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Redeemed Sinner. Deep Roots. Southern Heart.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Blue Hen's Chicks, Part 4


Back in July, the McDowells and Shelby determined to capture a local Tory fort, called Fort Thickety. The Tories surrendered without a shot being fired, making Ferguson rudely aware of their presence.
Charles McDowell, the militia colonel, decided that the next target would be a detachment of 200 Tories at Musgrove Mill. It was a walk in the park for the militia, which easily defeated the British. On their trip returning home, Shelby received word that Gate's army had been defeated at Camden and "to get out of the way".
The militia anxiously awaited events, the Overmountain Men from their homes, because their enlistments had expired. Ferguson finally ignited a flame of indignation when he paroled Sam Phillips, a cousin of Shelby's, and sent him home with the message:
"If the officers west of the mountains did not lay down their oppositions to British arms, Ferguson would march his army over and lay waste to their country".

Bad Idea.

Soon after issuing the challenge, Ferguson sent a letter to the inhabitants of North Carolina, ordering all loyal men to the banner of king George. But far from being inspired, the Tories, for the most part, decided to lay low. They may have all agreed that their enemies were "mongrels" and "barbarians", but they also knew them to be good fighters. Lacking Ferguson's pride as an officer and gentleman, they were able to face up to realities in a manner he continued unwilling to do.

This was all Shelby and Sevier needed to motivate their men. After meeting with Sevier, Shelby wrote: "After some consultation we determined to march with all the men we could raise, and to attempt to surprise Ferguson by attacking him in his camp, or, at any rate, before he was ready for us. We accordingly appointed a time and a place of rendezvous."
This would be September 25, at Sycamore Shoals.

The Overmountain Men began to muster in. Among these were two of Sevier's brothers, two of his sons, Shelby, with two of his brothers, four Crocketts, among these was the father of David, and twelve Campbells. But nothing better illustrates the importance of the Scotch Irish as an ethnic presence in this association of free men, as the 59 names which began with "Mc". As the men arrived, so did their pastor. Welsh Presbyterian Samuel Doak was "commanding in appearance and possessed a voice full of thunder and lightening". Those scenes must not have been too different from those Covenanter pastors, who stood up to preach to their flocks during the "Killing Times".
Reverend Doak prayed for the families who were staying behind, for the men who were marching to battle, and finally he told the story of Gideon. "Let that be your battle cry: the sword of the Lord and of Gideon". Like slow thunder came the reply: " the sword of the Lord and of Gideon".

The men then mounted their horses and turned up Gap Creek toward the blue mountains.

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