But General Patton failed to mention in the same thought it can also bring out the very worst in humankind as well. Personally, I don't believe our world
civilization will ever reach the stars until we leave the practice far behind us as a very sad collective memory. But that's another story; plus we should always admire the valor of those who gave their all for you and me and that certainly includes those who do so now and those that have done so in the past.
The sentiments in the above thoughts certainly don't mean that a people, nation, world, or galactic federation doesn't have the God-given or natural right of Creation to defend itself from aggressors, that wish only to take advantage of, plunder, enslave, harm, or exterminate peaceful others. And hopefully with your kind indulgence over all that said, let's begin this tale of a little battle that is generally unknown and that helped win the long-running war for American independence.
Remembering the fallen ...
It also reminds us of at least a few things that were mentioned previously: men willing to risk their lives for the defense of what they believed in, and the elected leaders and law-makers their families and selves would live with.
And last but not least, whether they wished to continue serving a far-away king and his expansive empire, or govern themselves on the frontier land they had hand-forged into communities and farms with blood, sweat and tears, 3,000 miles away from Great Britain across the world's second largest ocean.
The entirety of where this battle took place has the distinction of covering the Lincoln County High School, children's playgrounds, athletic playing fields, parking lots and streets. The area where the memorial and heaviest fighting took place is rather small and about 1200 hundred feet west of the street in front of the school.
It really isn't much larger than a normal park picnic area; but this in no way takes away from what happened here and in the surrounding area, over 230 years ago, not by a longshot, as we shall now see with a recounting of the Battle of Ramsour's Mill on the 20th of June, 1780.
Although the British overestimated the amount of support they thought would greet any invasion by them of the Carolinas and Georgia, they weren't off the mark by much in this hope. Besides most of the Highland Scots and others in the eastern half of these states, there were literally tens of thousands of other inhabitants in the piedmont area of the Carolinas who were either actively loyal to Britain or leaning that way.
Just a few groups of Patriots, or Whigs, were left in the Carolinas after that disaster, with leaders like the Swamp Fox Francis Marion. There were other effective bands of fighters and other militia around Charlotte Town and other areas, too, for example, that were led by men such as Thomas Sumter and, of course, those in this story.
Banastre Tarleton's cavalry force, after the British victory at Charles Town, was soon far enough upstate to be running wild in the Waxhaws section, about sixty miles or so miles southeast of NC's west-central, Lincoln County, where Ramsour's Mill was located. At the time the county was much larger than it is today, being divided-up overtime into several others.
The patriot, General Griffith Rutherford, was camped with his small force close-by to Charlotte Town, towards the west of it, when he was informed that a large force of Loyalists were gathering at the mill near the small village of Lincolnton, not 20 or 25 miles away from where he and his volunteers were.
While moving his force that way, he called for help from other patriots, including those under the command of Lt. Col. Francis Locke, requesting they rendezvous with him at Mountain Creek, some 16 miles or so from were the Tories were gathering a much larger force at the Mill. As it turned out, the Loyalists forces were to have the Whigs outnumbered at least three times over.
By mid-June the recruits signed up by Tories, Lt. Colonel Moore and Major Welch, began their assembling, over half a dozen miles west of some of their homes in Lincoln County, north of Lincolnton itself.
General Rutherford was far from being out of the loop concerning this concentration of men loyal to King George III, and sent word out through Mecklenburg County and, as far away east as Rowan County, for fighters to join his own Lincoln County men in taking on, and hope-fully, defeating and dispersing these homegrown adversaries.
On the night of June the 19th, Lt. Colonel Locke's command of 400 rebellion men broke camp and headed for what was now, in all reality, many hostile folk and relatives, and in parts a hostile neighborhood. About twenty-five percent of the Colonel's men were mounted, the others were on foot.
The local Tories may have assembled as many as 1300 men, encouraged by Tarleton's recent "victory" at the Battle of the Waxhaws. The cavalry commander was to for ever after gain the moniker of "Bloody Ban" after cutting down surrendering Americans there. A formidable force of Royalists now came together in glad-handing encouragement on receiving this news to be sure. Has there ever been a better example of close neighbors, and in many cases kinfolk, ready to war against one another? with one seeking to gain independence and freedom while the other was determined to remain true to mother England.
These women, besides sending off many of their men with a kiss and victuals (food), would also have been busy tearing sheets for bandages and preparing local herbs and medicines for the inevitably wounded and injured. They also began preparing their small and
humble abodes to serve as care facilities for the badly injured, who would be in need of a place to heal from their hurts, many requiring days, or even weeks and months of convalescing.
All of this despite taking care of and lessening the fears of any children, mending or making clothes, and tending to crops and livestock and the rest of life's daily chores. What a strong and caring breed of remarkable women they were in those days.
And as an added thought, I believe if called upon in our present day, many of their descendants would be just as tough, caring and resilient. Many of our piedmont woman of today, including those in military service, prove this point, certainly they do.
Fierce fighting then developed that caused Colonel Locke to begin to pull back his outnumbered men; but cursing, a Captain Dickey said no way to this move; and his men's muskets, some of which were rifled, and with his deadly shooters at the rifles triggers, were indeed to turn the day into a vital victory over their more numerous Royalists foes.
Interestingly, the official pension files have Dickey calling out, "Shoot straight, my boys, and keep on fighting. I see some of them beginning to tumble!"
And tumble they did, for the Whig chaps dropped at least 150 opponents to their sharpshooting, not to mention some more in hand-to-hand combat.
The patriots leader, General Rutherford, hadn't even reached the field of battle yet, but when he did he found the Tories confused and battered. A white flag was also waving among them, requesting a truce to aid the fallen.
The General simply took the opportunity to be merciful and take these beaten men prisoner, but while negotiations were going on, most of them that could, fled like scattered rabbits from the field and only about four dozen of the defeated were actually captured.
Both sides seem to have suffered about the same number of casualties, maybe as many as 140 killed and over 200 wounded plus those captured by Rutherford. A couple dozen Tories managed to reach Lord Cornwallis in South Carolina with the low down on the set back. The rest of the beaten skedaddled back to their cabins in their different counties with the onus of defeat hanging over them, and, with the knowledge of the independence-seeking inhabitants determination to fight, and fight hard at that.
In addition, this stunning, lop-sided defeat, in the weeks, months and even next few years to come, caused many of these loyalists to sit out the war or change their allegiances and actually join up and fight alongside their former foes. And many with outstanding service and heroism at that. It was a wise choice by those who did.
Can we imagine what might have happened at King's Mountain the following October had the already uphill fighting, Over-the-Mountain Men, who had encircled and fought to a victory their more numerous foes, been up against an extra six or seven hundred red-coated Tories- assuming that extra number could be armed properly-under the Scottish leader of these marauding soldiers, Patrick Ferguson? In all fairness, though, the Tories had the less effective smoothbore guns compared to the mountain men's rifled muskets, which made a big difference. But the esprit de corps was with the Wataugans, and that is what, when you get down to it, won the battle.
Or what of his Lordship's trek up through North Carolina to do battle at the critical fight in 1781 at Guildford Courthouse? Which turned out a very pyrrhic victory for him, no less for the shortages of local loyalist's he had counted on rallying to his banners in that part of northern North Carolina. What might have happened to patriot recruiting and intelligence gathering efforts had the opposite occurred at the Mill's battle? And for that matter, the far too many hard fought Patriot and Tory skirmishes and battles in both Carolinas that there later were, than to list on here?
Of course, all this is somewhat speculation, but there can be no doubt that several more thousand followers of the British and Cornwallis would have made things even dicier than they already turned out to be for those seeking independence and self-rule. Thank goodness for those 400 vastly outnumbered but brave, stalwart, and victorious Carolinian Americans at Ramsour's Mill that warm June day, way back when in 1780. They, and their womenfolk, holding the home fort down while their men fought, are not forgotten and nor should they ever be.