British Colonel Patrick Ferguson
Southern Campaign: 1780
On May 22, 1780, Lt. General Henry Clinton appointed Major Ferguson Inspector of Militia in the Southern Provinces. He had the difficult task of raising militia units from the Loyalists of the Carolina Back Country. With the help of Major George Hanger, he raised 4,000 Loyalists from around Ninety-Six. On August 8, he and his men skirmished with Colonel Elijah Clarke and Colonel Isaac Shelby at Cedar Springs. On September 2, 1780, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis ordered Ferguson to move west into the mountains in order to protect his army's left flank as he invaded North Carolina.
On September 7, 1780, Ferguson set up his base of operations at Gilbert Town, North Carolina, but withdrew on the 10th when he moved back south in an effort to intercept Colonel Clarke who was leading a force against Augusta, Georgia. Before he had left on the 10th he had paroled Rebel Samuel Phillips with a message for the nearby Blue Ridge mountain communities telling them to "desist from their opposition to the British arms, and take protection under his standard" or "he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword."
This message enraged the Over Mountain men and the men of the nearby backcountry. These men had mostly sat out of the war, but with their own homes and families threatened, they came to action. On September 20, Ferguson returned to Gilbert Town. The Over Mountain Men gathered at Sycamore Shoals on September 25 and set out after Ferguson the next day. On September 27, Ferguson withdrew south, having learned of the force moving against him. On October 1, he turned east toward Charlotte, North Carolina where General Cornwallis was now located. He did not seem to be overly worried, because he was setting a slow pace, although he did send a letter asking for 300 or 400 reinforcements that "would finish this business."
But a week later, Major Ferguson learned from spies that the Over Mountain Men were closing in and he chose to make his stand at King's Mountain, South Carolina. He sent a letter to General Cornwallis on October 6, informing him of his decision. He chose the higher ground, fortifying the heel of the mountain. The Over Mountain Men arrived the following afternoon and divided into four columns, surrounding the mountain. They made relentless rushes up the mountain, while Ferguson could be heard rallying his men by blowing his Silver Whistle. Finally, when the Rebels were closing in, Ferguson tried to break through the lines and escape, but was felled by a multitude of rifle balls.
2. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution
3. Buchanan, John; The Road to Guilford Courthouse
4. Morrill, Dr. Dan; Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution
Topic Last Updated: 6/11/2002
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