Here’s a minor but nevertheless troubling dilemma for those of us interested in the Battle of King’s Mountain. To apostrophe or not to apostrophe? There seems to be no formal consensus on whether it’s “King’s Mountain” or “Kings Mountain.”
I had always used “King’s” without giving it too much thought until a reviewer for a piece I’d submitted suggested that “Kings” was in fact the proper usage. After looking over some early accounts, I found enough apostrophes to convince me that “King’s” was legit, so I just left it in. Maybe it was the wrong call.
A lot of primary sources leave the apostrophe in, but not all of them do. Whig veteran James Collins called the battle “King’s Mountain” in an autobiography published many years later. So did Banastre Tarleton in his book on the campaigns in the South. Some veterans’ pension accounts include the apostrophe, but others omit it. Likewise for contemporary manuscripts found in private correspondence.
Early historians and antiquarians seemed to prefer “King’s” to “Kings.” The most detailed study of the battle is Lyman Draper’s King’s Mountain and its Heroes, published in 1881. Draper employed the apostrophe throughout, as did his friend J. G. M. Ramsey in Annals of Tennessee.
As far as more recent authorities go, it seems to be a toss-up. John Pancake and John Buchanan both use “King’s,” but NPS literature doesn’t. Robert Dunkerly, who was the ranger in charge of the site, used “Kings” for his published collection of eyewitness accounts.
Adding to the confusion, the ridge on which the battle took place isn’t the only mountain in the area to bear the name. A much larger prominence within Crowders Mountain State Park, to the northwest of the battleground, is called “King’s Pinnacle.” It’s part of a mountain range, of which the battlefield ridge itself is a small spur.
Draper evidently considered the whole range to be one big geographical feature, and claimed that both it and nearby King’s Creek got their names from a settler named King.
Since Draper was notoriously indefatigable in tracking down local traditions, this is probably what the folks who were living in the area during the late nineteenth century believed to be the name’s true origin, but that’s not to say that their opinion was the correct one. Other sources claim that “King’s Pinnacle” got its name from a rock formation, so it’s possible (though very unlikely) that the big mountain’s name is unrelated to the name of the battlefield ridge and creek.
It gets even more confusing. While searching for an online map, I ran across references to King’s Pinnacle as “Kings Pinnacle” and King’s Creek as “Kings Creek.” This could very well initiate my long-anticipated descent into madness.
I say we have a referendum of Rev War buffs and local residents to settle this once and for all, because my head hurts. I’ll be lobbying for “King’s,” just because if I start thinking about all those possibly-superfluous apostrophes in my master’s thesis, it’ll bug the living daylights out of me.