Audio Drama From Youth Leadership Team Participant Brings Alive Voices From the Battle of King's Mountain
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240 years after Patriot and Loyalist forces clashed in the Carolina backcountry, a passionate teenager has used primary sources and modern technology to share the experiences of those who fought
Mary Koik, (202) 367-1861 x7231
October 7, 2020
(Blacksburg, S.C.) – Despite the fact that British Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton lamented that the Battle of King’s Mountain 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," few people today have heard of the decisive engagement fought on October 7, 1780. But Rock Hill, S.C., teen John Mugabe has worked to change that, creating a three-episode audio drama showcasing the experiences of those who fought at King’s Mountain as a capstone project for his time on the American Battlefield Trust Youth Leadership Team (YLT).
A member of the inaugural YLT class in 2019-2020, Mugabe envisioned a powerful audio drama that could give true voice — not merely words on a page — to the long-ago soldiers whose valor at King’s Mountain kept the flame of freedom alive. “Their stories deserve to be heard,” he said, “And, most importantly, remembered and enshrined as the words of true heroes.”
Although he had made good progress, last spring COVID derailed completion of the project. But rather than accept defeat, Mugabe shot for the moon and approached local sound designer Joe Miller with his vision. A former history teacher who grew up around King’s Mountain, Miller saw promise in the project and offered Mugabe a package that included three days of studio space, voice actors, music, editing and other professional services that enhanced the project’s initial scope.
But, despite discounts, it also exceeded the project’s original budget tenfold over the stipend supplied as seed money by the Trust. After examining the robust proposal, the Trust implemented a two-part mechanism to secure the money: find a generous donor to offset the cost with a “matching fund” and then invite then Trust’s 300,000 Facebook fans to fulfil the need with small-scale gifts. The $2,000 match was provided by acclaimed historical novelist Jeff Shaara, a former member of the organization’s Board of Trustees, who was inspired by Mugabe’s vision. The remaining $1,954 was crowdfunded by Trust members in less than 24 hours.
“By bringing to the forefront the men who fought at King’s Mountain, this project delves deeper into the layers of history,” said Shaara, who has subsequently issued a similar challenge grant to this and future year’s YLT classes. “John is showcasing the inherent connections between good history and good storytelling.”
The end result is a beautifully crafted audio showcase featuring six voice actors, professional historians, original music and, most importantly, the passion of a young man dedicated to telling our nation’s story. The full, three-part drama runs approximately 78 minutes and is available, free of charge, on Soundcloud.
The dramatic story of the Southern Campaigns of the Revolutionary War has long been overshadowed by events in the northern and middle colonies. By 1780, as the conflict had stagnated further north, the British turned their eyes toward consolidating gains and subjugating the lower south. British General Sir Henry Clinton moved his force north from Savannah and besieged Charleston, forcing the city’s surrender on May 12. Building on this momentum, the British pressed inland and to the north. The American force that stood in their way was utterly defeated on August 16 at Camden, S.C.
The British continued pushing north, with Major General Patrick Ferguson, commanding forces made up of colonial volunteers loyal to the crown rather than British regulars, defending the left flank in the backcountry. Soon a Patriot force of Overmountain Men along with Back Country militia led by William Campbell, Benjamin Cleveland, Charles McDowell, John Sevier, and Isaac Shelby rallied to confront the threat.
The ensuing battle on October 7, 1780, showed the resilience and will of the Patriot forces as 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 their foes. Each time, the Overmountain Men broke off around the flanks only to attack again after the Loyalists redeployed to face a threat from another direction. The Patriot wave steadily pushed its way up the mountain. Ferguson died attempting to rally his men on horseback; ultimately, his entire surviving force surrendered.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 53,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.