With the war in America blossoming into a world war, the British had to come up with a new strategy. Settling for a stalemate in the north they moved the active theater south, the idea being that they could pacify the rebels and let the strong loyalist population regain control of the regions, thus re-establishing the region to the crown. In May 1780 the plan kicked off with the capture of Charleston after a siege that saw a sizable patriot force surrender. In August of that year the British and American forces meet at Camden and the British succeeded in not only winning the battle, but in doing so caused the American army to all but disintegrate. With organized resistance removed in South Carolina, the British looked to implement their plan of turning the area over to the loyalists.
Enter Patrick Ferguson and his band of loyalists. Building on the support for the crown in the region, Ferguson began a campaign of rooting out rebels and restoring the countryside to British rule. Far from just a lone detachment, Ferguson’s corps was integral to the plans of General Cornwallis and acted as the left flank of the army and was the main defense for the string of British outposts in the west that acted as control points for the army. Ferguson was effective enough in his actions to allow Cornwallis to move forward with his plans of invading North Carolina, Ferguson however made one major mistake.
Looking to extend control over the mountains into the frontier, Ferguson issued an edict that anyone who did not cooperate with the Crown would be hung. Needless to say this caused a great deal of agitation to the men on the frontier, called the “Overmountain” men for where they lived, resistance to the British began to stiffen as these men looked to make Ferguson regret his impudence. The Americans raised a large force of militia and struck out to take Ferguson down. Hearing that he was being shadowed by this force, Ferguson decided to take a stand on Kings Mountain and force a confrontation.
On October 7, 1780, he set up his position on the heights and awaited the rebels. What transpired was one of the largest battles of the war that contained no “regulars”. As the rebels advanced from multiple directions using rocks and trees for cover, they were able to us a withering fire to great effect against the loyalists, who for the most part found themselves firing over the heads of the oncoming rebels and doing little damage. In less than an hour the position was over run, Ferguson was dead and the British left flank was completely exposed.
The victory for the rebels at King’s Mountain effectively crippled the loyalist cause in the south and forced Cornwallis to rethink his strategy, setting the stage for patriot resurgence in the area. Suddenly the south was in play once again.