‘Liberty Mountain’, new play about Battle of King’s Mountain, set to premier

Posted by | July 28, 2014

Robert Inman PhotoPlease welcome guest author Robert Inman. The novelist, playwright and screenwriter is a native of Elba, AL and a graduate of the University of Alabama (BA and MFA-Creative Writing). He is the author of five novels: The Governor’s Lady (2013), Home Fires Burning (1987), Old Dogs and Children (1991), Dairy Queen Days (1997), and Captain Saturday (2002). He’s also penned Coming Home: Life, Love and All Things Southern (2000) and The Christmas Bus (2009). Inman has written screenplays for six television motion pictures, two of which have been “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentations. His script for The Summer of Ben Tyler, a Hallmark production, won the Writers’ Guild of America Award as the best original television screenplay of 1997. His other Hallmark feature was Home Fires Burning, a 1989 adaptation of his novel. Inman has penned eight stage plays, including two musicals — Crossroads, The Christmas Bus, Dairy Queen Days, Welcome to Mitford, A High Country Christmas, The Christmas Bus: The Musical, and The Drama Club. His most recent play is Liberty Mountain, a drama about the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain, which premiers in October, 2014 in Kings Mountain, NC.

 

1780. The American Revolution has dragged on for five wearying years, and is now at a stalemate. There have been victories and defeats on both sides in the New England colonies – Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Lexington, Concord, Trenton, Monmouth. But victory eludes the combatants. The British under General Clinton firmly hold New York, but little else. George Washington’s Continentals are unable to force a decisive battle.

“Gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals,” by Lloyd Branson, 1915. The painting shows numerous people, mostly militiamen, dressed in uniforms and buckskin clothing, gathered on the banks of a river. Hills and a fort can be seen in the background. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 1.893

“Gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals,” by Lloyd Branson, 1915. The painting shows numerous people, mostly militiamen, dressed in uniforms and buckskin clothing, gathered on the banks of a river. Hills and a fort can be seen in the background. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 1.893

It is a complex and frustrating situation for King George III and his military. The long campaign, stretching back to the French and Indian war, has sapped the royal treasury. Parliament grows increasingly restive. And now the French have entered the fray on the side of the Americans. The King has vowed not to give up the Colonies. But how to resolve the situation? The answer: Go South.

America’s southern colonies have, until now, mostly escaped the worst ravages of the war. There have been battles and skirmishes by forces loyal to the king and those who advocate independence, but nothing on the scale of the New England campaigns. The Carolinas are mostly peaceful and increasingly prosperous.

The new British strategy: invade South Carolina. Capture Charleston and drive north, establishing strongholds, attracting what’s expected to be an outpouring of loyalist sentiment and arms. Once South Carolina is subdued, continue into North Carolina, then to Virginia. Trap George Washington’s army between the British forces moving north and those coming out of New York in a decisive battle that will end the revolution.

It almost worked, and would have except for Kings Mountain – a story being re-told 234 years after the fact in a new stage drama, Liberty Mountain. With a world premier scheduled for early October, 2014 at the Joy Performance Center in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, the drama will be repeated every summer in the future.

Liberty Mountain banner

Liberty Mountain is told in the lives of the frontier families who settled the Carolinas in the early days of American history. They were predominantly Scots-Irish Presbyterians, immigrants from Northern Ireland who came with a chip on their shoulder, victims of hardship and poverty they blamed on British landowners.

Thousands moved to America, many of them to the Carolinas, in hopes of building new lives, raising families, worshiping as they pleased.
Many held strong allegiances to King and Crown, many supported the drive for an independent America. But many were content to just be left alone. It was not to be.

In May, 1780, it appeared the British southern strategy was working splendidly. Charleston had fallen and three thousand Continental troops had surrendered. Another huge defeat followed at Camden, and by now, there was no such thing as a Continental Army in the south. The British commander, Lord Cornwallis, reported to London that South Carolina was firmly in his hands, that Patriot resistance was crushed, that Loyalists were flocking to the King’s cause.

By October, it had all turned to dust. British brutality and arrogance made Cornwallis and his allies their own worst enemies. Loyalist bands, little more than outlaws, murdered Patriots and looted and burned their homes and farms. A British legion massacred Patriot militiamen trying to surrender after a battle in the Waxhaws region of North Carolina.

Rather than being crushed and subdued, the Backcountry regions of both Carolinas were enraged and up in arms, staging successful guerilla raids and defeating British and Loyalist units in a series of pitched battles.

But if blame for the turning of the tide can be laid at the feet of one man, it is British Major Patrick Ferguson. On orders from Cornwallis, he recruited and trained a force of Loyalist militia in the area around Ninety Six, South Carolina, then marched them north. Cornwallis captured Charlotte, and prepared to move further north with Ferguson in control of his left flank.

Death of Major Ferguson at Kings Mountain, 1877. Image ID: 808799, Courtesy Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection/New York Public Library

Death of Major Ferguson at Kings Mountain, 1877. Image ID: 808799, Courtesy Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection/New York Public Library

Ferguson perceived his main threat to be from the area known as the Overmountain Territory, across the Appalachians in what is present-day Eastern Tennessee – a land settled by fierce and fiercely-independent frontier families, veteran Indian fighters. Ferguson sent a message: lay down your arms and swear allegiance to the King, or I will cross the mountains, hang your leaders, and lay waste to your homes.

It was Ferguson’s fatal mistake. A thousand of the frontiersmen quickly organized and set out on a grueling journey across the mountains in search of Ferguson. They were joined by militia units from both Carolinas, and on October 7, 1780, they found Ferguson and his force camped atop Kings Mountain. Achieving complete surprise, they surrounded the mountain and attacked uphill, fighting Indian-style, using rocks and trees for cover. Within an hour, it was over. Ferguson was dead and his entire force destroyed – hundreds killed and wounded, the rest taken captive. The Patriots lost 28 killed and 58 wounded.

Historians agree that it was the turning point in the Revolution. Cornwallis, his flank exposed, beat a hasty retreat from Charlotte. There were other battles in the ensuing year – a Patriot victory at Cowpens, a draw at Guilford Court House that left Cornwallis’s force decimated. And it ended finally with his surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.

The play, Liberty Mountain, will tell the story through the lives of the men, women and children who lived through these harrowing times. A cast of more than fifty will portray characters on both sides of the conflict and explore their tragedies and triumphs. The play premiers the first two weeks of October, 2014 under the direction of theatre professional Caleb Sigmon. The first month-long summer production is scheduled for June 26, 2015.

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