us, ammunition chests and temporary magazines blowing up, great guns bursting, and wounded men groaning along the lines. It was a dreadful night! It was our last great effort, but it availed us nothing. After it, our military ardor was much abated, and we began to cool.”

When, on the eleventh of May, the British had crossed the wet ditch by sap, and were within twenty-five yards of the American lines, all farther defense was hopeless. The militia refused to do duty.fn20 It was no longer a question of expediency ; but stern necessity demanded a speedy surrender, and the stoppage of farther carnage and suffering. General Lincoln had proved himself brave, judicious and unwearied in his exertions for three anxious months in baffling the greatly superior force of Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot. Hitherto the civil authorities, and citizens of Charleston, had stoutly contended that the city should be defended to the last extremity; but now, when all hope was lost, a large majority of the inhabitants, and of the militia, petitioned General Lincoln to accede to the terms offered by the enemy. The next day articles of capitulation were signed.

The loss of the Americans during the siege was ninetyeight officers and soldiers killed, and one hundred and forty- six wounded; and about twenty of the citizens were killed by the random shots of the enemy. Upward of thirty houses were burned, and many others greatly damaged. Besides the Continental troops, less than two thousand, of whom five hundred were in hospitals, and a considerable number of sailors, Sir Henry Clinton managed to enumerate among the prisoners surrendered, all the free male adults of Charleston, including the aged, the infirm, and even the Loyalists, so as to swell the number of his formidable conquest. In this way, his report was made to boast of over five thousand six hundred prisoners, when the Loyalist portion but a few days afterwards offered their congratulations on the reduction of South Carolina. The regular troops and sailors became prisoners of war until exchanged; the militia from the country were permitted to return home on parole, and to be secured in their property so long as their parole should be observed.

(fn1 There was published, first in a Williamsburgh, Va.. paper of April 8th. 1780. copied into Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet of April 18th. and into the New York Royal Gazette of same date, an account of a Colonel Hamilton Ballendine having made drawings of Charleston and its fortifications, was directing his course to the enemy, when an American picket guard sent out to Stono. captured him; he. thereupon, exhibited his drafts, supposing that the party belonged to the British army. They soon disabused him of his error, carried him to General Lincoln, who ordered him for execution, and he was accordingly hanged on the 5th of March. As none of the South Carolina historians, nor any of the Charleston diarists or letter-writers during the siege, make the slightest reference to any such person or circumstance, there could have been no foundation for the story.)
(fn2 MS. Journal of Major William Croghan, of the Virginia Line. Siege of Charleston, 123.)
(fn3 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn4 May 12th, 1780.)
(fn5 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn6 Such is the statement of Dr. Ramsay, who was present during the siege. The British official returns show nine mortars, ranging from four to ten-inch caliber, and one eight-inch howitzer, surrendered at Charleston, and a ten-inch mortar taken at Fort Moultrie; but probably the most of these were either unfit for use, or more likely, the limited quantity of shells enabled the defenders to make use of only two of this class of ordnance.)
(fn7 The details of this military council are taken from Major Crojthan’s MS. Journal; and from General Mcintosh’s Journal, published entire in the Magnolia Magazine. Dec. 1842. and cited in Simms’ South Carolina in tin Revolution. U7-129, both of which are, in this case, identical in language.)
(fn8 MS. letter of John Lewis Gervais, cited in Simms, 129.)
(fn9 The enemy were constantly on the watch for any attempted evacuation on the part of the Americans. Capt J. R. Rousscict. of Tarleton’s cavalry, has left this MS. note. written on the margin of a copy of Steadman’s American War, referring to the closing period of the siege: “Some small vessels, taken from the Americans, were armed, manned with troops, and stationed off Town Creek, to prevent the escape of the garrison should they attempt to evacuate the town by that channel. Capt. Roussclet commanded an armed sloop, with his company on board, under Capt. Salisbury. Royal Navy.”)
(fn10 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn11 Croghan’s MS. Journal; and Mcintosh’s Diary.)
(fn12 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn13 Letters to Washington, ii, 450.)
(fn14 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 80.
(fn15 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn16  Virginia Gazette, May 16, 1780.)
(fn17 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 83.)
(fn18 Scott was a brave, experienced officer. He served as a Captain during the attack on Charleston, in 1776. and died in that city in June, 1807.)
(fn19 Gordon’s History 0/ the Revolution, in. 354; Moultrie’s Memoirs, ii, 84; Ramray’s Revolution in South Carolina, ii, 56. nancroft. x, 305. and others, give May 6th as the date of surrender, but that the 7th was the true date of this occurrence mr.y be seen by com. paring Tarleton’s Campaign, 53-55; Rotta’s Rrvnlntion, New Haven edition, 1842. ii. 249; Johnson’s Traditions, 259; Pimms’ South Carolina in the Revolution, 146; and Siege of Charleston. Munselt, 1867, p. 167.)
(fn20 Du Portail to Washington, Msy 17th, 1780.)

King's mountain battle

History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part XV October-November, 1780

Part XV includes: Colonel Campbell Denounces Plundering.— Complaints against Tory Leaders.— Their Outrages on the Whigs.—A Court called to Consider the Matter.—Retaliation for British Executions Demanded.— A Law Found to Meet the Case.—Charges against Mills, Gilkey, and Ale Fall.— Colonel Davenport Noticed.—Number of Tories Tried and Condemned.— Case of fames Crawford.—One of the Prisoners Released.—Cleveland Favoring Severe Measures.— Motives of the Patriots Vindicated.—Shelby’s Explanation.— Tories Executed—their Names and Residence.—Paddy Carr’s Remarks, and Notice of Him.—Baldwin’s Singular Escape.— Further Executions Stopped.— Tories Subsequently Hung.—Rumor of Tarleton’s Approach.— Whigs Hasten to the Catawba.—A Hard Day’s March—Sufferings of Patriots and Prisoners.—Major McDowell’s Kindness.—Mrs. McDowell’s Treatment of British Officers.—Some of the Whig Troops Retire.—Disposition of the Wounded. —Prisoners Escape—One Re-taken and Hung.—March to the Moravian Settlements.—Bob Powell’s Challenge.—Official Account of the Battle Prepared.— Campbell and Shelby Visit General Gates. — Cleveland left in Command.—His Trial of Tories.—Escape of Green and Langum.— Cleveland Assaults Doctor Johnson.—Colonel Armstrong Succeeds to the Command.—Escape of British Officers.

battle_kings_mt

See also October 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain

While encamped at [Captain Aaron] Bickerstaff’s, on Saturday, the fourteenth, Colonel [William] Campbell issued a General Order, deploring the “many deserters from the army,” and the felonies committed by them on the poverty-stricken people of the country. “It is with anxiety,” he adds, “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;” and appeals to the officers “to exert themselves in suppressing this abominable practice, degrading to the name of soldiers.” He further orders that none of the troops be discharged, till the prisoners can be transferred to a proper guard. fn1  But some of the prisoners were soon to be disposed of in a manner evidently not anticipated when the order just issued was made known to the army.

Campbell
During this day, an important occurrence transpired at Bickerstaff’s. The officers of the two Carolina’s united in presenting a complaint to Colonel Campbell, that there were, among the prisoners, a number who were robbers, house-burners, parole-breakers, and assassins. The British victory near Camden had made, says General Preston, “Cornwallis complete master of South Carolina. This power he was using with cruelty, unparalleled in modern civilized conquest; binding down the conquered people like malefactors, regarding each Rebel as a condemned criminal, and checking every murmur, answering every suspicion with the sword and the fire-brand. If a suspected Whig fled from his house to escape the insult, the scourge or the rope, the myrmidons of Ferguson and Tarleton burned it down, and ravished his wife and daughters; if a son refused to betray his parent, he was hung like a dog; if a wife refused to tell the hiding-place of her husband, her belly was ripped open by the butcher-knife of the Tory; and to add double horror and infamy to the deep damnation of such deeds, Americans were forced to be the instruments for perpetrating them. That which Tarleton (beast, murderer, hypocrite, ravisher as he was,) was ashamed to do, he had done by Americans—neighbors, kinsmen of his victims. I draw no fancy picture—the truth is wilder far than the fabulists imagination can feign.” fn2

Battle of King's Mountain

Bancroft touchingly depicts the sad condition of the people, where unchecked Toryism had borne sway: “The sorrows of children and women,” he says, “robbed and wronged, shelterless, stripped of all clothes but those they wore, nestling about fires they kindled on the ground, and mourning for their fathers and husbands,” were witnessed on every hand; and these helpless sufferers appealed to all hearts for sympathy and protection. Colonel Campbell, on the strength of the complaints made to him, was induced to order the convening of a court, to examine fully into the matter. The Carolina officers urged, that, if these men should escape, exasperated, as they now were, in consequence of their humiliating defeat, they would commit other enormities worse than their former ones. fn3 The British leaders had, in a high-handed and summary manner, hung not a few of the captured patriots at Camden, and more recently at Ninety Six, and Augusta; and now that the Whigs had the means of retaliation at their command, they began to consider whether it was not their duty to exercise it; thinking, probably, that it would have a healthful influence upon the Loyalists—that the disease of Toryism, in its worst aspects, was disastrous in its effects, and heroic treatment had become necessary.

Colonel [Isaac] Shelby, with others, seems to have taken this view of the subject. When the mountaineers “reached Gilbert Town,” says Shelby, ” a week after the battle, they were informed by a paroled officer, that he had seen eleven patriots hung at Ninety Six a few days before, for being Rebels. Similar cruel and unjustifiable acts had been committed before. In the opinion of the patriots, it required retaliatory measures to put a stop to these atrocities. A copy of the law of North Carolina was obtained, which authorized two magistrates to summon a jury, and forthwith to try, and, if found guilty, to execute persons who had violated its precepts.”fn4  This law providing capital punishment, must have had reference to those guilty of murder, arson, house-breaking, riots, and other criminal offences.

“Colonel Campbell,” says Ensign [Robert] Campbell, “complied, and ordered a court-martial to sit immediately, composed of the field officers and Captains, who were ordered to inquire into the complaints which had been made. The court was conducted orderly, and witnesses were called and examined in each case—the consequence was, that thirty-two were condemned.”

King's mountain and Sandy Run

Under the law as cited by Colonel Shelby, while the tribunal was, no doubt, practically, a court-martial, it was nominally, at least, a civil court, with two presiding justices. There was no difficulty on this point, for most of the North Carolina officers were magistrates at home—Colonel [Benjamin] Cleveland, and four or five others, of the Wilkes regiment alone filling that position. The jury was composed of twelve officers—Lieutenant [Anthony] Allaire, in his Diary, denouncing it as “an infamous mock jury.” “Under this law,” says Shelby, ” thirty-six men were tried, and found guilty of breaking open houses, killing the men, turning the women and children out of doors, and burning the houses. The trial was concluded late at night; and the execution of the law was as summary as the trial.”

How much of the evidence, hurriedly adduced, was one sided and prejudiced, it is not possible at this late day to determine. Colonel Ambrose Mills, the principal person of those condemned, was a man of fair reputation, and must have been regarded chiefly in the light of being a proper and prominent character upon whom to exercise retaliatory measures; and yet it was necessary to make some specific charge against him—the only one coming down to us, is that related by Silas McBee, one of the King’s Mountain men under Colonel Williams, that Mills had, on some former occasion, instigated the Cherokees to desolate the frontier of South Carolina, which was very likely without foundation. It was proven against Captain Walter Gilkey, that he had called at the house of a Whig; and inquiring if he was at home, was informed by his son, a youth, that he was absent, when the Tory Captain immediately drew his pistol, discharged it, wounding the lad in the arm, and taking his gun from him. Recovering from his wound, this youth was now with the mountaineers, and testified against his would-be murderer. Gilkey’s aged father was present, and offered in vain his horse, saddle and bridle, and a hundred dollars in money, as a ransom for his son.fn5

shout
Another case somewhat similar to Gilkey’s, was that of John McFall, a noted Tory leader of Burke County. Heading a party of mounted Loyalists, McFall dashed up to the house of Martin Davenport, on John’s river, hoping to capture or kill him, as he was a prominent Whig, and had, more than once, marched against the Tories, under Colonel Cleveland and Major [Joseph] McDowell. But they failed to find him, as he was absent in the service. The Tory band vented their spleen and abuse on Mrs. Davenport, and directed her to prepare breakfast for them; and McFall ordered the lad, William Davenport, then in his tenth year, to go to the corn crib, procure some corn, and feed the horses in the trough prepared for such use at the hitching post. After getting their meal, and coming out to start off, McFall discovered that the horses had not been fed, and asked the little fellow roughly why he had not done as he had bidden him? The spirited little Rebel replied: “If you want your horses fed, feed them yourself.” Flying into a passion, McFall cut a switch and whipped him smartly.

Jos M McDowell

At the trial at Bickerstaff’s, when McFall’s case was reached, Major McDowell, as the proper representative of Burke County, whence the culprit hailed, was called on to give his testimony; when, not probably regarding McFall’s conduct as deserving of death, he was disposed to be lenient towards him. Colonel Cleveland, who, it would appear, was one of the presiding justices, had his attention attracted from his paper, upon which he was making some notes, bv hearing McFall’s name mentioned, now spoke up—”That man, McFall, went to the house of Martin Davenport, one of my best soldiers, when he was away from home, fighting for his country, insulted his wife, and whipped his child; and no such man ought to be allowed to live.” fn6 His fate was sealed by this revelation; but his brother, Arthur McFall, the old hunter of the mountains, was saved through the kind intervention of Major and Captain McDowell, believing, as he had been wounded in the arm at King’s Mountain, it would admonish him not to be found in the future in bad company. fn7

Benjamin Sharp represents that the number of Tories condemned to the gallows was upwards of forty, Thomas Maxwell and Governor David Campbell say thirty-nine, Shelby thirty-six, [General William B.] Lenoir and Ensign Campbell thirty-two, while Ramsey’s Tennessee, Lieutenant Allaire, Benjamin Starritt and others, give the number as thirty. Starritt asserts that those upon whom sentence of death had been pronounced, were divided into three classes of ten each—Colonel [Ambrose] Mills heading the first class, and James Crawford the second class. It will be remembered that Crawford, who lived at the head of French Broad river, belonged to Sevier’s regiment; and while at “The Bald” of the Yellow Mountain on their outward march, had enticed Samuel Chambers, an inexperienced youth, to desert with him, and they gave [Major Patrick] Ferguson information of the plans and approach of the mountaineers. It is said, that when Ferguson had taken post on King’s Mountain, and a week had elapsed since the renegades brought the report, that he had caused Crawford to be tried and condemned for bringing false intelligence; and the evening of the seventh of October had been set for his execution. However this may have been, Colonel [John] Sevier interceded in Crawford’s behalf, as he could not bear to see his old neighbor and friend suffer an ignominious death, and had him pardoned. He subsequently removed to Georgia. Young Chambers’ guilt was excused on account of his youthfulness. fn8 Judged by the laws of war, Crawford was a deserter; and in view of the injury he tried to inflict on the Whig cause, he as richly deserved the halter as Andre’, and doubtless much more than any of his Tory associates.

As Abram Forney, one of the Lincoln troops, was surveying the prisoners, through the guard surrounding them, he discovered one of his neighbors, who only a short time before King’s Mountain battle, had been acting with the Whigs; but had been over-persuaded, by some of his Tory acquaintances, to join the King’s troops. Upon seeing him, Forney exclaimed—” Is that you, Simon?” “Yes,” he replied, quickly, ” it is, Abram, and I beg you to get me out of this bull-pen; if you do, I will promise never to be caught in such a scrape again.” When it was, accordingly, made to appear on the day of trial, that he had been unfortunately wrought upon by some Tory neighbors, such a mitigation of his disloyalty was presented as to induce the court to overlook his offence, and set him at liberty. Soon afterwards, true to his promise, he joined his former Whig comrades, marched to the battle of Guilford, and made a good soldier to the end of the war. fn9

So far as the evidence goes, Colonel Cleveland was probably more active and determined than any other officer in bringing about these severe measures; though Colonel Brandon, it was well known, was an inveterate hater of Tories; and Colonel Shelby seems to have aided in finding a State law that would meet these cases. It is said that Cleveland had previously threatened to hang certain Tories whenever he could catch them; fn10 and Governor [John] Rutledge, shortly after this affair, ascribed to him the chief merit of the execution of several “noted horse thieves and Tories” taken at King’s Mountain. fn11

The Southern country was then in a very critical condition, and there seemed to be a grave necessity for checking, by stern and exemplary punishment, the Tory lawlessness that largely over-spread the land, and impressing that class with a proper sense of the power and determination of the Whigs to protect their patriot friends, and punish their guilty enemies. Referring to the action at Bickerstaff’s, Ensign Campbell well observes: “The officers on that occasion acted from an honorable motive to do the greatest good in their power for the public service, and to check those enormities so frequently committed in the States of North and South Carolina at that time, their distress being almost unequalled in the annals of the American Revolution.” The historian, Bancroft, errs in supposing that these executions were the work of lawless ” private soldiers.” fn12   The complaints against the Tory leaders were made by the officers of the western army from the two Carolinas, and the court and jury were composed exclusively of officers—and all was done under the form and sanction of law.

riflemen-forest

While the jurist-historian, Johnson, could have wished that the conquerors of Ferguson had been magnanimous, and spared these miserable wretches from the gallows, yet as an act of justice and public policy he vindicates their conduct. Many severe animadversions, he observes, have been showered on the brave men who fought at King’s Mountain for this instance of supposed severity. War, in its mildest form, is so full of horrors, that the mind recoils from vindicating any act that can, in the remotest degree, increase its miseries. To these no act contributes more than that of retaliation. Hence no act should be ventured upon with more solemn deliberation, and none so proper to be confined to a commander-in-chief, or the civil power. But the brave men who fought in the affair at King’s Mountain, are not to be left loaded with unmerited censure.

The calmest and most dispassionate reflection upon their conduct, on this occasion, will lead to the conviction, that if they committed any offence, it was against their own country—not against the enemy. That instead of being instigated by a thirst of blood, they acted solely with a view to put an end to its effusion; and boldly, for this purpose, took upon themselves all the dangers that a system of retaliation could super induce. The officers of the American army, who, twelve months afterwards, hazarded their lives by calling upon their General to avenge the death of Hayne, justly challenge the gratitude and admiration of their country; but the men of King’s Mountain (for it is avowed as a popular act, and not that of their chief alone), merit the additional reputation of having assumed on themselves the entire responsibility, without wishing to involve the regular army in their dangers. And this was done in the plenitude of British triumph, and when not a man of them could count on safety for an hour, in anything but his own bravery and vigilance.

But what was the prospect before them? They were all proscribed men; the measures of Lord Cornwallis had put them out of the protection of civilized warfare; and the spirit in which his proclamations and instructions were executed by his officers, had put them out of the protection of common humanity. The massacres at Camden had occurred not six weeks before, and those of Browne, at Augusta, scarcely half that time. Could they look on and see this system of cruelty prosecuted, and not try the only melancholy measure that could check it? The effect proved that there was as much of reflection as of passion in the act; for the little despots who then held the country, dared prosecute the measure no farther. Another and an incontestable proof that blind revenge did not preside over the counsels that consigned these men to death, is drawn from the deliberation with which they were selected, and the mildness manifested to the residue of the prisoners.

It has been before observed, that, in the ranks of Colonel Ferguson, there were many individuals notorious as habitual plunderers and murderers. What was to be done with these? There were no courts of justice to punish their offences; fn13 and, to detain them as prisoners of war, was to make them objects of exchange. Should such pests to society be again enlarged, and suffered to renew their outrages? Capture in arms does not exempt the deserter from the gallows; why should it the cold-blooded murderer? There was no alternative left; and the officers, with all the attention to form that circumstances would permit, and more—a great deal, it is believed—than either Browne or Cornwallis had exhibited, could only form a council, and consign them to the fate that would have awaited them in the regular administration of justice.fn14

It is but just and proper, in this connection, to give the views of Colonel Shelby, one of the conspicuous actors in this whole affair; and he seems to justify it wholly as a measure of retaliation: It is impossible, he observes, for those who have not lived in its midst, to conceive of the exasperation which prevails in a civil war. The execution, therefore, of the nine Tories at [near] Gilbert Town, will, by many persons, be considered an act of retaliation unnecessarily cruel. It was believed by those who were on the ground to be both necessary and proper, for the purpose of putting a stop to the execution of the patriots in the Carolinas by the Tories and British. The event proved the justice of the expectation of the patriots. The execution of the Tories did stop the execution of the Whigs. And it may be remarked of this cruel and lamentable mode of retaliation, that, whatever excuse and pretenses the Tories may have had for their atrocities, the British officers, who often ordered the execution of Whigs, had none. Their training to arms, and military education, should have prevented them from violating the rules of civilized warfare in so essential a point. fn15

Early in the evening, the trials having been brought to a conclusion, a suitable oak was selected, upon a projecting limb of which the executions were to take place. It was by the road side, near the camp, and is yet standing, known in all that region as the Gallows Oak. Torch-lights were procured, the condemned brought out, around whom the troops formed four deep. It was a singular and interesting night scene, the dark old woods illuminated with the wild glare of hundreds of pine-knot torches; and quite a number of the Loyalist leaders of the Carolinas about to be launched into eternity. The names of the condemned Tories were— Colonel Ambrose Mills, Captain James Chitwood, Captain Wilson, Captain Walter Gilkey, Captain Grimes, Lieutenant Lafferty, John McFall, John Bibby, and Augustine Hobbs. They were swung off three at a time, and left suspended at the place of execution. According to Lieutenant Allaire’s account, they died like soldiers—like martyrs, in their own and friends’ estimation. “These brave but unfortunate Loyalists,” says Allaire, “with their latest breath expressed their unutterable detestation of the Rebels, and of their base and infamous proceedings; and, as they were being turned off, extolled their King and the British Government. Mills, Wilson and Chitwood died like Romans.”fn16 Among the small party of Georgians who served in the campaign, was the noted Captain Paddy Carr, heretofore introduced to the reader. Devoid, as he was, of the finer feelings of humanity, he was deeply interested in, and greatly enjoyed these sickening executions. If there was anything he hated more than another, it was a Tory; and, it may be, much of his extreme bitterness grew out of the fact, that he knew full well how intensely he, in turn, was hated by the Loyalists. Pointing at the unfortunates, while dangling in mid-air, Carr exclaimed: “Would to God every tree in the wilderness bore such fruit as that!”fn17

After nine of the Loyalist leaders had been executed, and three others were about to follow suit, an unexpected incident occurred. Isaac Baldwin, one of these condemned trio, had been a leader of a Tory gang in Burke County, who had sacked many a house, stripping the unfortunate occupants of food, beds and clothing; and not unfrequently, after tying them to trees, and whipping them severely, would leave them in their helpless and gory condition to their fate. While all eyes were directed to Baldwin and his companions, pinioned, and awaiting the call of the executioners, a brother of Baldwin’s, a mere lad, approached, apparently in sincere affection, to take his parting leave. He threw his arms around his brother, and set up a most piteous screaming and lamentation as if he would go into convulsions, or his heart would break of sorrow. While all were witnessing this touching scene, the youth managed to cut the cords confining his brother, who suddenly darted away, breaking through the line of soldiers, and easily escaping under cover of the darkness, into the surrounding forest. Although he had to make his way through more than a thousand of the best marksmen in the world, yet such was the universal admiration or feeling on the occasion, that not one would lift a hand to stop him. fn18
Whether the escape of Baldwin produced a softening effect on the minds of the Whig leaders—any feelings of forbearance towards the condemned survivors; or whether, so far as retaliation, or the hoped-for intimidating influence on the Tories of the country, was concerned, it was thought enough lives had been sacrificed, we are not informed. Some of these men must have been tried within the scope of the civil law, for crimes committed against society; while others must have been tried and condemned for violations of the usages of war; fn19 and yet, after all, the moral effect would seem to have been the principal motive for these cases of capital punishment.

Referring probably to the two companions of Baldwin after he had effected his escape, we have this statement on the authority of Colonel Shelby: “Three more were tied, ready to be swung off. Shelby interfered, and proposed to stop it. The other officers agreed; and the three men who supposed they had seen their last hour, were untied.”fn20 The inference is, that the officers here referred to, who, with Shelby, exercised the pardoning power, or ” put a stop” to further executions, were the presiding officers of the court, in their character of justices, of whom Colonel Campbell could hardly have been one, though a magistrate at home, for the civil court was acting under the laws of North Carolina; and yet Ensign Campbell, in his narrative, speaks of the trials having been conducted before a court martial, and adds, that, after the nine were executed, ” the others were pardoned by the commanding officer;” while another eye-witness, Benjamin Sharp, states that “a court was detailed,” and after the nine were hung, “the rest were reprieved by the commanding officer.” Nor is the language of the late Governor Campbell less explicit: ” A courtmartial was ordered and organized to try many of the Tory officers, charged by the officers of North and South Carolina with many offences—such as murdering unoffending citizens not in arms, and without motive, save the brutal one of destroying human life: Thirty-nine were found guilty, nine of whom were executed, and thirty were pardoned by the commanding officer.” fn21 Whether the survivors were pardoned by the court in its civil capacity, or by the commanding officer at the instance of a court-martial, the executions ceased.fn22

One of the reprieved Tories, touched with a sense of the obligation he was under for sparing his life, and perhaps resolved thereafter to devote his energies to the Whig cause, went to Colonel Shelby at two o’clock that night, and made this revelation: “You have saved my life,” said he, “and I will tell you a secret. Tarleton will be here in the morning—a woman has brought the news.”fn23 No doubt intelligence came that Tarleton had been dispatched by Lord Cornwallis with a strong force for the relief of Ferguson, if relief could be of any service; but as to the particular time of his arrival, that was the merest guess-work, and, with the Tories, the wish was father to the thought. But the Whig leaders, on receiving this information, deeming it prudent to run no risk, but to retire with their prisoners to a place of safety, instantly aroused the camp, picking up everything, sending the wounded into secret places in the mountains, and making every preparation for an early start in the morning. fn24 They marched, according to Allaire’s Diary, at the early hour of five o’clock, on Sunday, the fifteenth of October.

The poor Loyalist leaders had been left swinging from the sturdy oak upon which they had been executed. No sooner had the Whigs moved off, than Mrs. Martha Bickerstaff, or Biggerstaff, the wife of Captain Aaron Bickerstaff who had served under Ferguson, and been mortally wounded at King’s Mountain, with the assistance of an old man who worked on the farm, cut down the nine dead bodies. Eight of them were buried in a shallow trench, some two feet deep; while the remains of Captain Chitwood were conveyed by some of his friends, on a plank, half a mile away to Benjamin Bickerstaff’s, where they were interred on a hill still used as a grave-yard. About 1855, a party of road-makers concluded to exhume the remains of Colonel Mills and his companions, as the place of their burial was well known. The graves of only four of the number were opened, the bones soon crumbling on exposure. Several articles were found in a very good state of preservation—a butcher knife, a small brass chain about five inches in length, evidently used in attaching a powder-horn to a shot-bag, a thumb lancet, a large musket flint, a goosequill, with a wooden stopper, in which were three or four brass pins. These articles, save the knife, and a portion of the pins, are preserved by M. O. Dickerson, Esq., of Rutherfordton.fn25

Shortly after marching from Bickerstaff’s, rain began to fall in torrents, and it never ceased the whole day. “Instead of halting,” says Benjamin Sharp, “we rather mended our pace in order to cross the Catawba river before it should rise to intercept us.” It was regarded as essential to get out of Tarleton’s reach, and hence the straining of every nerve, and the exercise of every self-denial, to accomplish so important an object. The sanguinary character of that impetuous British cavalry officer, and the celerity of his movements, as shown at Buford’s defeat at Monk’s Corner, and at Sumter’s surprise at Fishing Creek, admonished the Whig leaders of the enemy they might have to deal with; and impelled, on this occasion, by the hope of rescuing several hundred British and Tory prisoners was very naturally regarded by the patriots as a powerful incentive for Tarleton to push them to the utmost extremity, and play cut and slash as usual—and hence the supposed necessity of equal exertions on their part to avert so great a calamity. It is not a little singular that, at this very moment, Cornwallis and Tarleton were retreating from Charlotte to Winnsboro, South Carolina, with all their might and main— “with much fatigue,” says Lord Rawdon, “occasioned by violent rains ;” fearing that the ” three thousand” reported victorious mountaineers were in hot pursuit. “It was amusing,” said one of the King’s Mountain men, “when we learned the facts, how Lord Cornwallis was running in fright in one direction, and we mountaineers as eagerly fleeing in the other.”fn26

In Allaire’s newspaper narrative, we have this account —whether colored or distorted, we have no means of determining: “On the morning of the fifteenth, Colonel Campbell had intelligence that Colonel Tarleton was approaching him, when he gave orders to his men, that should Tarleton come up with them, they were immediately to fire on Captain Abraham DePeyster and his officers, who were in the front, and then a second volley on the men. During this day’s march, the men were obliged to give thirty-five Continental dollars for a single ear of Indian corn, and forty for a drink of water, they not being allowed to drink when fording a river; in short, the whole of the Rebels’ conduct from the surrender of the party into their hands, is incredible to relate. Several of the militia that were worn out with fatigue, not being able to keep up, were cut down and trodden to death in the mire.”

It was about ten o’clock at night, according to Allaire’s Diary, and as late as two o’clock, according to Shelby, when the wearied troops and prisoners reached the Catawba, at the Island Ford, where the river was breast deep as they forded it. They bivouacked on the western bank of the river at the Quaker Meadows—the home of Major McDowell. “A distance of thirty-two miles,” says Allaire, “was accomplished this day over a very disagreeable road, all the men worn out with fatigue and fasting, the prisoners having had no bread nor meat for two days”—and, apparently, not even raw corn or pumpkins. Nor had the Whigs fared any better, judging from the statement in the American Review, dictated by Colonel Shelby: ” As an evidence of the hardships undergone by these brave and hardy patriots, Colonel Shelby says that he ate nothing from Saturday morning until after they encamped Sunday night—[or rather Monday morning]—at two o’clock.” Benjamin Sharp throws additional light on the privations of the patriots: “During the whole of this expedition,” he states, “except a few days at our outset, I neither tasted bread nor salt, and this was the case with nearly every man; when we could get meat, which was but seldom, we had to roast and eat it without either; sometimes we got a few potatoes, but our standing and principal rations were ears of corn, scorched in the fire or eaten raw. Such was the price paid by the men of the Revolution for our independence.”

Here, at McDowell’s, some provisions were obtained— not much of a variety, but such as satisfied half-starved men; nor did they seek rest until they had dried themselves by their camp fires, and enjoyed their simple repast. “Major McDowell,” says Sharp, “rode along the lines, and informed us that the plantation belonged to him, and kindly invited us to take rails from his fences, and make fires to warm and dry us. I suppose that every one felt grateful for this generous offer; for it was rather cold, it being the last of October, and every one, from the Commander-in-chief to the meanest private, was as wet as if he had just been dragged through the Catawba river.”

It is evident from Allaire’s Diary, that when it was possible, courtesies were extended to the British officers—even when the Whig patriots themselves were camping out on the ground. “We officers,” he says, ” were allowed to go to Colonel McDowell’s, where we lodged comfortably.” A little incident transpired on this occasion which the good Lieutenant did not care, perhaps, to record in his Diary. Some of these very same officers had visited the residence of the McDowell’s, under very different circumstances, the preceding month, when Ferguson had invaded the Upper Catawba Valley, and when the two brothers, Colonel Charles and Major Joseph McDowell, had retired with their little band across the mountains. Their widowed mother was the presiding hostess of the old homestead at the Quaker Meadows ; she was a woman of uncommon energy and fearlessness of character—a native of the Emerald Isle. She possessed a nice perception of right and wrong; and, withal, was not wanting in her share of quick temper peculiar to her people.

Some of these visitors, having ransacked the house for spoils, very coolly appropriated, among other things, the best articles of clothing of her two noted Rebel sons; and took the occasion to tantalize the aged mother with what would be the fate of her boys when they should catch them. Charles should be killed out-right, but as for Joe, they would first compel him, by way of humiliation, to plead on his knees for his life, and then would slay him without mercy. But these threats did not in the least intimidate Mrs. McDowell; but she talked back at them in her quaint, effective Irish style, intimating that in the whirligigs of life, they might, sooner or later, have a little begging to do for themselves. The changed circumstances had been brought about in one short month, quite as much, perhaps, to the surprise of the good old lady, as to the proud officers of Ferguson’s Rangers. Now they appeared again, wet, weary, and hungry; but Mrs. McDowell readily recognized them, and it required not a little kind persuasion on the part of Major McDowell to induce his mother to give those “thieving vagabond Tories,” as she termed them, shelter, food, and nourishment. But the appeals of her filial son, of whom she was justly proud, coupled with the silent plea of human beings in their needy, destitute condition, prevailed; and in her Christian charity, she returned good for evil.fn27

It was fortunate for the mountaineers that they had succeeded in crossing the Catawba so opportunely, for the next morning they found it had risen so much as to be past fording. This obstacle would naturally prevent, for some time, all pursuit, if indeed any had been made. It was now arranged that Colonel Edward Lacey’s men fn28 should be permitted to return to South Carolina, while most of Shelby’s and Sevier’s regiments, with the footmen of the Virginians, should take their home trail across the mountains. The mounted men of Campbell’s regiment, with the Wilkes and Surry troops under Cleveland and Winston, and perhaps McDowell’s party, together with a few of Sevier’s and Shelby’s young men who preferred to remain in the service, and who had incorporated themselves into McDowell’s corps, now constituted the escort for the prisoners. Shelby states, that after the several corps had retired at the Catawba, there remained not more Whigs than they had prisoners to guard—about five or six hundred.

The wounded Americans, who had been hid away in the mountains when the troops marched so hurriedly from Bickerstaff’s, were soon brought forward; and many of them were left in Burke County, eight or ten miles above Burke Court House, where Doctor Joseph Dobson of that neighborhood, had eighteen of them under his care at one time; four of whom were Wilkes and Surry County officers billeted at a Mr. Mackey’s.fn29

After a needful rest, and the return of fair weather, the patriots proceeded at two o’clock on Monday afternoon, October sixteenth, directing their course, by easy marches, to the head of the Yadkin, and down the valley of that stream. Fording Upper creek, or the North branch of the Catawba, and John’s river, they encamped that night at a Tory plantation, not very far beyond the latter stream.

While on the hurried and toilsome march from Bickerstaff’s to the Catawba, and especially during several hours of the evening, amid rain and mud, it proved a favorable opportunity for many of the prisoners to give their guards the slip, and effect their escape. Allaire says the number reached a hundred. To put a stop to these numerous desertions, the Whig leaders promulgated severe admonitions of the consequences of any further attempts in that direction; but they did not effectually restrain the daring and adventurous. Having marched fifteen miles during Tuesday, passing through Happy Valley and over Warrior Mountain, the troops, with their prisoners, camped that evening at Captain Hatt’s plantation, not very far from Fort Defiance; and, during the night, three of the prisoners attempted to evade their guards, two of them succeeding, while the other was shot through the body, retaken, and executed at five o’clock on the following morning.fn30

During Wednesday, the eighteenth, the troops forded Elk and Warrior creeks, camping that night on the western bank of Moravian creek, a short distance west of Wilkes Court House, having accomplished eighteen miles; and passing the next day through the Old Mulberry Fields, or Wilkes Court House, they took up their camp at Hagoods’ plantation, on Brier creek, having marched sixteen miles this day. While in camp, on Brier creek, Colonel Campbell appears to have discharged some of his Virginians, for he wrote a letter on the twentieth, to his brother-in-law, Colonel Arthur Campbell, giving him a brief account of the battle, but was uncertain as yet what disposition would be made of the prisoners. Taking a late start on Friday, six miles only were accomplished, camping that night at Sales’ plantation. Proceeding by slow marches, they passed Salem, arriving at Bethabara, or Old Town, on the twenty-fourth—both Moravian villages— whose people, according to Allaire, were stanch friends of the King, and were very kind to all the prisoners.

The very first night the British officers had been assigned quarters at Bethabara, Lieutenant Allaire and Doctor Johnson, who were rooming together, were driven from their bed by a violent Whig Captain named Campbell, who, with drawn sword, threatened them with death if they did not instantly obey him. Colonel Campbell was notified of this rudeness, who had the unseasonable intruder turned out of the room; fn31 and this is but another instance of his sense of justice towards helpless prisoners.

Among the Tory captives, was a notorious desperado named Bob Powell. He was a man of unusual size, strong, supple, and powerful. He boasted of his superior ability and agility to out-hop, out-jump, out-wrestle, or out-fight any Whig in the army. He seemed to possess a happier faculty of getting into scrapes, than in getting out. Chained with two accomplices for some bad conduct, he sent word one morning that he wanted to see Colonels Campbell, Shelby and Cleveland, on a matter of importance. When waited on by those officers, he seemed to think that the proposition he was about to submit was a matter of no small consideration—no less than a challenge to wrestle or fight with the best man they could produce from their army, conditioned that, should he prove victor, his freedom should be his reward; should he fail, he would regard his life as forfeited, and they might hang him. Though a couple of guineas were offered to any man who would successfully meet him—probably more with a view of an exhibition of the “manly art,” as then regarded by the frontier people, yet no one saw fit to engage in the offered contest. Under the circumstances, all knew full well that Powell would fight with the desperation of a lion at bay; and none cared to run the risk of encountering a man of his herculean proportions, with the stake of freedom to stimulate his efforts.fn32

It was apparently while at Bethabara, that Colonel’s Campbell, Shelby, and Cleveland made out their official report of King’s Mountain battle. Had it been prepared before Colonels Lacey and Sevier had retired at the Quaker Meadows, the names of those two officers would doubtless have been attached to it also.fn33 Colonel Shelby accompanied the troops to Bethabara. He had been deputed to visit General Horatio Gates at Hillsboro, to tender the services of a corps of mountaineers, mostly refugees, under Major McDowell, to serve under General Daniel Morgan. Colonel Campbell also had occasion to repair to head-quarters to make arrangements for the disposition of the prisoners.

On the twenty-sixth of October, Colonel Campbell issued a General Order, appointing Colonel Cleveland to the command of the troops and prisoners until his expected return, especially providing that full rations be issued to the prisoners; adding, “it is to be hoped, no insult or violence unmerited will be offered them; no unnecessary injury be done to the inhabitants, nor any liquor be sold or issued to the troops without an order from the commanding officer.” fn34 Here we have additional evidence, if any were needed, of Campbell’s humanity and good sense.

Colonels Campbell and Shelby had scarcely departed, when new troubles arose in the treatment of the prisoners. Allaire tells us, that one of the Whig soldiers was passing the guard, where the captives were confined, when he rudely accosted them: “Ah! d—n you, you’ll all be hanged!” One of the prisoners retorted—” Never mind that, it will be your turn next!” For this trifling offence, the poor fellow was tried before Colonel Cleveland, and condemned to be hung. Quite a number of people gathered at Bethabara to witness the execution of the unfortunate man; “but,” adds Allaire, “Colonel Cleveland’s goodness extended so far as to reprieve him.”
About this time, Captain William Green and Lieutenant William Langum, among the Tory prisoners, were tried before Colonel Cleveland. The charge against Green seems to have been, that he had violated the oath he had taken as an officer to support the governments of the State of North Carolina and of the United States, by accepting a British commission, and fighting at King’s Mountain. Some of the British officers were present, and remonstrated at the course taken, when Cleveland cut them short, saying: “Gentlemen, you are British officers, and shall be treated accordingly—therefore give your paroles and march off immediately; the other person is a subject of the State.” fn35 Green and Langum were condemned to be executed the next morning. “May be so,” coolly remarked Green.

That night, as he and his comrade, Langum, were lying before the camp-fire, under a blanket, Green rolled over so that his hands, fastened with buck-skin straps, came in contact with Langum’s face, who seeming to comprehend his companion’s intention, worked away with his teeth till he succeeded in unfastening the knot. Green was now able to reach his pocket, containing a knife, with which he severed the remaining cords, and those of Langum. He then whispered to Langum to be ready to jump up and run when he should set the example. Green was above the ordinary size, strong and athletic. The guard who had special watch of them, was in a sitting posture, with his head resting upon his knees, and had fallen asleep. Maknig a sudden leap, Green knocked the sentinel over, and tried to snatch his gun from him; but the latter caught the skirt of the fleeing man’s coat, and Green had to make a second effort before he could release himself from the soldier’s grasp, and gladly got off with the loss of a part of his garment. In another moment both Green and Langum were dashing down a declivity, and though several shots were fired at them, they escaped unhurt, and were soon beyond the reach of their pursuers. Aided by the friendly wilderness, and sympathizing Loyalists, they in time reached their old region of Buffalo creek, in now Cleveland County, Green at least renouncing his brief, sad experience in the Tory service, joined the Whigs, and battled manfully thereafter for his country. Both Green and Langum long survived the war, and were very worthy people. fn36

Allaire records an incident, involving, if correctly reported, rash treatment on the part of Colonel Cleveland towards Doctor Johnson, whose benevolent acts, it would be supposed, would have commanded the respectful attention of all: “November the first,” writes Lieutenant Allaire, “Doctor Johnson was insulted and knocked down by Colonel Cleveland, for attempting to dress the wounds of a man whom the Rebels had cut on the march. The Rebel officers would often go in amongst the prisoners, draw their swords, cut and wound whom their wicked and savage minds prompted.” fn37 There must have been something unexplained in Doctor Johnson’s conduct—the motive is wanting for an act so unofficer-like as that imputed to Colonel Cleveland. While it is conceded that he was a rough frontier man, and particularly inimical to thieving and murderous Tories, yet he was kind-hearted, and his sympathies as responsive to misfortune as those of the tenderest woman. The same day, Colonel Cleveland was relieved of his command by Colonel Martin Armstrong, his superior in rank, as well as the local commandant of Surry County, where the troops and prisoners then were.

The British officers had been expecting to be paroled. Colonel Cleveland’s remark to them, at Green’s trial, would seem to indicate the early anticipation of such an event. “After we were in the Moravian town about a fortnight,” says Allaire, “we were told we could not get paroles to return within the British lines; neither were we to have any till we were moved over the mountains in the back parts of Virginia, where we were to live on hoe-cake and milk.” Large liberties had been accorded the officers, to enable them to while away the tedium of captivity: so that they sometimes visited the neighboring Moravian settlements, or dined at their friends, in the country.

When Lieutenants Christopher Taylor, William Stevenson, and Allaire learned that there was no immediate prospect of their receiving paroles, they concluded that they would “rather trust the hand of fate,” as Allaire states it in his narrative, and make a desperate effort to reach their friends—taking French leave of their American captors. Accordingly, on Sunday evening, about six o’clock, the fifth of November, they quietly decamped, taking Captain William Gist, of the South Carolina Loyalists, with them; traveling fifteen miles that night to the Yadkin, the fording of which they found very disagreeable, and pushed on twenty miles farther before daylight. Though pursued, the Whigs were misled by false intelligence from Tory sources, and soon gave up the chase.

Traveling by night, and resting by day; sometimes sleeping in fodder-houses, oftener in the woods; with snatches of food at times—hoe-cake and dried beef on one occasion—supplied by sympathizing friends by the way; encountering cold rain storms, and fording streams; guided some of the weary journey by Loyalist pilots, and sometimes following such directions as they could get; passing over the Brushy Mountain, crossing the Upper Catawba, thence over the country to Camp’s Ford of second Broad river, the Island Ford of Main Broad, and the old Iron Works of Pacolet; barely escaping Sumter’s corps at Blackstock’s on Tyger, they at length reached Ninety Six, the eighteenth day after taking their leave of Bethabara, traveling, as they accounted distance, three hundred miles. These resolute adventurers suffered unspeakable fatigues and privations, but successfully accomplished the object of all their toils and self-denials. After resting a day at Ninety Six, they pursued their journey to Charleston.

Footnotes:
(fn1 MS. Order preserved by General Preston.)
(fn2 King’s Mountain Adress, October 1855, 49)
(fn3 Ensign Robert Campbell’s King’s Mountain narrative.)
(fn4 Shelby, in American Review, December, 1848.)
(fn5 Conversations with Silas McBee; narrative of Ensign Robert Campbell; MS. correspondence of W. L. Twitty, as related by the venerable John Gilkey, of Rutherford County, N. C, in no way related to his Tory namesake.)
(fn6 MS. penston statement of Richard Ballew, of Knox County, Ky , formerly of Burke County. N C.; MS. letters of Hon. J. C. Harper, and Captain W. W. Lenoir, who had the particulars from William Davenport himself. Colonel Davenport was born in Culpcper County. Virginia. October 12, 1770. His mother dying about the close of the Revolution of small-pox, his father removed to the mountain region, on Toe river, in now Mitchell County; a hunter’s paradise, where he could indulge himself in his favorite occupation of hunting, and where his son William killed the last elk ever seen in North Carolina. Colonel William Davenport became a man of prominence, representing Burke County in the House of Commons in 1800, and in the Senate in 1802. He possessed an extraordinary memory, was a most excellent man; and was the chief founder of Davenport Female College at Lenoir. He married the widow of Major Charles Gordon, one of the King’s Mountain heroes; and lived for many years in the Happy Valley of the Yadkin, three and a half miles above Fort Defiance, where he died August 19, 1859, in the eighty-ninth year of his age.)
(fn7 MS. correspondence of W. A. McCall. Esq., of McDowell County, N. C, who knew Arthur McFall very well. He used to speak kindly of the McDowells befriending him. and said that Colonel Cleveland had little mercy on Americans who were caught fighting with the British. Arthur McFall spent most of his life as a hunter in the mountains, making his home, when in the settlements, with old acquaintances. He was a man after Daniel Boone’s own heart; and died about the year 1835, on Grassy Creek, at the venerable age of between ninety and a hundred years.)
(fn8 MS. notes of conversations with James and George W. Sevier, and Benjamin Starritt. * Hunter’s Sketches, pp. 266-67.)
(fn9 Hunter’s Sketches, pp.266-67.)
(fn10 Gordon’s American Revolution,’TM., 466; Mrs. Warren’s Revolution, ii. 253.)
(fn11  Russell’s Magazine, 1857, i, 543.)
(fn12 History of the United States, x. 339.)
(fn13 Such was the distraction of the times, that South Carolina, during the period of 1780-81, was without a civil government, Governor Rutledge having been compelled to retire from the State, and the Lieutenant Governor and some of the Council were prisoners of war. Nor during a portion of the war did North Carolina fare much better. At one time, one of her high judicial officers. Samuel Spencer, could only execute the laws against Tories with threats and attempted intimidation : the Governor, at one period, was captured and carried away. When Cornwallis invaded the State, the prominent officials fled, carrying the public records to Washington County, Virginia, on the lower frontiers of Holston, as a place of asylum and security, as is shown by a MS. letter of Colonel Arthur Campbell to Hon. David Campbell, September 15, 1810)
(fn14 Johnson’s Life of Greene, i. pp. 309-11.)
(fn15 Conversations with Governor Shelby, in American Review, December, 1848.)
(fn16 Allaire’s MS. Diary; and his statements as given in the Scot’s Magazine and Riving* ton’s Royal Gazette.
It may be well to give the authorities for the names of the Loyalist leaders who suffered on this occasion. Lord Cornwallis, in his correspondence, names Colonel Mills, as do several historians; Allaire gives the names of Captains Wilson and Chitwood; Gilkey is referred to by Ensign Campbell, and specifically named by Silas McBee, and the venerable John Gilkey; Captain Grimes is mentioned in Ramsey’s Tennessee, and Putnam’s Middle Tennessee; McFall’s name has been preserved by Richard Ballew, John Spelts, and Arthur McFall—eye-witnesses, and his prior acts at Davenport’s are related by Hon. J. C. Harper and Captain W. W. Lenoir, whoderived them from William Davenport; the names of Latterly and Bibby have been communicated by W, L. Twitty, as the traditions of aged people of Rutherford County, N. C, where they, as well as Chitwood lived, whose name is likewise preserved in the memories of the aged inhabitants of that region; and the name of Hobbs is alone remembered by Silas McBee.
Colonel Mills resided on Green river, in Rutherford County; Captain Wilson, in the Ninety Six region. South Carolina; Chitwood, Lafferty, Bibby, and probably Gilkey, in Rutherford; McFall, in Burke County; Hobbs most likely in South Carolina; and Grimes in East Tennessee, where he was a leader of a party of Tory horse-thieve* and highwaymen, and where some of his band were taken and hung. He fled to escape summary punishment, but justice overtook him in the end. His bandit career in Tennessee is noticed in Ramsey’s History of that State, pp. 179. 243; and Putnam’s Middle Tennessee, 58.
General DePeyMer, in his able Address on Kings Mountain, before the New York Historical Society, January, 4, 1SS1, has inadvertently fallen into the error of including Captain Oates as among those executed with Colonel Mills, citing Mrs. Warren’s History as authority. Lord Cornwallis, in his letter to General Smallwood, November. 10, 1780, states that Captain Oates was taken by the Americans near the Pcdee, in South Carolina, and “lately put to death.”
(fn17 J. L. Gray’s MS. statement; Rutherford Enquirer, May 24, 1859.
The Revolutionary war produced few characters so singular and so notorious as Patrick Carr. He was by birth an Irishman, and settled in Georgia before the commencement of the war. It is only in the latter part of the contest we are able to trace him. He shared as a Captain under Colonel Clarke in the heroic attack on Augusta, in September, 1780; then retired to the Carolina*, and joined the mountaineers under Major Candler, and fought at King’s Mountain. The following month we find him under Sumter at Blackstocks; in May, 1781, engaged in forays against British and Tory parties in Georgia, waylaying and defeating them, extending little or no mercy to any of them. In November, 1781, when Major Jackson surprised the British poct at Ogeechce, and its commander, Johnson, was in the act of surrendering his sword to Jackson, Carr treacherously killed Captain Goldsmith. Johnson and his associates, judging that no quarters would be given them, instantly sprang into their place of defence, and compelled the Americans to retire with considerable loss. A notorious Tory by the name of Gunn had concerted a plan to kill Colonel Twiggs, and subsequently fell into the Colonel’s hands, when Carr insisted that Gunn should be hung; But Twiggs, more humane, protected the prisoner from harm. In 178a, Carr was made a Major, and. in the spring and early summer, marched with a force over the Altamaha, where he had two skirmishes with whites and Indians. On one occasion. Carr was praised for his bravery, when he replied that had not God given him too merciful a heart he would have made a very good soldier. It is related that he killed eighteen Tories on his way back from King’s Mountain and Blackstocks to Georgia ; and one hundred altogether during the war, with his own hands! Certain it is, the Tones stood in great awe of him. He was murdered, in August, 1802, in Jefferson County. Georgia, where he long resided; and, it is said, the act was committed by descendants of the Tories. In December following, the Jefferson County troop of Light Horse assembled at his place of Intel mem, Lieutenant Robinson delivering a brief eulogy, when the military fired a volley over his grave. Though “a honey of a patriot,” Paddy Carr left a name “___________ to other times, Mixed with few virtues, and a thousand crimes.”)
(fn18 Conversions with John Spelts and Benjamin Starritt; Memoir of Major Thomas Young: Johnson’s Life of Central Greene, i. 310.
Baldwin made his way into his old region, in Burke County, where his father resided, on Lower Creek of Catawba; where some two weeks afterwards, he was espied in the woods hy some scouts who gave chase, and finally overtook him, one of the pursuers killing him by a single blow over the head with his rifle. Some forty-five years after this tragedy, a younger brother of Ike Baldwin -prnbibly the one who had so successfully planned his Cicipc at Biekcrstaff’s—made three ineffectual attempts to kill the man who had brained the Tory free-booter.)
(fn19 Speech of General Alexander Smyth, in Congress, January 21, 1819, Niles’ Register, xv.. Supplement, 151)
(fn20 American Review, December, 1848.)
(fn21 MS. statement by Governor Campbell.)
(fn22 This, however, was not the last of the Tory executions. A few days after King’s Mnunuin battle, while some young men of the surrounding country—Thomas Patterson, who escaped while a prisoner, and fought so bravely in the action, is believed to have been one of the party—were near the battle-ground, looking for horses in the range, they discovered one of Ferguson’s foragers, who was absent at the time of the engagement. They concluded to capture him; but on showing such an intention, they were surprised at his pluck, in firing on them single-handed—the bullet whizzing close by them without harm. The Tory then betook himself to his heels, but was soon overhauled, and, without much cercmon y, was suspended to the limb of a tree by means of one of the halters designed for the horses His carcass was left hanging till it decayed, and dropped to the ground; while the rope dangled from the limb for several years. So relates the venerable E, A. Patterson, a grand-son of young Arthur Patterson, who. while a prisoner on King’s Mountain, escaped during the battle; corroborated by the venerable Abraham Hardin. Colonel J. R. Logan communicated Mr. Patterson’s tradition of the affair.
Not long after the action at King’s Mountain, a couple of Tories were caught ard hung on an oak tree, near Sandy Plains Baptist Church, in the edge of Cleveland County, some four miles south-east of Flint Hill. Neither their names, nor the crimes with which they were charged, have been preserved. The tree on which they were executed is still standing, and like that at the Bii’kerstafT Red Chimneys, is known as the Gallows Oak; it has been dead several years. This tradition has been communicated by the aged father of Daniel D. Martin, of Rutherford County, and Colonel J. R. Logan.)
(fn23 Shelby’s account in American Review.)
(fn24 Shelby’s account)
(fn25 MS. correspondence of W. L. Twitty and Mr. Dickerson.)
(fn26 MS Notes of conversations with Silas McBee, in 1842.)
(fn27  Related by the lady of Ex-Governor Lewis E. Parsons, of Alabama, who derived it from her mother, a daughter of Major Joseph McDowell, of Quaker Meadows.)
(fn28 Pension statements of William White of Lacey’s regiment, and William Alexander of Campbell’s men.)
(fn29 Lieutenant Newell’s statement, 1823.)
(fn30 Allaire’s MS. Diary. Capt. Halt may possibly be designed for Capt. Holt or Hall.)
(fn31 Allaire’s MS Diary, and his newspaper narrative.)
(fn32  MS. notes of conversation with John Spelts, an eye-witness.)
(fn33 Doctor Ramsey, in his History of Tennessee, states that the three Colonels visited Hillsboro. and there made out their report. Colonel Cleveland did not go there on that occasion, having been left in command at Bethabara. His name was signed to the report by himself, and not by another, as a comparison of his genuine autograph with the/Vs1mtlc signature to the report conclusively shows. Perhaps as a compliment, Colonel Cleveland was permitted to head the list, in signing the report, as shown in facsimile in Lossing s Field Book of the Revolution ; but when General Gates sent a copy, November I, 1780. to Governor Jefferson, to forward to Congress, he very properly placed Campbell’s name first, Shelby’s next, and Cleveland’s last—and so they appear as published in the gazettes at the time by order of Congress.)
(fn34 MS. order, preserved by General Preston.)
(fn35 Gordon’s American Revolution, iii, pp. 466-67.)
(fn36  MS. Deposition of Colonel Wm. Porter, 1814. kindly communicated by Hon. W. P. Bymim; MS. letters of Jonathan Hampton and Colonel J R. Logan, the latter giving the recollections of the venerable James Blanton. now eighty-two years of age. who was well acquainted with both Green and Langum; statements of Benjamin Biggerstaff and J. W. Green, furnished by W. L. Twitty. Some of the traditions represent Langum’s name as Lankford.)
(fn37Allaire’s MS Diary, and his newspaper narrative.)

October 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain

A little family history:

The Battle of King’s Mountain has a very special place in history for me and my family. My father’s mother who was a King, her 4th Great Grandfather King owned King’s Mountain and it was named after her family. Another figure in the battle was Col/Gen William Campbell, who is/was a cousin. The King’s fought in the battle and many of them were in the Revolution as many of our family were, they fought bravely and honorably to further the cause of freedom in America. I am humbled, proud, and honored to have such men in my heritage. They inspire me and at the same time humble me with their bravery, sacrifice and perseverance, I can never do enough when I measure myself against them! I hope that I honor them, in the same way they honored all of us, in the creation of this Great Nation, that we all love, the United States of America!

See also History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part I 1765 to May, 1780
History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part XV October-November, 1780
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1

The King family as one single family with it’s roots in Britain from what I have seen in doing genealogy seem to have played a great role in the founding of this Nation. I have done genealogy for one person who did not have a King from that line in their family. Different ones from that family came at different times in early America, they were spread out all up and down the eastern states. The first being Captain William King and his son John, both ships Captains, came in 1609 with my dad’s father’s 7th Great Grandfather, Captain James Davies/Davis. Those King’s did not stay in America at that time. Captain William King who was Rear Admiral at the time perished with his ship and all but one crew member on the way back to England as they were approaching the entry to the English Channel. Captain John, would return later to make a place for himself and his offspring.

God bless America! America thank God!

Overview:
Date: October 7, 1780
Location: King’s Mountain, South Carolina/North Carolina border
Victors: Patriot Militia Colonel John Sevier, Patriot Militia Colonel Isaac Shelby, Overmountain Men
Defeated: British Major Patrick Ferguson

Many historians consider the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780 to be the turning point in America’s War for Independence. The victory of rebelling American Patriots over British Loyalist troops completely destroyed the left wing of Cornwallis’ army. This decisive battle successfully ended the British invasion into North Carolina and forced Lord Cornwallis to retreat from Charlotte into South Carolina to wait for reinforcements. This triumphant victory of the Overmountain Men allowed General Nathanael Greene the opportunity to reorganize the American Army.

Summary:
Following the defeats of Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln at Charleston in May and then Maj. General Horatio Gates at Camden, British Lt. General Charles Cornwallis appeared to now have a clear path all the way to Virginia. In September, General Cornwallis invaded North Carolina and ordered Major Patrick Ferguson to guard his left flank. Ferguson provoked the Mountain Men living in the area by sending out a threat.

The Over Mountain Men came out of the mountains and pursued Major Ferguson. Along the way, they were joined by Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina militia. They caught up with Ferguson at King’s Mountain. The seven Patriot colonels came up with a plan to approach Ferguson’s position from four directions. Ferguson and his men found the higher position impossible to defend as they were in the open and the Patriots had cover to protect them. Ferguson and his all Tory force was soon defeated, forcing General Cornwallis to retreat from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Background:
On July 25, 1780, Maj. General Horatio Gates arrived in North Carolina and took command of the Southern Department. On August 16, 1780, he was routed at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina by Lt. General Charles Cornwallis. The loss at Camden and Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s subsequent victory over Thomas Sumter’s militia at Fishing Creek on August 17th decimated the rebel resistance in the South.

General Cornwallis appeared to now have a clear path all the way to Virginia. In September, Cornwallis invaded North Carolina and ordered Major Patrick Ferguson to guard his left flank. On September 2, Ferguson left for the Western Carolinas with seventy of his American Volunteers and several hundred Tory militia. Ferguson arrived at Gilbert Town, North Carolina on September 7. When there on September 10, Major Ferguson paroled a captured rebel 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.” This threat proved to be his undoing.

The mountain men who lived in the Blue Ridge area were mostly isolated and kept to themselves, but a threat to their own moved them to action. A call to arms went out and they gathered at Sycamore Shoals. David Ramsey, in his history of South Carolina, written in 1808, said, “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. ”

On Sept. 25th, Colonels William Campbell, Charles McDowell, John Sevier and Isaac Shelby left Sycamore Shoals in pursuit of Ferguson. The thoroughfare of their mission followed the only roadway connecting the backwater country with the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina.

Leaving Sycamore Shoals, 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 mountaintop, descent was made along Roaring Creek to the North Toe River. It is stated in the diary of Ensign Robert Campbell that “the mountains were crossed and descent to the other side was carted 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. Draper places this at the junction of Grassy Creek and North Toe River. Tradition has it that on reaching Gillespie Gap the troops divided, one group including Campbell’s men, moving southward to Turkey Cove, the other 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”, near 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 hastily down the Catawba near the mouth of Paddy Creek. They continued down the Catawba to Quaker Meadows, the home place of the McDowells, and promptly made camp. During the five days that had elapsed since leaving Sycamore Flats, about 80 miles had been covered. On September 30th, Colonel Cleveland joined the marching column of 1,040 men at Quaker Meadow with the men from Wilkes County and Major Winston with the men from Surry County. An additional 30 Georgians, under the command of William Candler, joined the Patriot force at Gilberts Town, making for a combined strength of approximately 1,400 men.

The seven Colonels chose Col. William Campbell to act as overall commander. The Overmountain Men moved south in search of Major Patrick Ferguson. From the Rebel spy Joseph Kerr, they learned that Ferguson was thirty miles to the north, camped at Kings Mountain. It is said that Isaac Shelby was especially delighted to learn that Ferguson was quoted as saying, “He was on King’s Mountain, that he was King of that mountain and that God Almighty and all the Rebels of Hell could not drive him from it.” Shelby was very familiar with the Kings Mountain region and knew that it could prove to be an almost impossible position to defend.

The Colonels wanted to catch up with Ferguson before he reached Charlotte and Lt. General Charles Cornwallis’ protection, so they chose 900 of the best men and quickly made their way north. The combined force of Overmountain Men arrived at Kings Mountain the afternoon of October 7, 1780.

Having little insight into the methods and philosophies of warfare of the southern frontiersmen, Ferguson had chosen the position feeling no enemy could fire upon him without showing themselves. The Patriot force decided to surround the mountain and use continuous fire to slowly close in like an unavoidable noose.

The Battle:

When the Whig patriots came near the mountain they halted, dismounted, fastened their loose baggage to their saddles, tied their horses and left them under charge of a few men detailed for the purpose, and then prepared for an immediate attack. . . . The army was divided into two wings. The right center and right flank columns, numbering together 440, were under the direction of Colonel Cleveland.

‘This selection is published by the kind permission of the Macmlllan Company, New York.

The two wings were thus very nearly equal in strength. The plan of battle was that the two wings should approach upon opposite sides of the mountain and thus encompass the enemy. Cleveland’s and Sevier’s columns united at the northeast end of the ridge, Campbell’s and Shelby’s closing together at the southwest.

Before taking up the line of march, Campbell and the leading officers appealed to their soldiers, to the highest instincts of their natures, by all that was patriotic and noble among men, to fight like heroes, and give not an inch of ground save only from the sheerest necessity, and then only to retrace and recover their lost ground at the earliest possible moment; Campbell personally visited all the corps and said to Cleveland’s men, as he did to all, that if any of them, men or officers, were afraid, he advised them to quit the ranks and go home; that he wished no man to engage in the action who could not fight; that as for himself, he was determined to fight the enemy a week, if need be, to gain the victory. Colonel Campbell also gave the necessary orders to all the principal officers, and repeated them so as to be heard by a large portion of the line, and then placed himself at the head of his own regiment, as the other officers did at the head of their respective commands. Many of the men threw aside their hats, tying handkerchiefs around their heads so as to be less likely to be retarded by limbs and bushes when dashing up the mountain. . . . From the nature of the ground and thick intervening foliage of the trees, the Whigs were not discovered by Ferguson till within a quarter of a mile, when his drums beat to arms, and his shrill whistle, with which he was wont to summon his men to battle and inspire them with his own courage, was heard everywhere over the mountain.

The right and left wings had been cautioned that the action was not to be commenced until the centre columns were ready for the attack. These were to give the signal by raising a frontier warwhoop, after the manner of the Indians, and then to rush forward to the attack. Upon hearing the battle shout and the reports of the rifles, the right and left wings were to join in the affray. The first firing was made by the enemy upon Shelby’s column before they were in position to engage in the action. It was galling in its effect, and not a little annoying to the mountaineers, some of whom in their impatience complained that it would never do to be shot down without returning the fire; but Shelby restrained them. “Press on to your places,” he said, “and then your fire will not be lost.”

Before Shelby’s men could gain their position, Colonel Campbell had thrown off his coat; and, while leading his men to the attack, he exclaimed at the top of his voice, “Here they are, my brave boys; Shout like h—I, and fight like devils!” The woods immediately resounded with the shouts of the line, in which they were heartily joined, first by Shelby’s corps, and then the cry was caught up and ran along the two wings. Draper relates that when Captain de Peyster heard these almost deafening yells,—the same he too well remembered hearing from Shelby at Musgrove’s Mills,—he remarked to Ferguson, “These things are ominous; these are the d—d yelling boys!” Ferguson was himself dismayed when he heard them.

The part of the mountain where Campbell’s men ascended to attack was rough and craggy, the most difficult of ascent of any part of the ridge; but these resolute mountaineers permitted no obstacle to prevent their advance, creeping up the acclivity little by little, from tree to tree, till they were nearly at the top. The Virginians thus securing the summit of the hill, the battle became general. None of the Whigs were longer under the restraint of military discipline; some were on horseback, some were on foot; some behind trees, others exposed; but all were animated with enthusiasm. The Virginians were the first against whom Ferguson ordered a charge of the bayonets by his Rangers and a part of his Loyalists. Some of them obstinately stood their ground till a few were thrust through the body; but without bayonets themselves, with only their rifles to withstand such a charge, the Virginians broke and fled down the mountain. They were soon rallied, however, by their gallant commander and some of his more active officers, and by a constant and welldirected fire of their rifles they in turn drove back Ferguson’s men, and again reached the summit of the mountain. The mountain was covered with flame and smoke, and seemed to thunder. The shouts of the mountaineers, the noise of hundreds of rifles and muskets, the loud commands and encouraging words of the officers, with every now and then the shrill screech of Ferguson’s silver whistle high above the din and confusion of the battle, intermingled with the groans of the wounded in every part of the line, is described as combining to convey the idea of another pandemonium. .

But at length the two wings of the mountaineers so pressed the enemy on both sides that Ferguson’s men had ample employment all around the eminence without being able to repair to each other’s relief. The Provincial Rangers and the Loyalists, though led by the brave De Peyster, began to grow weary and discouraged, steadily decreasing in numbers and making no permanent impression upon their tireless opponents. From the southwestern portion of the ridge the Rangers and Tories began to give way, and were doggedly driven by Campbell’s, Shelby’s and Sevier’s men, and perhaps others intermingled with them.

Ferguson, by this time, had been wounded in the hand, but he was still in the heat of the battle, and with characteristic coolness and daring he ordered De Peyster to reenforce a position about one hundred yards distant; but before they reached it they were thinned too much by the Whig rifles to render any effectual support. He then ordered his cavalry to mount, with the intention of making a desperate onset at their head. But these only presented a better mark for the rifle, and fell as fast as they could mount their horses. He rode from end to end of his line, encouraging his men to prolong the conflict, and with his silver whistle in his wounded hand, with desperate courage he passed from one exposed point to another of equal danger. But the Whigs were gradually compressing his men, and the Tories began to show signs of yielding. They raised a flag in token of surrender. Ferguson rode up and cut it down. A second flag was raised at the other end of the line. He rode there, too, and cut it down with his sword. Captain De Peyster, his second in command, convinced from the first of the utter futility of resistance upon the position at King’s Mountain selected by Ferguson, as soon as he became satisfied that Ferguson would not abandon it and attempt to make his way to the relief for

which he had sent to Cornwallis, had the courage to advise a surrender; but Ferguson’s proud spirit could not deign to give up to raw and undisciplined militia. When the second flag was cut down De Peyster renewed his advice, but Ferguson declared that he would never surrender to such a d—d set of banditti as the mountain men. At length, satisfied that all was lost, and firmly resolving not to fall into the hands of the despised Backwater men, Ferguson with a few chosen friends made a desperate attempt to break through the Whig lines on the southeastern side of the mountain and escape. With his sword in his left hand, he made a bold dash for freedom, cutting and slashing until he broke it. Colonel Vesey Husbands, a North Carolina Loyalist, and Major Plummer of South Carolina joined Ferguson and charged on a part of the line they thought was vulnerable. They all fell and perished in the effort.

Captain De Peyster, who had succeeded Ferguson in command, perceiving that further struggle was in vain, raised the white flag and asked for quarter. A general cessation of the American fire followed; but this cessation was not complete. Many Patriots remembered that the notorious “Tarleton” had mowed down Patriot troops at Waxhaws despite the fact they were trying to surrender. With cries of ‘Remember Waxhaws’ and ‘Buford’s Quarter’ spurring some men to continue for a time, eventually, the fighting at Kings Mountain diminished.

The Aftermath:

The battle had lasted a little over an hour and not a single man of Ferguson’s force escaped. Though the number of casualties reported varies from source to source, some of the most commonly reported figures are that 225 Loyalists had been killed, 163 wounded and 716 were captured, while only 28 Patriots were killed, including Colonel James Williams, and 68 wounded. When General Cornwallis learned of Major Patrick Ferguson’s defeat, he retreated from Charlotte, North Carolina back to Winnsborough, South Carolina.

Historians agree that the Battle of Kings Mountain was the “beginning of the end” of British rule in its former colonies. In less than one hour of battle, the Overmountain Men not only captured the day but also undermined the British strategy for keeping America under its control. A defeat so crushing as that suffered by Major Patrick Ferguson is rare in any war. Although skewed, his position on Kings Mountain was thoughtfully selected using much experience and consideration. The plateau of the mountain was just large enough to serve as a battleground for his command and to provide space for his camp and wagon train. Water was near and plentiful. The slopes of the mountain would hinder the advance of the attackers. When attacked he expected that any retreat would be rendered perilous by flanking or encircling detachments, a condition he desired as his militia would be put to the task to stand and fight instead of having the choice to flee. From Patrick Ferguson’s point of view, a better position on which to take a stand could not have been found.

It can be assumed without a shred of doubt that Patrick Ferguson utterly underestimated the courage of the mountain men. Their apparent advantage in numbers did not discourage him from offering battle; otherwise he would have continued his march on October 7th in the direction of Charlotte and Cornwallis. But had he known that these Overmountain Men would so aggressively stand and fight with a fierceness and conviction never before experienced in his southern campaign, I’m sure he would have been much more cautious and considerably less heroic.

Narrative of the Battle of King’s Mountain:

by Robert Campbell, October 1780, South Carolina

“In the fall of the year 1780, when the American cause wore a very gloomy aspect in the Southern States, Cols. Arthur and William Campbell, hearing of the advance of Colonel Ferguson along the mountains in the State of North Carolina, and that the Whigs were retreating before him, unable to make any effectual resistance, formed a plan to intercept him, and communicated it to the commanding officers of Sullivan and Washington Counties, in the State of North Carolina. They readily agreed to co-operate in any expedition against Col. Ferguson. Col. Arthur Campbell immediately ordered the militia of Washington Co., Virginia, amounting to near four hundred, to make ready to march under command of Col. Wm. Campbell, who was known to be an enterprising and active officer. Cols. Shelby and Sevier raised a party of three hundred, joined him on his march, and moved with forced marches toward Col. Ferguson. At the same time Cols. Williams, Cleveland, Lacey, and Brandon, of the States of North and South Carolina, each conducted a small party toward the same point, amounting to near three hundred. Col. Ferguson had notice of their approach by a deserter that left the army on the Yellow Mountain, and immediately commenced his march for Charlotte, dispatching at the same time different messengers to Lord Cornwallis with information of his danger. These messengers being intercepted on their way, no movement was made to favor his retreat.

These several corps of American volunteers, amounting to near one thousand men, met at Gilbert Town, and the officers unanimously chose Colonel Campbell to the command. About seven hundred choice riflemen mounted their horses for the purpose of following the retreating army. The balance being chiefly footmen, were left to follow on and come up as soon as they could. The pursuit was too rapid to render an escape. practicable. Ferguson, finding that he must inevitably be over-taken, chose his ground, and waited for the attack on King’s Mountain. On the 7th of October, in the afternoon, after a forced march of forty-five miles on that day and the night before; the volunteers came up with him. The forenoon of the day was wet, but they were fortunate enough to come on him undiscovered, and took his pickets, they not having it in their power to give an alarm. They were soon formed in such order as to attack the enemy on all sides. The Washington and Sullivan regiments were formed in the front and on the right flank; the North and South Carolina troops, under Cols. Williams, Sevier, Cleveland, Lacey, and Brandon, on the left. The two armies being in full view, the center of the one nearly opposite the center of the other-the British main guard posted nearly half way down the mountain-the commanding officer gave the word of command to raise the Indian war-whoop and charge. In a moment, King’s Mountain resounded with their shouts, and on the first fire the guard retreated, leaving some of their men to crimson the earth. The British beat to arms, and immediately formed on the top of the mountain, behind a chain of rocks that appeared impregnable, and had their wagons drawn up on their flank across the end of the mountain, by which they made a strong breast-work.

Thus concealed, the American army advanced to the charge. In ten or fifteen minutes the wings came round, and the action became general. The enemy annoyed our troops very much from their advantageous position. Col. Shelby, being previously ordered to reconnoitre their position, observing their situation, and what a destructive fire was kept up from behind those rocks, ordered Robert Campbell, one of the officers of the Virginia Line, to move to the right with a small company to endeavor to dislodge them, and lead them on. nearly to the ground to which he had ordered them, under fire of the enemy’s lines and within forty steps of the same; but discovering that our men were repulsed on the other side of the mountain, he gave orders to advance, and post themselves opposite to the rocks, and near to the enemy, and then returned to assist in bringing up the men in order, who had been charged with the bayonet. These orders were punctually obeyed, and they kept up such a galling fire as to compel Ferguson to order a company of regulars to fact them, with a view to cover his men that were posted behind the rocks. At this time, a considerable fire was drawn to this side of the mountain by the repulse of those on the other, and the Loyalists not being permitted to leave their posts. This scene was not of long duration, for it was the brave Virginia volunteers, and those under Col. Shelby, on their attempting rapidly to ascend the mountain, that were charged with the bayonet. They obstinately stood until some of them were thrust through the body, and having nothing but their rifle, by which to defend themselves, they were forced to retreat. They were soon rallied by their gallant commanders, Campbell, Shelby and other brave officers, and by a constant and well-directed fire of their rifles, drove them back in id-lei I turn, strewing the face of the mountain with their assailant: and kept advancing until they drove them from some of their posts.

Ferguson being heavily pressed on all sides, ordered Capt. DePeyster to reinforce some of the extreme posts with a full company of British regulars. He marched, but to his astonishment when he arrived at the place of destination, he had almost no men, being exposed in that short distance to the constant fire of their rifles. He then ordered his cavalry to mount, but to no purpose. As quick as they were mounted, they were taken down by some bold marksmen. Being driven to desperation by such a scene of misfortune, Col. Ferguson endeavored to make his escape, and, with two Colonels of the Loyalists, mounted his horse, and charged on that part of the line which was defended by the party who had been ordered round the mountain by Col. Shelby, it appearing too weak to resist them. But as soon as he got to the line he fell, and the other two officers, attempting to retreat, soon shared the same fate. It was about this time that Col. Campbell advanced in front of his men, and climbed over a steep rock close by the enemy’s lines, to get a view of their situation, and saw they were retreating from behind the rocks that were near to him. As soon as Capt. DePeyster observed that Col. Ferguson was killed, he raised a flag and called for quarters. It was soon taken out of his hand by one of the officers on horseback, and raised so high that it could be seen by our line, and the firing immediately ceased. The Loyalists, at the time of their surrender, were driven into a crowd, and being closely surrounded, they could not have made any further resistance.

In this sharp action, one hundred and fifty of Col. Ferguson’s party were killed, and something over that number were wounded. Eight hundred and ten, of whom one hundred were British regulars, surrendered themselves prisoners, and one thousand five hundred stand of arms were taken. The loss of the American army on this occasion amounted to thirty killed, and something over fifty wounded, among whom were a number of brave officers. Col. Williams, who has been so much lamented, was shot through the body, near the close of the action, in making an attempt to charge upon Ferguson. He lived long enough to hear of the surrender of the British army. He then said, “I die contented, since we have gained the victory,” and expired.

The third night after the action, the officers of the Carolinas complained to Col. Campbell, that there were among the prisoners a number who had, previous to the action on King’s Mountain, committed cool and deliberate murder, and other enormities alike atrocious, and requested him to order a court-martial to examine into the matter. They stated that if they should escape, they were exasperated, and they feared they would commit other enormities worse than they had formerly done. Col. Campbell complied, and ordered a court-martial immediately to sit, composed of the Field Officers and Captains, who were ordered to inquire into the complaints which had been made. The court was conducted orderly, and witnesses were called and examined in each case. The consequence was that there were thirty-two condemned. Out of these, nine who were thought the most dangerous, and who had committed the most atrocious crimes, were executed. The others were pardoned by the commanding officer. One of the crimes proven against a Captain that was executed was, that he had called at the house of a Whig, and inquired if he was at home, and being informed by his son, a small boy, that he was not, he immediately drew out his pistol and shot him. The officers on the occasion acted from an honorable motive to do the greatest good in their power for the public service, and to check those enormities so frequently committed in the States of North and South Carolina at that time, their distress being almost unequaled in the annals of the American Revolution.”

Martin Gambill’s Ride:

First, to set the stage, let me explain a bit about the times.  Militias existed in many areas.  These Militias worked in concert with the Continental Forces commanded by General Washington and others.  These forces were the “home guard” much like the National Guard of our times.  According to what I have read, the British General Cornwallis had much of his army near present day Charlotte, NC.  He wanted to move North to either flank, or come behind Washington’s Continental Troops, who were not having much success battling Clinton’s forces in New York.  He was somewhat afraid of the mountain Militias who could be a real thorn in his side once he began his northward march.  Cornwallis selected a Major Patrick Ferguson to neutralize this threat from the mountain Militias.  The mountain Militia leaders were expecting Ferguson, and had devised an early warning system.  Brush piles were made on key, higher mountain tops.  If Ferguson was seen moving west, fires would be lit to warn of his advance.  It just so happens that Colonel Shelby from Tennesse had called many of the militia leaders to a meeting at the home of Colonel John Sevier (later an organizer and governor of the state of Franklin in NE Tennesse) near present day Boone, NC.  As the meeting was in progress, the leaders saw the signal fires lit on distant peaks.  Ferguson had begun his march.  Several of the Virginia leaders were not present. (Captain Enoch Osborn, and Colonel Campbell to name two)  In a day with no phone or telegraph, and very poor roads, it was necessary for a rider to be dispatched to warn the Virginia Militia leaders.  Martin Gambill volunteered  for this duty.  In 24 hours he rode over 100 miles of poor trails, crossed rivers and creeks, and lost at least 3 horses to exhaustion.  He lost one horse as he crossed the New River where Captain Enoch Osborn was plowing a field.  Captain Osborn sent the exhausted rider up to the house for breakfast, while he removed Martin’s saddle and placed it on one of the plow horses.  Martin continued up the New River to the Mouth of the Fox Creek, which he followed upstream, and through Comer’s Gap eventually to the Holston River, and downstream to Colonel Campbell.  Martin’s remarkable ride enabled the Militias to meet in 7 days at Sycamore Shoals in Ashe County, NC.