on-line book icon

table of contents

National Military Park
NPS logo

United States Monument
The United States Monument, erected 1909.

THE BATTLE OF KINGS MOUNTAIN on October 7, 1780, was an overwhelming blow struck by American patriots against British forces engaged in the relentless Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. The military importance of this sharp engagement was described in strong and realistic terms by Sir Henry Clinton, then commander in chief of the British forces in North America. He spoke of the battle as "an Event which was immediately productive of the worst Consequences to the King's affairs in South Carolina, and unhappily proved the first Link of a Chain of Evils that followed each other in regular Succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America."

Kings Mountain was a surprising action that halted the triumphant northward movement of Lord Cornwallis, British commander in the South, who had undertaken to subdue that section in a final effort to end the Revolution. Though far removed from the main course of the Revolution, the hardy southern Appalachian frontiersmen rose quickly to their own defense at Kings Mountain and brought unexpected defeat to Cornwallis' Tory invaders under Maj. Patrick Ferguson. With this great patriot victory came an immediate turn of events in the war in the South. Cornwallis abandoned his foothold in North Carolina and withdrew to a defensive position in upper South Carolina to await reinforcement. His northward march was thus delayed until January 1781, giving patriot forces an opportunity to organize a new offensive in the South. After Kings Mountain there also came a sharp upturn of patriot spirit in the Southern Piedmont which completely unnerved the Tory organization in the region. This renewed patriot resistance led eventually to the American victory at Yorktown in 1781. The engagement at Kings Mountain was not only a memorable example of the individual valor of the American frontier fighter, but also of the deadly effectiveness of his hunting rifle.

Sir Henry Clinton
Sir Henry Clinton, commander in chief of British Forces in America during the Southern Campaign.
Courtesy New York Historical Society.

The War in the South Begins

At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 the struggle between the American patriots and British forces was fought mainly in the New England and Middle Atlantic colonies. The driving of the royal governors from North and South Carolina soon revealed to the British the importance of holding the southern provinces. Early in 1776 the British War Office sent a combined military and naval expedition to the coast of the Carolinas in an effort to restore the King's authority. Hopes of gaining a foothold in North Carolina were quickly shattered. Patriot militia decisively defeated loyalists of the Cape Fear area on February 27, at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. Sir Henry Clinton, who had landed a small force near Wilmington, withdrew from the State. Clinton, and the British fleet under Sir Peter Parker, then undertook the conquest of Charleston, S. C. The successful defense of Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, closed with the brilliant American victory of June 28. Thoroughly discouraged, the British expedition left the South and the first attempt to conquer it ended in failure.


top of page

History  |   Links to the Past  |   National Park Service  |   Search  |   Contact

Last Modified: Mon, Dec 2 2002 10:00:00 am PDT

ParkNet Home