Kings Mountain State Park, Blacksburg

By 1780 the northern campaign of the American Revolutionary War had fought to a stalemate, and England turned its military strategy toward the South. The tactic seemed simple: re-establish the southern royal colonies,

march north to join loyalist troops at the Chesapeake Bay, and claim the seaboard. But, a sudden battle in the wilderness exposed the folly of England’s scheme and changed the course of this nation.

In early 1780 England turned its military efforts to the South. At first the British forces seemed unstoppable. In May Sir Henry Clinton captured Charleston, S.C., the South’s largest city. The British quickly set up garrisons, using military force to gain control. Before 1780 scattered

incidents of torture and murder had occurred in the Carolinas, but with the return of the British army the war in the South became brutal. Loyalists (tories) plundered the countryside; patriots (whigs) retaliated with burning and looting—with neighbors fighting each other. The British believed that the southern colonies teemed with loyalists, and they were banking on those supporters to persuade reluctant patriots to swear allegiance to the

Crown. Gen. Lord Cornwallis ordered Maj. Patrick Ferguson, reputed to be the best marksman in the British Army, to gather these loyalists into a

strong militia. Ferguson recruited a thousand Carolinians and trained them to fight with muskets and bayonets using European open-field tactics. In

the summer, as Ferguson traversed the Carolina upcountry, frontier patriots swept across the mountains to aid their compatriots of the Piedmont.

In August Cornwallis routed Gen. Horatio Gates and patriot forces at Camden, S.C. Learning of the defeat, the frontier militia went home to

harvest crops and strengthen their forces. Taking advantage of their departure, Cornwallis mounted an invasion of North Carolina. He ordered

Ferguson, commander of his left flank, to move north into western North Carolina before joining the main army at Charlotte. In September Ferguson

set up post at Gilbert Town. From here Ferguson sent a message to the “backwater men” (over-mountain patriots) threatening to kill

them all if they did not submit.

Enraged, they vowed to finish Ferguson once and for all. On September 26 returning over-mountain forces gathered

at Sycamore Shoals under Cols. William Campbell, Isaac Shelby, Charles McDowell, and John Sevier. The next morning they began an arduous

march through mountains covered with an early snowfall. They reached Quaker Meadows on October 1 and joined 350 local militia under Cols.

Benjamin Cleveland and Joseph Winston. Ferguson, learning from spies that the growing force was pursuing him, headed toward Charlotte. The

patriots reached Gilbert Town on October 4, but they soon discovered that Ferguson had abandoned his camp. They rode on, reaching Cowpens on

October 6, where they were joined by 400 South Carolinians led by Colonel Williams and Colonel Lacey. Ferguson’s trail had been hard to follow, but

now they learned that he was near Kings Mountain—only about 30 miles away.

Ferguson reached Kings Mountain on October 6, where he decided to await his enemy. Kings Mountain—named for an early settler and not for

King George III—is a rocky spur of the Blue Ridge that rises 150 feet above the surrounding area. Its forested slopes, sliced with ravines, lead to a

summit, which in 1780 was nearly treeless. This plateau, 600 yards long by 60 yards wide at the southwest and 120 yards at the northeast, gave Ferguson a seemingly excellent position for his army of 1,000 loyalist militia

and 100 red-coated Provincials.

Fearing that Ferguson might escape again, the patriots selected 900 of the best riflemen to push on, with Campbell of Virginia as commander. They

rode through a night of rain—their long rifles protected in blankets—and arrived at Kings Mountain after noon, Saturday, October 7. The rain, now

stopped, had muffled their sounds, giving Ferguson little warning of their approach. They hitched their horses within sight of the ridge, divided into

two columns, and encircled the steep slopes. About 3 p.m. Campbell’s and Shelby’s regiments opened fire from below the southwestern ridge. The

loyalists rained down a volley of musket fire, but the forested slopes provided good cover for the attackers. The patriots, skilled at guerrilla

tactics used on the frontier, dodged from tree to tree to reach the summit. Twice, loyalists drove them back with bayonets. Finally the patriots gained

the crest, driving the enemy toward the patriots who were attacking up the northeastern slopes. Surrounded and silhouetted against the sky, the

loyalists were easy targets for the sharpshooters and their long rifles. Punishing his horse Ferguson was everywhere, a silver whistle in his

mouth trilling commands. Suddenly several bullets hit Ferguson. He fell, one foot caught in a stirrup. His men helped him down and propped him

against a tree, where he died. Captain DePeyster, Ferguson’s second in command, ordered a white flag hoisted but, despite loyalist cries of

surrender, the patriot commanders could not restrain their men. Filled with revenge they continued to shoot their terrified enemy for several minutes,

until Campbell finally regained control.

The over-mountain men accomplished their mission in little more than an hour. Ferguson was dead. Lost with him was Cornwallis’s entire left flank.

This militia, fighting on its own terms and in its own way, turned the tide on England’s attempt to conquer the South and so the nation.
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Kings Mountain State Park Reviews
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105 reviews
  • The road around the camp ground is a bit tight if you have a long rig or new to pulling a camper. The bath houses were clean but the shower heads didn't really spray right. Had one problem with one st...  more »
  • We camp here at least once a year, we love that it's close to home, we have our favorite sites we all ways don't get them but when we don't we make do. Been coming here for many years . I do think the...  more »
  • The park is nice however there is no full hook up for campers. They do have electricity but not sewer hookup which leaves the reason why I have it just a ok. The restrooms are very dirty and very hot. While I realize that this is a good size camp ground they could have maintenance check on the bathrooms several times a day. The toilets and showers and sinks need a good cleaning.
  • I live locally, and visit the park frequently. It's a great place to hike with kids, there's a cool little playground for them to play on. There are boat rentals and two small lakes, and the living history farm is fantastic. The buildings have been kept in their original state, and there are plaques throughout for self guided tours.

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Duration: 2​h 30​min