By early 1780, the Revolutionary War had been raging for five years. Both American and British forces had won victories and suffered defeats and it appeared the war was not even close to ending. The British decided if they could divide the southern states from the northern states that it would help them defeat the American rebels. They also believed that many colonists in the Carolinas were Loyalists, still faithful to King George III.
On May 12, 1780, the British captured Charleston, South Carolina after a nearly one-month long siege. Controlling Charleston Harbor gave the British an important strategic port, located about 350 miles south of Chesapeake Bay and access to American strongholds.
On July 12, 1780, Patriot Colonel William Bratton led a group of troops against British Loyalists in South Carolina. The Loyalists were set on capturing the Patriots, but the battle that ensured was a decisive Patriot victory and caused many Loyalists in the Carolinas to abandon their loyalty to King George III and embrace the idea of American Independence.
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In late September and early October, 1780, men from the hills and valleys of western North Carolina and parts of present day Tennessee, from southwest Virginia and from parts of South Carolina and Georgia gathered together to form what would be called the Overmountain Men. Their goal was to stop the invading British army. In a two-week period, the backwoods mountain men now militiamen, crossed the Appalachian Mountains and managed to locate a group of British Loyalists under the command of Major Patrick Ferguson.
On this day, October 7, 1780, the Overmountain Men, numbering about 900, surrounded the Loyalists, numbering around 1,000, at a location in the Carolina Piedmont referred to today as King’s Mountain. The battle was fierce but the backwoods militiamen manage to defeat the Loyalists.
One of the issues that helped the Patriot victory is that many of them were armed with rifles instead of the muskets used by the British. The muskets were smooth bored and only had an accuracy to about 100 yards, however it could be reloaded and fired 2-3 times a minute. The rifles had a grooved barrel which gave them an accuracy of 200-300 yards, only it took nearly a minute to reload a rifle. Having longer accuracy, allowed the Patriots pick off the Loyalists at longer distances and out of range of the inaccurate British muskets.
When the Battle of King’s Mountain was over, the British Loyalists suffered 225 killed, 163 wounded and 600 captured. The American casualties were only 28 killed and 68 wounded.
The patriot victory sent a message to British General Charles Cornwallis that there were more Patriots in the south than he anticipated, causing him to abandon his plan to conquer the south and divide it away from the north. As Cornwallis focused more northward, he would soon find himself surrendering to American General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781.
Sources for the above includes: The Overmountain Men and the Battle of Kings Mountain; Battle of King’s Mountain; The Battle of King’s Mountain 1780; Battle of King’s Mountain; The Battle of Kings Mountain; American Revolution: Battle of Kings Mountain; King’s Mountain: Battle Information; Today, May 12, 1780: Continental Army Suffered Greatest Defeat; Today, July 12, 1780: Patriots Defeat British Loyalists at Battle of Huck’s Defeat; Today, September 28, 1781: Battle of Yorktown Starts