Well, the good news is that somebody’s working on a new book-length account of the expedition which ended in Patrick Ferguson’s defeat, utilizing extensive research in the primary sources as well as the latest scholarship on militia and the Revolution in the Carolina backcountry.
Here’s the bad news. The guy working on it is me.
I’ve actually been at this project for a while now, but I haven’t had the gumption to tell anybody about it. I played this one pretty close to my chest until reassuring myself that I could actually pull it off, but at this point I’m far enough along that I think it might actually see the light of day.
King’s Mountain has fascinated me since I was in college, and I’ve long wondered why there are so few books about it. The last really intensive treatment was Lyman Draper’s 1881 book King’s Mountain and its Heroes, which is thorough but also badly outdated, heavily dependent on tenuous oral tradition, and saturated with the filiopiety that characterizes many nineteenth-century historical works.
Since I can’t seem to stop poring over everything I can get my hands on related to King’s Mountain, I decided a good while ago that I might as well do something productive with my obsession. I’ve gone over quite a bit of the published source material, both primary and secondary, and now I’m digging into the manuscripts and putting the finishing touches on a proposal.
Let me talk a little bit about what this project is and what it isn’t. I’m studying the campaign which led to Ferguson’s defeat as a whole, so I’ll be looking into his organization of the Carolina Tories, the British march into North Carolina, and the Whigs’ march across the mountains, as well as the actual battle. In other words, this won’t be a study of the tactics and troops movements alone. I’ll be dealing with all that, of course, but what I’m aiming for is an analysis of the series of events of which the Battle of King’s Mountain was the climax. I’ll also be discussing the battle’s nasty aftermath, and I’ll have at least one chapter (probably two) on the way Americans have remembered it, which was the subject of my MA thesis. Tradition and legend have played such an important role in interpretations of the battle that I don’t think I could exclude an examination of memory from this project even if I wanted to.
So this will be an attempt to make sense of what brought Ferguson’s Tories and the Whigs into action on a wooded ridge that October day, what happened when they met, and the impact this confrontation had on the war and the way Americans have interpreted it.
And now that you guys are in on it, I guess I’m committed to keep plugging away until the thing’s done. Gulp.