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Thread: Oct 7 1780

  1. #1
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    Default Oct 7 1780

    Today, 239 years ago, a combined force of about 900 patriot militiamen from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and "Overmountain men" from west of the Appalachians in what would later become known as Tennessee assaulted a ridge known as King's Mountain on the North Carolina South Carolina border. King's Mountain was held by British Major Patrick Ferguson and about 1100 Loyalist militia who essentially comprised the left flank of Cornwallis's army.

    After capturing Savannah Ga from the Continental army in Oct of 1779 and then rolling through South Carolina and turning north into North Carolina during 1780 the British plan was to amass all the Loyalists they could muster and form a Loyalist militia to help keep the patriot militias active in western NC and SC at bay and to supplement the regulars under Cornwallis in his attempt to split the colonies in two. Lord Cornwallis had assigned this duty to Major Patrick Ferguson. Unfortunately for Ferguson his brash letter to the "Overmountain men" in an attempt to halt their attacks on the British regulars and Loyalists in North and South Carolina had the opposite effect he had hoped for. Ferguson had threatened to "march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste the country with fire and sword." and that was just enough for the Isaac Shelby and John Sevier to plan to raise a multi state force of militia to go find and strike Ferguson.

    On September 25 most of the patriot militia forces mustered at Sycamore Shoals near what is now known as Elizabethton TN. They marched over Roan Mountain and continued south for the next 12 days gathering more militia units along the way . From spies they learned of Ferguson's position and that he was quoted as saying "He was on King's Mountain, he was King of that mountain and that God Almighty and all the Rebels of Hell could not drive him from it". On Oct 7 1780 the 900 man patriot militia converged on and encircled the horseshoe shaped ridge known as King's Mountain and began the assault. Fortunately for them it had rained heavily in the days leading up to the battle and the wet fallen leaves on the ground made it harder to hear men approaching the ridge. Virginia militia leader William Campbell , after tearing off his coat and brandishing his sword, shouted "Here they are my boys; Shout like hell and fight like devils!" and for the next hour they did. As the assault began Captain Abraham De Peyster is said to have turned to Major Ferguson and said "These things are ominous-these are the damned yelling boys!". In the end the loyalists casualties were 290 killed, 163 wounded and 668 taken prisoner. The patriots suffered 28 killed and 60 wounded. Prior to the battle Ferguson had said that God himself could not dislodge him from that mountain and in a sense he was right....he's still up there buried where he was felled by a hail of bullets.

    While it does not get as much play in history classes as Lexington and Concord or Bunker Hill or Princeton or Yorktown , Kings Mountain was a pivotal point as it pretty well crushed Cornwallis's "southern plan " and put in motion the series of battles that led to the Yorktown peninsula and his eventual surrender and American Independence.

    Among those overmountain men who scaled the ridge at King's Mountain were David Crockett's father - John Crockett, John Wesley Hardin's Great Grandfather - Col Joseph Hardin, and my 4th great grandfather Jesse Green.

    In later years President Theodore Roosevelt said of the battle...
    "This brilliant victory marked the turning point of the American Revolution."

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  2. #2
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    I believe Ferguson was also the inventor of a breech loading rifle

    He was killed by an american riflemen.

    fergusonrifle2.jpg
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  3. #3
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    Yes. But it is probably more appropriate to say he was killed by numerous American riflemen.

    Ferguson supposedly refused to fire on an American officer who was most likely George Washington at Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania on Sept 11, 1777 . He spotted a cavalry officer dressed like a European Hussar with a senior American officer wearing a cocked hat. However he was disgusted at the prospect of shooting another gentleman officer in the back and did not fire. Ferguson was reputed to be the finest marksman in the British army and was in command of the British sharpshooters who were armed with the "Ferguson Breechloading Rifle" mentioned above at the battle of Brandywine.

    The next day Washington lost the battle and Ferguson was wounded by a musket ball shattering his right elbow. When he was told that it was probably Washington that he saw in the woods doing reconnaissance he said he was "not sorry that I did not know at the time who it was". According to a letter from Washington's HQ to Congress George Washington himself was "out reconnoitering and busily engaged". Casimir Polaski , the polish hero who would later be killed during the Siege of Savannah Ga was known to dress as a Hussar and was one of Washington's aides at the time.
    Last edited by Randy Harris; 10-07-2019 at 04:30 PM.
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    A good man who's done a couple of bad things along the way....

  4. #4
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    Great stuff, Randy, thanks.
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  5. #5
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    I live about an hour from Kings Mountain.
    I haven't been in there since I was kid.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    John
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  6. #6
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    I often wonder how many Ferguson rifles ended up over fireplaces in North and South Carolina.

    And why the design was not more widely adopted or modified.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa View Post
    I often wonder how many Ferguson rifles ended up over fireplaces in North and South Carolina.

    And why the design was not more widely adopted or modified.
    One needs to examine the tactics of the day and also the training requirements of the Ferguson. For a hunter or frontier ranger it has obvious advantages. For a block of standing troops standing three deep the advanage was not so great. After Ferguson died, his rifles were taken away from the troops and brown bess muskets were issued.
    The USA was aware of it and did not build or use them when we rearmed. There may have been an issue for a nation like the early US in making the special threading for the breech plug. Once percussion caps and the needle guns got perfected other designs were passed by and it remained for the modern metallic cartridge guns to become dominant. Remember muzzle loaders have been used up to the present day in the form of mortars.

    People often say we should have adopted all sorts of newly invented guns and there were reasons against universal adoption, but for sure the natural backward thinking of many military bureaucracies of the day were just opposed on general principles. Look at the reluctance of some today to accept sensible tactics and equipment that is now available for civilian street fighting. The world is full of choices and making the right ones is important.

    Developed by Major Patrick Ferguson, the breech loading Ferguson Rifle had the potential to eliminate the great disadvantages of the rifle. In tests at the Woolwich Arsenal, Ferguson was able to fire as many as six rounds per minute, hitting targets at up to 200 yards and hitting a bullseye at 100 yards from a prone position. Although an impressive technical achievement, most of the concepts were not new, which along with expense helps explain why it was used only on an experimental basis. The British army authorized a 100 man rifle corps armed with the rifle and commanded by its inventor. In its first campaign, Ferguson himself got within his sights a high ranking American commander, thought to be George Washington, but the Scotsman couldn't bring himself to kill the brave man. In its debut battle, Brandywine, the rifle corps took heavy losses and Ferguson was wounded. This undoubtedly hurt prospects for widespread use of the weapon, and after participating in the attack at Paoli, the corps was disbanded. The replacement at the end of the year of the army commander, Sir William Howe, who had sponsored the weapon, perhaps put the final nail in the rifle's coffin. By the time of Ferguson's death at Kings Mountain in 1780, all hopes for adoption of the weapon were over.
    A screw mechanism used multiple tapered threads, making a good seal which was still easy to open and close. A turn of the handle opened up the breech, allowing the infantryman to insert a bullet and powder. Another turn of the handle would close the breech and push excess powder into the pan, priming the rifle and making it nearly ready to fire. Some weapons historians speculate that fouling caused by expended gunpowder may have hindered the mechanism, making the weapon less practical on the battlefield. Indeed, breechloaders were only made practical by the invention of the metallic cartridge in the mid 1800s. As only 100 Ferguson Rifles were built, spare parts were unavailable when problems occurred, which perhaps explains why only two original rifles survive.. http://johnsmilitaryhistory.com/fergusonrifle.html
    Last edited by barnetmill; 10-08-2019 at 06:28 AM.
    One who hammers his gun into a plow plows for those who do not....Unknown
    ...at the end of the day its not about anything else but YOU AND YOURS..... Gabe Suarez
    ....WANT not NEED is what America is all about. ..... Gabe Suarez
    Its not about how fast you can load, but about how well you can shoot ..... Someone being saved by a speed load is not something that has happened with any regularity. Gabe Suarez

  8. #8
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    I think if you handed a Ferguson to, say, Yondering, in 1780 he would immediately figure out a way to cut interrupted screw threads and better shield the pan from the elements. I imagine this weapon using a percussion lock, and comparing it to a later breechloading non-metallic cartridge gun--the Sharps.

    But back on track: an inspiring feat of arms, important way out of proportion to the numbers involved, and filled with historical ironies only possible, I think, when we did not cover the earth like a swarm of locusts.

    I raise my coffee cup to William Campbell, Jesse Green and the patriot militia. Sic Semper Tyrannis.
    Warrior for the working day.

    Es una cosa muy seria. --Robert Capa

    "...I ride the range in a Ford V8...Yippy Yi Yo Ki Yay." --Johnny Mercer

    "What cannot be remedied must be endured."

    356. And a wakeup.

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