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Sunday, January 20, 2013

King's Mountain Virtual: History with a cache!

Entering the park
History with a cache! For me it can't get much better than that. Our daughter was returning from her Christmas visit to Mexico City so it was our job to pick her and her fiancee up at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport near Charlotte, NC. We planned enough time so that we could visit the Kings Mountain Military Park just across the South Carolina line before making the airport run.

Col. Isaac Shelby's Sullivan County (TN) men came up here
U.S. Monument
Centennial Monument
Ferguson's grave

There's just one cache there and it is a virtual called Ferguson's Folly (GCD80). We approached Kings Mountain along the state road leading from the Interstate. Soon we left North Carolina and crossed into South Carolina. A few historical markers told us that this was the route Major Patrick Ferguson's Tory forces took as he retreated from Gilbert Town, NC to hold up on Kings Mountain and wait for reinforcements. They never came and the battle that followed on 7 October 1780 turned out to be a decisive battle in that it strengthened the resolve of the Patriot forces in the colonies to push on to eventual victory over the British. We entered the park following the windy park road several miles to get to the vistors center where we acquired a trail map. This virtual cache takes you to seven points of interest along the paved battlefield trail. At each you have to gather some piece of information which you later report to the cache owner. A relatively new feature were the recorded messages that you can access by calling a local telephone number on your cell phone. These recordings provided a lot of additional information concerning what took place at key points on the battlefield. The 1.5 mile trail started along the base of the mountain ridge where the patriot forces formed to begin their uphill attack. Formed up on top of the ridge were approximately 1000 Loyalist (Tory) men under the command of the only British participant, Major Patrick Ferguson. This meant that American faced American in battle. Surrounding the mountain 910 patriots from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and what became Tennessee, formed up. While the majority were men from North Carolina, the Over-the-Mountain-Men who traveled from southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee to fight have become the most famous. These men were particularly invested in the battle after Ferguson had threatened to cross over the mountains, hang their leaders and destroy their homes "with fire and sword." The battle began on the southwest side as the Tennessee and Virginia men began their push up to the highest ground. These men were repulsed several times with volleys of musket fire and then bayonet charges. Finally they succeeded in taking the highest ground on the mountain. While the remaining Patriot forces moved up the mountain the Patriots on the high ground began to move down the ridge line, forcing Ferguson's Tories to regroup in a small defensive circle at the lower end of the ridge line. These mountain men moved from tree to rock firing in Indian fashion against the Tories who employed European battle formation tactics. Military tactics typically calls for the attackers to have three times the fighting force as the defenders. This is because the defenders, being on the high ground, have the advantage of firing downhill against a force that is struggling to come uphill. It is astounding to see the ground where a force of fewer men making the attack fought and overcame the odds to win over a larger force in a defensive position. I was particularly interested in the ground where 120 Sullivan County, TN (then NC) men came up the hill. This was because my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather Martin Luther Roler was one of these men. It intrigued me to walk the ground where he fought. The battle took place in the late afternoon. Of the Loyalist forces about 1/4 were killed. Patriot forces lost many less. The trail took us up on to the high ground and then back to the northeast along the ridge line. Several monuments honor the patriots who fought and died here. The trail then brings you to the northeastern descent from the mountain and to the place where Major Ferguson was killed attempting to rally his troops for a last stand. His body was buried the following day just down the hill from where he fell. The trail ends back where it started at the visitors center. Be sure to visit the museum and bookstore where you can learn even more about the battle. This virtual cache takes about 1.5 hours to do if you stop to take in the history. I hope you'll come enjoy this battlefield soon.
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