Kings Mountain State Park, Blacksburg

By 1780 the northern campaign of the American Revolutionary War had fought to a stalemate, and England turned its military strategy toward the South. The tactic seemed simple: re-establish the southern royal colonies,

march north to join loyalist troops at the Chesapeake Bay, and claim the seaboard. But, a sudden battle in the wilderness exposed the folly of England’s scheme and changed the course of this nation.

In early 1780 England turned its military efforts to the South. At first the British forces seemed unstoppable. In May Sir Henry Clinton captured Charleston, S.C., the South’s largest city. The British quickly set up garrisons, using military force to gain control. Before 1780 scattered

incidents of torture and murder had occurred in the Carolinas, but with the return of the British army the war in the South became brutal. Loyalists (tories) plundered the countryside; patriots (whigs) retaliated with burning and looting—with neighbors fighting each other. The British believed that the southern colonies teemed with loyalists, and they were banking on those supporters to persuade reluctant patriots to swear allegiance to the

Crown. Gen. Lord Cornwallis ordered Maj. Patrick Ferguson, reputed to be the best marksman in the British Army, to gather these loyalists into a

strong militia. Ferguson recruited a thousand Carolinians and trained them to fight with muskets and bayonets using European open-field tactics. In

the summer, as Ferguson traversed the Carolina upcountry, frontier patriots swept across the mountains to aid their compatriots of the Piedmont.

In August Cornwallis routed Gen. Horatio Gates and patriot forces at Camden, S.C. Learning of the defeat, the frontier militia went home to

harvest crops and strengthen their forces. Taking advantage of their departure, Cornwallis mounted an invasion of North Carolina. He ordered

Ferguson, commander of his left flank, to move north into western North Carolina before joining the main army at Charlotte. In September Ferguson

set up post at Gilbert Town. From here Ferguson sent a message to the “backwater men” (over-mountain patriots) threatening to kill

them all if they did not submit.

Enraged, they vowed to finish Ferguson once and for all. On September 26 returning over-mountain forces gathered

at Sycamore Shoals under Cols. William Campbell, Isaac Shelby, Charles McDowell, and John Sevier. The next morning they began an arduous

march through mountains covered with an early snowfall. They reached Quaker Meadows on October 1 and joined 350 local militia under Cols.

Benjamin Cleveland and Joseph Winston. Ferguson, learning from spies that the growing force was pursuing him, headed toward Charlotte. The

patriots reached Gilbert Town on October 4, but they soon discovered that Ferguson had abandoned his camp. They rode on, reaching Cowpens on

October 6, where they were joined by 400 South Carolinians led by Colonel Williams and Colonel Lacey. Ferguson’s trail had been hard to follow, but

now they learned that he was near Kings Mountain—only about 30 miles away.

Ferguson reached Kings Mountain on October 6, where he decided to await his enemy. Kings Mountain—named for an early settler and not for

King George III—is a rocky spur of the Blue Ridge that rises 150 feet above the surrounding area. Its forested slopes, sliced with ravines, lead to a

summit, which in 1780 was nearly treeless. This plateau, 600 yards long by 60 yards wide at the southwest and 120 yards at the northeast, gave Ferguson a seemingly excellent position for his army of 1,000 loyalist militia

and 100 red-coated Provincials.

Fearing that Ferguson might escape again, the patriots selected 900 of the best riflemen to push on, with Campbell of Virginia as commander. They

rode through a night of rain—their long rifles protected in blankets—and arrived at Kings Mountain after noon, Saturday, October 7. The rain, now

stopped, had muffled their sounds, giving Ferguson little warning of their approach. They hitched their horses within sight of the ridge, divided into

two columns, and encircled the steep slopes. About 3 p.m. Campbell’s and Shelby’s regiments opened fire from below the southwestern ridge. The

loyalists rained down a volley of musket fire, but the forested slopes provided good cover for the attackers. The patriots, skilled at guerrilla

tactics used on the frontier, dodged from tree to tree to reach the summit. Twice, loyalists drove them back with bayonets. Finally the patriots gained

the crest, driving the enemy toward the patriots who were attacking up the northeastern slopes. Surrounded and silhouetted against the sky, the

loyalists were easy targets for the sharpshooters and their long rifles. Punishing his horse Ferguson was everywhere, a silver whistle in his

mouth trilling commands. Suddenly several bullets hit Ferguson. He fell, one foot caught in a stirrup. His men helped him down and propped him

against a tree, where he died. Captain DePeyster, Ferguson’s second in command, ordered a white flag hoisted but, despite loyalist cries of

surrender, the patriot commanders could not restrain their men. Filled with revenge they continued to shoot their terrified enemy for several minutes,

until Campbell finally regained control.

The over-mountain men accomplished their mission in little more than an hour. Ferguson was dead. Lost with him was Cornwallis’s entire left flank.

This militia, fighting on its own terms and in its own way, turned the tide on England’s attempt to conquer the South and so the nation.
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Kings Mountain State Park Reviews
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97 reviews
  • We camped here for 3 nights with friends in sites 65 & 67. We really enjoyed ourselves. Nothing that we didn't expect from an older campground. What to expect: not paved thru campground, campsites are...  more »
  • I've been making a trail on the scene last weekend! We made the Orange trail, initially would be 17 miles, but there is a cut-off option for the green Trail that drops to 10 miles. Negative points: The trails either have less than 1 mile or are very long... What I particularly dislike... We did 10 miles in 4 hours! Another downside was we had to cross three streams, one managed to cut by the road, two others had to wet the sneakers and cross, we lost half an hour trying an alternative, but there was no way! Third and last negative point, the trail is shared with horseback rides then at some points the weight of the horses creates a mud that gets difficult to cross. Positives: Very well identified the trail, every 5 trees you find the identification of the color that this followed, in intersection of trails always have a map, park very well cared!
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  • We have been to almost all of the state parks in SC that offer camping (travel trailer/not tent camping). This is by FAR the worst set up- outside of sites 90&91, the sites are stacked on top of each ...  more »
  • This State Park really has a lot going for it. The trails are beautiful with lots to see. We have previously camped at Myrtle Beach, Santee Cooper, and Table Rock State Park. Compared to these I would rate Kings Mountain Sites at a 1. Few, if any had gravel, mostly mud, with bunches of large stones thrown scattered about. It was difficult to find a level site. Gravel roads had large dips with pot holes. The bath houses were clean but so old that the mosaic tile is missing from shower floors. Broken and chipped tile. The old bath house near the lake had broken windows; squirrel/fox holes where the critters accessed the building. And a shallow muddy moat around the front and sides of the building. Careful our site was invaded with fire ants. Bring your spray!
  • Nice campground that's well-maintained and clean. I recommend making a reservation online, as they can fill up quickly. Also, you can make sure the size & type of site if right for your gear.
  • My husband and I so appreciate the hosts helping swap out the grate at our fire pit so we could use it for cooking. However, with so many hosts on site (we counted 3), seems like someone would be making rounds after quiet hour (10pm) to ensure campers weren't playing loud movies against their camper with a projector and keeping on a string of BULB lights (like 60 watt bulbs!) all night long! It seems like no one was on duty - no supervision. These campers pulled in at 10 pm and set up, which was loud for about an hour. Then the lights and the movies... Our ability to sleep was impossible , and we will never return.
  • So it's Thanksgiving, early noon-ish. The park is beautiful. The weather is perfect and all I hear is the sound of children with their families and everyone is having a great time. The park is nearly full and all is well here. Nice sites. Great facilities. What you waiting on?
  • Such a beautiful place. I love the trails, and the history. There's canoeing, kayaking and fishing. They even have a campground with a nice playground nearby for the kids We've had many adventures there with the boy scouts, like earning the backpacking merit badge, and 20 mile hike badge to earn Eagle. So many memories and hopefully more to come!
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