Patrick Ferguson



The first symptoms of that revolt were seen in Western Carolina. Cornwallis had marched his army to Charlotte, in North Carolina, early in September, and from that point he sent out detachments to execute his cruel orders. While Tarleton and his legions were operating eastward of the Catawba, Major Patrick Ferguson was sent to embody the Tories among the mountains west of the Broad River. Many profligate and unworthy men joined his standard, and at the beginning of October he was encamped among the gravelly, wooded hills of King's Mountain, about two miles south of the North Carolina border. Meanwhile the patriots west of the Alleghany ranges had taken up arms to frustrate the plans of Cornwallis. They were embodied in regiments under Colonels Shelby, Sevier, Campbell, Cleveland, McDowell and Williams, and were chiefly Virginians and North Carolinians. On the evening of the 6th of October (1780) they were all assembled at the "Cowpens," in Spartanburg district, and called themselves "The Western Army." There they heard that Ferguson was at King's Mountain, and they determined to proceed that night and strike him by surprise. Nine hundred of their best horsemen (they were all mounted) marched by moon-light, and on the afternoon of the next day, they came near Ferguson's camp of a little over eleven hundred men (mostly Tories), who were resting in fancied security on account of their peculiar position.

The republicans dismounted, and forming themselves into four columns, advanced to within a quarter of a mile of Ferguson's camp, without being discovered. The regiments of Shelby and Campbell, which formed the right and left centres of the force, pushed up the hill and made the first attack. The aroused British flew to arms, and the bayonets of the few regulars over-matched the rifles of the assailants for a moment. For ten minutes the advanced regiments sustained a fierce contest for the crown of the hill, when the right and left wings of the republican army fell upon Ferguson's left and rear and drove him into a hollow, where he was slain on the border of a clear mountain brook. The position of his force was now untenable, and Captain De Peyster (of the "King's American Regiment"), Ferguson's senior surviving officer, hoisted a flag of submission. The firing ceased, and the invaders surrendered, with fifteen hundred stand of arms. The entire loss of the British was eleven hundred and five, of whom four hundred and fifty-six were either killed or wounded. The Americans lost twenty-eight killed and sixty wounded. Among the British prisoners were many of the worst Tories, who had most cruelly executed the severe orders of Cornwallis. Ten of these, after a brief trial the next morning, were hanged together upon an outstretching limb of a tulip tree, which, when I visited the spot in 1849, was huge, and overshadowed a small monument erected on the spot where Ferguson was slain. That stone was set up in commemoration of Major Chronicle and three other Americans who were killed in the battle. Upon it were their names, and on the opposite side were these words: "Colonel Patrick Ferguson, an officer belonging to his Britannic Majesty, was here defeated and killed."

This annihilation of Ferguson's corps crushed the spirits of the loyalists, destroyed the hopes of Cornwallis of aid from those of South Carolina, and weakened, beyond recovery, the royal power in the South.





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