Patriot militia under Colonel William Campbell defeat Loyalist militia under Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of King’s Mountain in North Carolina near the border with Blacksburg, South Carolina, on this day in 1780.
Major Ferguson’s force, made up mostly of frontier Loyalists from South Carolina, was the western wing of General Charles Cornwallis’ North Carolina invasion force tasked with protecting Loyalist outposts from attacks by Patriots led by Isaac Shelby, Elijah Clark and Charles McDowell. Ferguson had declared that the Patriots could choose to lay down their arms or see him “lay waste to their country with fire and sword.” Believing they could prevent Ferguson from making good on his threat, 1,000 Patriot militiamen gathered in the Carolina backcountry, including Davy Crockett’s father, John. Learning of the Patriot force from a deserter, Ferguson positioned his Loyalists in defense of a rocky, treeless ridge named King’s Mountain.
The Patriots charged the hillside multiple times, demonstrating lethal marksmanship against the surrounded Loyalists. Unwilling to surrender to a “band of banditti,” Ferguson led a suicidal charge down the mountain and was cut down in a hail of bullets. After his death, some of his men tried to surrender, but they were slaughtered in cold blood by the Patriot frontiersmen, who wanted revenge for British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s cruelty to surrendering prisoners at Waxhaws on the Carolina border on May 29, 1780. The Loyalists suffered 157 killed, 163 wounded and 698 captured, while Campbell’s force suffered just 28 killed and 60 wounded. The Patriot success was the first against the British in the South, and convinced General Cornwallis to stop his march through the territory.
Of the 2,000 men that fought for both sides at the Battle of King’s Mountain, 1,900 were born on American soil. Only Ferguson and 100 of his personally trained Redcoats were Britons.