Route of South Carolina Militia and Lincoln County Militia

By Randell Jones, www.danielboonefootsteps.com, in collaboration with Bill Anderson , www.elehistory.com. Randell wrote and created this online presentation. Bill created separate documentation with citations and references. John Robertson subsequently provided his own documentation at http://gaz.jrshelby.com/ovnht2/ovt-cowpens-joinup.htm. All three together offer the best account to date of this history.

This is the story of how South Carolina militia and Lincoln County Militia arrived at what became the Battle of Kings Mountain. Read the "Introduction" below and then click on the first location (or chapter), "A Crisis of Leadership," to begin. After you click on the first location, the Tour Navigation bar will appear at the bottom of every screen. Just click on "Next" to proceed. The tour includes 15 chapters (i.e., "locations").

Introduction
Through the summer of 1780 during the American Revolution, British General Charles, Earl Cornwallis was marching north through the center of South Carolina with Major Patrick Ferguson protecting his left flank. After the disastrous Battle of Camden on August 16, no Whig army stood in the way of his plan to march north into Virginia and attack General George Washington’s Continental Army from the south with a growing army of loyalist Americans.

As Cornwallis moved up the Catawba River valley approaching and intending to invade Charlottetown in late September, small bands of outnumbered patriot militia were withdrawing northward in the face of this advance of a massive British Legion. They were seeking to regroup, to join forces with other militia and with remnants of the Continental Army. Within the month, some of these militiamen from South Carolina and Lincoln County would fight alongside Virginians, Georgians, and other North Carolinians at the consequential Battle of Kings Mountain.

It is the involvement of these two specific groups that is most often skimmed over in the telling of the story of this battle which Thomas Jefferson later called the “turning of the tide” in the fight for American Independence. Indeed, the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail originated primarily through the efforts of people in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia to honor that part of the story, the heroic march and campaign of the backcountry militiamen over the Appalachian Mountains and up the Yadkin River. That was a brave and courageous act most certainly; but, the courage and sacrifice of the other militiamen gathering for the battle are no less worthy of remembering and honoring. This telling of their story and how they arrived at the Battle of Kings Mountain adds to the story that is already told and interpreted along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, even though these locations are not part of that national historic trail.

The story of all the groups coming together in the pursuit of British Major Patrick Ferguson and much more are included in "Before They Were Heroes at King's Mountain" by Randell Jones. That award-winning book is available at www.danielboonefootsteps.com and at many Eastern National book stores at NPS sites. Also available by this author is “A Guide to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.”

PLEASE NOTE: None of the sites presented in this Tour of the "Route of the South Carolina Militia and Lincoln County Militia" are included in the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. That national historic trail was designated by Congress in 1980 and includes specific sites enumerated in the legislation. This Tour is presented to supplement the story told along the OVNHT with related information pertaining to this episode in American history which became the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Locations for Tour

1 A Crisis of Leadership

After the capture of Charlestown in May 1780 and during the initial advance of the British Legion into South Carolina, the top leaders of the South Carolina backcountry militia, Brig. General Andrew Williamson and his likely successor, Col. Andrew…

2 Bigger's Ferry

During September 1780, South Carolina militiamen mustering under Colonel Thomas Sumter were gathered on the east side of the Catawba River at Bigger’s Ferry as British General Lord Cornwallis was marching north toward Charlotte Town. This was…

3 Tuckaseegee Ford
(also Togaseegee)

On September 26, Colonel Sumter and the South Carolina militiamen reached Tuckaseegee Ford just 10 miles northwest of Charlotte Town where patriot Major William R. Davie and Major George Hanger of the British Legion were then engaged in the Battle of…

4 Historic Latta Plantation

As colonels Sumter, Hill. Lacey and Graham marched toward Beattie’s Ford, they would have passed through the landscape similar to that of today’s Historic Latta Plantation, a circa 1800 cotton plantation (www.lattaplantation.org), and the nature…

5 Historic Rural Hill

These patriot militiamen under Sumter and Graham riding north toward Beattie’s Ford probably passed well to the east of the home of John Davidson at Rural Hill (www.ruralhill.net). John Davidson (1735-1832), came to the Carolina backcountry from…

6 Cowan's Ford

Because Beattie’s Ford lies beneath the waters of Lake Norman today, as do other fords noted in historic records, Cowan’s Ford serves as an accessible proxy for Beattie’s Ford today and the easiest means to cross from the east to the west side…

7 Beattie's Ford

After riding north all day September 27, 1780, from Tusckaseegee Ford, the patriot militiamen under colonels Thomas Sumter and William Graham reached Beattie’s Ford (also Baty, Beatty, and Beatie). There they received a reply to their earlier…

8 Williams at Sherrill's Ford

Near month’s end, Colonel James Williams was marching westward with his band of recent recruits, estimated at about 70. Among them were many experienced militiamen who had escaped from Georgia and South Carolina, but also many North Carolinians…

9 Huggins Plantation

In June 1780, patriot Colonel James Williams, escaping from the advance of the British Legion into the Ninety Six District, served for a while as an officer under Thomas Sumter. After a few weeks, he asked to separate from Sumter’s command and to…

10 Burke County - Near Valdese

While Colonel Sumter and his delegation headed east to Hillsborough to see Governor Rutledge about resolving the dispute over command, the three militia groups (Sumter, Williams, and Graham) departed Sherrill’s Ford. From Sherrill’s they marched…

11 Flint Hills

Probably on the morning of October 5 and perhaps while Colonel Williams was away conferring with Campbell and the other colonels near Gilbert Town, the other officers at the Flint Hills encampment received a visitor. According to Hill’s account,…

12 The Ford at Green River
(The Midnight Ride of Edward Lacey)

At this point in the disagreement between colonels William Hill and James Williams, Hill went to Colonel Edward Lacey and implored him to ride into the night to warn the Overmountain militia that Ferguson was headed east toward Charlottetown and not…

13 To The Cowpens by the Island Ford

At the Flint Hills encampment on the morning of October 6, Colonel Williams continued to order the militiamen to prepare for a march toward Ninety-Six and a rendezvous with the Campbell, Shelby, and Cleveland at Lawson’s Fork. As he did so, Colonel…

14 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…

15 Saving Colonel Williams

“The first casualty when war comes is truth.” – Senator Hiram Johnson, 1918 “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” – Mark Twain "The only thing more uncertain than the future is…