Monday, January 16, 2017
General Nathanael Greene, unaware that the Battle of Cowpens had already taken place two days prior, wrote to General Daniel Morgan on 19 January 1781 regarding taking on British commander Banastre Tarleton and his legion:
"I do not wish you should come to action unless you have a manifest superiority, and a moral certainty of succeeding. Put nothing to the hazard. A retreat may be disagreeable, but not disgraceful. Regard not the opinions of the day. It is not our business to risk too much. Our affairs are in too critical a situation, and require time and nursing to give them a better tone."
That very same day, 19 January 1781, Daniel Morgan had been writing his post-battle report to Nathanael Greene:
"On the evening of the 16th the enemy occupied the ground we had removed from in the morning. An hour before daylight one of my scouts informed me that they had advanced within five miles of our camp. On this information the necessary dispositions were made, and, from the alacrity of the troops, we were soon prepared to receive them. The light infantry, commanded by Lieut. Col. Howard, and the Virginia militia under Major Triplett, were formed on a rising ground; the third regiment of dragoons, consisting of about 80 men, under the command of Lieut. Col. Washington were so posted in their rear, as not to be injured by the enemy fire, and yet to be able to charge them, should an occasion offer; the volunteers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, under the command of Colonel Pickens, were posted to guard the flanks; Major Mc Dowal [sic, McDowell], of the North Carolina volunteers was posted on the right flank, in front of the line 150 yards; Major Cunningham, of the Georgia volunteers, on the left, at the same distance in front; Colonels Brannons and Thomas, of the South Carolina volunteers, on the right of Major Mc Dowal; and Colonels Hayes and McCall, of the same corps, on the left of Major Cunningham; Captains Tate and Buchanan, with the Augusta riflemen, were to support the right of the line."
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Friday, [October] 6th. Got in motion at four o'clock in the morning, and marched sixteen miles to Little King's Mountain, where we took up our ground.
[Diary of Lieut. Anthony Allaire, of Ferguson's Corps, 5 Mar - 29 Nov 1780]
Colonels William Campbell, Isaac Shelby, and Benjamin Cleveland (Patriots):
We reached the Cow Pens, on the Broad River, in South Carolina, where we were joined by Col. James Williams, on the evening of the 6th October, who informed us that the enemy lay encamped somewhere near the Cherokee Ford of Broad River, about thirty miles distant from us. By a council of the principal officers, it was then thought advisable to pursue the enemy that night with nine hundred of the best horsemen, and leave the weak horses and footmen to follow as fast as possible. We began our march with nine hundred of the best men about eight o'clock the same evening, marched all night, and came up with the enemy about three o'clock P.M. of the 7th, who lay encamped on the top of King's Mountain, twelve miles north of the Cherokee Ford, in the confidence they could not be forced from so advantageous a post.
[Colonels William Campbell, Isaac Shelby, and Benjamin Cleveland, Official Report, Battle of Kings Mountain, addressed to General Horatio Gates, published in the Virginia Gazette 18 November 1780]
Colonel Robert Gray (Loyalist):
[Lord Cornwallis] marched from Camden to Charlotte with his army and at the same time directed Major Ferguson, who although he knew his danger and was ordered to join the army, yet after retreating 60 miles he loitered away two days most unaccountably at Kings Mountain and thereby gave time to the rebel militia under the command of Gen. [James] Williams to come up with him, the rebels were greatly superior in number.
He had about 600 militia and 60 regulars, and action ensued in which our militia behaved with a degree of steadiness and spirit that would not have disgraced any regular troops. And the rebels were repulsed three times, but having changed their mode of attack and made an attempt on a small party of North Carolinians on our flank who were not so well disciplined as the South Carolinians succeeded in breaking them. They communicated the disorder to the others and at this critical moment Major Ferguson fell. A total rout ensued.
This unfortunate affair gave a new turn to the war. All the country on Lord Cornwallis' rear was laid open to the incursions of the enemy, who, if they had made a proper use of their victory might have taken both Ninety Six and Augusta, nevertheless the consequences were very important.
[Colonel Robert Gray's Observations on the War in Carolina, published July 1910 in South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. XI, No. 3]
Colonel William Hill (Patriot):
There was very little military subordination as all that was required or expected was that every Officer & man should ascend the mountain so as to surround the enemy on all quarters which was promptly executed.
[Col. William Hill's Memoirs of the Revolution, edited by A.S. Salley, published 1921, The State Company, Columbia, South Carolina]
Captain Abraham DePeyster (Loyalist):
This is ominous. These are the damned yelling boys.
[Source: Archibald Henderson, The Conquest of the Old Northwest, published 1920, The Century Company, New York]
Major Thomas Young (Patriot):
Major Ferguson had taken a very strong position upon the summit of the mountain, and it appeared like an impossibility to dislodge him, but we had come there to do it, and we were determined, one and all, to do it, or die trying. The attack was begun on the north side of the mountain. The orders were at the firing of the first gun, for every man to raise a whoop, rush forward, and fight his way as he best could.
... I recollect I stood behind one tree and fired til the bark was nearly all knocked off, and my eyes pretty well filled with it. One fellow shaved me pretty close, for his bullet took a piece out of my gun-stock. Before I was aware of it, I found myself apparently between my own regiment and the enemy, as I judged, from seeing the paper which the Whigs wore in their hats, and the pine knots the Tories wore in theirs, these being the badges of distinction.
[Thomas Young, "Memoir of Major Thomas Young," published 1843, Orion Magazine]
Lieutenant Anthony Allaire (Loyalist):
Saturday, 7th. About two o'clock in the afternoon twenty-five hundred Rebels, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Williams, and ten Colonels, attacked us. Maj. Ferguson had eight hundred men. The action continued an hour and five minutes; but their numbers enabled them to surround us. The North Carolina regiment seeing this, and numbers being out of ammunition, gave way, which naturally threw the rest of the militia into confusion. Our poor little detachment, which consisted of only seventy men when we marched to the field of action, were all killed and wounded but twenty; and those brave fellows were soon crowded as close as possible by the militia. Capt. DePeyster, on whom the command devolved, saw it impossible to form six men together; thought it necessary to surrender to save the lives of the brave men who were left....
Colonel William Campbell (Patriot):
Col. Shelby's regiment and mine began the attack, and sustained the whole fire of the enemy for about ten minutes, while the other troops were forming around the height upon which the enemy were posted. The firing then became general, and as heavy as you can conceive for the number of men. The advantageous situation of the enemy, being the top of a steep ridge, obliged us to expose ourselves exceedingly; and the dislodging of them was almost equal to driving men from strong breast-works; though in the end we gained the point of the ridge, where my regiment fought, and drove them along the summit of it nearly to the other end, where Col. Cleveland and his countrymen were. They were driven into a huddle, and the greatest confusion; the flag for a surrender was immediately hoisted, and as soon as our troops could be notified of it, the firing ceased, and the survivors surrendered themselves prisoners at discretion.
[Excerpt from a letter, dated 20 October 1780, from Colonel William Campbell to Colonel Arthur Campbell]
Lieutenant Anthony Allaire (Loyalist):
... The action commenced about two o'clock in the afternoon, and was very severe for upwards of an hour, during which the Rebels were charged and drove back several times, with considerable slaughter.
When our detachment charged, for the first time, it fell to my lot to put a Rebel Captain to death, which I did most effectually, with one blow of my sword; the fellow was at least six feet high, but I had rather the advantage, as I was mounted on an elegant horse, and he on foot.
But their numbers enabled them to surround us and the North Carolina regiment, which consisted of about three hundred men.
Seeing this, and numbers being out of ammunition which naturally threw the rest of the militia into confusion, our gallant little detachment, which consisted of only seventy men, exclusive of twenty who acted as dragoons, and ten who drove wagons, etc., when we marched to the field of action, were all killed and wounded but twenty, and those brave fellows were soon crowded into an heap by the militia.
Capt. DePEYSTER, on whom the command devolved, seeing it impossible to form six men together, thought it necessary to surrender, to save the lives of the brave men who were left.
We lost in this action, Maj. FERGUSON, of the Seventy-first regiment, a man strongly attached to his King and country, well informed in the art of war, brave, humane, and an agreeable companion-in short, he was universally esteemed in the army, and I have every reason to regret his unhappy fate.
We lost eighteen men killed on the spot-Capt. RYERSON and thirty-two Sergeants and privates wounded, of Maj. FERGUSON's detachment.
Lieutenant M'GINNIS of ALLEN's regiment, Skinner's brigade, killed; taken prisoners, two Captains, four Lieutenants, three Ensigns, one Surgeon, and fifty-four Sergeants and privates, including the wounded, wagoners, etc.
The militia killed, one hundred, including officers; wounded, ninety; taken prisoners about six hundred; our baggage all taken, of course.
The Rebels lost Brig.-Gen. Williams, and one hundred and thirty-five, including officers, killed; wounded nearly equal to ours.
[Excerpt from a letter written by Anthony Allaire, dated "January 30th 1781," published in Rivington's Royal Gazette, New York, 24 February 1781. It was prefaced with: "This gentleman went from New York with a detachment drawn from the Provincial Brigade, which was commanded by the brave Major Patrick Ferguson. This letter gives the most circumstantial account yet received of the action at Kings Mountain, in South Carolina, Oct. seventh."]
Colonel William Campbell (Patriot):
We fought an hour and five minutes, in which time two hundred and twenty-five of the enemy were killed, and one hundred and thirty wounded; the rest, making about seven hundred regulars and Tories, were taken prisoners. Ferguson was killed near the close of the action. The victory was complete to a wish; and I think it was won by about seven hundred men, who fought bravely. I have lost several of my brave friends, whose death I much lament.
Sir Henry Clinton (British Commander):
[The Battle of Kings Mountain was] an event which was immediately productive of the worst consequences to the King's affairs in South Carolina, and unhappily the first link in a chain of evils that followed in regular succession until they at last ended in the loss of America.
[Henry Clinton, edited by William Wilcox, The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton's Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775-1782, published 1954, Yale University Press]
Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States):
I remember well the deep and grateful impression made on the minds of every one by that memorable victory. It was the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary War, with the seal of our independence.
[Excerpt from a letter dated Monticello, 10 November 1822, to John Campbell, son of Colonel William Campbell]
* 70th Congress, 1st Session House Document No. 328, compiled by the Historical Section of the Army War College, Historical Statements Concerning the Battle of Kings Mountain and the Battle of Cowpens South Carolina, United States Government Printing Office, 1928
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Friday, January 13, 2017
Thursday, January 12, 2017
* Otho Holland Williams, A Narrative of the Campaign of 1780, transcribed by William Johnson, included in Johnson's Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, published 1822 by A.E. Miller, Charleston, South Carolina
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
* William Hill, Colonel William Hill's Memoirs of the Revolution, Columbia, South Carolina
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Monday, January 9, 2017
Sunday, January 8, 2017
* Dr Robert Brownfield served as a Surgeon’s Mate in the regiment of Colonel Abraham Buford.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
From King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, by Lyman Copeland Draper, pub. 1881, P.G. Thomson, pp. 188-190:
- [Isaac] Shelby's object in suggesting Colonel [William] Campbell's appointment [to command at Kings Mountain], is best explained by himself. "I made the proposition," says Shelby in his pamphlet, in 1823, "to silence the expectations of Colonel [Charles] McDowell to command us—he being the commanding officer of the district we were then in, and had commanded the armies of militia assembled in that quarter all the summer before against the same enemy. He was a brave and patriotic man, but we considered him too far advanced in life, and too inactive for the command of such an enterprise as we were engaged in. I was sure he would not serve under a younger officer from his own State, and hoped that his feelings would, in some degree, be saved by the appointment of Colonel Campbell." In his narrative, in the American Review, December, 1848, Governor Shelby makes no reference to McDowell's age, but simply states, that he "was too slow an officer" for the enterprise.
Though Colonel Shelby speaks of McDowell's age as objectionable for such a service, it really deserved little, if any, consideration. He was then only some thirty-seven years of age—Colonel Cleveland was some years older, and Shelby himself, the youngest of the Colonels, was only seven years his junior. It may be curious to note, that "Old Put," then in active service, was twenty-five years older than McDowell, General Evan Shelby, the Colonel's father, who, the year before, commanded an important expedition against the Chicamauga Indian towns, was twenty-three years older, General Stark fifteen, Washington eleven, Marion ten, Sumter at least four, and General Greene one. The real objection to Colonel McDowell was not so much his age, as his lack of tact and efficiency for such a command; and, it has been hinted, moreover, that his conduct at the Cane creek affair was not without its influence in producing the general distrust entertained of his fitness to lead the mountain men on this important service. The expression was quite general, that General Morgan or General Davidson should be sent to take the command; the former, especially, who had gained such renown at Saratoga, and had recently joined General Gates, was highly esteemed by the mountaineers.
Colonel McDowell, who had the good of his country at heart more than any title to command, submitted gracefully to what was done; but observed, that as he could not be permitted to command, he would, if agreeable, convey to head-quarters the request for a general officer. This was warmly approved, as it was justly declared that he was well acquainted with the situation of the country, and could, better than any other, concert with General Gates a plan of future operations, and they would await his return. The manner in which this was presented gratified McDowell, who at once set off on his mission, leaving his men under the command of his brother, Major Joseph McDowell. Passing through Burke county, McDowell's command, particularly, was considerably increased by relatives, friends and neighbors; and there John Spelts, or Continental Jack, as he was familiarly called by his associates, first joined Shelby's regiment, but fought under McDowell. Colonel Campbell now assumed the chief command; in which, however, he was to be directed and regulated by the determination of the Colonels, who were to meet every day for consultation.
Everything was now arranged quite satisfactorily to the Whig chiefs; and their men were full of martial ardor, anxious to meet the foe, confident of their ability, with their unerring rifles, to overthrow Ferguson and his Loyalist followers, even were their numbers far greater than they were represented.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
From Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians, by John H. Wheeler, published Columbus, Ohio: Columbus Printing Works, 1884:
Colonel Joseph McDowell was born on 25th February, 1758, at Pleasant Gardens, in Burke County. He was always called Colonel Joe of the Pleasant Gardens, to distinguish him from General Joe of Quaker Meadows.
He was a soldier and a statesman, and the most distinguished of the name.
He early entered the profession of arms. At the age of 18 he joined General Rutherford in an expedition, in 1776, against the Cherokee Indians, in which he displayed much gallantry and desperate courage. It is known that in a hand-to-hand fight he killed an Indian chief with his sword.
He was active in repressing the Tories, and took part in the battle at Ramsour's Mill, on 20th June, 1780, near Lincolnton, as mentioned by General Graham in eulogistic terms, for his conduct on that occasion, and materially aided in achieving a complete victory over a superior force.
At Cane Creek, in Rutherford County, with General Charles McDowell, he led the militia, chiefly of Burke County, and had a severe skirmish with a strong detachment of Ferguson's army, then stationed at Gilbert Town, and drove them back.
Immediately afterward he aided in measures which culminated in the glorious victory of Kings Mountain.
This was the darkest period of the dubious conflict. Gates was defeated at Camden; Savannah and Charleston surrendered to the British; Sumter, at Fishing Creek, (18th August, 1780;) Cornwallis, in all the pride and circumstance of a conqueror, held the undisputed possession of Charlotte and its vicinity.
Ferguson, with strong force, was winning the attachment of the people from liberty to loyalty; while the Tories ravaged the whole country with vindictive fury.
There was not a regular soldier south of Virginia, and every organized force was scattered or disbanded. The time had come, and these brave men felt that they must do or die.
Amid all these disastrous circumstances, the patriotic spirits of Cleaveland, Campbell, Sevier, and McDowell did not despair. They determined to attack the forces of Ferguson. They were all of equal rank, and as the troops were in the district of Charles McDowell, he was entitled to the command.
From a manuscript letter of Shelby, in my possession, he says:
- Colonel [Charles] McDowell was the commanding officer of the district we were in, and had commanded the armies of the militia all the summer before, against the same enemy. He was brave and patriotic, but we considered him too far advanced in life and too inactive to command the enterprise.
It was decided to send to headquarters [between Charlotte and Salisbury] for some general officer to command the expedition.
Colonel McDowell, who had the good of his country more at heart than any title of command, submitted, and stated that he would be the messenger to go to headquarters. He accordingly started immediately, leaving his men under his brother, Major Joseph McDowell.