2 Day Trip to King’s Mountain/Crowder Mountain on the SC-NC Border | March 4-5, 2016 | Part 2
After our time at Crowder Mountain State Park, we made the short drive over to Kings Mountain National Military Park. I believe I have actually visited this place before, way back in 2000 on a family vacation. I don’t remember much about it though because I was a “little” upset at the time. We had just left my best friend Caroline’s home in Charlotte, and we weren’t going to be able to see each other again for over a year. I was in the depths of despair, and I seem to recall having a blanket over my head for most of the drive. Let’s just say I was in a better place today. (Oh, but on that note, I have to mention that on the next day of vacation we were in a car accident in Nashville that totaled our minivan. Everyone was alright, but the first words spoken after our van was hit were from me: “I KNEW we should have stayed at Caroline’s house!” Haha!)
Back to King’s Mountain: It was such a beautiful wooded area, as soon as we entered the park we got excited about going for a walk in the woods. We parked at the visitor’s center, Curtis went inside to get some information and our NPS cancellation stamps, then we took off on the loop trail that starts behind the visitor’s center. Before I go into what the park is like, Curtis will share what went on here over 2 centuries ago:
In our recent post on James Island we discussed how in 1780, the British under command of General Clinton captured Charleston. Following that, Clinton returned to New York and left General Cornwallis in charge of operations in the south.
The Patriot forces were in tatters at this point since a large portion had been surrendered with the capture of Charleston. What little remained was further scattered by Colonel Tarleton and his loyalist forces in the Battle of Waxhaws where Tarleton’s troops allegedly gave no quarter to surrendered militia.
But, as the author of the Revolutionary History I am reading says, “The Colonial forces were like the Hydra, when one head was cut off, two lesser ones grew in its place.” For, while the American’s were being organized under General Horatio Gates (“hero” of Saratoga), partisan militia forces under the command of the likes of Frances Marion, Andrew Pickens, and Thomas Sumter harassed the British and Loyalist troops. But guerrilla warfare is only so effective against a vastly larger force and Cornwallis continued to try and tame South Carolina.
In an effort to stop him, General Gates marched with the Colonial Army down from Charlotte to take the British stores at Camden. Unfortunately, Gates, despite the laurels he won at Saratoga, was not a decisive leader nor were the troops under his command battle hardened regulars. And Gates experienced a humiliating defeat at the hands of Cornwallis in August 1780. (Perhaps another day I will write more on the particulars of this battle).
With Gates out of the way, Cornwallis viewed his path into North Carolina free of obstacles and proceeded to March north to Charlotte. Cornwallis’ designs for North Carolina were to raise up Loyalist troops in the back country and thus use these troops to subdue the Patriots and militias. To help accomplish this, Cornwallis appointed Major Patrick Ferguson, who industriously began organizing Tory regiments to the West of Charlotte, holding the British Left.
While all of this happened, Patriot Colonel Issac Shelby began organizing his own army and called upon Patriot leaders in Western North Carolina (Tennessee) and Virginia to come to his aid. These troops, known now as the “Overmountain Men” for their trek across the mountains of North Carolina, reached the border with approximately 1400 men under the commands of Colonels Shelby, Sevier, Campbell, McDowell, and Cleveland.
Ferguson, alerted of the sizeable force approaching him, made no effort to retreat back to Cornwallis’ protection at Charlotte, but instead delayed a while until the Patriots were practically on top of him, before retreating. Then, only a days march away from Cornwallis, he decided to stop on the top of Kings Mountain, believing that he could hold out there until reinforcements from Cornwallis came to his aid.
The Patriots then rode and marched through the night and by the early afternoon had surrounded the mountain on August 7, 1780. Ferguson believed that the slopes of the mountain were too steep to charge up and had made no attempt to entrench or fortify his position. What’s more, he was unaware of how close the Patriots were to his position and was caught unaware when the Patriots finally charged.
Once the battle started, all “formal” military strategy went to the wayside, every unit acted for themselves. And perhaps for the best. The Patriots fought as individuals, acting based on instinct rather than military directive. They used the ample trees as cover to fire and reload taking advantage of whatever situations were present. With the Loyalists basically surrounded, there was no need for tactics. And within an hour, the Loyalists felt the pressure of the Patriots and began to surrender.
Major Ferguson attempted to rally his men and make a break for it, but was shot from his horse due to his conspicuous hunting jacket. Their leader dead, the Loyalists began surrendering en masse. But, due to the confusion of battle, or perhaps out of revenge for the Battle of Waxhaws, some Loyalists were killed while surrendering. The battle over, the Patriots retreated with their prisoners to avoid a second conflict with Cornwallis.
Overall, the battle lasted just over an hour and resulted in the complete annihilation of the Loyalist force (290 killed, 163 wounded, 663 captured) at an expense of 29 killed 58 wounded. What’s more, is the battle served to increase spirits for the Patriot Cause. In light of the two extreme defeats at Charleston and Camden, such total victory was a relief to many and perhaps an omen for what was to come under General Greene.
The trail goes halfway around the mount on which the British camped, then makes its way up to the top. Along the way are informational signs and monuments to different people or events that transpired here. There are several other trails, one that brings you to King’s Mountain State Park, but we decided to stick with this one due to time. That morning, there had apparently been an Orienteering class, and we were seeing people out wandering around the woods trying to find their way. It looked like fun, we decided that we’d like to try it someday. Preferably in an area like this, and not in a swamp. 😉
One part that really impressed me was the memorial for the sesqui-centennial anniversary of the battle. On October 7, 1930, President Hoover addressed a crowd of 75,000 people in honor of the event. That was the biggest crowd that had ever congregated anywhere along the East Coast at that time. It blew my mind to think that many people made their way out here and were all standing in this area! We really enjoyed our time at this park. We’re so thankful for everything the NPS does to protect the area and keep the history alive.
Our last stop for the day was to King’s Mountain State Park. This park is adjacent to the National Military Park, but with its own entrance fees. Here, there are more trails through the woods, a replica of an old farm house, lakes for fishing, and camp sites. We were thinking of doing more hiking here, but after a short while I became lightheaded, so we decided to head back, as it was late in the afternoon anyway. Well, we still had at least 5 hours of driving on new country highways and hitting a couple new counties! We were so happy with our quick trip away, and feeling refreshed and ready to start a new week!
Oh, and as I mentioned in my last post, on the day before this we stopped briefly at the site of the Battle of Eutaw Springs. Since this piece of history occurs after King’s Mountain, we decided to add it to this post.
Following the Victory of King’s Mountain, Nathaniel Greene took command of the Army of the South. Over the next several months Cornwallis chased Greene across the Carolinas, but had to retire to Willmington, NC after sustaining heavy losses at the Battle of Guilford Court House. Stymied, Cornwallis then decided to invade Virginia leaving the Carolinas open for reconquest by Greene.
Greene came down into South Carolina, and fought numerous engagements throughout the backcountry against Lord Rawdon. And after “removing” the British garrison at Ninety-Six, Greene’s last target was Charleston. Rawdon, having gone to England after fleeing Ninety-Six, left Colonel Alexander Stewart in charge of the garrison at Charleston.
As Greene approached Charleston, Stewart marched from Charleston to head him off and eventually made camp near a plantation house near Eutaw Springs. Greene continued to approach, and eventually ran into a foraging party on September 8, 1781 who went on to warn Stewart. Pressing forward, the Patriots soon came upon the main British camp.
Unlike King’s Mountain, Eutaw Springs was a more pitched battle. The troops were formed in lines and spread across the field. The British made the first gain when they forced the first American line to retreat, but were soon repulsed by the second line. In retreat, the Americans pushed the British past their camps. Undisciplined, many Americans broke ranks to plunder the British camps allowing for the British to reform and make a second push at the Colonials. This second push forced Greene to retire with his army, making Eutaw Springs technically a British victory.
But because of the pressure that Greene continued to apply, Stewart fell back to the safety of Charleston where he held out for the rest of the war. And so Eutaw Springs marks the effective end of fighting in South Carolina.
We were actually impressed with the preservation of this site. It’s nothing huge, but a few memorials and signs are there to share what happened here, and a good piece of the land is fenced off in memory of what happened here. It’s located in Eutaw Spring off of Highway 6, right next to Lake Marion.