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South Carolina Revolutionary War Heroine

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Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson were living in Boneybefore, Ireland, in 1764. They were tenant farmers and not making enough money from their crops and sheep to make ends meet. Taxes continued to go up, and the weather continued to cast a blight on their harvests.

The Scots-Irish, Presbyterian couple worked hard, but life under the British rule was a hard-scrabbble existence. Taxes were high, and disrespect for their religion of Presbyterianism was difficult.  Scots-Irish couldn’t own land or hold public office. The English lords’ boots were heavy on their necks.

Both Elizabeth and Andrew’s parents were weavers, and Elizabeth supplemented their income by selling her woven cloth. Rents of the land were due on a regular basis. More often than not, they scraped it together.  Andrew began to question not following in his father’s footsteps. But Andrew wanted to make a living on the land.

They decided to move to Carolina, one of the thirteen colonies in the New World. Elizabeth already had four sisters there, and making a living from farming would be a prosperous one.

In April, 1765, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies with their two children. Hugh was two, and Robert only a babe.  The eight week voyage from Larne, Ireland to Charles Town, was uneventful. The regular diet of salted beef, bread, and potatoes was monotonous. But this was temporary, and they looked forward to starting fresh.

Red haired and blue-eyed Elizabeth was excited about seeing her four sisters who already lived in the upcountry of Carolina. The Waxhaws was a settlement of other Scotch-Irish, and it was about 150 miles northeast from Charlestown on Waxhaws Creek, a tributary of the Catawba River. There was already a Presbyterian meeting house, and the community was large.

Land was bought and cleared close to family, and a small one-room cabin erected. Help in settling came from family, and soon crops were planted. Happily for two years, the Jacksons worked hard and struggled to eke out a living in this red clay, but in March, 1767, an accident occurred.

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While chopping wood on a cold, spring day, Andrew Jackson had an accident and died shortly thereafter. Elizabeth, nine months pregnant with their third son, was a widow at thirty with all the responsibilities of a single mother in 18th Century America.

In 1710, William Byrd described the typical colonial woman, “She is a very civil woman and shows nothing of ruggedness, or immodesty in her carriage, yet she will carry a gun in the woods and kill deer, turkey, bear, etc., shoot down wild cattle, catch and tie hogs, knock down beeves with an axe, and perform the most manful exercises as well as most men in those parts.”

Though small in stature, Elizabeth was strong and resilient in spirit. She adapted to life’s changes and disappointments and put other’s needs before herself. Working hard and pushing forward through challenges was the model she set for her sons. She protected and provided for her family.

After Andrew’s death, her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and James Crawford, beseached Elizabeth to move in with their family. Jane had been sick for several years and needed help with the housekeeping. Their eight children needed more supervision than she could give, so the Jacksons joined the Crawford household.

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Busy with the daily chores of planning and preparing meals for 14 individuals in a fireplace, tending to the needs of 11 children and her ailing sister, mending, spinning, managing a garden, churning, etc., Elizabeth continued to weave cloth for the community. She earned money from the neighbors by selling her excellent cloth and was known for the quality and expertise of her work.

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Elizabeth learned about wildcrafting, which is finding and using wild herbs. e.g. a mixture made of huckleberries, wild onions, wild greens, and chestnuts. There was an abundance of ducks, geese, squirrels, turkeys, rabbits, pigeons, etc. (“putting meat on the table” was a proactive endeavor each day) Raising cows, hogs, and chickens was a daily exercise that started at dawn. She saved seeds from season to season: corn, squash, beans and dried extra for the winter. Corn became meal which became cornbread, corn dodgers, Johnny cakes, hasty pudding, etc. which took the place of the Ulster Scots oatmeal and oat cakes. (The New World offered new possibilities, and the land was fertile.) Over a fire pit or a large indoor fireplace, a pot of stew that cooked all day and maybe into the next gives a possible source to the nursery rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”

Jane and James had five girls, and Elizabeth taught them housewifery: the skills needed to be a homemaker. Much hand work, whether knitting, carding, darning, or with needle and thread, was demanded. Learning how to make soap out of ashes, churning the daily butter, feeding the chickens, cows, and pigs, etc. Children had to work like everyone else in the house to earn their keep. In other words, they worked in order to eat, have a safe place to sleep, and help their families.

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James kept the boys in line by instructing them in riflery, hunting, mending fences, crafting tools, shearing sheep, and farming.

Elizabeth wanted her sons to have a formal education. All three attended the church and community school, but Hugh and Robert had more aptitude for outdoor activities, and they wanted to farm. Andy learned to read at an early age, and his mother thought he might become a minister. His personality was not for a scholar’s life though, and the Revolutionary War interrupted his education.

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Elizabeth’s faith in God and His Providence were a major ingredient in her character. She had a small Bible that she kept in her pocket and prayed often.  She taught her sons the importance of obedience to the Bible’s teachings and encouraged them to in their loyalty to each other and the rest of their family. Elizabeth urged deeds and words honoring God, family, and country.

As well as being active in the Waxhaw Meeting House, her best friend was the pastor’s wife. When scandal rocked the close community, Elizabeth stood by Nancy Richardson. Rampant rumors accused Nancy of murdering William, the pastor. No one wanted to believe he had committed suicide, as appeared.

The Scotch-Irish reveled in music and storytelling.

Patriotism and allegiance to kin were also crucial traits in the Scots-Irish, and this was perpetuated to the next generation through tales and legends. The courage of gallant and courageous heroes was the model for the younger generation.  Elizabeth told stories of the legendary Jack and his exploits and the true accounts of William Wallace; Hugh, Robert, Andy, and their cousins yearned for opportunities to prove their bravery on a battlefield fighting for their country. They wanted to be called patriots and prove their loyalty.

The Waxhaws settlement was connected to Charleston via the Catawba Path, also known as the Camden Salisbury Road, with many travelers. Merchants and Indian traders carried their wares to markets. Farmers drove their cattle to sale. New settlers in the Conestoga wagons or on foot were daily visitors. All of these travelers kept trade, culture, and news flowing into the upcountry where the Jackson family lived. Because of the proximity of the Crawford home to the “road,” visitors kept them in the know with information and intelligence.

The South Carolina Gazette was published in Charlestown, and couriers took its pages over the state to the upcountry. News from the other colonies was coveted. Reading about the Boston Tea Party in December of 1773 and The First Continental Congress in Philadelphia the following fall assured them of knowledge of the changes happening in the colonies. In June, 1775, George Washington was named Commander in Chief, and he assumed this position in the Continental Army the next month.

War came closer to the Carolinas and to the Jackson/Crawford family in 1776. The Battle of Sullivan’s Island was fought, and James Crawford, as well as other Waxhaws’ militia, saw combat there.  He returned with first hand reports of British warships and the building of a fort out of local palmetto logs. James regaled his sons and nephews with the sights and sounds of battle for their freedom. He spoke of the might of the British, the encouragement of William Moultrie, how all the men worked hard together, and of the one man named Jasper who raised the Liberty Flag when it went down.

James’ battle story inspired and reassured his family that fighting the British was the right choice.

The battles for our independence stayed to the north after the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, but the militia continued to drill and prepare. On Muster days, the Crawford/Jackson clan would meet in front of their meeting house. The women would prepare camp fires and meals; this was a time of visiting and catching up with each other’s lives. As Elizabeth watched her sons practice their maneuvers and marksmanship, fear must have gripped her heart. She wondered how soon her oldest, sixteen-year-old Hugh, would be in the sight of enemy sharpshooters.   

And it was the next month, June, 20, 1779, when Hugh died after the Battle of Stono Ferry near Charlestown. The two hour battle was not a win for the Patriots, but the militia fought bravely. Hugh was not wounded but died of heat exhaustion. He was 16.

The sounds of war stayed miles away until Monday, May 29, 1780.

Colonel Abraham Buford and his 3rd Virginia Regiment of Continentals had been ordered to North Carolina after the fall of Charlestown. His supply wagons and field artillery were the first noises heard by the nearby Crawford’s household.  Shrieks of men and sounds of firearms ricocheted nearby. Along with other women and children within the echoes of battle, Elizabeth, Robert, and Andy traveled cautiously toward the sounds. What waited them on the Camden-Salisbury Road was a massacre of Patriot soldiers.

On the ground were the bodies of 113 American soldiers and 3 British soldiers. The 17th Light Dragoons, the British Legion Infantry, and the British Legion Calvary, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banaster Tarleton. The Americans were given no quarter.

The women and their children took over the care of the wounded in the June heat. Water was brought, and bandages quickly made. Robert and Andy Jackson both carried water to the wounded; they saw the horrific wounds. Comforting words were spoken. Elizabeth must have thought of those who tended her oldest son Hugh when he died after a battle as she moved from one injured and bleeding soldier after another.  When the Reverend Jacob Carnes ran in on the horrific scene, his words of reassurance from Psalm 23 must have been encouragement to all who heard him.

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     One of those Virginians taken prisoner was my ancestor Captain Thomas Davis. I am glad to say that he didn’t lose his life that day.

     From that month on, the British made forays and attacks into the Waxhaw region. Horses were stolen, and fields were plundered. Livestock was eaten, and homes were burned. The farmers soon had little left. Elizabeth and other women and children would escape into North Carolina until the British left. Then they would creep back to salvage what they could. Scraping by on left overs was the new survival mode.

Robert and Andy were under the command of the experienced Major William Richardson Davie. Because of his youth, only 13, Andy served as a messenger. He also took care of the horses during the battles. Guerrilla war fare and destruction was the aim of both sides, and enemy neighbors were paying back old insults.

Then in the spring of 1781 both Robert and Andy were captured by the British, along with others in the Waxhaws militia. They were taken to the Camden Jail. Smallpox was in every cell, and before long both were afflicted. Lieutenant Colonel Francis Rawdon was the commander of this prisoner of war jail.

Elizabeth Jackson was determined to rescue her sons from this hell hole. She audaciously marched in to see Lord Rawdon and asked for him to add her sons’ names to a prisoner exchange that was in the works. He was not unhappy to release two sick prisoners.

Elizabeth had brought two old horses with her to help get the boys home. Since Robert was so sick, Andy let Robert ride and Andy walked. Their mother nursed them for several weeks, but Robert was too weak and died. She never left Andy’s side until he could walk by himself.

  Horrific tales about how the Patriots were being treated on the British prison ships in the harbor of Charlestown began to circulate. Elizabeth found out that several of her nephews were on those ships suffering with cholera. Knowing their chances to survive were small without some kind of nursing, Elizabeth and a couple of women from the Waxhaws community decided they needed to go help the young men. In the fall of 1781, the three women left home on a mission of mercy.

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Elizabeth’s nephews survived, but she did not. She caught cholera and was buried in an unmarked grave. Her son, Andrew Jackson, later President of the United States, never found where his mother was buried.

 Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense. In the introduction, he wrote,

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in the crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women.”

Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson stood it.

Elizabeth taught her sons the (1) difference between right and wrong,  (2) reverence for truth, justice, and freedom, and (3) deep patriotic devotion to country.

As we look toward celebrating our country’s birthday in two days, I am grateful for the men and women who chose to fight for my liberty. No, they certainly didn’t run from opportunities to make a difference; they ran toward the enemy.  They loved their homes and country too much.

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As James Otis said, “One of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle.”

 

 

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President Herbert Hoover and the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain

Image result for Battle of King's MountainThis past Friday, October 7, 2016, about 500 men, women, and children met on the top of Kings Mountain, SC. It was a rainy day, and the celebration of the 236 Anniversary was under tents. Some were dressed in Revolutionary War attire, and others were in their Sunday clothes.

On the 150th Celebration of this pivotal battle in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, President Herbert Hoover spoke. His words plainly tell us the significance of this battle to our country.

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“My fellow countrymen:

This is a place of inspiring memories. Here less than a thousand men, inspired by the urge of freedom, defeated a superior force entrenched in this strategic position. This small band of patriots turned back a dangerous invasion well designed to separate and dismember the united Colonies. It was a little army and a little battle, but it was of mighty portent. History has done scant justice to its significance, which rightly should place it beside Lexington and Bunker Hill, Trenton and Yorktown, as one of the crucial engagements in our long struggle for independence.

The Battle of Kings Mountain stands out in our national memory not only because of the valor of the men of the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, who trod here 150 years ago, and because of the brilliant leadership of Colonel [William] Campbell, but also because the devotion of those men revived the courage of the despondent Colonies and set a nation upon the road of final triumph in American independence.

No American can review the vast pageant of human progress so mightily contributed to by these men without renewed faith in humanity, new courage, and strengthened resolution.

My friends, I have lived among many peoples and have observed many governments. Each has its own institutions and its own ideals, its own spirit. Many of them I have learned to respect and to admire. It is from these contrasts and these experiences that I wish to speak today-to speak upon the institutions, the ideals, upon the spirit of America.

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In the time since the Battle of Kings Mountain was fought our country has marched from those struggling Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard to the full sweep of the Pacific. It has grown from fewer than 3 million people to more than 120 million. But far more inspiring than its growth of numbers has been the unfolding of a great experiment in human society. Within this land there have been build up new and powerful institutions designed of new ideas and new ideals in a new vision of human relations. Through them we have attained a wider diffusion of liberty and of happiness and of material things than humanity has ever known before. Our people live in a stronger security from enemies abroad and in greater comfort at home than has ever before been the fortune of a nation. We are filled with justifiable pride in the valor, the inventions, the contributions to art and literature, the moral influence of our people. We glow with satisfaction at the multitude of activities in the Nation, the State, the local community, which spread benefits and blessings amongst us. We may be proud of our vast economic development over these 150 years, which has secured to the common man greater returns for his effort and greater opportunity for his future than exist in any offer place on the Earth.

In the large sense we have maintained open the channels of opportunity, constantly refreshing the leadership of the Nation by men of lowly beginnings. We have no class or caste or aristocracy whose privilege limits the hopes and opportunities of our people. Science and education have been spread until they are the universal tools of the common man. They have brought to him the touch of a thousand finer things of life. They have enlarged the horizon of our vision into the inspiring works of God.

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This unparalleled rise of the American man and woman was not alone the result of riches in lands or forests or mines; it sprang from ideas and ideals, which liberated the mind and stimulated the exertion of a people. There were other parts of the world even more easily accessible to new invasion by man, whose natural resources were as great as those of the United States, yet their history over this 150 years presents no achievement parallel to the mighty march of the United States. But the deadening poverty of other lands was in the absence of the stirring ideas and ideals which have lightened the path of the whole American people. A score of nations have borrowed our philosophy from us, and they have tempered the course of history in yet a score of others. All have prospered under them.

These ideas and these ideals were in the hearts and inspired the souls of the men who fought the Battle of Kings Mountain. They had spurred the migration of their fathers from the persecutions and restricted opportunities of Europe, had been sustained by their religious faith, had been developed in their conflict with the wilderness, and had become the spirit of the American people, demanding for man a larger mastership of his own destiny. Our forefathers formulated them through the Declaration and the Constitution into a new and practical political and social system unique in the world. Devoted generations have secured them to us.

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It is never amiss for us to review these principles, that we uphold our faith in them, that we search our fidelity to them, that by stretch of our vision over the vast pageant of our accomplishment we should gain courage to meet the difficulties of the day.

Our political system was a revolt from dictatorship, whether by individuals or classes. It was rounded upon the conception that freedom was inalienable, and that liberty and freedom should rest upon law, and that law should spring from the expressed wisdom of the representatives of the majority of the people themselves. This self-government was not in itself a new human ideal, but the Constitution which provided its framework, with the checks and balances which gave it stability, was of marvelous genius. Yet of vastly more importance than even the machinery of government was the inspired charter of the rights of men which it guaranteed. Under them we hold that all men are created equal, that they are equal before the law, and that they should be safeguarded in liberty and, as we express it latterly, in equality of opportunity to every individual that he may achieve for himself and for the community the best to which his character, his ability, and his ambition entitle him.

No student of American history can fail to realize that these principles and ideals grew largely out of the religious origins and spiritual aspirations of our people. From them spring at once the demand for free and universal education, that the door of opportunity and the ladder to leadership should be free for every new generation, to every boy and girl. It is these human rights and the success of government which has maintained them that have stimulated the initiative and effort in each individual, the sum of which has been the gigantic achievement of the Nation. They are the precious heritage of America, far more important, far more valuable, than all the riches in land and mines and factories that we possess. Never had these principles and ideals been assembled elsewhere and combined into government. This is the American system.

We have lived and breathed it. We have seldom tried even to name it. Perhaps we might well abandon efforts to define it–for things of the spirit can be little defined. Some have called it liberalism, but that term has become corrupted by political use. Some have called it individualism, but it is not an individualism which permits men to override the equal opportunity of others. By its enemies it has been called capitalism, and yet under its ideals capital is but an instrument, not a master. Some have called it democracy, yet democracy exists elsewhere under social ideals which do not embrace equality of opportunity.

Ours is a system unique with America–an expression of the spirit and environment of our people–it is just American.

Parallel with us, other philosophies of society and government have continued or developed and new ones have come into the world, born of the spirit of other peoples and other environments. It is a function of freedom that we should search their claims with open mind, but it is a function of common sense that we should reject them the moment they fail in the test. From experiences in many lands I have sometimes compared some of these systems to a race. In the American system, through free and universal education, we train the runners, we strive to give to them an equal start, our Government is the umpire of its fairness. The winner is he who shows the most conscientious training, the greatest ability, the strongest character. Socialism or its violent brother, Bolshevism, would compel all the runners to end the race equally; it would hold the swiftest to the speed of the most backward. Anarchy would provide neither training nor umpire. Despotism or class government picks those who run and also those who win.

Whatever the merits or demerits of these other systems may be, they all mean the destruction of the driving force of equal opportunity, and they mean the destruction of our Constitution, for our political framework would serve none of them and many of its fundamental provisions are the negation of them. They mean the abandonment of the Nation’s spiritual heritage.

It is significant that some of these systems deny religion and seek to expel it. I cannot conceive of a wholesome social order or a sound economic system that does not have its roots in religious faith. No blind materialism can for long engage the loyalties of mankind. Economic aspiration, though it strongly marks the American system, is not an end in itself, but is only one of many instruments to accomplish the profound purposes of the American people, which are largely religious in origin. This country is supremely dedicated, not to the pursuit of material riches, but to pursuit of a richer life for the individual.

It would be foolish for me to stand here and say that our political and social system works perfectly. It does not. The human race is not perfect yet. There are disheartening occurrences every hour of the day. There are always malevolent or selfish forces at work which, unchecked, would destroy the very basis of our American life. These forces of destruction vary from generation to generation; and if we would hand on our great inheritance to our children, we must successfully contend with them.

While we cannot permit any foreign person or agency to undermine our institutions, yet we must look to our own conduct that we do not, by our own failure to uphold and safeguard the true spirit of America, weaken our own institutions and destroy the very forces which upbuild our national greatness. It is in our own house that our real dangers lie, and it is there that we have need to summon our highest wisdom and our highest sense of public service.

We must keep corruptive influences from the Nation and its ideals as we would keep them from our homes. Crime and disobedience of law are the very incarnation of destruction to a system whose basis is law. Both pacifism and militarism court danger from abroad, the one by promoting weakness, the other by promoting arrogance. Failure of many of our citizens to express their opinions at the ballot box is at once their abandonment of the whole basis of self-government. Manipulation of the ballot is a denial of government by the people. Corruption or even failure of moral perceptions in public office defiles the whole spirit of America. Mere destructive criticism destroys leadership and substitutes weaklings.

Any practice of business which would dominate the country by its own selfish interests is a destruction of equality of opportunity. Government in business, except in emergency, is also a destruction of equal opportunity and the incarnation of tyranny through bureaucracy. Tendencies of communities and States to shirk their own responsibilities or to unload them upon the Federal Government, or of the Federal Government to encroach upon the responsibilities of the States, are destructive of our whole pattern of self-government. But these evils cannot shatter our ideals or subvert our institutions if we hold the faith. The knowledge of danger is a large part of its conquest.

It is the first duty of those of us who believe in the American system to maintain a knowledge of and a pride in it, not particularly because we need fear those foreign systems, but because we have need to sustain ours in purity and in strength.

The test of our system of government and of our social principles and ideals as compared to others may in part be interpreted by the practical results of the 150 years of growth that have brought to us the richness of life which spreads through this great Nation. I can give you some measurement both of our standards and of our social progress. In proportion to our population, we have one-fourth more of our children in grade schools than the most advanced other country in Europe, and for every thousand of our young people we have six and one-half times as many in colleges and universities. And I may add that today we have more of our youth in institutions of higher learning than all the rest of the 1,500 million people of the world put together.

Compared with even the most advanced other country in Europe, we shall find an incomparably greater diffusion of material well-being. We have twice the number of homes owned among every thousand people that they have; we consume four times as much electricity and we have seven times as many automobiles; for each thousand people we have more than four times as many telephones and radio sets; our use of food and clothing is far greater; we have proportionately only one-twentieth as many people in the poorhouse or upon public charity.

There is a profound proof, moreover, that the doors of opportunity have indeed been kept open. The posts of leadership in our country, both in government and in other activities, are held by men who have risen to command. A canvass of the leading administrative officials of our Federal Government, of our industries, and of our professions, shows that 90 percent of them started life with no financial inheritance. Despite the misrepresentations of demagoguery, there are today more chances for young men to rise, and for young women too, than there were 30 years ago.

We shall not have full equality of opportunity until we have attained that ultimate goal of every right-thinking citizen–the abolition of poverty of mind and home. Happily for us we have gone further than others on this road and we make new gains every decade.

But these tangible things which we can reduce to statistics and comparisons are but a part of America. The great intangibles of the spirit of a people are immeasurable–our sense of freedom, of liberty, of security, our confidence of future progress, our traditions of past glory and sacrifice, the example of our heroes, the spiritual enrichment of our people these are the true glories of America.

The world about us is tormented with the spiritual and economic struggles that attend changing ideals and systems. Old faiths are being shaken. But we must follow our own destiny. Our institutions are a growth. They come out of our history as a people. Our ideals are a binding spiritual heritage. We cannot abandon them without chaos. We can follow them with confidence.

Our problems are the problems of growth. They are not the problems of decay. They are less difficult than those which confronted generations before us. The forces of righteousness and wisdom work as powerfully in our generation as in theirs. The flame of freedom burns as brightly in every American heart. There need be no fear for the future of a Republic that seeks inspiration from the spirit of the men who fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain.”

The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. to an estimated crowd of 30,000 assembled at the battlefield site in Kings Mountain, S.C. The National Broadcasting Company and Columbia Broadcasting System radio networks carried his message.

Before the Overmountain men left their homes to stop Major Patrick Ferguson from attacking their homes and land, as he threatened to do. Reverend Samuel Doak prayed over those frontiersmen and ended his prayer with,” Oh, God of Battle, arise in Thy might. Avenge the slaughter of Thy people. Confound those who plot for our destruction. Crown this mighty effort with victory, and smite those who exalt themselves against liberty and justice and truth. Help us as good soldiers to wield the SWORD OF THE LORD AND GIDEON. AMEN.

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The citizen soldiers in the Patriot militia from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia fought against a group of Tory militia led by Major Patrick Ferguson. It was Americans fighting Americans. In a one hour battle, the Patriots drew a line in the sand to the British army and King George.

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The Patriots meant business. The sovereignty of England was not a sure thing. Civil liberty, freedom to worship, owning land were worth fighting four. These first settlers, after months of fighting proved they could defeat the strongest army in the world. This decisive victory gave new heart and pride to the Patriots; this was the first major defeat in the south.

The Overmountain men made sure their 250 mile walk was worth each step.

As Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s soul’s. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and women.”

Yes, thank you, for your service to our country!