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Propaganda

Propaganda

Propaganda

Propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” So you can say just about everything you see during the day is propaganda. The use of propaganda during wartime is almost as old as war itself and certainly has had its place in American Military History.

The examples that you see in the picture are from the Korean conflict. Pamphlets like these were disseminated to the general population to convince them that the UN/South Korean troops were the good guys. The goal was to either get people to fight, flee, or at least not support the enemy. There is an ongoing debate as to how effective it is or was during this conflict. Other times the effective use of propaganda has proven very valuable.

Before and during the American Revolution the use of propaganda was vital to sway people to the side of the rebels. Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre that took some liberties with events. The stories that surrounded young Jane McCrea led to the British defeat at Saratoga. Propaganda proved an invaluable tool in gaining the support needed to win the American Revolution.

Several times it was not just used to gain support for a war, but to actually get one started!

During the lead up to the Mexican War is an example. The administration was able to convince the people that Mexican soldiers had attacked American soldiers on American soil. (A dubious and purposeful claim that a young Abraham Lincoln took exception to.)

Don’t forget using the sinking of the USS Maine to throw us into war against Spain. There many more examples in our history. Now expand that to the rest of the world. It seems that propaganda is just as important as guns and money to starting, fighting and winning a war.

 

Don’t Mess with the Overmountain Men

Don't Mess with the Overmountain Men

 

A New Strategy

With the war in America blossoming into a world war, the British had to come up with a new strategy. Settling for a stalemate in the north they moved the active theater south. The idea being that they could pacify the rebels and let the strong loyalist population regain control of the regions, thus re-establishing the region to the crown. In May 1780 the plan kicked off with the capture of Charleston after a siege that saw a sizable patriot force surrender. In August of that year the British and American forces meet at Camden. The British succeeded in not only winning the battle, but caused the American army to all but disintegrate. With organized resistance removed in South Carolina, the British looked to implement their plan of turning the area over to the loyalists.

Enter Patrick Ferguson and his band of loyalists. Building on the support for the crown in the region, Ferguson began a campaign of rooting out rebels and restoring the countryside to British rule. Far from just a lone detachment, Ferguson’s corps was integral to the plans of General Cornwallis. It would act as the left flank of the army. It would also be the main defense for the string of British outposts in the west. Ferguson was effective enough in his actions to allow Cornwallis to move forward with his plans of invading North Carolina, Ferguson however made one major mistake.

The Overmountain Men

Looking to extend control over the mountains into the frontier, Ferguson issued an edict that anyone who did not cooperate with the Crown would be hung. Needless to say this caused a great deal of agitation to the men on the frontier. They were called the “Overmountain” men for where they lived. After Ferguson called them out their resistance to the British began to stiffen. The Americans raised a large force of militia and struck out to take Ferguson down. Hearing that he was being shadowed by this force, Ferguson decided to take a stand on Kings Mountain and force a confrontation.

On October 7, 1780, he set up his position on the heights and awaited the rebels. What transpired was one of the largest battles of the war that contained no “regulars”.   The rebels advanced from multiple directions using rocks and trees for cover.  They were able to us a withering fire to great effect against the loyalists.  In less than an hour the position was over run. Ferguson was dead. The British left flank becmae completely exposed.

The victory for the rebels at King’s Mountain effectively crippled the loyalist cause in the south. It also forced Cornwallis to rethink his strategy. This set the stage for patriot resurgence in the area. Suddenly the south was in play once again.

The End of Patrick Ferguson

The gravestone of Patrick Ferguson

The End of Patrick Ferguson

This is the monument to Patrick Ferguson that was built at Kings Mountain. This stone does not mark where he fell, but where they moved the body sometime after. The battle at Kings Mountain October 7, 1780 has a sort of weird place in the annals of the American Revolution. It is on one hand perhaps one of the most important battles and victories of the patriots, but it is also one that not many people know about. Patrick Ferguson is sort of like that for the British. He was one of the their most important and talented commanders, but his name is usually not recognized by the layman.

The entire story of Ferguson is one that could fill a book on its own. From his creation of a breech-loading rifle, to the time he came one shot away from killing Washington and ended the war, his stories and the stuff of legend. No, we will look here briefly not at the start of his story but at his end here at Kings Mountain.

Kings Mountain

After the fall of Charleston in 1780, General Clinton gave Ferguson overall command of Loyalist troops in the region. With these troops, mainly light infantry, he was to go into the far reaches of the south and do what he could to prevent the rebels from coming back into power. He relished his role and set about it with fervor. Perhaps a little too much fervor.

He and his men went after the rebels with gusto, burning farms and threatening destruction to anyone that fought against the King. He was effective, but he also made a terrible estimation. In the far west of the region were the Overmountain Men. Frontiersmen that though mostly rebels, were more concerned with the natives that they seemed constantly at war with. Ferguson sent them a message that if they came back across the mountains, he would burn their farms and kill their families. They did not take kindly to that and set out to find Ferguson and put an end to his threats.

At Kings Mountain they found him. Ferguson fought well that day, rallying his men several times from their position on top of the mountain. In his red and white checkered hunting shirt, using a whistle to relay orders he seemed to be everywhere. Until he wasn’t. The loss of for the British was terrible. The left-wing of their army evaporated. One of their best commanders gone for good. Worst of all, the loyalists in South lost the will to fight,

When you see the headstone you can remember the man buried there.  He earned that. That grave though does not just hold his body, but the British hopes of winning the war.

The Ferguson Rifle

 

The lock mechanism of a Ferguson Rifle.

It was expensive and hard to produce. Four gunsmiths would struggle to make 100 in six months and it cost four times what the standard musket would cost. What is was though was one of the first breech-loading rifle and it very well could have changed the face of the American Revolution.

A turn of the trigger guard would cause the breech plug to drop down, a standard British .615 caliber lead ball would be put into the barrel followed by the patch and powder. It could be loaded from a prone position, behind cover and loaded faster than a standard Brown Bess musket.

The rifle was designed by Patrick Ferguson a British officer who worked based on an earlier 1720 French design. After making improvements in the mechanism he was awarded the patent in 1776. At the start of the revolution Ferguson gained permission to outfit 100 men in an “experimental rifle corp” to field test the weapons. At the Battle of Brandywine, the rifle served well but Ferguson himself was wounded. During his recuperation the unit was disbanded and the rifle was used only sparingly. The cost of production proved too much and the rifle was mothballed.

Ferguson would eventually meet his end later in the war at King’s Mountain, but one account of his unit at Brandywine would live on well past. Just before he was wounded in the battle he observed a group of American officers enter a small glade, he and some of his men had taken cover at the edge. From the uniforms he could tell that these were high-ranking men and he raised his self-named rifle placing the sites on the man in the lead. At that moment the group turned around, oblivious to the dangers lurking at the wood line. Ferguson decided to not take the shot as shooting the man in the back would not be honorable. The group of officers made it back unscathed and Ferguson would later catch a ball in his elbow and be put out of action.

Based on accounts on the day of the battle it is very probable that the man who had been in the sites of Ferguson’s rifle was General George Washington himself. Later upon hearing that it may have been Washington Ferguson said that he did not regret his decision. A case of honor over expediency.

 

Monumental (Part 2)

This obelisk is the monument located at Kings Mountain. We have looked at a couple of the plaques at the base before and even talked about the battle some in a previous post. This monument is located at the top of the “mountain” and it is quite a sight to see. The battle and people who it memorialize though is an interesting story in and off itself.

At the time of the revolution that Southern colonies were a society that was fractured along many different lines. The planter class in the tidewater regions did not think much of the people in the interior, which led to political issues well before the first shots were fired.  The families in the back country tended to be more recent immigrants, many Scots, Scots-Irish and some German groups.  All of these groups tended to be clan based, family based and a lot of the times they did not necessary like their neighbors.

When the war broke out, the back country erupted into a true civil war as many of these clans took the chance to settle old scores with rivals and the opportunity to increase their own standing. For the most part, patriot or loyalist was more an issue of being on the side opposite your “enemy” so that whatever you dis to them could be justified as “for the cause”.  Some families simply jumped back and forth with their support depending on which army was closest and what they had to gain by it.

By the time that British troops had taken Charleston and started moving into the interior, there had been somewhat of a lull in the fighting as both sides found themselves fighting the Cherokee, Once that fight was done whoever they turned back to killing each other.

Kings Mountain stand out in the line of bloody conflict for one main reason, it was fought by the two sides with no regular troops. Every man engaged was militia and American, with the exception of Patrick Ferguson, the British commander. That fact made the battle unique. The victory also served as the pivot point for the war. From that point on, especially in the South, the number of loyalists willing to fight dwindled robbing the British army a source of badly needed manpower.

Bloody and terrible Kings Mountain stand above many other battles in the South. Interesting enough, of the men that survived the fight about fourscore and seven years later their descendants would be involved in another war, this time mostly fighting on the same side this time around.