After his victory at the Battle of Camden in August, 1780 British General Charles Lord Cornwallis marched into North Carolina. To protect his left flank, he dispatched his Inspector of Militia, Ferguson into the South Carolina backcountry. Apprised of the threat, various Whig militias led by William Campbell, Benjamin Cleveland, Joseph McDowell, John Sevier, and Isaac Shelby rallied to confront Ferguson. Since many of the Patriots came from the western part of the Carolinas and the present state of Tennessee they were known as "Overmountain Men."
Shadowed by the threat of the Overmountain Men, Ferguson deployed on a series of hills two miles inside the South Carolina border known as Kings Mountain. Whig scouts discovered Ferguson's presence and the Americans prepared for an assault.
Early in the afternoon of October 7, the Americans launched their assault on all four sides. Loyalists from the King's American Regiment and the New Jersey Regiment launched bayonet charges to drive back the Overmountain Men. Each time, the Americans broke off around the flanks only to attack again after the Loyalists redeployed to face a threat from another direction. Steadily, the Americans fought their way up Kings Mountain.
In an attempt to rally his men on horseback, Ferguson was killed and his entire command was either killed or captured. The loss of Ferguson's force prompted Cornwallis to temporarily abandon his offensive in North Carolina and permanently shifted the initiative to the Americans in the South. British Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton lamented the battle was "the first link in a chain of evils that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America."