To visitors today who arrive at the Kings Mountain Visitor’s Center by car, the mountain may seem more like a hill, but for the Revolutionary War soldiers who ascended these slopes from the very bottom, whether on horseback or on foot, the climb was a challenge. They were already exhausted from the march to this remote spot while carrying powder horns, firearms, provisions, and bedrolls.
Today, the entrance to the 1 ½-mile battlefield loop is easily accessible through the Visitor’s Center. It guides you through the wooded terrain — which was denser and darker when Patriot attackers hid from unsuspecting British forces — and allows you to hike to the top of the ridge where the battle occurred. The paved path is now dotted with memorials, but on October 7, 1780 it was the forest floor. That day it was covered with wet leaves after a morning rain, which muffled the soldiers’ footsteps as they made their stealthy approach to the British camp.
The men who fought here at Kings Mountain were all born in the American colonies, with the exception of British commander Major Patrick Ferguson, a Scotsman. Ferguson’s men included Provincials, American Loyalists who were uniformed, paid, and drilled as British Regulars, as well as local militia, who wore their own clothes, were not compensated for their service, and were minimally trained. This army faced their own countrymen — Overmountain Men from what is now East Tennessee and militia units from South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia — in a brutal engagement that lasted just over an hour. Decades later, Thomas Jefferson called the Patriot victory here the “turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary War.”
Historian, author, and radio host Walter Edgar and Doug Bostick, executive director of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, share their favorite stories from the Revolutionary War and challenge common misconceptions about its history. Please note, this story contains graphic references to violence.