Kings Mountain National Military Park

by Bob Hoelscher 22. November 2013 23:45

Visitor Center Display

Less than an hour’s drive from Charlotte, N.C., King Mountain National Military Park tells the story of an early Revolutionary War battle, and the first that I visited. The South Carolina battle site occurred after American patriots were on the run after several losses in 1780. After hearing of these losses, a force of rugged Carolina and Virginia frontiersmen crossed the Appalachians looking for revenge. 

They continued east and met up with groups of patriot militia at both Quaker Meadows and Cowpens, as they headed for Kings Mountain. Here, British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army had taken up seemingly strategic positions at the top of the plateau. 

Arriving here on October 7 under cover of a rainstorm, the assembled patriot forces encircled the mountain and used the trees of the forested slopes to successfully protect themselves from a hail of musket fire as they advanced up the slopes. Soon the loyalists were surrounded and easy to spot against the treeless summit.

When Major Ferguson was mortally wounded in the saddle, his second in command ordered an immediate surrender, and the patriots had won a stunning victory. In just over an hour, British efforts to conquer the South had been dealt a significant blow, which became a major turning point in the war.              

What made this visit to Kings Mountain particularly special was fortuitously meeting a very friendly and interesting fellow traveler, Mike Dryden, an ecological specialist from Knoxville, Tennessee. Not only did we hit it off immediately, but I was soon fascinated to learn that one of Mike’s 18th-century (patriot) forebears had actually fought and lost his life in combat here. Mike’s goal in visiting the park was to see if he could find his relative’s name inscribed in one of the battle monuments on the site.

He seemed genuinely pleased when we did discover the name of 2nd Lieutenant Nathaniel Dryden on not one, but on two of the memorials. So Mike, if you get a chance to read this blog, it was really nice to be able to wander the battlefield at Kings Mountain with a family member of a true American patriot!

Trail leading to the U.S. Monument

Centennial Monument, dedicated in 1880

Name of 2nd Lieutenant Nathaniel Dryden inscribed on the Centennial Monument

Cowpens National Battlefields

by Bob Hoelscher 22. November 2013 23:42

Battle of Cowpens Monument

Cowpens Battlefield is named for the land used by Colonial settlers here to pasture their cattle. The park offers visitors a 1.25-mile Battlefield Trail walking tour, a 3-mile Loop Road for motorized vehicles, and a 2-mile Cowpens Nature Trail.  Also on site is the log Robert Scruggs House, which dates from the early 1800s.         

Major General Nathanael Greene set the Cowpens Battle in motion by splitting his army to send the exceptionally talented General Daniel Morgan to engage the British troops under the command of the hated Banastre Tarleton, renown for his butchery. Although outnumbered, Morgan was able to bolster his forces with a substantial number of local militiamen as well as backwoods veterans of Kings Mountain, whose skill with long rifles gave them a decided advantage.

On January 17, 1781, the assembled patriot troops met the enemy in a pitched battle on the fields of the Cow Pens.  After sharpshooters had halted a British advance and picked off two-third of their officers, a fierce and somewhat confused battle ensued which featured firing at point-blank range and a bayonet charge that left the British staggered. 

In less than an hour, the battle was over and Tarleton’s troops had suffered a crushing defeat, although Tarleton himself was able to escape. Along with Kings Mountain, this second major Southern victory for the patriots in less than four months surely helped pave the way for Cornwallis’ surrender of British forces at Yorktown later in the year.

Trails Through the Battlefield

Explaining the Battle Plan

Robert Scruggs House

Ninety Six National Historic Site

by Bob Hoelscher 22. November 2013 23:37

Battlefield Artifacts

Having spent last winter and early spring based in Greenville, South Carolina, I took advantage of the opportunity to re-visit all of the state’s National Park Service units, including the sites of three important Revolutionary War battles.

One of my favorite off-the-beaten path parks is Ninety Six National Historic Site. The beautiful site features a one-mile loop trail through pristine woods, past historic Colonial-era roadbeds, and along siege trenches that remain from the loyalist Star Fort. 

I also enjoyed the original Ninety Six town site, which reconstructs the 1781 Stockade Fort. The historic Logan Log House, however, is an authentic remnant of the 1700s.

Ninety Six provides an interesting example of siege warfare. The British had constructed a Star Fort and nearby stockade to heavily reinforce their position. When General Nathanael Greene arrived here with his army on May 28, 1781, it was quickly determined that a direct attack on the fort would be doomed to failure.

The only remaining strategy was to attempt to starve out their adversaries. With the assistance of the famed Polish military engineer, Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Continentals began building an extensive series of zigzag and parallel trenches to get in musket range of the fort. Forced into action by British troops coming to intervene, Greene had his men assault the fort on June 18.

Although the stockade was taken by the patriots, they were unsuccessful in breaching the Star Fort’s massive earthen walls. Consequently, Greene withdrew his troops from the area on July 20.  However, the aborted siege effort had at least served to weaken the rural stronghold enough the British retreated to a position closer to the coast.

Original Townsite of Ninety Six

Reconstruction of 1781 Stockade Fort

Bob tries out the stocks

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