East Tennesseans have more or less claimed the Battle of King’s Mountain as their own. And little wonder. The architects of the expedition lived in what’s now Tennessee, and the victory over Ferguson was the most dramatic and direct contribution that Tennessee settlers made to American independence.
But the Tennessee troops under John Sevier and Isaac Shelby weren’t the only men who gathered at Sycamore Shoals in September 1780 to march over the Appalachians. About four hundred Virginians under the command of Col. William Campbell also made the trek to King’s Mountain. These frontiersmen from the Old Dominion mustered at present-day Abingdon—Wolf Hills, as it was known in the 1700s—for the rendezvous at Sycamore Shoals.
Today you can stroll across the spot from which Campbell and his men set out at Abingdon Muster Grounds. Having made the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail pilgrimage from Sycamore Shoals to King’s Mountain a few years ago, my cousin and I decided to wrap up the holiday season by hitting the trail’s Virginia leg.
A state historical marker stands across the street from the muster grounds.
Hey, who’s a good boy? He’s a good boy! And you can find him standing under the interpretive signage at the site’s entrance.
This festooned canine mystified us, but after a bit of Googling, I think it’s part of a local art project. Check out the map of the Battle of King’s Mountain on his back.
I was really looking forward to the exhibit in the small interpretive center at the muster grounds. Alas, I neglected to call ahead and make sure they’d be open on the day we visited. But seeing the place where Campbell’s men mustered was still worth the trip.
Abingdon is justly proud of its history. A downtown mural depicts scenes from the region’s frontier era, including Campbell and his militia’s involvement in the Revolution.
Since we were in the area, we made the short drive up toward Marion, VA to see the site of Campbell’s home and his final resting place. They’re a bit hard to find, and they’re also on private property. If you decide to visit them yourself, be sure to obey the posted signage and be considerate of the folks who live nearby.
Campbell and his relatives are buried in a small cemetery on a hill overlooking the Aspenvale monument. After King’s Mountain, Campbell went on to lead backwoods riflemen into battle at Guilford Courthouse and then fought in Virginia under Lafayette before his unexpected death in August 1781. Relatives moved his remains back to the site of his old home in 1823. The slab over the grave is a modern replacement, but the epitaph is a copy of the text on the original stone.
Campbell’s wife, Elizabeth, was the sister of Patrick Henry. After Campbell’s tragically early death in 1781, she married Gen. William Russell. Now her remains lie near the foot of her first husband’s grave.
Buried alongside Campbell is Francis S. Preston, the congressman and brigadier general who married the Revolutionary War commander’s daughter. The Preston family were prominent in the history of southwestern Virginia, and were zealous defenders of Campbell’s memory in nineteenth-century disputes over the legacy of King’s Mountain.
After leaving the cemetery, we headed back to Abingdon and drove the Overmountain Victory motor route to Bristol. We stopped along the way to see the historical marker near where John Pemberton’s men mustered for the march to Sycamore Shoals.
The Virginia segment of the trail passes through one of the most beautiful parts of Appalachia, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in the early history of the frontier.