Map showing the settlements visited by the Overmountain Men on their way to Kings Mountain.Today’s episode art shows the areas where the Overmountain Men visited on their way to Kings Mountain.

Transcript of Episode 1

In September, 1780, a ragtag group of backwoodsmen from what is today North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia assembled to begin a journey to defend their homes and belief in liberty. They met their destiny at Kings Mountain and this is their story. The Mitchell County Historical Society presents Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain. Episode One: Trouble Brews in the Back Country.

The Revolutionary War in the American Colonies was just over 5 years old in 1780 and things weren’t going well for the British. After the disastrous British defeat at Saratoga, New York and brought France into the war on the side of the American rebels, the British turned their attention to the south, hoping to take advantage of rumored strong loyalist sentiment there. 

Lord Charles Cornwallis and Major General Henry Clinton attacked Charleston, South Carolina from March to May, 1780, capturing a Patriot army of 5,000 including the entire continental lines from the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. This was one of the worst defeats of the war for the cause of independence. After Charleston’s fall, Clinton returned to New York, leaving Lord Cornwallis to lead what was called the Southern Campaign. Cornwallis turned north through South Carolina seeking Loyalists sympathetic to the British cause and winning battles at the Waxhaws, Camden and Fishing Creek. He then moved into the Charlotte, North Carolina area seeking supporters and fighting a battle to capture the town. While the British won, the Patriot opposition was much stronger than expected. This led Cornwallis to give the Queen City the nickname of a “damned hornet’s nest,” a name later made famous by various sports teams, including today’s NBA Charlotte Hornets. Cornwallis remained in the Charlotte region for several days resting his men.

A young major by the name of Patrick Ferguson was in charge of protecting Cornwallis’ army in the west. He had approximately 1,000 Tories under his command and skirmished with Patriot supporters in South Carolina and other locations. This led him to Gilbert Town, which is present-day Rutherfordton, where he warned the mountain people that if they didn’t cease their rebellion, “he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword.” After this foray to the foothills of North Carolina, Ferguson began leading his and troops back in the direction of Charlotte and Cornwallis.

Ferguson’s actions upset the backwoodsmen and led them to gather at Sycamore Shoals near present-day Elizabethton, Tennessee in late September.  Their leaders vowed to challenge Ferguson and put an end to his threats. Eventually the Overmountain Men, as they came to be called, numbered nearly 1,800 men as they gained support on their march in pursuit of Ferguson.

For the next month or so, we’ll be following these men as they leave Sycamore Shoals and pursue Ferguson’s army, seeking a battle which they get atop Kings Mountain in South Carolina on October 7, 1780. We will visit their leaders and discuss significant dates and events, along with giving you a taste of what life was like in the backwoods of our region. We hope you will join us daily as we begin the journey to what Thomas Jefferson and historians consider to be the turning point of the American Revolution: The Battle of Kings Mountain.

Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain is a production of the Mitchell County Historical Society, a non-profit organization committed to the preservation of the history, heritage, and culture of Mitchell County, North Carolina. Today’s program was written, narrated, and produced by David Biddix. Special thanks to WTOE radio in Spruce Pine, North Carolina (1470 on the AM dial) and WKYK Radio in Burnsville, North Carolina (940 on the AM dial) for airing our program. You can also download episodes through Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Learn more at mitchellnchistory.org/ovm.

The Mitchell County Historical Society offices are located in the Historic Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville. We’d love for you to become a member of our Society! You can learn more about us on the web at mitchellnchistory.org. There, you can also see show notes about today’s episode, links to online resources about the Battle of Kings Mountain and those involved in it, and much more about Mitchell County’s history and heritage. You can also visit us on Facebook. Join us next time as we continue the journey to Patrick Ferguson and the famous battle atop Kings Mountain.

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