Colonel James Williams


Colonel James Williams arrived at The Cowpens in command of the South Carolina militiamen and the men he had recruited in North Carolina. Despite Hill’s assertions otherwise, Williams participated fully in the war council of commanders. From this point, the story follows along the narrative provided at The Cowpens, Cherokee Ford, and Kings Mountain National Military Park in the "Online Tour of the OVNHT," another presentation under "Tours" in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

Williams was a valiant patriot. He had a long career of service during the Revolution and was one of the three commanders at the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill. His patriotism cannot be impugned. He lost his life at the Battle of Kings Mountain; and, he lost more. During the fall of 1781, a year after their father’s death, his two sons, Daniel and Joseph, were hanged by Bloody Bill Cunningham, a loyalist. The boys were 18 and 14.

The memoirs of William Hill have received more readership than was ever intended by those who reviewed the manuscript and tried to keep it out of print. His account has biased the historical record against a great patriot, the highest ranking officer to die at the Battle of Kings Mountain. Williams did not survive the war to tell his own account, but he probably would not have imagined how maligned his legacy would be.

It is worth noting that William Hill was not actually in the battle at Kings Mountain, again because of a wound received earlier in another battle at Hanging Rock. Billy Hill was a brave patriot, too. His iron works were burned by loyalist Captain Christian Huck and he suffered much loss during the war. He wrote his memoirs late in his life. He was perhaps less in command of his faculties then than ever before. Perhaps his emotions got the better of him and he might have become jealous and perhaps bitter. It is no small consideration that after the war, having fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain became a significant accolade and badge of honor among veterans of the Revolution. One might wonder to what extent this circumstance and his own sense of having lost a chance at being recognized for participating in this great victory played in Hill’s recounting of events as he did involving Colonel James Williams.

[The grave of patriot Colonel James WIlliams in Gaffney, SC, is a certified site on the OVNHT.]

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Randell Jones (, “Colonel James Williams,” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, accessed February 28, 2020, http:/​/​bythewaywebf.​webfactional.​com/​omvt/​items/​show/​74.​
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