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East Tennessee in the Revolutionary War

By Jack Swift

By September 1780, American loyalists had fought a number of battles against British troops, as well as some colonists who were loyal to the British Crown. The colonies were edging ever closer to independence from King George’s heavy hand as he had more and more through taxation, and other harsh treatment showed his disdain for Britain’s far-flung colonies. Two of the most distasteful items enforced by the King were taxation without representation and quartering soldiers in the homes of the Colonists without their consent.
While it was illegal to do so, some colonists had traveled west of the Eastern Continental Divide and away from the original 13 colonies and began to settle in what is now East Tennessee. It was a difficult life, but the idea of freedom was stronger to them than an easy life. The men of East Tennessee had already taken part in the capture of Cedar Spring and Musgrove’s Mill before the historic Battle of King’s Mountain that is so often cited as a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
More than 1000 men were mustered at Sycamore Shoals in what is now Elizabethton in preparation for the fateful battle of King’s Mountain. On September 26, 1780, prior to their departure, Rev. Samuel Doak sent them off with a sermon and a prayer.
I am including in this column the words of that prayer.
“Almighty and gracious God! Thou hast been the refuge and strength of Thy people in all ages. In time of sorest need we have learned to come to Thee-our Rock and our Fortress. Thou knowest the dangers and snares that surround us on march and in battle.
Thou knowest the dangers that constantly threaten the humble, but well-beloved, which thy servants have left behind them.
Oh, in Thine infinite mercy, save us from the cruel hand of the savage, and of tyrant. Save the unprotected homes while fathers and husbands and sons are far away fighting for freedom and helping the oppressed.
“Thou, who promised to protect the sparrow in its flight, keep ceaseless watch, by day and by night, over our loved ones. The helpless woman and little children, we commit to Thy care. Thou wilt not leave them or forsake them in times of loneliness and anxiety and terror.
“Oh, God of Battle, arise in Thy might. Avenge the slaughter of Thy people. Confound those who plot for our destruction. Crown this mighty effort with victory, and smite those who exalt themselves against liberty and justice and truth.
“Help us as good soldiers to wield the Sword of the Lord.” “Amen.”
Following Rev. Doak’s prayer, the men moved out and advanced up Gap Creek crossed the Doe River and spent the night at Shelving Rock. The following night they camped on top of the Roan Mountain. Two of their number were British spies who left the camp and warned British Colonel Pat-rick Ferguson of the impending attack. The Over Mountain Men surrounded King’s Mountain and started to climb the mountain, holding fire until the order was given.
The battle lasted hardly more than an hour. By the time the last volley was fired, Colonel Ferguson lay dead. He had threatened the settlements with a most heinous message. His message was if they did not “desist from their opposition to the British army, and take protection under his standard, he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their county waste with fire and sword.”
The young and able-bodied men of the settlements didn’t wait for that to happen but took the battle to Ferguson’s men and won the victory.