The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive victory in South Carolina for the Patriot militia over the Loyalist militia, in the Southern Campaign, of the American Revolutionary War. The battle took place on October 7, 1780, 9 miles (14 km) south of the present-day town of Kings Mountain, North Carolina in rural Cherokee County, South Carolina, where the Patriot militia defeated the Loyalist militia commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson of the 71st Foot.
Ferguson had arrived in North Carolina in early September 1780 to recruit troops for the Loyalist militia and protect the flank of Lord Cornwallis’ main force. Ferguson issued a challenge to the rebel militias to lay down their arms or suffer the consequences. In response, the Patriot militias led by Benjamin Cleveland, James Johnston, William Campbell, John Sevier, Joseph McDowell and Isaac Shelby rallied for an attack on Ferguson.
Receiving intelligence on the oncoming attack, Ferguson decided to retreat to the safety of Lord Cornwallis’ army. However, the Patriots caught up with the Loyalists at Kings Mountain near the border with South Carolina. Achieving a complete surprise, the Patriot militiamen attacked and surrounded the Loyalists, inflicting heavy casualties. After an hour of battle, Ferguson was fatally shot while trying to break the rebel line, after which his men surrendered. Some Patriots gave no quarter until the rebel officers re-established control over their men; they were said to be seeking revenge for alleged killings by Banastre Tarleton’s men of militiamen at the Battle of Waxhaws, under the slogan “Remember Tarleton’s Quarter.” Although victorious, the Patriots had to retreat quickly from the area for fear of Cornwallis’ advance. Later they executed nine Loyalist prisoners after a short trial.
The battle was a pivotal moment in the Southern campaign. The surprising victory of the American patriot militia over the Loyalists came after a string of rebel defeats at the hands of Lord Cornwallis, and greatly raised the Patriots’ morale. With Ferguson dead and his Loyalist militia destroyed, Cornwallis was forced to abandon his plan to invade North Carolina and retreated into South Carolina.