Trail of History – The Battle of Kings Mountain

ANNOUNCER: This is a
production of PBS Charlotte. CHRIS REVELS (VOICEOVER):
The British army was known as the best
trained army in the world at that particular time. The southern campaign
is really the ending of the Revolutionary War. Without this battle,
I don’t think that the Revolutionary
War would’ve come out the way that it came out. CHRIS REVELS
(VOICEOVER): Had it not been for this battle,
and the other battles in this particular
part of the country, we may be speaking the
Queen’s English right now. GARY RITTER
(VOICEOVER): The Battle of Kings Mountain dealt
an unexpected blow to British plans. JOHN SLAUGHTER
(VOICEOVER): We like to believe that this
is where this fight, this first real victory, was
where the patriot spirit was kind of solidified in the South. That’s where the importance of
Kings Mountain really comes in. It was kind of the first
of a series of dominoes that set in motion the
collapse of the British empire in America. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
In the next half hour, we’ll explore the significance
of the Battle of Kings Mountain, learn how the
national park protects this historic site,
and meet the people who make the history come alive. ANNOUNCER: The following
episode of “Trail of History” is brought to you by
Central Piedmont Community College and viewers like you. Thank you. ANNOUNCER: Bragg
Financial Advisors. A family owned wealth
management firm providing investment
management and tax and estate planning for families,
individuals, and institutions for more than 50 years. Committed to our clients, to
education, and our community. Hello. I’m Tony Zeiss, president of
Central Piedmont Community College. You know the rich and diverse
history of the Charlotte region is just wonderful. And we at the college want to
bring it to you and share it. We understand the
importance of history. We understand the importance
of learning from the past so that we can do
better in the future. I want to tell you that
you’re in for a real treat. The History Department at
Central Piedmont Community College has partnered with our
television station to bring you this special one-of-a-kind
history program. Stay tuned. I’m sure you’re
going to enjoy it. Hello. I’m Gary Ritter. And welcome to a
“Trail of History.” Valley Forge, Concord and
Lexington, Bunker Hill– these are the names most often
associated with the revolution. Though not as well known,
the southern campaign was crucial to
securing independence. And right here, the
Battle of Kings Mountain was a turning point
that not only provided a tactical advantage but
also helped to boost morale for the patriot cause. Welcome to Bessemer
City High School, home of the Yellowjackets– RICK STUCK (VOICEOVER):
The rights of the citizens. According to what we
studied and John Locke, where do our rights come from? GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
–where you’ll find teacher Rick Stuck shaping young minds. RICK STUCK (VOICEOVER): I
teach pretty much civics and economics. I also teach US history, world
history, psychology, sociology, basic social studies. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
With a laptop on every desk, and the digital projector,
he’s surrounded by the latest in educational technology. RICK STUCK (VOICEOVER): Speech,
press, religion, assemble, and petition. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Sharply attired, Stuck sets an example of professionalism. RICK STUCK
(VOICEOVER): Our school likes us to dress
professionally. So I wear a tie,
often wear a suit. And I tell my kids,
this is the only place that I wear a suit and tie. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
But every chance he gets– The easiest way to
tan a hide is oak. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Stuck trades in his suit and tie for
buckskins and moccasins. I’ve just always had
a enjoyment of history. And in particular, how little
it takes to actually survive. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
So he immerses himself in 18th century life. RICK STUCK (VOICEOVER):
We all are in the militia. About the age of 15 to 55,
one has to join and defend the settlements. So when a militia is called
to an incident, a problem, I load up my wagon with
my medical supplies and I follow the militia unit. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER): And
as you might have guessed, Stuck takes on a
whole new persona. Being the doctor,
right, I do everything. There’s no specializing
like there might be a couple hundred years. I pull the teeth. I do the surgeries. I do the bloodletting. I take care of everything. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
It’s through that persona Stuck goes
from teaching students in the classroom to
teaching visitors at living history events. Events like the
spring encampment at Kings Mountain
National Military Park. Every year, volunteers
painstakingly recreate a Revolutionary War
era militia camp for folks to explore. There’s a spinning
demonstration. Kids learn games. And visitors get to see
and hear the weapons used on this battleground,
October 7, 1780. CHRIS REVELS: The
Battle of Kings Mountain was fought here on
this ridge stop. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
By the fall of 1780, the American
Revolutionary War was in its fifth year, when British
major Patrick Ferguson made a fateful decision. CHRIS REVELS: Ferguson chose
this spot primarily because of its water source. And the fact that there was
a colonial road bed that came right through this area. It made easy access
for his troops. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
But in order to understand the Battle
of Kings Mountain, you have to understand
what led up to it– the southern campaign of
the American Revolution. The Southern Campaign
is really the ending of the Revolutionary War. When we go out and we look
at the Southern Campaign– all kinds of stuff
had happened in North. We have Saratoga. The French go out and join. There’s all kinds of
very interesting things that are happening. But in 1779, the British
decide that they’re going to use a Southern strategy. They believe very strongly
that people in the South will flock to the banners
of King and country. They’ll go out and get
people from South Carolina, from North Carolina. They’ll march up to Virginia
and they’ll end the war. So they start an invasion. In 1779, they go out
and attack Savannah. They takes Savannah. Then they go out and
they attack Charleston. And when they attack
Charleston, we have a fairly large army there. But they’re sick. And Charleston gets
completely surrounded. And within a very short period
of time, Charleston surrenders. GARY RITTER
(VOICEOVER): Meanwhile, in the northern colonies,
prior to the Southern Campaign, American and British forces
were effectively in a stalemate. But now with Charleston
firmly under British control, General Cornwallis marched
his army across South Carolina toward Charlotte. The British were counting
on Southern loyalists to join them. As part of his plan,
General Cornwallis sent Major Patrick Ferguson
to upstate South Carolina. And his job was to go all
through the upper areas of South Carolina,
Western North Carolina, and go out and gather as many
people to the loyalists cause as he can. And he’s very successful in
going out and doing that. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER): But
Ferguson’s initial success didn’t last long. JOHN SLAUGHTER: But what
they didn’t reckon on was the spirit–
the patriot spirit– that was building
in the back country, and this disdain for what was
happening with the British. He sent forth a message,
a warning if you will, to those patriots and militia
men that were on the frontier really in Tennessee and
North Carolina and Virginia. CHRIS REVELS (VOICEOVER):
Then Ferguson had sent a threat
over the mountains that he would come
across the mountains and hang their
leaders and lay waste to their country
with fire and sword. Well, the likes of Isaac
Shelby and Colonel Campbell and the other patriot
commanders from the upper parts of North Carolina, and what
is now Tennessee and Virginia, and then in this
particular area, they just didn’t
take lightly to that. MAKE BAXTER: And the
over mountain men, as they’re called when we
talk about the Battle of Kings Mountain, are these people
that had legally moved to other side of the mountains. They’re going out and they’re
trying to live a life away from the rest of
civilization, but are not really excited about being
part of the British empire any longer. Many of them are Scotch. Some of them are Germans. They’re living their
life off on their own. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Ferguson’s threats backfired, and served as a
rallying cry for the militias over the mountains. In late September,
the over the mountain men, as they were called,
started pursuing Ferguson. Some trekked more
than 300 miles. They were joined along the
way by other militias– such as the South Fork
boys from Lincoln County, plus men from Mecklenburg
County in North Carolina, and York County in
South Carolina– bringing the combined
patriot force to over 1,000. All with one goal in
mind– to hunt down Ferguson and his army. In the high stakes of
war, patriot commanders recognized the importance
of good intelligence. In steps 18-year-old
patriot spy, Joseph Kerr. MAKE BAXTER: He goes
to Ferguson’s camp. He tells Ferguson that
he is very afraid, he’s been threatened by the
patriots, he’s a loyal Tory, he’s a loyalist, he wants to go
out and help King and country. And he wants to know
were Ferguson’s going so he can follow along
so he would be safe. One of Ferguson’s men tells
him that they are heading back to Charlotte along the road. And they will be going just
north of Kings Mountain. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Remnants of the colonial road used by Ferguson’s
army still exist today inside King’s Mountain
National Military Park. While the patriots were
familiar with the road, they didn’t know where
Ferguson would camp next and needed more intelligence. Two men, Enoch Gilmer and
Major William Chronicle, set out to gather information. MAKE BAXTER: Enoch Gilmer
goes to a family’s house that is right along the road. And he finds out that there are
two young ladies that had just delivered chickens
over to the army that’s up on top of this hill. And these two young ladies
tell Gilmer exactly where Patrick Ferguson is. They tell him what
Ferguson’s wearing. They go out and tell
them all the information that he really needs to
know about this location. CHRIS REVELS
(VOICEOVER): And they had been pursuing Ferguson
for almost two weeks and had covered quite
a bit of ground. But this is where they
finally caught him, here on Kings Mountain. This particular ridge,
people and historians question why Ferguson
chose this spot. I don’t think he really intended
on fighting a battle here. I think he was
just awaiting word from Cornwallis who
was in Charlotte at the time of this battle. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
But for whatever reason, it’s here the combined
patriots’ militias attacked Ferguson’s camp. On October 7, 1780 patriot
forces devised a simple plan. There is a plan
that just basically is, let’s go run up the hill. Let’s go out and surround it. Let’s go run up the hill. We’re going to
fight Indian style. Each man is supposed to
be his own commander. Each individual grouping you
go out and do your own thing. You just get up the
hill as best you can. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER): As
the patriots made their move, British commander
Patrick Ferguson waited on this ridge
certain he and his men had nothing to fear. Patrick Ferguson thinks
of them very poorly. He believes that if he gets
on top of this little hill, and he goes out and is
able to go out and do a couple of bayonet
charges, that they will just go off into the woods. Because that’s what
always happened with the local militia. The local militia can’t really
stand up to British soldiers. However, this particular
battle was quite a bit different than most
Revolutionary War battles in that this was a British
commander overseeing a lawless force who had been
trained in the use of the Brown Bess musket and the bayonet. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
The patriot militia came armed with long rifles,
which were slower to load but far more accurate
than the British muskets. The patriots also had
another tactical advantage, the terrain itself. CHRIS REVELS: Because the
patriot forces caught up with Ferguson here
at Kings Mountain, this topography
and this ridge top played significantly into the
outcome of the Battle of Kings Mountain. JOHN SLAUGHTER: The
tactics that were employed, that Shelby and some of the
other leaders employed here at Kings Mountain as they
came up the mountain, were to hide behind trees
and hide behind rocks. Whereas the British,
they fought in formation. CHRIS REVELS: You see
the rock outcropping all around the battlefield
on this particular side. It offered cover for
the patriot forces who were ascending the hill. You had trees that were somewhat
larger than the trees we have now that offered them cover. And the patriot forces weren’t
fighting in linear tactics. Where I’m standing now, I’m
looking straight on at the side of this mountain. You can imagine, as
narrow as this ridge is, the loyalist forces on top
of this ridge we’re being silhouetted against the sky. So they were easy targets. And they were literally
caught in a crossfire between the patriot
forces on this side of the ridge versus
the patriot forces on that side of the ridge. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
The fighting lasted just over an hour. Patriot forces killed nearly
300 loyalists, wounded over 150, and over 600 were
taken prisoner. Patriot marksmen shot
major Patrick Ferguson from his horse. And the 36-year-old Scotsman
died from his wounds. He’s buried here
at Kings Mountain. CHRIS REVELS: There at the
site of Ferguson’s grave is a traditional
Scottish cairn and a lot of the lore from childhood
days is you gather a rock when you walked around
the trail, and then you placed a rock
on Ferguson’s grave to keep Ferguson’s spirit in. When, in fact, when you place
a rock on a Scottish Cairn it’s actually honoring
that individual. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
The patriots fared much better, with less
than 100 killed or wounded. MAKE BAXTER: The
Americans, who’d been looking for a
victory, gain a victory. It’s not only a victory
where they kind of win a small skirmish– they’d
won a few of those– but they capture an entire
army, a whole group of– they capture– between killed
and captured, 1,100 men. This is a large force. They kill a hated commander. They are really
proud of themselves. They have done
something really great. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Some historians consider the patriot
victory at Kings Mountain a turning point in
the Revolutionary War. After this battle,
the whole concept of being a loyalist, of
fighting for king and country, virtually evaporates. JOHN SLAUGHTER:
We like to believe that this is where– this
fight, this first real victory was where patriot– the patriot
spirit was kind of solidified in the South, and really
created this movement that led to other successful
battles– the Cowpens, and even though at
Guilford Courthouse it wasn’t necessarily
a win for the patriots but it was a huge moral
loss for the British, and ultimately
victory at Yorktown. That’s where the importance of
Kings Mountain really comes in. It was kind of the first
of a series of dominoes that set in motion the
collapse of the British empire in America. CHRIS REVELS (VOICEOVER): I grew
up about 12 miles from here, and had always been
an outdoorsman. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Chief Ranger Chris Revels knows Kings Mountain National
Military Park better than most. CHRIS REVELS (VOICEOVER):
I’ve been here since 1980. My role here as Chief Ranger
and designated site manager is to make sure
all operations are done with the intent of
the park mission in mind– to preserve and protect
this resource, primarily the battlefield area
and the buffer area that exist for the battlefield. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
From law enforcement and daily park
operations to maintenance of the trails and facilities
Revels oversees everything. All these activities
are focusing on the actual preservation
of the resource and protection of the resource. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
With nearly 4,000 acres, it’s a large
resource to protect. Over the years, the Park Service
hasn’t been the only caretaker. In the years since the battle,
different community groups have worked to ensure
that what occurred here will not be forgotten. The Chronicle
Marker, dated 1815, commemorates the spot patriot
Major William Chronicle died. According to the
Park Service, it’s the second oldest Revolutionary
War monument in the country. Visitors pass the Kings
Mountain Centennial Monument placed at the top of
the mountain in 1880 to commemorate the 100-year
anniversary of the battle. In 1909, the federal government
built the United States monument. At more than 80 feet
tall, the obelisk recognizes the
bravery and sacrifices of those who fought here. Down a side trail,
this small monument marks the spot where President
Herbert Hoover addressed an estimated 70,000
people who gathered here to commemorate the
150-year anniversary of the battle in 1930. Since the 1800s, one of
the strongest partners in the efforts to
protect the battlefield has been the Daughters of the
American Revolution, or DAR. By 1900, local chapters
of the Daughters of the American Revolution
acquired the land that encompasses the battlefield. In 1931, the group
donated the land to the federal government,
which established Kings Mountain National Military Park. The Park Service recognizes
the DAR’s assistance and the DAR recognizes the
importance of the national park system to preserve
these properties, because we could not
do this on our own. We’re small groups. You know, it takes
a lot of people to keep a 4,000 acre
park in good shape. So we cheer them on. We help them out. We donate our time,
money, and energy to draw attention to
the work and to help educate the citizens about the
importance of our history here. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Even to this day, the Daughters of the
American Revolution actively work to
discover and commemorate those who fought here. In 2016, the DAR
placed this marker recognizing the contributions
made by African Americans at the battle. LORETTA COZART: I
hope that it will help, especially
the children see, that were many more people
involved in this battle– it was a much more diverse group
of people that fought here than just Scots-Irish. It represented our nation then,
and it represents our nation now. GARY RITTER
(VOICEOVER): Daughters of the American
Revolution member Loretta Cozart has her own
connection to the battle. As I did the
research, we realize that we did have a connection
here at Kings Mountain. And one of my
ancestors was a doctor for Colonel Isaac Shelby. And that is– that, to
me, means everything that our family
played a role here. And it makes this place
even more special. JOHN SLAUGHTER: The purpose
of Kings Mountain National Military Park is really
to preserve the history and culture associated
with this patriot victory here at Kings Mountain. Really, the first patriot
victory in the South. GARY RITTER
(VOICEOVER): The park fulfills its mission
by offering visitors different ways to
engage with its history. Inside the visitor
center, you learn about the men who fought
here and the weapons used in the battle. Outside, visitors
can follow trails to historical markers
on the battlefield. And on certain
weekends, the park hosts living history
events, including military through the ages held
every Memorial Day weekend. LEAH TABER: We want folks
to be able to see what life is like in camp, what life is
like for American soldiers, and see that people are not
so different from 240 years ago up through the modern day. GARY RITTER
(VOICEOVER): Ron Crawley traveled from Spartanburg,
South Carolina. RON CRAWLEY: It’s
a great opportunity to meet people, to actually talk
to a large number of spectators that come in. We get to show them
our impression, our– what it is we do, what our
military impression is– as well a show equipment,
help them understand the life of a soldier better. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
Under the watchful eye of park rangers,
the big highlight of the day– the
weapons demonstration. The crowd watches
everything from a musket to a grenade launcher. Then the big finale. But it’s not just
the park working to keep the history
of the battle live. In the city of King
Mountain, a theater group performs Bob Inman play,
“Liberty Mountain,” which brings to life the story
of this historic battle. And just 12 miles
from the battleground, in rural York County, you’ll
find artist Thomas Kelly Pauley painting in his home studio. What struck me when I moved to
the upstate of South Carolina was so much Revolutionary
War history is here. GARY RITTER
(VOICEOVER): His love of history started
I blame my father for it, actually. We couldn’t go on
a summer vacation without stopping at some
dead president’s tomb. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
He’s working on a series of portraits
depicting key figures from the battle. THOMAS KELLY PAULEY (VOICEOVER):
It requires mineral spirits and a few toxic agents. But a good line of brushes,
and a lot of time and patience. With all paintings, you go to
dark to light when you work. So you start out with the
darks as a foundation, and you bring it to full color. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER): With
each delicate brush stroke, Pauley builds on that
color foundation, but knows there’s
more to each image just oil paints and canvas. THOMAS KELLY PAULEY: And
I’ve researched and talked to enough people and
the descendents of some of the families that I’ll get
a good reading of these people and allow them to be
brought more to life, and come to life so
people can see them. Kids especially these
days identify and connect with something they
can see and touch. And I think that’s important. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER): One
of only nine parks designated as a national military park, the
battlefield at Kings Mountain shares that designation
with other key battlefields from our history, including
Gettysburg and Vicksburg. JOHN SLAUGHTER: So a
national military park, such as Kings Mountain
National Military Park, tells a story– a larger
story of a military engagement rather than a specific battle. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
More than 230 years after the battle, the
National Park Service has grouped Kings Mountain with
Cowpens National Battlefield, Ninty Six national
historic site, and the Overmountain Victory
national historic trail, all with one shared mission. JOHN SLAUGHTER: This new
idea, with the multiple parks telling the same story or
expounding on the story, has been huge. It’s had an incredible
impact on our ability to educate the public on the
overall theme of the Southern Campaign in the
American Revolution. Most of America–
really, truly most of the world– when you ask them
about the American Revolution and you ask them a
name some of the places in the American Revolution,
they’ll tell you– they’ll come up with Concord
and Lexington right away, and maybe Bunker Hill. And some will come
up with Saratoga, and every once in a
while, Princeton– all battles in the North. Very, very seldom, almost
never, will somebody talk about Kings Mountain,
or talk about Camden, or talk about Cowpens. CHRIS REVELS: This
battle, this story, is part of this
country’s history. It’s part of the
struggle and the strife that our forefathers had
to develop and organize this country. GARY RITTER (VOICEOVER):
It’s an important chapter of our history, the National
Park Service, the Daughters of the American Revolution,
and other individuals hope to preserve for
generations to come. I’m Gary Ritter. Thank you for watching
“Trail of History” right here on PBS Charlotte ANNOUNCER: A production
of PBS Charlotte.

Comments 8

  • Revolution war a Cornwallis officer? Such a disgrace to his family and his people.Ferguson was no hero! He was a traitor to his very own people!

    No self-respecting Scotsman would fight on the "BEHALF" of the very monarchy that enslaved and abused his people for hundreds of years.

    Ferguson was a TRAITOR!

    Thx 4 thu post

  • Well done. Very enjoyable.

  • I can truly appreciate the History Teachers enthusiasm for early American survival but those lava lamps in his classroom speaks volumes about other historical times that I would prefer not be glorified in my child’s studies. That’s about as polite as I can put that!

    The 60’s hippy generation is one of the most embarrassing periods in American history. Kids disrespecting their parents, not working, fucking and smoking dope constantly, spitting on US soldiers, making babies they wouldn’t raise, leaching off of society. Oh man I could go on and on.

    Just like the Battle of Kings Mt was a turning point in the Rev war. The 60’s was a turning point in American Greatness. The destructive mindset of the 1960s still plagues this nation today

  • God save the king!

  • Take that bloody tory boot lickers.

  • It fails to mention the assembly at Sycamore Shoals

  • I'm just watching this cuz I'm bored

  • Those men did not fight and die so the bigotry, racism and rewriting of history for the sake of political correctness can continue to divide and destroy this country. Loretta Cozart is full of crap. People like her will guarantee that the monument will be gone in another 3 or 4 generations. Were there any gay, midget, vegan, albino, Eskimo, transgenders there too? Let's make sure that all those other groups get a plaque too.

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