ELIZABETHTON — They are coming. They are already on their way from Abingdon, Va., to Rocky Mount.
Men dressed for battle and carrying flintlock rifles will be converging on Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area this weekend for the 231st anniversary of the gathering of the Overmountain Men and their march to Kings Mountain to meet despised British commander Major Patrick Ferguson.
Because the men and women are re-enacting a well-known historical event, most of what is re-enacted remains the same each year. But Sycamore Shoals Seasonal Interpretive Ranger Chad Bogart said there are different stories depicted each year, which keeps it informative and entertaining for those who make the gathering an annual event.
“Last year we focused on the one of every seven men who were drafted to stay behind and defend the home front,” Bogart said. One of the focal points this year is near and dear to Bogart’s heart — the North Carolina militia that had retreated over the mountains to Sycamore Shoals after skirmishing with Ferguson during the summer.
“My ancestor was Col. Andrew Hampton, who led the Rutherford County Militia,” Bogart said. “The militias of Rutherford County and Burke County fought against Ferguson.”
Friction among the leaders of the two militias began to grow, especially after Hampton’s son was killed in one of the skirmishes. Bogart said Hampton blamed his son’s death on the leadership of the Burke County commander, Col. Charles McDowell.
About 160 of the North Carolina militia retreated through the mountains to Sycamore Shoals about two weeks before the famous gathering of the Overmountain Men. Bogart said Col. John Carter, the leader of the local forces, invited the North Carolinians to encamp on his plantation on the Watauga River, just a few miles upstream from Sycamore Shoals.
Bogart will talk about the role of the North Carolina militia during his annual Trail Talk, in which the listeners will proceed along the walking trail to see various sites of the park, including the area where the Overmountain Men crossed the Watauga River to be welcomed to Fort Watauga.
The re-enactment of Col. William Campbell’s Virginia Militia crossing the Watauga River is always a highlight of the annual event. This year, the crossing will take place at around 2 p.m. Sunday.
The re-enactment will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, when the Washington County Militia will raise the flag, perform the opening drill and fire off a volley.
New this year will be performances by the Watauga Valley Fifes and Drums, a homegrown organization playing 18th-century music. The first performance will be at 11 a.m. Saturday and is titled “Echoes of Revolution.”
Another popular show is the artillery demonstration, which will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The weekend is not all about the military, however. At 1 p.m., there will be a presentation on “Life on the Home Front,” which will look at women’s roles on the 18th-century frontier.
The re-enactment does not end with the weekend. On Monday at 8 a.m., there will be a re-enactment of the Rev. Samuel Doak’s sermon and prayer to the Overmountain Men as they prepared to depart the shoals on their way to destiny. George Cobb, a minister from Georgia, will portray Doak.
The re-enactors following the route taken by the Overmountain Men will then depart for Shelving Rock near Roan Mountain State Park. There will be storytellings and programs in the campsite near the historic rock where the Overmountain men stored their powder from the rain.
On Tuesday, the group will make the trek over the Roan at Yellow Mountain Gap.
Also on Monday, the students of West Side Elementary will make the trek from their school to Sycamore Shoals, where eight stations will be set up to explain the history of the occasion.