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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Battle Of Kings Mountain 235th Anniversary (1780 - 2015)

On Wednesday, October 7th of this year, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite historical site in the South Carolina upcountry, the Kings Mountain National Military Park and observe the 235th Anniversary of the Battle Of Kings Mountain (October 7, 1780). 

Traveling along with me was my brother, Alex, who helped take some of the following photos of the trip along the park trail and the Laying of the Wreaths ceremony that took place at 11 AM on the battlefield site.

The following photos chronicle this little adventure. 

Kings Mountain National Military Park Visitors Center.
Clothing of the type worn by the Patriot Militia from the Backcountry and Over-The-Mountain Regions at the battle.
Also typical clothing worn by both the Patriot Militia and the British Loyalist Militia at the battle.
Uniform of the American Volunteers. These were men of the Provincial Regulars: American Loyalists who formally enlisted in the British Army. About a hundred of the Loyalist forces at the battle wore uniforms, leading to the myth that all those loyal to the Crown at Kings Mountain wore the red uniform. Aside from a company of these Provincial Regulars, all other British Loyalists at Kings Mountain wore civilian militia clothing. The only actual British Regular soldier at Kings Mountain was Major Patrick Ferguson, commander of the Loyalist Militia forces.
Portrait of Colonel William Campbell of Virginia, who was elected overall commander of the Overmountain Men and Patriot Militia forces at Kings Mountain. He was a militia commander and not a regular Continental officer. In fact, no regular Continental soldiers fought in the battle. The battle that effectively turned the tide of the war in America's Southern Theater was fought entirely by militiamen.
The famous "Ferguson Rifle" designed by Major Patrick Ferguson. The story of this rifle I chronicled in a previous blog post here.
Map detailing the British Campaign in South Carolina in the summer and fall of 1780.
Your humble blogger standing on the Kings Mountain Battlefield Trail.
My brother Alex.
The Chronicle Marker. The Spot Where Patriot major William Chronicle fell during the battle.
These two markers are dedicated to Major William Chronicle and his men. The one to the left with the Betsy Ross flag is the old marker - now time-worn - that was placed at the site in 1815. It is one of the oldest Revolutionary War monuments in the nation. To the left is the marker placed there in 1915 with the same inscription. Both monuments read:
Sacred to the memory of Maj. William Chronicle, Capt. John Mattocks, William Rabb, and John Boyd, who were killed at this place on the 7th of October, 1780, fighting in defense of America.

Both during and after the battle, men on both sides used this creek as a source of water.

As my brother and I walked the trail around the site where the Patriot forces surrounded the base of the large, rock-covered hill that makes up the Kings Mountain battlefield, I could not help but look at the early autumn foliage and remember that it was on the same date 235 years before that the battle took place.

The American Loyalists and the Patriot Militiamen who fought here on that afternoon must have seen some of the same fall colors. For some of them it would have been their last sight as they lay wounded or dying. 

In point of fact, I would like to add that in the fall of 1780 Kings Mountain itself was covered with an old growth forest with trees far thinker - in some cases almost redwood sized - than the forest that surrounds the battlefield today. Those old trees were so thick and wide, the Patriots could take cover and be safe around them as they fired up at the Loyalists silhouetted against the sky on top of the large hill, which was then and still is barren of trees. 

This simple stone and bronze plaque marks the site of US President Herbert Hoover's grandstand during the park's formal dedication ceremony on October 7, 1930 - the 150th year anniversary of the battle. He delivered an address in front of a estimated crowd of nearly 80,000 people.
The Centennial Monument. Dedicated during the 1880 celebration, this monument stands at the highest point along the trail. The marker honors the American officers and several of the Virginia troops who fell in the battle. 

Probably the last thing many would expect to find on a Revolutionary War battlefield is a monument to a Confederate officer. This marker and plaque recognizes Colonel Asbury Coward, a resident of York who was instrumental in establishing the park. Coward served as a colonel in the 5th South Carolina Infantry Regiment (CSA) during the War Between the States (American Civil War), and had opened the Kings Mountain Military Academy at York before the war. His cadets came to the battleground to drill annually. After the war, with the support of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Coward helped foster interest in a park at Kings Mountain. The stone and plaque were placed here in 1931 to honor his memory.
*See a previous blog post here to see the grave of Asbury Coward in York, South Carolina.

We both arrived at the US Monument at the top of the hill just in time for the beginning of the annual Laying Of The Wreaths ceremony celebrating the 235th Anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain. 

The event is sponsored by the North and South Carolina Societies of the Sons of the American Revolution.  Members of the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution from many states were in attendance and provided wreaths in memory of those who fought at the battle. Reenactors portraying the American Patriots (and a few American Loyalists) were also in attendance. 

After several speeches were made by representatives of the SAR and DAR, the wreaths were presented and the representatives of close to 100 chapters of both fraternal heritage organizations and various re-enactor groups. It was truly an amazing time and I know the photos I took cannot do it justice. 

Arriving at the large US Monument on top of the hill. It was placed there in 1909 by the US Government on the site where the Loyalist forces surrendered in their campsite.
A wide shot of the massed colors and wreaths that honor the fallen American Patriots who died during the battle and the veterans who survived. 
Reenactors firing a volley in memory of the fallen.
Closing Prayer.
Plaque dedicated to those Patriot Militiaman killed and wounded during the battle.
Plaque dedicated to the victory at Kings Mountain.
Plaque that tells the story of the battle. The plaque is historically inaccurate because it mentions "British Regular Troops" - aside from a hundred American Provincials that were formally enrolled into the British army, the rest of the British forces here were Loyalist militia commanded by a British officer.
Yours truly posing in front of the US Monument with the Betsy Ross Flag representing the original thirteen united States of America.
(Please note that the un-capitalized word "united" is not a typo.
In 1780 despite declaring their sovereignty in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the thirteen former British colonies in America were each their own nation State united under the original Articles of Confederation in their struggle for maintain that independence. The term "United States of America" would not formally be adopted, nor a more permanent union, until March 4, 1789 when the US Constitution was formally adopted and a federal government officially formed.

The arrival of the Overmountain Reenactors with the Overmountain Victory Trail Association. These reenactors annually march the same path taken by the Overmountain Men took along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail on a two week trek from Abingdon, Virginia to the Kings Mountain National Military Park.
Marker dedicated to Colonel James Hawthorne who died at the battle.
This stone placed here in 1909 marks the spot where British Major Patrick Ferguson was shot off his horse and killed near the end of the battle.
(Note that while Ferguson had been promoted to the rank of colonel, he did not formally receive the promotion before his death. He was still technically a major when the battle took place.)

The marker and cairn of Colonel Patrick Ferguson, the British commander of the Loyalist militia in South Carolina in 1780. Beneath the pile of stones lies the grave of Ferguson and Virginia Sal, a camp follower (someone who does laundry and other work for British officers) who might also have been Ferguson's lover. She was shot and killed in the crossfire in the battle. Her grave is unmarked beside Ferguson.
 It is an old Celtic tradition to place stones on the graves in their memory.
An old Scottish Gaelic blessing is: Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, "I'll put a stone on your cairn". Several reenactors placed stones as they passed by.

Yours truly holding the Kings Colours at the grave and cairn of Patrick Ferguson - the flag of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolutionary War. The red saltier (St. Patrick's Cross) of Ireland would not be added to the Union Jack until 1801. I likewise placed two stones on the cairn, out of respect for a British soldier from Scotland who died far from his home and for Virginia Sal.

Overall, I have to say a good time. It was an huge honor to be there to help pay tribute to the Southern-born Patriot militiamen - most of them Scots-Irish - who defeated the Loyalists on that early autumn day in October of 1780. America would not be the nation that it is without the efforts of those who fought there. Their success literally turned the tide of the American Revolution in the South in favor of the Continentals and Patriots.

I hope y'all enjoyed this blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it and posting the photos. Be sure to check out the links in the blog post to learn more about various aspects of the Battle of Kings Mountain and the men who fought there.

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