The Tracy Family History
"...they fight one another."
"The turn of the tide of success."-- Thomas Jefferson
Nine months after Waxhaws, a 400-man Tory
unit was looking to join up with Tarleton. None had seen the famous leader
before. Tarleton's Legion always wore green jackets. They found the green
jacketed troops; only they were not Tarleton's, but an American force that just
happened to be wearing the same color.
The American commander decided on a bit of deception. He sent word to line up the Tory soldiers, so, he, pretending to be Tarleton, could review them. With his troops, he rode down the enemy line asking questions, making observations and making compliments. All the while the Tories cheered the famous leader and the king.
The Americans massacred the Tories "…while in the act of begging for mercy." 90 were killed and most of the rest wounded.
Now you know what General Nathanael Greene was talking about. This is the way the war was fought in the South.
After Waxhaws, Tarleton would be called by the Americans: "Bloody Ban;”“Barbarous Ban;”“Ban the Butcher;”or simply "old Ben or Benny." In the battles to come, when the enemy begged for quarter, the Americans would respond, "Tarleton's Quarter!" or "Buford's Quarter!"
To be honest, both sides were about the same.
Tarleton did not care what the rebels thought about him or what epithets they hurled his way, as long as they feared him. Tarleton always had a low opinion of the rebels anyway. (To be honest, Tarleton took quite a few prisoners.)
After Waxhaws, it took the American commanders some time to organize a resistance. What was left in the South were the partisan guerrillas. The Carolinas are cut through and through with an incredible number of rivers coming out of the mountains. These create and even more incredible number of swamps-- natural bases for the guerrillas. From these swamps, the guerrillas would launch surprise attacks upon the British posts, small units, and couriers. The British were forced to send large number of troops just to protect their couriers. The British constantly complained that these guerrillas "…did not fight like gentlemen."
Tarleton chased a partisan known as Marion 26 miles into a swamp; but never did catch him. So he gave up and bestowed upon Marion the name "Swamp Fox."
Tories did join the British army. They fought well, but in the blink of an eye, could change sides. The Southern Tories zeal to fight for a king they had never seen was not as intense as the Patriots zeal to fight for their own freedom. The Patriots had the same problem with desertions. One American commander complained that in battle most of the enemy soldiers he captured were his own men.
It was crazy!
There were small encounters everywhere. These usually involved small bodies of men. There were some small battles, again with not very many men, maybe100-200. There were larger battles too. I will concern myself with just those larger battles, which involved our people. I assume that many of the smaller battles also included our numerous cousins, but which of our people were involved we know little.
In the backcountry were the hard core Patriots. These people were so far removed from civilization that they never had much contact with British authority.
Opposing our people was Cornwallis with his army. Colonel Banastre Tarleton commanded his right wing of Tories. Major Patrick Ferguson held his left wing of Tories. (Ferguson was the officer who refused to shoot George Washington in the back, with his own invention, the repeating rifle. He would not have missed, for Ferguson was the best shot in the entire British army.)
The British system of purchasing officers commissions provided a surprisingly large number of brave and competent officers. Ferguson was not one of them. Brave? Yes, to a fault. Competent? His fellow officers believed Ferguson's theories on how to conduct the war and fight battles to be absolutely bizarre. Cornwallis never trusted the guy.
(Officers commissions sold for100 times the daily rank pay. Tarleton's mother paid 800 pounds for the lowest rank, which was coronet.)
Ferguson wanted to attack the backcountry. Cornwallis was reluctant but let his left wing commander have his way.
In September of 1780, just four months after Waxhaws, Patrick Ferguson issued an order to the "Over Mountain Men." "If they do not desist from their opposition to the British arms, he would march over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword."
Ferguson was threatening the wrong people.
Maj. Ferguson gathered his army of Tories. The Americans would gather their army of Patriots and they would meet at Kings Mountain. Like Tarleton, Ferguson was a commander of Northern Tory soldiers, which he brought with him for the Southern campaigns. On the march to this battle he tried to recruit along the way. The Southern Tories did not flock to his army. Some, many, did come, but never in the hoped for numbers that could win the war. (The Southern Tories that fought for the British were mainly Highland Scots. Why, is a long complicated story that has to do with kings and kings and more kings, into which I will not go.)
Both armies were evenly divided. According to Ferguson's morning report, he had 1,125 men. The Americans had between 900 and 1,000. The battles in the South did not involve big armies.
It was a battle with both sides having almost all Scottish, or Scotch-Irish bloodlines. Again, in some regions of the Carolinas only Gaelic was spoken. In battle after battle, the American Patriots would call out in Gaelic to their enemies to come over to the America side. The only man on either side who was not an American was the British Major Patrick Ferguson. He was not English. He was a Scot.
In addition to the “Over Mountain Men,” there were militias coming to the battle site: Major Joseph McDowell (cousin to Magdelene by marriage.) brought 90 men from the Valley of the Virginia. These were our people. Also, from Virginia came Colonel William Campbell with 200 men, also our people. There were other militias from the Carolinas.
It was the pattern of the Patriot commanders when marching towards battle to stop at each Presbyterian settlement and gather their soldiers for the army of God.
The fighting men, our people, the Presbyterians Scots, would take a chance marching to battle at Kings Mountain as well as the coming battles. Whenever they marched to battle they left their homes and families undefended against the Indians. These were perfect opportunities for the Indians to attack the settlements. The Indians made the Tories at Waxhaws look like Quakers.
Who was to lead them? Our Captain Andrew Wallace, who escaped from Charleston and was one of the six brothers. With eight colonels, the Americans were divided into two quarreling camps. They asked the American commander in the South to send an experienced officer to lead them. General Horatio Gates sent Captain Andrew Wallace, and another officer. The Patriots had a lot of Colonels. However, this was an exaggerated rank, nowhere equal to a Continental Line officer in military ability.
"When the county Lieutenants of the eight county (four in Western Virginia and four in Eastern Tennessee, that overlapped) decided to call up their militia in their counties and avenge the wrongs being done to their kin in the Carolinas, it took them no time at all to realize that an expedition of the size they were contemplating could not be led by eight colonels (the military ranks of a County Lieutenant) and they wrote general Gates a letter asking him to send them a General officer to take command and to instill a little military discipline in the troops, "but not to much" they were careful to state. For reason I do not know, General Gates did not assign one of the detached Generals hanging around headquarters looking for commands but instead sent two detached Captains, one of them being Captain Andrew Wallace, whose command had been surrendered at Charlestown though he escaped. If there were any formal uniforms to be seen at Kings Mountain, they were the two detached Captains. It is doubtful that even they wore uniforms, but the more standard and convenient hunting jackets, everyday wear of the pioneers of the Watagua area (and the rest of the frontier)…I have been told that the reason Andrew Wallace was chosen as one of the two emissaries was that he was related to several of the County Lieutenants by blood."
--Cousin Scott F. Hosier, Jr.
Professionally trained soldiers were highly respected. The Americas respected the British and Hessian soldiers they faced. Even more respected were professional officers. Captain Andrew Wallace had served three years in the Continental Line. I suspect he had considerable combat experience in the major battles of the North.
Historians do not understand why General Gates sent a detached officer, rather than an active duty officer with his army. I have a suspicion it was because Andrew Wallace was related to many of the men who took part in the battle: Good diplomacy.
That is all we hear of Andrew Wallace at this battle. Historians, with their pens, say nothing more of the man. The eminent historian, Lyman C. Draper, did massive research on this battle. He even interviewed and corresponded with a large number of men who took part in this battle. Yet, nothing more is heard of Andrew Wallace who General Gates sent to take command at Kings Mountain. All history tells us is that the 8 militia colonels agreed to give William Campbell command. Campbell has gone down as the victorious leader at Kings Mountain. That is all right, as he is one of our cousins also.
Ferguson thought he had camped his men in an impenetrable spot, atop Kings Mountain. (A man named King lived at the base.) The Americans moved fast, before Cornwallis could join forces with Ferguson. Having no respect for the Rebels, Ferguson delayed for several days notifying Cornwallis as to the impending battle. Military logic would dictate that Ferguson should have retreated with his army to join with Cornwallis. Or, he should have notified Cornwallis earlier, so Cornwallis could come to him.
The Americans had been in the saddle for 34 hours when they reached the mountain on the afternoon of 7 October 1780. Ferguson did not even know the Americans were there. They immediately surrounded the mountain and attacked Indian style. (This was one of the few battles of the war that was fought Indian style.) It had a steep hill, with rocks, and trees. The men fought from behind the trees and rocks. It was up and down the mountain, time and time again. The Tories kept charging down hill with bayonets, then the Americans pushed them back.
In the end, the Americans totally annihilated the British (Tory) army. All were killed, wounded, or captured. Ferguson was killed. His grave is now a tourist spot. Not all of the men who tried to surrender were given quarter. Some were given “Buford's Quarter.” The battle lasted just one hour, but would have a resounding effect in the capitals of the world. The British commander of all forces in American predicted the beginning of a domino effect by losing battle after battle. He knew the war was lost.
Earl Cornwallis had lost his entire left wing! This meant that the left flank of his entire army was open to American attack. The soldiers who served in the flank regiments and flank companies were hand-picked. They were the best soldiers in the army. Their job was to protect the army.
The British lost 157 killed, 163 wounded, and 698 captured. The American losses were light at 28 killed and 64 wounded.
Cornwallis retreated, giving up his plans to invade North Carolina. The Tories enthusiasm for the war would never be the same.
The British diplomats and top military officers had a lot of experience in these matters. They could see the writing on the wall.
The Americans, lacking this same experience, never saw the outcome of the war the same way. For the Americans it was a desperate, day-by-day, attempt just to hang on.
Even after Yorktown, the Americans did not fully realize the war was over. Sure, the Americans had captured a full British army at Yorktown. But they had captured a full British army before, at Saratoga. In addition, the British had captured a full American army at Charleston. As far as the Americans were concerned, the British still had armies in the field.
The story of the battle of Kings Mountain is the story of how our people won the Revolutionary War.
There were two officers both named Joseph McDowell at the battle. To this day, there is controversy as to which was the leader of their militia. Major Joseph McDowell's brother was General Charles McDowell. (All the McDowells were related to Magdelene.)
The two Joseph McDowells at Kings Mountain: Joseph of Pleasant Gardens and Joseph of Quaker Meadows, both cousins to Magdelene, by marriage.
Quite a few soldiers carried the last name of Campbell. They were all related.
After the battle, the Virginians went back home.
(Two weeks after the battle of Kings Mountain, England declared war on the Dutch. You never knew who was fighting whom in this war.)
I have chosen to give very little space for the story of the Battle of Kings Mountain, in comparison to the many pages on Waxhaws. This is because Kings Mountain was one of the turning points of the war. Thus, much is known and written about the events leading up to the battle itself, and after the battle. I wished only to show our families participation.
There are several books written on just the Battle of Kings Mountain itself; and there are many more books on the Revolutionary War that devote space to this battle. You should have no trouble finding a book at your library.
Kings Mountain National Military Park
2625 Park Road
Blacksburg, SC 29702
Open daily: Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Years Day
Free 18-minute film
1 1/2 miles self-guided tour
My family history web site has 79 chapters. If you would like to know more about the other chapters then go to my
Home Page www.thetracyfamilyhistory.net