Today marks the 236th anniversary of a pivotal battle of the American Revolution. Five and a half years after the war began on April 19, 1775, in Lexington, Massachusetts, nearly 1,000 miles away, a group of militiamen mustered in the Carolina wilderness to fight for freedom.
In mid-September 1780, the Overmountain Men gathered from the hills and dales of western North Carolina and northeast Tennessee and from the Holston Valley of southwest Virginia. They joined forces with Patriot militiamen from the Yadkin Valley and the Piedmont of North Carolina and from South Carolina and Georgia to lay in wait for the unsuspecting British Army.
Over the course of two weeks, hundreds of backwoods militiamen traversed the Appalachian Mountains and tracked down one of Gen. Cornwallis’ detachments under the command of Major Patrick Ferguson. After an all-night ride through the damp, dreary darkness, the patriots surrounded the enemy atop a small rise near the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
On October 7, 1780, a fierce battle was waged, ending in a decisive victory for the Patriots—the first major triumph to occur after the British invasion of Charleston, South Carolina in May 1780. This battle ultimately changed the course of the Revolutionary War, becoming known as the Battle of King’s Mountain.
Quite a few family members (one direct and the rest indirect or possibly indirect) fought on that fateful day. The most illustrious of these Campbell kin, albeit indirect, was battlefield commander Col. William Campbell, son of Patrick and grandson of John and Grissel (Hay) Campbell—my twice over great-grandparents, 7th and 9th). William Campbell led the Washington County, Virginia Militia; many Campbells were part of this militia, including William’s first cousins Capt. John Campbell and Ensign Robert Campbell (through John and Grissel’s son “White” David Campbell).
Other Campbells on hand for the battle were two sons of “Black” David Campbell: Privates David Campbell (who would eventually become a Colonel) and William Campbell (who would eventually become a Captain). Also present were three nephews of “Black” David Campbell: Privates Alexander Campbell (who would eventually become a Captain), James “Big Jimmy” Campbell, and David “Elder David” Campbell. (It is speculated that “Black” David’s father, Alexander, might be related to John Campbell, although conclusive evidence has not yet been discovered.)
However, the Campbell who fought at King’s Mountain to whom I am directly related is my 6th great-grandfather, James Campbell, great-grandson of John and Grissel (Hay) Campbell. (That would make James Campbell the second cousin, once removed of Col. William Campbell, Capt. John Campbell, and Ensign Robert Campbell.)
Forty-two years later, in a letter dated November 19, 1822, and written to yet another Campbell—John Campbell, Esq., Thomas Jefferson recalled the Battle of King’s Mountain:
“I remember well the deep and grateful impression made on the minds of every one by that memorable victory. It was the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary War, with the seal of our independence.”