Hike with history: Take a walk where historic Revolutionary War battle fought

·5 min read
A monument to commemorate the victory of Kings Mountain at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.
A monument to commemorate the victory of Kings Mountain at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.

While walking through a canopy of oak, maple and poplar trees on a now paved path just south of the North Carolina line, imagine for a moment what it felt like to be a patriot at Kings Mountain on that October day in 1780. Rainfall earlier in the day had quieted the forest floor, muffling the sound of your movement.

On your side were friends and family, but others who had joined your group of 910 strong from the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. The Overmountain Men consisted mostly frontiersmen armed with long rifles, battle experienced by fighting Native Americans.

But up on the rocky forested Kings Mountain waited loyalists to the British crown. These men were also friends and neighbors, all of them also Americans, led by Maj. Patrick Ferguson, the only Brit present that day.

The Loyalists were better trained, better prepared and with a 200-man advantage.

The Patriots attacked from all sides of the mountain, taking cover behind trees as they yelled and screamed during their assault up Kings Mountain.

The hour-long fight would result in the death of Ferguson, and a complete victory for the Patriots, who had earlier suffered major defeats in Charleston and other South Carolina cities.

Thomas Jefferson called the Battle of Kings Mountain 'the turn of the tide of success."

The Revolutionary War battlefield, now memorialized by a national military park, mostly attracts those looking for a bit of fresh air or outdoor exercise. But to others, it offers a walk where history was made.

"The Revolution wasn't all decided in the northern states," said Jay Turpin, a park ranger at the Kings Mountain National Military Park. "A huge contribution came from the Carolinas, and ultimately after this battle, (British Gen. Charles) Cornwallis would surrender at Yorktown (Virginia) about a year later."

What to do at the park

People arrive at the Visitor Center at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.
People arrive at the Visitor Center at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.

Visitors to the 4,000-acre park have a 1.5 mile paved walking trail that will take them to the hill where the battle was fought. There are some fairly steep parts of the trail, but the pavement makes it accessible for those using strollers or wheelchairs if caution is used.

Much of the walk includes heavy shading from tall trees, a blessing on a hot summer day. Several benches along the path offer a break. Lucky visitors may spot a white-tail deer between the trees or spot a variety of birds in the sky.

Highlights of the trail include a dozen or more informational stops and two large monuments, shaped like Egyptian obelisks similar to the Washington Monument, but much smaller.

One stop along the trail takes visitors to the site where then-President Herbert Hoover spoke to more than 70,000 people on Oct. 7, 1930, the 150th anniversary of the battle.

"This is a place of inspiring memories," Hoover told the crowd. "Here, less than a thousand men, inspired by the urge of freedom, defeated a superior force entrenched in this strategic position. This small band of patriots turned back a dangerous invasion well designed to separate and dismember the united colonies.

"It was a little army and a little battle, but it was of mighty portent. History has done scant justice to its significance, which rightly should place it beside Lexington and Bunker Hill, Trenton, and Yorktown, as one of the crucial engagements in our long struggle for independence."

The Visitor Center at the start of the trail sells souvenirs, but not food, and is only open Wednesdays through Saturdays. The Visitor Center does offer a 26-minute film explaining the battle and its significance.

There are bathrooms near the Visitor Center open seven days a week.

Also of note, the Kings Mountain National Military Park sits next to the 6,800-acre Kings Mountain (South Carolina) State Park, which has 20-plus miles of trails, two lakes for paddling or fishing, camping and picnic shelters.

One of several markers telling the story of the battle at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.
One of several markers telling the story of the battle at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.

Fees for the state park: $3 adults; $1.50 S.C. seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 and younger are free

Who fought at Kings Mountain?

Virginia Col. William Campbell commanded the 910-strong Patriot forces, which included some enslaved soldiers.

Many of those who fought one another either knew one another or at least knew of each other through family or friend connections, Turpin said. The battle has been described as "the war's largest all-American fight."

One of those leading the Patriots that day was Isaac Shelby, the namesake of the Cleveland County town.

The battle ended with the patriots suffering 90 casualties, including 28 dead. British troops counted 157 killed, 163 wounded and almost 700 missing or captured.

Rifle v. musket

Patriots who fought in the battle carried .50-caliber long rifles. The British troops carried the .75-caliber British Brown Bess Musket with bayonet.

The musket was easier to load, but only accurate up to 75 yards.

A marker in honor of Lt. Col. James Hawthorn at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.
A marker in honor of Lt. Col. James Hawthorn at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.

The rifle, with a 48-inch slender barrel, was much more lethal and accurate up to 300 yards.

Famous quotes

Sensing an impending battle, the American commanders tell their men, “Don’t wait for the word of command. Let each one of you be your own officer and do the very best you can.” The American plan was simple—to assault the hill from all sides. Campbell tells his men to “shout like Hell and fight like devils.”

Park details

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Sunrise to 5 p.m. Sundays

Address: 2300 Park Road, Blacksburg, South Carolina

Directions: Kings Mountain National Military Park is located on S.C. 216. From South Carolina, travel on I-85 North to N.C. Exit 2. Turn right onto S.C. 216. From North Carolina, travel on I-85 South to N.C. Exit 2. Turn left onto S.C. 216.

Admission: Free

Visitor Center: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays

You can reach Kevin Ellis at 704-201-7016 or email him at kellis@gastongazette.com.

A marker to the memory of Col. Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.
A marker to the memory of Col. Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Saturday morning, June 18, 2022.

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Hike Kings Mountain battlefield Thomas Jefferson credited with victory