The Battle of King’s Mountain—233rd anniversary is today

Posted by | October 7, 2013

It is recorded that on the date agreed upon, every able-bodied gunman, with the exception of two, in that settlement, extending about one hundred miles either way, was there ready to march and ready to fight. Not only so, but the heart strings of many a wife had drawn her there, to bid the stay of the household again goodbye and again Godspeed, as he again went forth to battle. Many a mountain maiden was there, warned by a threatening danger to a brother, or to one dearer than a brother.

It was determined to take half the men, leaving half to defend the homes, but the mountains were on fire. It was decided that the old and young should go back home.

Still, too many crowded to go, and the military draft had to be resorted to. Black and white beans were placed in a gourd, and a little blindfolded girl drew a bean for each man, a black bean meant a draft, and the man that was drafted to stay at home. This is the only military draft, for war, in what is now Tennessee, and for this reason your only daughter— God bless her— is still called “TheVolunteer State.”

John Sevier had two sons in that throng, Joseph, eighteen years of age, and James, two years younger. Joseph was to go with his father, and James to stay. But the mother, ” Bonnie Kate,” led the lad by the hand to his father, and, in words which would have honored a Spartan mother, told him her son’s heart and her own would be broken, should he be left behind. The boy went, and — was buried on Kings Mountain. Twenty men could not be mounted, but they were allowed to go on foot.

Such things as commissaries, quartermasters, ordinance officers, were not known to these men, and, of course, not needed. Their patriotism had not been stimulated by any tax-gatherer — they had never seen one ; nor by any tax on tea — save the root of the sassafras, they drank none ; nor by any stamp duty — they knew no more of a stamp than they did of the King’s signet ring. They rushed to the rescue of their country as a boy would fly to his mother, on a shriek of distress.

They started with a few cattle, which were soon abandoned in the woods, and what meat they used on the march was won by the rifle out of the woods. Their last act beside that babbling river, was to gather around the Saintly Doak, who, with hands outstretched to heaven, with all the fervor of Elijah on Mount Carmel, besought the blessing of The God of Battles upon that reverent host, and gave them, as their Amulet, the words, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”

Let me point my finger at those men as they file away, and show them to you. You will note that Sevier, like Ferguson, rides a white horse — always a mark of danger. They were mostly young men — hardly a leader among them as old as forty, sturdy of body — intent of mind. Some few had swords and pistols, all flint lock guns and hunting knives, on which you might usually see the imprint of the hammer. Behind the saddle was rolled a home-made blanket, of which many bed had been bereft, and around their shoulders hung strained haversacks.

The usual head covering was a coon skin, fashioned into a cap, with the tail, like a cue, hanging behind — bark-brown hunting shirt, ornamented with such fringes, as some woman devised, breeches of any kind or color of cloth, leather moccasins, buckskin leggings — all with shot pouches and powder. Occasionally an officer or a lucky man might be found with a Continental coat. Hunters in front and on flank deployed to capture any possible game, but the constant ration was parched corn, pounded into meal, sprinkled on water, and drunk from cup, gourd or crumpled leaf.

The Battle of Kings Mountain--From a painting by F. C. Yohn“The Battle of Kings Mountain.” From a painting by F. C. Yohn.

I need not delay by telling how they climbed and went down the mountains by untraveled paths — how the two McDowell’s, who had been among them, rejoined them on this side of the mountains, as did Cleveland, Williams, and others, with about six hundred more men, while they advanced in hot pursuit of Ferguson. The down east Whigs got news of the coming, and took courage.

Ferguson, constantly on the alert, got news of this “Coming of the Campbells” in reply to his letter, and, out of abundant caution, began to sidle towards Cornwallis. These men soon learned that their game was flushed, and all speed was to be made to prevent fortifications or escape.

Several dispatches to Cornwallis were captured, from which we knew that Ferguson was distrustful of the Tory part of his troops, and wanted Tarleton. The last dispatch was taken from a country young man named Ponder, from whom the location of Ferguson’s camp was learned, and also his boast that “all the rebels out of hell could not drive him from it.”

Following historical accounts, there is widespread opinion that this camp and battle were on Kings Mountain.

—excerpt from
Col. W. A. Henderson,
Unveiling of a Monument
to its Heroes
Guilford Battleground,
July 4th, 1903.
Online at

3 Responses

  • C.V. Compton Shaw says:

    One of my Revolutionary War Ancestors fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain. His name was Captain Robert Paine. He was a physician. He led a company of patriot infantry at the Battle of Kings Mountain. I am a member of the National Society Sons of the American Revolution.

  • Ken James says:

    All seems crystal clear 230 years removed. Was a lot greyer back then. Maj. Patrick Ferguson was the only British Soldier at the battle. He may have had an orderly from his former command. His soldiers were Americans who held their loyalty to the crown. There were many Scotch Irish in the backcountry who also did. There were brothers firing at brothers at this action and several of the American Rebels had signed paroles when captured at Charlestown. There was no lack of courage on either part in the action. The treatment of captured Loyalists after the battle should also be part of the record. It was more like the Bataan Death March than most PC history affords it. Ferguson was buried with one of the Tory female camp followers killed while treating wounded, sewed into a raw beef hide.

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