Sycamore Shoals at Fort Watauga


Responding to the call for a muster, the militiamen from North Carolina's overmountain region and those from southwest Virginia gathered on September 25, 1780 in the flats adjacent to Sycamore Shoals and next to Fort Watauga.

During the muster, local powder maker Mary Patton produced 500 pounds of powder for the militiamen to use on their campaign. (See Grave of Mary Patton for more information.)

Another hero of the muster was Samuel Doak, a Princeton-educated Presbyterian minister who gave a sermon and a prayer to the departing militiamen and with it their battle cry; "The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon."

Today, the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area sits on those flats and interprets through exhibits, videos, and reenactments the historic events that unfolded at that site during the colonial and Revolutionary War eras.

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Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area entrance

Photo by Randell Jones

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area occupies the Sycamore Flats adjacent to the shoals. The visitor center hosts a museum of new displays and interpretation as well as a book store. Walking trails offer visitors the opportunity for historic interpretation and exercise. [View Additional File Details]

Sycamore Shoals replica fort and Overmountain man statue

Photos by Randell Jones

A replica fort offers reenactors the opportunity to interpret for visitors the life skills of the frontier era. The fort becomes part of interpretive reenactments as well as part of the seasonal performances of "Liberty," the Official Outdoor Drama of the State of Tennessee. At the entrance to the visitor center is a bronze statue of an Overmountain militiaman engaged in fighting his way up Kings Mountain. This statue by artist Jon Mark Estep was dedicated September 25, 1999 as a project of the City of Elizabethton Bicentennial Commission. [View Additional File Details]

Mustering of militia

Photo by Randell Jones

Living history reenactors portray the mustering of militia on the flats adjacent to Sycamore Shoals. A replica of Fort Watauga provides the setting. In 1780, the men who mustered for the campaign to pursue British Major Patrick Ferguson ranged in age from their teens to their sixties. They wore their civilian clothing, be they farmers or hunters. They brought their own firearms and provided their own food. The militiamen on this campaign had an range of experience from years of service to first-timers. [View Additional File Details]

Wayside exhibit along walking trail by Sycamore Shoals on Watauga River.

Photo by Randell Jones

A walking trail along the Watauga River offers interpretive waysides to help visitors understand the history of the area. [View Additional File Details]

Excerpts from "Before They Were Heroes at King's Mountain" by Randell Jones

p. 385 The gathering at Sycamore Shoals was not just men preparing for battle. With them came some of their families--wives, children, parents--to see the men off and to prepare for the life of the community after the men had ridden away. . . . The old men encouraged the young ones and listened to the colonels for orders on how to defend the stations during their absence. . . . The sisters, the mothers, the wives, all said their anxious goodbyes, proud for their menfolk. Others brought in produce and supplies, wanting to outfit the expedition from what they could offer--food, clothing, a rifle, a horse--anything that showed their support. Ramsey concluded, "Never did the mountain recess contain within it a loftier or a more enlarged patriotism--never a cooler or more determined courage." Copyright 2011, Randell Jones Available at [View Additional File Details]

Fort Watauga monument

Photo by Randell Jones

A monument dedicated in 1909 commemorates the actual site of Fort Watauga, on higher ground above the flats where the replica Fort Watauga sits today as part of the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area. The fort was also known as Carter's Fort for John Carter, an early settler and the president of the Watauga Association, which in 1772 dared to organize its own government as they were so far removed from the capitals of the eastern colonies. The monument, built of river rock, is on G Street about a mile southwest of the state historic area. [View Additional File Details]

Museum at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area

Photos by Randell Jones

In 2013, Sycamore Shoals SHA opened it new interpretive displays. They include artifacts and examples of tools and weapons and most noticeably prominent wall murals and 3-dimensional interpretations of historic events at the fort. Please visit this museum to learn important facts and perspective on the campaign and Battle of Kings Mountain. [View Additional File Details]

"A Call to Arms" by Richard Luce

Mounted militiamen, arriving from the north, cross the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals to the approval of those who had arrived earlier. At the time of departure for the campaign, about 1,000 men had come. Many had brought along family to help them prepare for the campaign. Many of the men were anxious about leaving their families behind. | Creator: Randell Jones, A Guide to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail [View Additional File Details]

Cite this Page

Randell Jones, A Guide to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, “Sycamore Shoals at Fort Watauga,” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, accessed January 20, 2020, http:/​/​bythewaywebf.​webfactional.​com/​omvt/​items/​show/​20.​
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