Gravesite of Robert Young. Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press
A Revolutionary War hero who settled in what is now Johnson City will be honored nearly 233 years after his famous act played a deciding role in helping the colonists defeat the British.
District 1 of the Tennessee State Sons of the American Revolution is putting together a three-day series — “American History Comes Alive at Area Events” — Sept. 19-21, which will be packed with meetings, presentations and the honoring of Robert Young at a ceremony in Johnson City.
Ronnie Lail, president of the Watauga Chapter of the TSSAR, said Young, who owned the property at what is now Mountain Home, reportedly killed British Col. Patrick Ferguson in the historic Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.
“Most historians say that the turning point of the war was the Battle of Kings Mountain,” Lail said. “The war itself (before the battle) was either a stalemate or some people would even say that the Americans were losing.”
He said many colonists had been going back and forth over the mountain to fight in different battles, and when Ferguson found out, he sent a warning to the patriots.
“He sent a message over here by a friend of Isaac Shelby’s and told them if they did not cease and desist in their opposition to the crown, lay down their weapons and pledge allegiance to the king, that he would march his army across the mountain and lay waste to the countryside with fire and sword and hang all the leaders,” Lail said. “It infuriated (the colonists).”
On Sept. 25, 1780, a large group of colonists, including Shelby, John Sevier, William Campbell and Joseph McDowell, went across the mountain, where they met up Oct. 6 at Cowpens, S.C.
At 9 p.m., the group — the Overmountain Men — received word that Ferguson was on Kings Mountain. Knowing their way around the area, the patriots surrounded the mountain, Lail said.
“Robert Young and six of his sons (fought) at the Battle of Kings Mountain,” he said. “One of his son-in-law’s guns misfired and he told him ‘Robert, here comes Patrick Ferguson.’ Robert’s gun did not misfire and he shot Ferguson.”
According to a news release from the TSSAR, Young reportedly shouted, “I will try and see what Sweet Lips can do,” and fired his rifle, shooting Ferguson from his horse.
Lail said Ferguson’s death was a big turning point in the war, as many believed Ferguson, a Scotsman, to be “one of the best soldiers ... in the British army.”
He said the British had already swept major portions of the South, including Charleston and Camden in South Carolina, but said the Battle of Kings Mountain, as well as killing Ferguson, was the first major defeat of British forces in the South during the war.
Lail said after the battle, many of the Overmountain Men, who had left their homes, families and fortunes to fight in the war, returned home.
While others in the past have claimed credit for shooting Ferguson, Lail stands by Young as the hero, which is one reason they have chosen to honor him.
“He was a hero,” he said. “He and his sons. We’re honoring his family, his sons, too, who fought in the battle. All the men in the SAR, we really try to mark the graves of these heroes of the Revolutionary War and so we really would like to remember people like Robert Young.”
According to the release, TSSAR members will gather Sept. 20 at Young’s grave at the rear of the former National Guard Armory property on West Market Street, just beyond North State of Franklin Road in Johnson City, at 4 p.m.
Members of the TSSAR will also muster at Young’s grave.
For more information on the three-day event, call Lail at 914-8677 or Dr. Joe Chambers 743-3656.