Welcome to week 1 of Field Trip Friday! This week's topic is on the importance of a piece of American history with ties to York County: the Battle of Kings Mountain. You'll learn about key York County sites in this battle and why it's still important today.
Special thanks to the Culture & Heritage Museums and Zach Lemhouse for teaching us today!
You've heard of the American Revolution, one of the biggest and earliest wars in American history, but did you know that one of the most important battles fought during that war happened right here in York County? If you've ever been to Kings Mountain National Military Park, then you've walked the same steps that Patriot soldiers walked nearly 250 years ago! This battle took place on October 7, 1780 and was a vital part of America gaining the independence that you enjoy today.
Back in the day, before we were known as York County, this area was called the New Acquisition District. Each district was required to have their own militia, which is basically a military force made up of civilians rather than a formal army. This group of people were called the New Acquisition Militia, who would go on and fight for our independence from Britain.
Prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, some other important battles took place in South Carolina. In May 1780, Charles Town, now known as Charleston, fell - which was a huge loss for the Patriots. Immediately following the fall of Charles Town was another major loss for the Patriots just 17 days later, known as the Battle of Buford's Massacre. However, the Patriots kept on fighting and moved on through the war. One of the next important battles happened at another York County site that may sound familiar - the Battle of Huck's Defeat, which took place at present day Historic Brattonsville, on July 12, 1780. This battle was important because it was the first time in South Carolina history that the South Carolina militia had defeated British professional soldiers! This battle is often referred to as "the shot in the arm we needed" to be able to move on in the war.
Following the Battle of Huck's Defeat were a series of small wins for the Patriots before another major loss at the Battle of Camden in August 1780. Nevertheless, as with Charles Town, the Patriots persisted. This led them to the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780. Known as "the turning point in the American Revolution," this battle was important for several reasons:
- The Patriots were outnumbered by British Loyalists by nearly 200 men
- This win boosted Patriot morale after the devastating defeat at the Battle of Camden
- It led to the retreat of the British forces - they had planned to invade North Carolina, but were forced to abandon that plan and change tactics
Winning this battle was such a big deal that Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander-in-Chief of all North American British forces, claimed it as "the first link in a chain of evils that resulted in the [British] loss of America." Even Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, chimed in - stating it was the "turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary War with the seal of our independence."
The best part is that the Patriots weren't even expected to win this battle, as the British Loyalists were already at the top of Kings Mountain, which is typically an advantage. However, they ended up losing because the British soldiers were aiming too high, resulting in their shots flying right over the Patriots' heads! One of the men that died here was Major Patrick Ferguson, leader of the Loyalists, whose grave is still at Kings Mountain National Military Park to this day.
The main takeaway of this lesson:
A lot of York County citizens were involved in this war since the very beginning in 1775, not just when Charles Town fell nearly five years later. The involvement of York County citizens in the New Acquisition Militia was key for the Patriots to end up winning the American Revolution.
Ever wondered what everyone involved in this war looked like? Take a look below at these paintings done by Thomas Kelly Pauley, a local artist who lives in York, SC:
Left: General Charles Cornwallis, the Loyalist credited with the Battle of Camden win
Right: Major Patrick Ferguson, the Loyalist whose death gave the Patriots the Battle of Kings Mountain win
Left: Major Horatio Gates, the Patriot who lost the Battle of Camden to Cornwallis
Right: Colonel Isaac Shelby, one of the Patriot leaders at the Battle of Kings Mountain