Cherokee Ford


During the morning of October 7, 1780, the 900 mounted patriot militiamen who had left The Cowpens late at night, arrived at the Broad River. Believing that Ferguson might well have set an ambush for them across the river, they rode downstream to the Cherokee Ford. Scout Enoch Gilmer, one of Major Chronicle's South Fork Boys, crossed first and alone so he could fashion some ruse to explain away his presence should he encounter any loyalist. When he returned to the east bank of the river singing a jolly tune, "Barney O'Lynn." that was the signal it was safe for the others to cross. Although the current was strong from the recent rains, all the men made it across safely .

After the men crossed and rode on for a while, some of the officers conferred from their saddles about the need to stop and rest. Some of the men had not eaten since the day before and the horses were tired. Colonel Isaac Shelby, age 29, rode up to hear what they were discussing and then erupted, "I will not stop until night if I have to follow Ferguson into Cornwallis' lines." No other officer protested and the men rode on.

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Broad River at the Cherokee Ford

Photo by Randell Jones

About mid-day on October 7, 1780, the mounted backcountry patriot militiamen crossed the rising Broad River at the Cherokee Ford before continuing on to what became the Battle of Kings Mountain. [View Additional File Details]

Excerpts from "Before They Were Heroes at Kings Mountain" by Randell Jones

pp 440-441 The men reached the river early in the day; the rain continued falling. They had covered 18 miles in their overnight ride. They were still 15 miles shy of King's Mountain, though at the time, they lacked confirmation that Ferguson was there. As they awaited a report from Gilmer, they sat in their saddles continuing to shelter their rifles and their powder. Soon enough they heard a familiar voice from the other side of the river, carrying a tune as best he could singing verses quite loudly to Barney O'Linn, a popular song of the day. That was the signal that all was clear. The men began to ford the river, those with the largest horses crossing first and taking position on the upstream side to stem the flow somewhat so the others could pass through the river. Although the river was rising from the recent rain, all the men made it across, apparently without incident and without a single one taking a ducking. Once across the river, the men rode on at a quickened pace though they and their horses were showing signs of fatigue. Some of the men had not eaten since Green River having failed to refresh themselves at the Cowpens. Meanwhile Gilmer set off at a gallop to scout ahead hoping to discover Ferguson's encampment. Copyright 2011, Randell Jones Available at [View Additional File Details]

Cite this Page

Randell Jones, A Guide to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, “Cherokee Ford,” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, accessed May 5, 2021, http:/​/​bythewaywebf.​webfactional.​com/​omvt/​items/​show/​12.​
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