I’m obliged to Gordon Belt for passing this along. In North Carolina there’s a new play in the works about the Battle of King’s Mountain and the men who fought there. Here’s how the play’s author describes the backcountry settlers:
“They had a bone to pick with the British government even when they lived there,” he said “They lived a hard life under landlords that were very hard to deal with. They had famine and drought, and they were seeking a new life in the New World where they could make a living, raise their families and worship as they please.”
The settlers came to the backcountry of North and South Carolina and quickly adapted to the frontier area.
“They had to be rugged, independent people. They endured hardships, they had to fight Indians. They persevered,” Inman said.
When the war began, the backcountry patriots just wanted the British to leave them alone.
“The British said, ‘You have to support the crown.’ They said, ‘No, that’s not the way we operate.’ And so, they took up arms against the British and won,” Inman said.
The backcountry settlers who fought in the Southern Campaign have been the subject of dramatic works before, especially in the 1950s, when Pat Alderman‘s outdoor drama The Overmountain Men premiered in Erwin, TN. It told the settlers’ story from the genesis of the settlements west of the mountains through the Battle of King’s Mountain.
Alderman eventually turned his research into a book, and if you compare the description of the settlers in its pages to the news item quoted above, you’ll see that the characterization of the backwoodsmen hasn’t changed much over the decades:
These frontiersmen were sons of frontiersmen, accustomed to the rugged life of the new country.…This unhampered wilderness freedom, far removed from royal rulers and their taxes, was to their liking. These bold, resolute men were self-reliant. They were independent, individualistic, and not always inclined to respect or observe the niceties of the soft life. Living on the outskirts of civilization, their law was to have and to hold.
In fact, you could quote lengthy passages from books on the backwoodsmen written in the late 1800s and find many of the same sentiments. It’s fascinating to see how popular notions about the eighteenth-century frontiersmen have remained so steady.
For more information about Revolutionary-era settlers on the stage, check out Gordon’s book on John Sevier in myth and memory. (Sevier was the subject of his own biographical play about sixty years ago.) And if you’d like to see an outdoor drama about the eighteenth-century settlers for yourself, Sycamore Shoals hosts a very popular and long-running show every year.