It was the morning of Oct. 6, 1780, that Arthur Patterson and his son, Thomas, were captured by advance scouts of British Major Patrick Ferguson. Arthur struggled with his captors and yelled to Thomas to run and don’t come back. James and his brother, William, were nearby but with Ferguson arriving with his 1,100 Torie, rescue was impossible to save their father who was hung.
What made the Scots of North Carolina so anti-British was the Highland Clearances of 1746. British soldiers went into the Highlands of Scotland and forcefully removed more than 240,000 men, women, and children and herded them to British ports, chained them to the ship to break their spirit, and sailed them to North Carolina, named after Charles I, who was beaded by Cromwell. The British hated the Scots so much they would sail from the port and scuttle the ship beyond the horizon to drown all the Scots chained to the ship.
Arthur was named after King Arthur of Camelot, James was named for King James I who had the Bible translated into English, William was named for William Wallace who fought for Scotland’s independence but was betrayed and dissected alive, and Thomas named after Thomas Watt, the inventor of the steam engine. They had pride in being Scot even though born in America as James, my ancestor, James Patterson, was born in Montgomery County, Virginia.
As their horses were taken away by Ferguson’s scouts, it was Joseph Kerr who rode 30 miles to the united militias called for by Isaac Shelby of Sullivan, Tennessee, to battle Ferguson who threatened to lay their lands to flame and sword if they did not lay down their weapons and swear allegiance to the king. Shelby was joined by John Sievers, Campbell, Cleveland, McDowell. Ferguson now became the pursued.
Joseph Kerr rode 30 miles to where Shelby’s militia army was waiting news of Ferguson’s location and Kerr told them he was on King’s Mountain which stands above the surrounding area with steep sides. Ferguson considered it was unclimbable even though only about 60 feet high. He yelled a taunt to Patriots he knew were close and said he would be king of that mountain and no one could drive him from it.
Isaac Shelby knew that being on top, Ferguson’s men would have to expose themselves to fire down on anyone climbing up. The decision was to send 900 men and the strongest horses to ride in night in a heavy October rain. They arrived the next day around noon and hitched their horses some distance away and surrounded this flat outcrop about 600 yards long. At three in the afternoon, the patriots started firing.
Captain Abraham de Peyser was second in command of Ferguson’s Tories and said, “We didn’t know they were there at the top until they started shooting.” He then remarked, “This is serious, these men are yelling and screaming.”
Ferguson took to his horse and covered his red jacket with a checkered shirt and rode up and down the flat top encouraging his men, “That’s it boys, give it to them” and blowing his silver whistle that could be heard above the gunfire.
Ferguson attempted to break the Patriots blocking the trail downward; Ferguson charged and tried to open a breech. He was shot from his horse but his foot was caught in the stirrup. Some say he died as he fell with his horse running and dragging his body around. Tories managed to stop the horse and propped him up against a tree where they say he died.
De Peyser saw it was useless to continue the fight and offered surrender but some Patriots continued firing. The British force of 1,200 men suffered 290 killed, 163 wounded, and 668 captured that were taken to Hillsborough. Patriots (American) force was 904 with 29 killed, 58 wounded. I added the three for James and his brothers as I have copies of his affidavit of his service in the American Revolution and information from the genealogical files of Tennessee. Arthur was added to the official rooster even though he was executed by Ferguson the day before.
President Theodore Roosevelt called it the greatest victory of the Revolution and came at a time after General Gates lost 4,000 men at Camden, New Jersey, and Genera; Lincoln surrendered 5,000 men at Charleston and three signers of the Declaration of Independence were captured.
The most important factor was the breech-loading Ferguson rifle that could be loaded while lying on the ground and shoot three times faster than a musket that required a soldier to stand and load. This played a factor in the next battle at Cowpens where Cornwallis sent Major Tarleton with 2,200 men that had 850 Patriots cornered with a flooded river behind and James and his brothers in the front line with the Ferguson rifle to face a charge by the British Dragoons.
General Morgan planned that strategy perfectly and Cornwallis couldn’t believe how such a small force could beat a superior force that had three 3-pounder cannon. James was in the front line again at Guilford Courthouse that demolished the charge of the British Dragoons and then headed for the woods and the Hessians followed. The Patriots were used to fighting in the woods and Cornwallis looked on and said, ”From the day God made me, I have never seen men fight like devils.”
But the names of men who fought at Kings Mountain are all over Shelby, Coles, Moultrie counties, as well as towns and streets named for the leaders. James and the militiamen were assigned to General Lafayette who admired them so much he had soil from America brought to cover his grave.
Date of the battle: Saturday, Oct. 7, 1789, Weather 22 F, wind 13 knots.
British: Major Patrick Ferguson. Patriots: Isaac Shalby, John Seivers, Cleveland Captain Abraham de Peyser William Campbell, James Johnson, McDowell.