Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Over-the-Mountain-Men and the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7, 1780

The 26 figures I used for my Over-Mountain-Men are by Conquest Miniatures, a mixture of their “American Colonial Rangers A – D” and “Frontiersmen A & B”. They are beautiful ans detailed skulpts, each an individual character, depicting the men from the backwoods. I really enjoyed painting them! I am aware, though, that they really are French and Indian War figures. Never mind.
The Over-Mountain-Men lived in the Backcountry of Carolina and the Appalachian Mountains. They were strong and tough men in doeskins and hunting shirts, approximately nine hundred of them. They had knives in their belts and long huntsmen’s rifles across their saddle horns. They came from beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, at that time the western edge of civilization, far beyond the King’s authority, whose subjects they were by name. They loved their homes and their families, and were ready to defend them. Being used to lives on a savage frontier, they were willing to face risks and hardships in order to fight off an oncoming and tangible threat by the King’s army in the South under Cornwallis.
The left flank of his army consisted of 900 Loyalist Carolina militia and roughly 100 red-uniformed Provincials from New York under the command of British Major Patrick Ferguson. Ferguson had challenged the rebel militia to lay down their arms, or to bear the consequences. This aroused the anger of the militias from South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia and the over mountain men”, who came from the frontier settlements to the west of the Appalachian Mountains. Their communities had a long history of conflict with the British authorities, who attempted to restrict colonist settlement in the areas beyond the mountains occupied by the Cherokee Indians.  Once the American Revolutionary War broke out the ‘over the mountain men’ were natural revolutionaries.
Most of these men were skilled hunters, woodsmen and above all, "riflemen" who routinely killed fast moving animals to feed themselves. They used their small bore rifles made by the German gunsmiths of Pennsylvania with devastating effect on the Tories. Most were veterans of many years of frontier wars with the Indians and were experts on "tree to tree" combat without rules.
The loosely connected groups of Revolutionaries, commanded by Benjamin Cleveland, James Johnston, William Campbell, John Sevier, Joseph McDowell, and Isaac Shelby, rallied for an attack on Ferguson’s party.
When Ferguson received intelligence of the imminent attack, he thought it better to retreat to the safety of Lord Cornwallis’ army. But the Loyalists were not fast enough. Nine hundred Rebels on horseback caught up with them at Kings Mountain, a rocky hill near the border of South Carolina. The Loyalists who had put up camp on the hill top were surrouded and attacked from all sides by the independently operating Rebel units, creeping up the hill and firing from behind rocks and trees.
Ferguson ordered a bayonet-charge against Campbell and Sevier. The riflemen disappeared into the woods, only shortly after to resume their attack with devastating rifle fire. This pattern was repeated several times. The Loyalists suffered heavy losses. While trying to break the rebel line by a counter attack, Ferguson, who was on horseback, was fatally wounded by a rifle shot and died. His troops tried to surrender, but some Patriots gave no quarter until the rebel officers managed to re-establish control over their men. The Rebels are said to have been seeking revenge for British excesses in the Carolinas. Later they put nine Loyalist prisoners to trial and executed them.
The Tories suffered 290 killed, 163 wounded, and 698 captured. The Patriot militia suffered 28 killed and 60 wounded.
The battle which lasted less than one hour, was a turning point in the Southern campaign. The crushing victory of the American patriot militia over the Loyalists raised the Patriots' morale. And with his left wing destroyed, Cornwallis was forced to abandon the invasion of North Carolina and to retreat to the south. It was the "beginning of the end" of British rule in its former colonies.

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