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Kings Mountain, Battle of

Kings Mountain, Battle of (1780).The defeat of Maj. Patrick Ferguson's loyalist force at Kings Mountain in northwest South Carolina by a coalition of frontiersmen on 7 October 1780 marked the start of the American recovery in the South during the Revolutionary War and the beginning of the end for Britain's hopes of using loyalists to suppress the southern countryside. Following British victories at the siege of Charleston and the Battle of Camden in May and August 1780, strong British and loyalist forces roamed the backcountry, intimidating rebels and heartening those who favored royal government. Settlers on the North Carolina and Virginia frontier—mostly Scots‐Irish—feared that the British would unleash Indian attacks on their communities. On 26 September, a nucleus of “over‐the‐mountain men” gathered at Sycamore Shoals, near present‐day Johnson City, Tennessee, and resolved to defend their families and farms.

By the time they ran Ferguson's 1,100‐man army to ground at Kings Mountain, the frontier militia numbered between 1,500 and 1,800, most armed with “longrifles.” Leaders of individual groups regarded William Campbell of Virginia as their commander, but the force really consisted of independent men who shared a common purpose. Ferguson's loyalist militiamen waited atop the wooded King's Mountain ridge, treeless at the summit, for the climactic battle of the backcountry civil war. Ferguson, an urbane man with a flair for tactics and invention, had chosen a position that allowed his opponents to use their rifles to inflict maximum damage on his force. Campbell's men surrounded the loyalists late in the afternoon of 7 October, and kept up such an accurate and deadly fire that Ferguson's worn‐down force surrendered an hour later, its leader dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Having accomplished their objective, the winners dispersed to their homes, stopping long enough to execute nine of the captured loyalists.

King's Mountain was the turning point of the South's bitter civil war. Potential loyalists would thereafter sit on the fence until Britain could reestablish its military domination, something the British lacked the resources to accomplish.
[See also Citizen‐Soldier; Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Lyman C. Draper , King's Mountain and its Heroes, 1881.
Wilma Dykeman , With Fire and Sword, 1991.

Harold E. Selesky

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Draper, Lyman Copeland

Lyman Copeland Draper, 1815–91, American historical collector and librarian, b. Erie co., N.Y. He spent years traveling through an area ranging from New York to Mississippi, gathering the stories of old pioneers and documentary material on frontier history for a projected series of biographies of Western heroes. His extensive collection was deposited with the Wisconsin Historical Society at Madison, of which he was secretary and librarian (1854–86); there he built up one of the notable historical libraries of the country. He founded and edited the first 10 volumes of the society's Collections and wrote King's Mountain and its Heroes (1881, repr. 1967 and 1971), but never completed the intended biographies. His collection, valuable to many researchers, contains the George Rogers Clark papers and other manuscript sources.

See biography by W. B. Hesseltine (1954).

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