King's Mountain

The success of the Americans at King's Mountain,* over the forces of Ferguson and Depuyster, has been the subject of numerous ballads. The one subjoined was written a short time after the action, and published on a small sheet, the following year.


'TWAS on a pleasant mountain
The Tory heathens lay;
With a doughty major at their head,
One Ferguson they say.

Cornwallis had detach'd him,
A thieving for to go,
And catch the Carolina men,
Or bring the rebels low.

The scamp had rang'd the country
In search of royal aid,
And with his owls, perchèd on high,
He taught them all his trade.

But ah ! that fatal morning,
When Shelby brave drew near !
'Tis certainly a warning
That ministers should hear.

And Campbell, and Cleveland,
And Colonel Sevier,
Each with a band of gallant men,
To Ferguson appear.

Just as the sun was setting
Behind the western hills,
Just then our trusty rifles sent
A dose of leaden pills.

Up, up the steep together
Brave Williams led his troop,
And join'd by Winston, bold and true,
Disturb'd the Tory coop.

The royal slaves, the royal owls,
Flew high on every hand;
But soon they settled - gave a howl,
And quarter'd to Cleveland.

I would not tell the number
Of Tories slain that day,
But surely it is certain
That none did run away.

For all that were a living,
Were happy to give up;
So let us make thanksgiving,
And pass the bright tin-cup.

To all the brave regiments,
Let's toast 'em for their health,
And may our good country
Have quietude and wealth.

*King's Mountain is situated near the Cherokee Ford, in the northern part of South Carolina. The battle ground is about one mile and a half south of the South Carolina line.

**Battle of King's Mountain. The following brilliant account of this action is taken from the oration of the Hon. J. T. Preston, delivered at the battle ground, on the 4th of October, 1855. The battle was fought on the 7th of October, 1780. "At twelve o'clock, the sky cleared,"when the patriot army found themselves within three miles of Ferguson's camp, on King's Mountain. They halted, under an order passed rapidly along the line - an order, perhaps, the most laconic and appropriate ever given under the like circumstances. It was in those words:

" 'Tie up overcoats, pick touch-holes, fresh prime, and be ready to fight.' "

"The officers here determined to divide their force, and to surround the mountain. At this moment, an express from Ferguson to Cornwallis was arrested, his despatches opened, and read aloud at the head of the line. In them, he said, 'I hold a position on the King's Mountain that all the rebels out of hell cannot drive me from.' There was no shout or disorder when this was read; but a quiet grim smile passed along the line as they struck into a double gallop. In twenty minutes, they were in sight of the British camp. They drew up along the bank of that little brook; they dismounted and tied their horses to the limbs of the trees, leaving them in charge of a small guard.

The order of attack was hurriedly made, but with a military skill and discretion that could not be excelled. There was not an error or mistake, or even a miscalculation of marching time from the outset to the end. Each column advanced rapidly along the indicated line, all the lines tending to a common centre, which was the British encampment at the summit of the ridge. There began a scattering fire, for eight or ten minutes, on the centre column of the Americans. The patriots moved steadily until Sevier's column, on the right, passed out of the valley in full sight of the enemy. The fire then began in earnest on both sides. The mountaineers proved their skill with most deadly effect, forcing Ferguson, at the very beginning, to resort to a direct charge. This charge was headed by a company of British regulars, and was worthy the high name and fame of that service. It was boldly and gallantly done, and forced the patriots to give back down the hill; but at that moment Cleaveland and Williams appeared on the left, and poured into the charging columns such an awful fire as to stop them before Sevier was routed.

The British turned from charging on Sevier, and wheeling, made a terrible dash at Cleaveland and Williams on the left, and with like effect, driving them back down the ridge. Sevier, however, rallied instantly, and at the same time Shelby and Campbell appeared with the centre column, rising in front along the ridge. These two columns, the centre and left, then poured their fire on both flanks of the British, and stopped the charge against Cleaveland and Williams. Wheeling rapidly and receiving reinforcements from within the lines, the British then made a third charge directly against the centre column, and that irresistible British bayonet again told its story, and Campbell and Shelby were forced back, down nearly to the valley. But Cleaveland and Williams having rallied their columns, and Sevier's continuing to pour its fire in from the left, the British were forced to leave the pursuit of Campbell and Shelby, turned suddenly, and themselves retreated up the ridge. Shelby and Campbell, hearing this tremendous fire on both flanks, finding the British were retreating, supposed they were defeated, rallied instantly, and turned in pursuit of them with hurrahs of victory. The British turned immediately, and attempted a fourth charge. It, however, was then too late - the blood of the mountaineers was hot; they met and repulsed that charge, and drove the British back within their lines. This enabled the three columns of the patriots to meet, and literally surround the army of Ferguson. Then came the fierce rage of the battle; a circle of fire hemmed the wolf in his stronghold. The English soldiers proved their breeding in this hour of danger and despair. The regulars with their bayonets, and the Tories with their butcher-knives fastened to the muzzles of their guns, charged on this closing flame with the fierce energy of despair. In vain ! The mountain hunters, calmly but rapidly loading, and deliberately aiming, each at his mark, sent a death messenger in every bullet. At every discharge, they advanced a few steps, until there was one narrowing circle of flashing flame crackling around their devoted victims. At this moment, the British cavalry were ordered to mount. The order was heard by the Americans. It was the very thing for their rifles, giving a clear mark above the bushes; and as each man threw his leg over his horse, he fell dead on the other side.

Ferguson, with a gallantry that seemed to rise with his desperate condition, rode from rank to rank, and from post to post, encouraging, cheering, and driving his men. At length, he found his army pressed, and actually huddled together near the summit of the mountain and falling as fast as the Americans could load and shoot. He determined on one more charge, and, taking his position at the head of his cavalry, and with a voice that was heard loud above the roar of battle, summoned his men to 'crush the damned rebels into the earth.' There was a pause for a moment, and one round of the Americans was stopped. Instead of the roar of their rifles, there was heard only the click of the lock - it was the serpent's low warning of coming death. The pause was but for a moment, when Ferguson and Dupoistre, horse and foot, burst like an avalanche down the mountain's side. Before they came within sixty paces of the American line, every rifle was loaded and under deadly aim. Ferguson was in front, and fell at the first discharge, with seven mortal wounds.

The patriots rushed forward to meet the shock as Dupoistre's regulars, with set bayonets and sabres in rest, came crushing down upon them. Not Agincourt nor Cressy, with all their chivalry, ever felt a shock more fearful than that; but had the heavens rained British bayonets, it would not have stopped these patriots. The destinies of America, perhaps of mankind, depended on their muscle. Like martyrs, they went to the death - like lions they rushed to the carnage. Officer and soldier, with blood-shot eyes and parched tongues, bounded upon the huddling enemy until their fierce glare and hot breath could be seen and felt by the craven Tory and his bull-dog master; and at the moment they were crouching together for the last spring, a wild, terror-stricken shriek rose above the battle - a yell for quarter. A white flag was ran up, arms thrown down, and God's champions shouted, 'Victory ! Liberty !' That shout echoed from the mountain to the sea, and far along the shore to where the majestic Washington sat almost weeping over the sad horrors of the South. His great heart leaped with prophetic joy as this beam of hope came borne on the triumphant voice of his beloved and trusted men of 'West Augusta;' for the men who sent that shout were the very men of whom Washington said he would 'trust to them to maintain American liberty after all else had failed.' He knew the mountain was the birthplace, but never the grave, of liberty. One hour sufficed for this crowning scene in the swelling drama of our Revolutionary struggle, acted by rude men from beyond 'unknown mountains.' Not one of the enemy escaped. The force of Ferguson amounted to something over eleven hundred men, and of these two hundred and forty were killed, and two hundred wounded - a strange proportion, telling the fatal story of that long small bore rifle. Over seven hundred were taken prisoners, with all their arms, ammunition, and equipments.

It was a total defeat, and a capture of nearly a quarter of Cornwallis army."