In the fall of 1780, Benjamin led 350 Heroes to their most famous moment of the Revolution, the Battle of King’s Mountain, when he learned that British Colonel Patrick Ferguson intended to march into North Carolina.
Mounted columns of Carolinians and Virginians came from the west over the mountains in the snow that totally covered their feet and ankles in response to the threat. These “over-mountain” men had established their settlements and their homes in remote regions far and independent from the Royal authority in the eastern colonies’ years before the first sounds of war were heard. Though the American Revolution had been raging for five years, these men had until now been unthreatened by the war, but Ferguson’s invasion of the South Carolina upcountry changed their perspective.
In his own campaign, Ferguson had succeeded in recruiting several thousand Carolinians who were loyal to the British. With them, he started to hunt down and punish the “rebels” who continued to resist Royal authority. During the summer of 1780, Ferguson marched and counter-marched through the Carolina country as the over-mountain men swept eastward and engaged him or his detachment in fierce little actions of sometimes confused guerrilla warfare.
In September Benjamin and his 350 Bulldogs had joined Colonel William Campbell, Colonel Isaac Shelby, Colonel John Sevier, and other militia leaders at Quaker Meadows near Catawba River. Since there were so many officers of equal rank it was agreed that command should rest with the board of colonels. Colonel Campbell was elected officer of the day to execute the board’s decisions. Benjamin was to be one of the principal officers in the conflict. Most of the united forces of 1600 were afoot, but approximately 700 were mounted on the fastest horses and overtook Ferguson at King’s Mountain.
These mounted troops were divided into three divisions under Benjamin, Colonel Campbell, and Colonel Lacey, each division would storm the mountain from a different direction. Lacey from the west, Campbell from the center, and Benjamin from the east.
Just before the beginning of the battle, Benjamin addressed his troops in which Dr. David Ramsay called “plain unvarnished language”. It showed Benjamin’s good sense and knowledge of human nature. This speech inspired the courage and patriotism of the over-mountain men. Inspired to win at all cost, the men hid behind rocks and trees and fired at the British. They were repelled, but they rallied and came back to fight, and the over-mountain men had better luck in the second attempt. Benjamin, with a sword in hand, rode to the front of his column and led the ascent, yelling for his men to follow him. Ferguson’s troops poured continuous gunfire into the advancing line and during the shooting Roebuck, Benjamin’s beloved warhorse was shot out from under him. Grabbing his flintlock pistols, he dismounted and ran ahead of his men until another horse was brought to him from the rear. Benjamin weighed 300 pounds so he always had 2 horses with him, so one could rest while the other carried his large frame.
By then, the patriots were ascending the mountain from all sides. Unceasing gunfire and the roar of the men shouting and the officers yelling words of encouragement to their troops. Eventually, the British line wavered and broke in confusion. Ferguson, who had fought desperately, ran for liberty but was shot with at least a dozen bullets. His troops immediately surrendered to the patriots. Ferguson’s gray charger ran away but was quickly caught and presented to Benjamin to compensate for his loss of Roebuck.
When it was all over 225 Loyalists had been slain, 163 were wounded and 716 had been taken prisoner, The patriots had lost only 28 men and 62 had been wounded. On their way to prison, many of the captured were brutally beaten and some were even hacked to death with swords. About a week later and 50 miles from King’s Mountain, a committee of Whig colonels appointed themselves as judge and jury of the Loyalists. 36 Tories were found guilty of breaking into homes. Killing the inhabitants and burning houses. Benjamin was instrumental in the immediate execution by hanging of 9 of the convicted 36 men.
It is said that The Battle of Kings Mountain was the turning point of the war. To those who fought alongside Benjamin, he was considered the supreme hero whose spirit of adventure and self-reliance, quickness of thought, and rapidity of action in times of emergency and danger contributed greatly to the American victory.
Next week in part 4 I will cover Benjamin’s life after the war.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.