Saturday, January 14, 2017

Prelude to Kings Mountain, August 1780

The disparaging news of Thomas Sumter's embarrassing defeat by Banastre Tarleton and his legion at Fishing Creek on 18 August 1780 did not stop the strategic movements of the backcountry militia. On the upside, for the patriot rebels, August 18th was the day two hundred horsemen rode forth from Colonel Charles McDowell's rebel camp on the Broad River. They were headed for Musgrove's Mill on the Enoree.
Having obtained information that a party of four or five hundred tories were encamped at Musgrove's Mill, on the south side of Enoree River, about forty miles distant, Col. McDowell again detached Shelby and Cols. Williams and Clarke to surprise and disperse them.
—John Haywood*
As battle at Musgrove's was winding down after a strategically arduous, yet ultimately decisive victory for the rebels, news of Horatio Gates's defeat at Camden on the 16th of August arrived. Retreat was rapid and long, but timely. Isaac Shelby returned to the western side of the mountains as Colonel Elijah Clarke escorted their seventy prisoners to a northern "place of safety."
It was after this, the Loyalist defeat at Musgrove's Mill, but, moreover, the unabashed British victory at Camden, that British commander Patrick Ferguson sent forth Samuel Phillips, a prisoner-of-war, to deliver a message to the “officers on the Western waters,” that if they did not: 
“...desist from their opposition to the British army, 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.”
—Isaac Shelby**
Word was sent out for the western militia to muster at Sycamore Shoals. Momentum was about to gather again. 
*John Haywood, The Civil and Political History of the State of Tennessee, published 1823 by W. H. Haywood; reprinted 1891, Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; Nashville, Tennessee
** Isaac Shelby, Gov. Shelby's Pamphlet. Battle of Kings Mountain. To the Public., published 1823, excerpt