On October 7, 1780, a small but significant battle took place on a rocky hilltop in western South Carolina known as Kings Mountain. The fierce engagement pitted Loyalist militiamen under the command of British Major Patrick Ferguson against 900 “Over Mountain Men,” residents of the Carolina Backcountry and the Appalachian Mountains.
General Charles Lord Cornwallis had dispatched Ferguson to North Carolina in early September. Ferguson’s task was to recruit fighting men for the Loyalist militia and to protect Cornwallis’s left flank as the British moved through the South. Several local Patriot militias, led by men such as James Johnston, William Campbell, John Sevier, Joseph McDowell, and Isaac Shelby, drew up plans to destroy Ferguson’s force.
Shadowed by the threat of the Over Mountain Men, Ferguson chose to dig in and fortify a small sixty-foot hill two miles inside the South Carolina border. An American scouting party learned of Ferguson’s position, giving the Patriot commanders the intelligence they needed to plan an attack.
Early in the afternoon of October 7, the Americans crept quietly towards Ferguson’s position. After the first shot rang out, the Patriots attacked the Loyalists from all sides.
Ferguson deployed his Loyalist militia on the hilltop’s center. Remaining mounted, the British commander personally led a counterattack to the southwest. Initially, the Loyalists, after firing a volley and fixing their bayonets, blunted the Over Mountain Men’s advance. On the hill’s other side, however, the Patriot attack continued unabated, using undergrowth and trees for cover. Ferguson and his men were surrounded.
With his defensive perimeter shrinking, Ferguson tried to lead his men in a breakout. Mounted on his horse, he provided a perfect target for an expert marksmen in the Patriot ranks. It’s owners lifeless body hanging from the saddle, Ferguson’s horse fled down the hill.
Shortly after Ferguson’s death the Loyalists surrendered.