Overmountain Victory Trail Association presents 'How We Won the Revolutionary War'

Brandon Paykamian • Nov 4, 2017 at 10:03 PM

In the fall of 1780, a contingent of guerrilla fighters marched for 14 days along what is now known as the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail to fight off the British loyalist forces led by British Maj. Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain in North Carolina.

This decisive victory was arguably the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.

The men who fought Ferguson’s forces would later be known as the Overmountain Men, a ragtag group of mountain men who used guerrilla tactics to harass the British leading up to the Battle of Kings Mountain. The name given to these fighters came from their march from the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, Virginia and what is now Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Tom Vaughn of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association believes the war would’ve been lost without the efforts of the Overmountain Men. Without the help of these Southern Appalachian revolutionaries, Vaughn said George Washington’s Continental Army probably wouldn’t have been able to regroup and defeat Gen. Charles Cornwallis’ forces a year later at the Battle of Yorktown.

“The Overmountain Men won the Revolutionary War,” Vaughn said. “The war in the north between Lord Clinton and Washington had come to a standstill. Neither one was strong enough to take down the other.”

Vaughn said it was the Overmountain Men who helped break the stalemate using guerrilla tactics and their knowledge of the terrain. The British, who sought to subjugate the southern states, despised the Overmountain Men for what they viewed as underhanded tactics, which often caused a headache for Ferguson’s men leading up to the decisive battle at Kings Mountain.

“The battle at Kings Mountain was guerrilla warfare. As they said, ‘Give ‘em Indian play,’ which meant to hide behind rocks, shoot and take cover again,” Vaughn said. “That's why Ferguson hated the Overmountain Men so much. We were considered ‘pesky backwater men’ and ‘scum of the earth,’ as Ferguson called us.”

Vaughn currently serves as the treasurer for the association that annually commemorates the march to Kings Mountain each September.

On Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m., the Bristol Historical Association will be holding a public program led by Vaughn called “How We Won the Revolutionary War,” where he will talk about the victory at Kings Mountain and the historical significance of the trail they marched on to meet Ferguson’s forces.

Authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1980, the trail is administered by the National Park Service. Working closely with regional partners along the trail, the route is gradually being completed as a non-motorized pathway for public use.

In order to honor the memory of the region’s revolutionaries who valiantly fought off the British forces, Vaughn has been working for years to educate people about the battle and protect the trail. Last spring, he and other members of the group urged Congress to support the Overmountain Victory Trail, which Vaughn said is an important piece of Appalachian and American identity that must not be forgotten.

For more information on Vaughn’s visit to the Bristol Public Library, visit www.facebook.com/BristolVATN.

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