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The Overmountain Men and their Descendants

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Surnames/tags: Revolutionary War American frontiersmen Battle of King’s Mountain
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The goal of this project is to gather as much information as I can on the Overmountain men, their ancestors, their descendants as I can find and write biographies, histories, and all of their vital information. I've discovered some wonderful things about them.

Project founder: Debra Hudnall.

  • Janie Jackson Kimble has signed here to add what bit I can.
  • Liz Shifflett is also interested in the Overmountain Men & Piedmont Patriots who fought during the Revolution, as well as others at the Battle of King's Mountain. (My ancestor, George Killian, "served as a Captain of a Mounted Rifle Company in Joseph McDowell's Burke County Militia, seeing action at Cowpens, King's Mountain, Ramsour's Mill and Yorktown".)

Contents

Biography

The Overmountain Men were American frontiersmen from west of the Appalachian Mountains who took part in the American Revolutionary War. While they were present at multiple engagements in the war's southern campaign, they are best known for their role in the American victory at the Battle of King's Mountain in 1780. The term "overmountain" arose because their settlements were west of, or "over", the Appalachians, which was the primary geographical boundary dividing the 13 American colonies from the western frontier. The Overmountain Men hailed from parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and what is now Tennessee and Kentucky.

The Overmountain settlements

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Euro-American settlers began pouring into what is now northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia, causing considerable agitation among the Overhill Cherokees and other tribes who controlled the area. The Treaty of Lochaber, signed in 1770 between the British and the Cherokee, moved the boundary of British territory south to Long Island of the Holston (modern Kingsport, Tennessee). While this brought settlements north of the Holston under British protection, the settlers south of the river were ordered to leave.

Rather than comply with the Crown's order, the illegal settlers—mostly concentrated at the Watauga settlement at Sycamore Shoals (in present-day Elizabethton), the Nolichucky settlement (near modern Greeneville), and Carter's Valley (near modern Kingsport)—decided to lease their land from the Cherokee, and in 1772, established the Watauga Association, which was the first independent American constitutional government west of the Appalachians. In 1775, the Watauga and Nolichucky settlers purchased their leased lands outright and formed the independent Washington District. They almost immediately petitioned Virginia for annexation, which was denied.

The Crown and the colonial governments (especially Virginia) considered the land purchases illegal, and ordered the settlers to leave what they considered to be Cherokee lands. Also, some factions of the Cherokee became agitated when these settlements began expanding rapidly, and tribal chiefs amiable to the settlers fell out of favor. A young Cherokee chief, Dragging Canoe, who had been opposed to the sale of tribal lands, called for the violent removal of all European settlers west of the mountains. He led an estimated one thousand followers (eventually referred to as the Chickamauga) away from the American settlements and carried on an armed struggle against the new country for almost twenty more years (see the Cherokee–American wars) after the failed Cherokee attacks against the Overmountain settlements in the summer of 1776.

Revolutionary War

At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1776, the Overmountain settlers (most of whom were Whigs opposed to the monarchy) began preparing for invasion. The signing of the Watauga Petition and its acceptance by North Carolina—annexing the Washington District to that colony—added further impetus to the Cherokee, who were also being encouraged by the British, to push the American frontiersmen out of the Overmountain settlements. The invasion came in July of that year. While settlers were chased out of Carter's Valley and the Nolichucky settlements, the Cherokee were defeated at Eaton's Station on July 20 and at Fort Watauga on July 21, and eventually retreated from the area. The settlers' struggles gained them the sympathies of North Carolina's revolutionary leaders, who in 1777, allowed the settlements of the Washington District to join equally with the colony, designating the Overmountain area as (the original) Washington County, North Carolina.

The Overmountain Men took part (to varying degrees) in numerous operations against British Loyalists and the British-aligned Cherokee and Shawnee all along the Appalachian frontier. Twenty Wataugans helped defend the Boonesborough and Harrodsburg settlements (in modern Kentucky) from Shawnee attacks in 1778.

During the summer of 1780, a group of Overmountain Men led by Isaac Shelby joined up with Colonel Charles McDowell to raid Loyalist outposts in the Piedmont mountain region of northwestern South Carolina. The Overmountain Men captured Fort Thickety on the Pacolet River and aided in the Patriot victory at the Battle of Musgrove Mill. With the approach of 1780 harvesting season, however, most of the Overmountain Men returned to their farms on the frontier. McDowell stayed behind with a small contingent to continue harassing loyalists.

After winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Camden in August 1780, British General Charles Cornwallis invaded North Carolina, and sent Major Patrick Ferguson into the mountains to root out the Patriot irregulars and protect the region's loyalists. Ferguson quickly routed McDowell's badly outnumbered force, and McDowell retreated across the mountains to the Washington District. Ferguson pardoned a captured frontiersmen named Samuel Phillips (a cousin to Isaac Shelby) so that Phillips could carry a message to the Overmountain settlements. In the message, Ferguson warned the Overmountain Men that if they didn't lay down their arms, he would "march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste the country with fire and sword."

Upon receiving the message, Shelby rode 40 miles (64 km) to Watauga to consult with John Sevier, and the two agreed to raise armies and cross the mountains to engage Ferguson. On September 25, 1780, several hundred frontiersmen gathered at Sycamore Shoals. Lead had been mined at nearby Bumpass Cove for ammunition, Sullivan County merchant John Adair volunteered funds for the expedition, and women prepared clothing and food for the long march. Black powder for the expedition was manufactured by Mary Patton at the Patton mill along nearby Powder Branch. The assembled force consisted of 240 men led by Sevier from Washington County, North Carolina (now Washington County, Tennessee) and the other counties of the Washington District; 240 from Sullivan County led by Shelby; and 400 from southwestern Virginia led by Colonel William Campbell. This main body planned to meet up with the remnants of McDowell's army in the mountains, bringing the total number to just over 1,000. Homeguards were left at Holston and Watauga under Anthony Bledsoe (1739–1788) and Charles Robertson, respectively.

Campbell and his company of 400 Virginians gathered in Abingdon on lands owned by Capt. Andrew Colvill, now known as the Abingdon Muster Grounds, on the banks of Wolf Creek on September 23, 1780 and began the first leg of the march to meet up with a group of "Tennesseans" at Rocky Mount on September 24. They arrived at Sycamore Shoals on the 25th. On September 26, after a fiery sermon by Reverend Samuel Doak, the Overmountain Men began their long trek over the Blue Ridge, marching from Sycamore Shoals to Shelving Rock at the base of Roan Mountain, where they camped for the night. After crossing the mountain at Yellow Mountain Gap, they followed a well-worn path up the North Toe River Valley to Bright's settlement (modern Spruce Pine, North Carolina). On September 29, the force split up at Gillespie Gap (atop the eastern Blue Ridge), with Campbell's contingent descending to Wofford's Fort in Turkey Cove, and Sevier and Shelby's forces descending to North Cove to link up with McDowell. The force reunited the following day and spent the night at the McDowell family plantation at Quaker Meadows (modern Morganton, North Carolina), where they were joined by a 300-man-contingent under Benjamin Cleveland and Joseph Winston. While camped atop Bedford's Hill on October 1, the force's leaders bickered over who had full command, and Charles McDowell was dispatched to the headquarters of General Horatio Gates to request he name a permanent commander. McDowell left his unit under the command of his brother, Joseph McDowell.

On October 4, the Overmountain Men reached Ferguson's base at Gilbert Town (near modern Rutherfordton), although Ferguson had evacuated eastward toward Charlotte to be closer to the main British army. The following day, while camped at Alexander's Ford along the Green River, a spy told the frontiersmen that Ferguson was headed for Ninety-Six, and the force thus headed southeastward into South Carolina. On October 6, the frontiersmen reached Cowpens, where they were joined by a force of 400 South Carolinians under James Williams and a smaller force of North Carolina militiamen under Lt. Colonel Frederick Hambright, including Lt. Colonel Joseph Hardin and Major John Hardin. A spy notified the force that Ferguson was camped 30 miles (48 km) to the east, and a large number of frontiersmen marched through the night in hopes of forcing a confrontation.

Battle of King's Mountain

With the Overmountain Men and Patriot forces fast approaching, Ferguson decided to entrench his 1000-strong loyalist force atop Kings Mountain, a 60-foot (18 m) flat-top hill about 50 miles (80 km) west of Charlotte, near the North Carolina–South Carolina line. Patriot forces reached Kings Mountain on the afternoon of October 7, and formed a U-shape around the mountain, effectively flanking the loyalists. Around 3 p.m., after several minutes of minor skirmishing, William Campbell told his men to "shout like hell and fight like devils," and two companies simultaneously opened fire on the loyalist positions. Shelby, Sevier, Williams, and Cleveland pushed from the north side of the mountain, while Campbell, Winston, and Joseph McDowell pushed from the south side.

While Kings Mountain was difficult to scale, the mountain's slopes were heavily wooded, providing Patriot riflemen ample cover. Both Campbell and Shelby twice attempted to charge up the mountain, but were driven back by loyalist rifle fire. After about an hour, however, the frontier sharpshooters had taken a devastating toll on the loyalists' ranks, and Campbell and Shelby managed to reach the summit. Ferguson was killed by sharpshooters, and the remaining loyalists surrendered. Loyalist casualties included 157 killed, 163 so severely wounded they were left on the field, and 698 captured. Patriot casualties were 28 killed and 62 wounded. Among the Patriot dead was South Carolina militia leader James Williams. John Sevier's brother, Robert, was also mortally wounded. The loyalist prisoners were marched toward the mountains, pausing in northern Rutherford County, where several were put on trial for atrocities allegedly committed on the frontier, and nine were hanged, including Colonel Ambrose Mills.

His western flank now exposed, Cornwallis abandoned his invasion of North Carolina and fell back to Winnsboro, South Carolina. After the victory, Sevier dispatched Joseph Greer to Philadelphia to deliver news of the victory to the Continental Congress. Most of the Overmountain Men returned to the Washington District, where in subsequent months John Sevier, Joseph Hardin and Arthur Campbell (brother of William) led an expedition against the Cherokee to further secure the frontier. William Campbell returned to South Carolina in 1781 to aid Daniel Morgan's Continentals against another British incursion into the region, but arrived the day after Morgan's decisive victory at Cowpens.

In later years, Sevier and Shelby played important roles in the establishment of Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively. Other influential Overmountain Men included John Crockett (father of Davy Crockett), William Lenoir, Joseph Dickson, Daniel Smith, William Russell, and John Rhea, all of whom were at Kings Mountain, and Anthony Bledsoe, who commanded the homeguard for the Holston settlement while the main force was away.

In 1980, Congress appropriated funds for the establishment of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which follows the original marching route of the Overmountain Men between the mustering grounds at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park and battle site at Kings Mountain National Military Park, and includes several branch trails in Virginia and North Carolina. The Shelving Rock site, where the Overmountain Men camped on the first night of their march, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The Overmountain Men are the subject of numerous books, including a historical novel by Cameron Judd, and a play entitled The Wataugans. Overmountain Men

Tasks

Here are some of the tasks that I think need to be done. I'll be working on them, and could use your help.

  • Finding the names of every single member of the Overmountain Men.
  • Fill in the important dates and events in each Overmountain Man's life.
  • Provide Biographies
  • Connect them to their profiles.

Will you join me?

Please post a comment here on this page. Thanks!

References

See also:

List of Overmountain Men:

Also, from text above ("influential Overmountain Men [who] were at Kings Mountain, and Anthony Bledsoe, who commanded the homeguard for the Holston settlement while the main force was away"):

Related WikiTree pages:





Collaboration
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Comments: 14

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Would you please add John Boyd who died at the Battle of King's Mountain. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Boyd-13838

Thank you.

posted by Lili (Booth) Hammond
I attended a session about Bounty Lands at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. The Bounty Land Act of 1855 apparently specifically included veterans of the Battle of King's Mountain. This would then include the Overmountain Men that may not have served in either an official militia or other unit during the Revolutionary War.
posted by Emily (Boy) Holmberg
Still searching for "lists"... encountered an interesting phrase: Piedmont Patriots (as in those from the Piedmont - e.g., Wilkes County & Surry County, NC)... from https://www.starnewsonline.com/story/news/2005/09/19/retracing-228-mile-road-to-independence/30795268007/ (an article by Tim Whitmire):
Celebrations commemorating the Piedmont patriots who marched a separate, eastern branch of the trail from Wilkes and Surry counties in North Carolina, joining the campaign at Morganton, were held this past weekend in Elkin. Other ceremonies and festivals will occur as marchers make their way toward Kings Mountain. ...

also from the article:

By Oct. 7, the Overmountain Men had been joined by other patriot forces from the Carolina plains and Georgia. The combined force surrounded Maj. Ferguson’s army of 1,100 loyalist militia and red-coated provincials, who were camped atop Kings Mountain, and attacked uphill. On their third charge, they routed the loyalists and killed Maj. Ferguson.

edit: sorry - hadn't meant to copy that much of the article; deleted the extra paragraphs, but... love this line:

But Maj. Ferguson’s demand was met with anger in the mountains, where the Appalachian settlers possessed the independent, frontier mentality that characterizes the region to this day.
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
edited by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
and from https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=17522 -
North Carolina sent more patriots to fight here than any other state. Although the over-mountain men from Virginia and Tennessee somehow gained greater fame for the Kings Mountain victory, the piedmont patriots out-numbered them two to one.
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
From what I understand, not all of the Patriot troops at the Battle of King's Mountain were Overmountain Men, so this would mean that the category Battle of Kings Mountain includes profiles for people who were not Overmountain Men, right? Is there a list anywhere of those who are considered to be the Overmountain Men?

From the Wikipedia article about the Overmountain Men (and included in the text of this page):

The assembled force consisted of 240 men led by Sevier from Washington County, North Carolina (now Washington County, Tennessee) and the other counties of the Washington District; 240 from Sullivan County led by Shelby; and 400 from southwestern Virginia led by Colonel William Campbell. This main body planned to meet up with the remnants of McDowell's army in the mountains, bringing the total number to just over 1,000. Homeguards were left at Holston and Watauga under Anthony Bledsoe (1739–1788) and Charles Robertson, respectively.

So, that's 880 men under Sevier, Shelby, and Campbell, the number of Overmountain Men who had stayed with McDowell when the other Overmountain Men had returned home for the harvest being "just over" 120 (to take the count up to "just over 1,000").

But it looks like Wikipedia says there were 1,100 Overmountain Men who came to face the British troops under Ferguson at Kings Mountain, so perhaps "just over" was more like 220 than 120 with McDowell.

From the Wikipedia article about the Battle of Kings Mountain, it seems the Overmountain Men numbered about 1,100 or 1,260 or 1,460 at the muster in September:

The detachments of Shelby, Sevier and Campbell were met by 160 North Carolina militiamen led by Charles McDowell and his brother Joseph.[15] Campbell's cousin, Arthur Campbell, brought 200 more Virginians.[16] About 1,100 volunteers from southwest Virginia and today's northeast Tennessee, known as the "Overmountain Men" because they had settled into the wilderness west of the Appalachian Mountains ridgeline, mustered at the rendezvous on September 25, 1780, at Sycamore Shoals near the modern city of Elizabethton, Tennessee.

Later in that article, the number seems to be 1000:

Shelby and his Overmountain Men crossed back over the Appalachian Mountains and retreated back into the territory of the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals in present day Elizabethton, Tennessee, and by the next month on September 25, 1780, Colonels Shelby, John Sevier, and Charles McDowell and their 600 Overmountain Men had combined forces with Col. William Campbell and his 400 Virginia men at the Sycamore Shoals muster in advance of the Battle of Kings Mountain north of present day Blacksburg, South Carolina in North Carolina on October 7, 1780.[citation needed]

The panel of info for the Battle gives 900 for the total number of patriots, under the command of

  • William Campbell
  • James Johnston
  • John Sevier
  • Frederick Hambright
  • Joseph McDowell
  • Benjamin Cleveland
  • James Williams †
  • Isaac Shelby
  • Joseph Winston
  • William Chronicle †

If I've followed everything right, the Overmountain Men were under the following commanders:

  • William Campbell
  • John Sevier
  • Joseph McDowell
  • Benjamin Cleveland
  • Isaac Shelby

But the lists in the pdf attached to this page - see this page - include the all of the commanders and their troops, although it would seem that the SC forces are not considered Overmountain Men - from Wikipedia's Overmountain Men: "The Overmountain Men hailed from parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and what is now Tennessee and Kentucky.[1]"

update - looking at the Wikipedia articles for the other commanders...

  • James Williams: "Williams led a 100-man detachment to meet up with other militia from the overmountain settlements.... [T]he out-numbered Americans overwhelmed an 1,100 man Loyalist force [at the Battle of Kings Mountain], while suffering only twenty-eight fatalities. Col. Williams was one of them."
  • Joseph Winston: He was with the "Surry County Regiment of the North Carolina militia, leading a unit of riflemen in several important battles, including the... Battle of Kings Mountain". The article does not refer to him as an Overmountain Man. (Perhaps because Surry County is mostly in the Piedmont region? See Wikipedia's Surry County article.)
  • James Johnston: The article does not refer to him as an Overmountain Man. He led a Lincoln County, NC militia regiment (Lincoln County is not considered part of modern-day Appalachia - see Counties of Appalachia).
  • Frederick Hambright: Led a local militia force (from Lincoln County). His Wikipedia article also has information about the Patriot forces:

The rendezvous at Sycamore Shoals on September 25, brought to Campbell's army 200 Virginians and 160 North Carolinians.[10] Another 1,100 "Overmountain Men," volunteers from the Washington District, also arrived to fight for the Patriot cause. The army met with Cleveland's 350 men at Burke County, North Carolina,[11] and the now 1,400–strong force marched towards the South Mountains.

And from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, posted by NCpedia...
  • Winston Chronicle: A "Lincoln County citizen-soldier of the Revolution, one of the heroes slain in the Battle of Kings Mountain".
update 2 - Looking closer at Benjamin Cleveland, who led Wilkes County militiamen, his Wikipedia article does not call him an Overmountain Man - perhaps because "Wilkes County is located on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains" (per Wikipedia's Wilkes County article).
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
edited by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
found the other list of commanders/numbers that actually sparked the question - from the Find a Grave memorial for Captain William Edmonson (who died in the battle). In WikiTree: William Edmondson (abt.1734-1780). There were eight Edmonson/Edminstons there, including Major William Edmiston (1736-1822). This book lists 3 killed and one wounded - "Captain William, Robert Sr., and Andrew, killed, and Lieutenant Robert Jr., wounded. The other four were Major William, and privates John, Samuel and William."

But I digress. Here's the info from the Find a Grave memorial...

According to General Joseph Graham's account of, "The Battle of King's Mountain," the patriot army consisted of the following breakdown of forces:

From Washington county, Virginia, under Col. W. Campbell, 400

From Sullivan county, North Carolina, under Col. Isaac Shelby, 200

From Washington, North Carolina, under Col. John Sevier, 240

From Burke and Rutherford counties, N. C.,under Col. Charles McDowell 160

From Wilkes and Surrey counties, North Carolina, under

Col. Benjamin Cleveland and Major James Winston, 350

[total: 1,350]

posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Excellent points! I actually have an ancestor that enlisted in the Virginia militia when he was living in Loudon County and served under Col. Campbell. I also have ancestors who had already settled in Sullivan County and were truly part of the Overmountain Men. I'll look at this in regard to how the page is set up.
posted by Emily (Boy) Holmberg
Maybe this Space page needs a companion category? (e.g., [Category: Overmountain Men and Descendants] - if "and Descendants", I would think how many generations would need to be defined).

While the Overmountain Men were instrumental in the victory at Kings Mountain, they also participated in other battles. A companion category of "Overmountain Men" (whether or not it included descendants) could include those who may not have been recorded as being at Kings Mountain but who are known to have answered the muster at Sycamore Shoals and at the Battle of Cowpens.

posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
update - done

Hi! If no objection, I'd like to add this page to the category Category:Projects Related to Appalachia & list the project at Space:Appalachia_Project_Organization#Projects_Related_to_Appalachia.

Since neither of y'all is a member (yet :D) of the Appalachia Project, I'd be the Appalachia Project contact - along the lines of the entry for the "not-quite-Appalachia" project for Cumberland Compact Signers (they're just outside of today's definition of Appalachia - most of the Overmountain Men are inside that definition - see Space: Counties of Appalachia and the maps on the project page - Project:Appalachia).

Cheers, Liz

posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
edited by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Hi Liz, That sounds great. I would agree that most of the men would be within today's definition of Appalachia. Some of the Virginia Militia under Col. Campbell would not have been living in Appalachia when they were originally drafted. This includes one of my ancestors, Jacob Boy, Sr, who was living in Loudon County in 1779. However, after the war he moved his family to Sullivan County, Tennessee. We figure he may have moved there because of some of the men he met during his service and especially the men from the Bristol area (including a few of my other ancestors) during the Battle of King's Mountain.

I have thought about joining the project - but am spread too thin at the moment.

Emily

posted by Emily (Boy) Holmberg
Thanks! I've added the category & added it to Space: Appalachia Project Organization#Projects Related to Appalachia. Cheers, Liz
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Thank You Debra on the Kings Mountain info
posted by Richard Neely
Debra, correct spelling is descendAnts.
posted by Jo Gill
Sounds like an interesting project. I am doing something similar for Revolutionary War members that lived in Iredell County, North Carolina. I have created some tables and categories to help me keep track of profiles. See Space:Iredell_County_Revolutionary_Soldiers and Category: Iredell County, North Carolina, Revolutionary War Veterans
posted by [Living Moore]