“Turn of the tide of success” – South Carolina State Quarter Coin
Today, the South Carolina State Quarter Coin remembers the brave Americans and the Battle of Kings Mountain 235 years ago.
As noted on the National Park’s web site:
“Thomas Jefferson called it ‘The turn of the tide of success.’ The battle of Kings Mountain, fought October 7th, 1780, was an important American victory during the Revolutionary War. The battle was the first major patriot victory to occur after the British invasion of Charleston, SC in May 1780.”
For a different view, the Journal of Alexander Chesney, A South Carolina Loyalist in the Revolution and After, Mr. Chesney described his, an Irishman’s, fight against the Americans at King’s Mountain:
The memorable battle of King’s Mountain was fought October 7, 1780, between the Americans under the command of Colonels Campbell, Shelby, Cleveland, Sevier, and Williams, and the loyalists commanded by Major Patrick Ferguson, composed of detachments from the King’s American regiment, the Queen’s Rangers, the New Jersey Volunteers, and South Carolina loyal militia, and was one of the most desperately fought battles in the Southern Colonies.
It is not proposed to enter into the controversy regarding the numbers of the forces engaged. Whatever the figures may have been, the combatants on both sides fought with unsurpassed courage and determination.
The exploit of the Americans deserves all the praise bestowed upon it as one of the finest examples of the application of Washington’s disregarded advice to Braddock to seek cover behind trees, and of the splendid marksmanship of the Americans.
The loyalists had fought with unwavering bravery until the fall of the intrepid Ferguson somewhat early in the battle, when their courage failed them for a moment until their rally by the new leader, Captain Abraham De Peyster.
The criticisms of this officer’s alleged premature surrender are considered under the notes on Captain De Peyster.
King’s Mountain was the only important battle in the war in which the British force was composed entirely of loyalists, except Major Ferguson.
Just as the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga was a momentous event, not only in hastening the alliance of the Americans with France, but also as a great turning point in the war, so the battle of King’s Mountain may be regarded as the turn of the tide in the South, leading to the heartening and the re-organization of the American forces in South Carolina for the final triumph in the war of Independence.
In his book King’s Mountain and Its Heroes, History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, Lyman Copeland Draper described the American forces:
In the confronting ranks was a very different class of men. Those from the Holston, under Campbell, were a peculiar people — somewhat of the character of Cromwell’s soldiery. They were, almost to a man, Presbyterians.
In their homes, in the Holston Valley, they were settled in pretty compact congregations; quite tenacious of their religious and civil liberties, as handed down from father to son from their Scotch-Irish ancestors.
Their preacher, Rev. Charles Cummins, was well fitted for the times; a man of piety and sterling patriotism, who constantly exerted himself to encourage his people to make every needed sacrifice, and put forth every possible exertion in defense of the liberties of their country.
They were a remarkable body of men, both physically and mentally. Inured to frontier life, raised mostly in Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, Virginia, a frontier region in the French and Indian war, they early settled on the Holston, and were accustomed from their childhood to border life and hardships; ever ready at the tap of the drum to turn out on military service; if, in the busiest crop season, their wives, sisters, and daughters could, in their absence, plant, and sow, and harvest.
They were better educated than most of the frontier settlers, and had a more thorough understanding of the questions at issue between the Colonies and their mother country. These men went forth to strike their country’s foes, as did the patriarchs of old, feeling assured that the God of battles was with them, and that He would surely crown their efforts with success.
They had no doubts nor fears. They trusted in God — and kept their powder dry. Such a thing as a coward was not known among them. How fitting it was, that to such a band of men should have been assigned, by Campbell’s own good judgment, the attack on Ferguson’s choicest troops — his Provincial Rangers. It was a happy omen of success — literally the forlorn hope — the right men in the right place.
Lacey’s men, mostly from York and Chester Counties, South Carolina, and some of those under Shelby, Sevier, Cleveland. Williams, Winston, and McDowell, were of the same character — Scotch-Irish Presbyterians; but many of them, especially those from the Nolachucky, Watauga, and lower Holston, who had not been very long settled on the frontiers, were more of a mixed race, somewhat rough, but brave, fearless, and full of adventure.
They were not a whit less patriotic than the Virginians; and were ever ready to hug a bear, scalp an Indian, or beard the fiercest Tories wherever they could find them. Such, in brief, were the salient characteristics of the mountaineers, and the men of the up-country of the Carolinas, who were about to engage in deadly conflict with Ferguson and his motley followers.
Those men of Virginia and the Carolinas showed their proud mettle that day.
Quickly, the news of the American victory at King’s Mountain spread.
General Gates wrote a letter of thanks for their victory:
Hillsboro, Oct. 12th, 1780.
To the officers commanding in the late defeat of Major Ferguson:
Sirs: I received, this morning early, the very agreeable account of your victory over Maj. Ferguson. It gave me, and every friend to liberty, and the United States, infinite satisfaction.
I thank you, gentlemen, and the brave officers and soldiers under your command, for your and their glorious behavior in that action. The records of the war will transmit your names and theirs to posterity, with the highest honor and applause.
I desire you will acquaint them with the sense I entertain of the great service they have done their country. I have, this morning, by a special messenger, transmitted intelligence of it to Congress.
The South Carolina State Quarter Coin shows against a rock house built in the early 1800s that is located in remote section of the King’s Mountain National Military Park.