on-line book icon

table of contents

National Military Park
NPS logo

The Mountain Men and Where They Lived.

The Gathering of the Mountain Men

At the headwaters of the Watauga, the Holston, and the Nolichucky Rivers, in present-day eastern Tennessee, news of Ferguson's actions was received with growing alarm by the back-country settlers. Their freedom-loving leaders were spurred in their determination to gather a volunteer force with all possible speed for a surprise attack that would destroy the British invader. Meeting at Jonesboro, Shelby and Col. John Sevier, head of the militia in Washington County, N. C., hurriedly adopted a plan for immediate action. They sent forth a final appeal for volunteers, some of whom would remain behind to protect the settlements from the Indians while the main force marched quickly after Ferguson. Additional support was sought urgently from Col. Charles McDowell and Col. Benjamin Cleveland, who commanded other fighting men from the North Carolina border. Pleas for help were also sent to the local militia leaders of adjoining Washington County, Va. After consultation, it was agreed that Col. William Campbell would bring a strong body of Virginia militia. All volunteers were urged to gather by September 25 at Sycamore Shoals, on the banks of the Watauga, near the present site of Elizabethton, Tenn.

On that date over 1,000 of the mountain men assembled at the designated meeting place. In appearance, it was a rough but resourceful looking gathering. Many of the fighters wore hunting shirts of buckskin, breeches and gaiters of tan home-dyed cloth, and wide-brimmed hats covering long hair tied in a queue. Each was equipped with a knapsack, blanket, and long hunting rifle; most were mounted on horses, but some were on foot. With some had come members of their families and friends to see them off on their dangerous mission. Notable among the militia units present was that of Col. William Campbell which numbered 400 men. To reach Sycamore Shoals many of his men had traveled almost as far as they would in the final march to Kings Mountain.

"Gathering of the Mountain Men at Sycamore Shoals."
From a painting by Lloyd Branson. Courtesy Tennessee State Museum, Nashville.

The gathering was made memorable by the inspiring words of the Reverend Samuel Doak, a pioneer Scotch-Irish clergyman of the Watauga settlements. On the eve of their departure, he sought the Lord's blessing upon these brave men. To inspire and prepare them for the hardships they faced, he retold vividly the biblical story of the rise of Gideon's people against Midianites and of the defeat of those oppressors. At the close of his stirring sermon he urged the mountain men to take as their battle cry: "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!"


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