DRIVING THE BRITISH FROM THE UP COUNTRY, 1780-1781
ABOUT September 7 or 8, Cornwallis marched from Camden to Charlotte. After the stinging defeat by the back-country Whigs of the British at Musgrove's Mill, Ferguson repaired to headquarters for consultation and received Cornwallis' order to pursue the North Carolinians into their mountains. He entered North Carolina on September 7, marched beyond Old Fort, and, returning, camped on September 23 at Gilbert Town (Rutherfordton), from which on his advance he had sent a message to the "men of the western waters" threatening to hang their leaders and waste their country with fire and sword.
On September 30 he learned from two deserters that the mountain men, instead of being intimidated, were advancing upon him. He was thus transformed from the avenger, dispatching threats of destruction to the overhill men, to the fugitive, fleeing from their wrath. He accordingly recrossed Broad River to the east, a little below the mouth of the Green, and struck for Charlotte to join Cornwallis.
Shelby and his associates, on retreating from Musgrove's Mill, had agreed to raise sufficient forces to attack Ferguson. Colonel Shelby of North Carolina and Colonel John Sevier of Tennessee at once began to assemble at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga the host that was to strike Ferguson before he could strike them.
Besides the North Carolinians, almost the entire military force of the later Tennessee were present, and 400 Virginians from the later Kentucky. More came than could be allowed to leave the frontier, for an attack by the Indians was expected as part of the British campaign. The Indians did rise, and for it were signally punished in fights running through two years. But that is Tennessee history, except the Cherokee outbreaks in northern Georgia which Pickens aided in suppressing.
Few more colorful scenes mark American history than these thousand frontiersmen, clad in moccasins, coonskin caps, and hunting shirts, and armed with tomahawks, scalping knives, and unerring Deckhard rifles, bowing in prayer beside the rushing mountain stream, accompanied by their mountain preacher's exhortation on "the sword of the Lord and of Gideon," and riding away to meet the enemy at the mountain gates.