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Kings Mountain, S.C., battle touts Farragut ties

A pair of war hero cousins settled in what is now the town of Farragut after taking care of a little wartime business over the mountain more than 200 years ago.

“Elder” David Campbell and his cousin, Capt. David Campbell, were two of an estimated 240 “Overmountain Men” from East Tennessee (then known as Washington County, N.C.), an American Patriot militia that turned the tables of the Revolutionary War by defeating the British Loyalists Oct 7, 1780, in “The Battle of Kings Mountain” in South Carolina.

The battle, which involved about 900 total militia from six southern states and lasted only about 65 minutes, celebrated its 225th anniversary Oct. 7-9 in Kings Mountain National Military Park, S.C.

“Elder” David Campbell (1763-1813), co-founder of Campbell Station, Capt. David Campbell (1753-1832), and the captain’s brothers, Alexander and James Campbell, “Aided in gaining the independence of America and, with their wives, struggled to found institutions — homes, schools, churches — that would assure perpetuation of a free country,” said Laura E. Luttrell in a 1953 report she compiled as an executive committee member of the East Tennessee Historical Society.

Col. William Campbell of Virginia, commander of the “Overmountain Men,” “Must have been a relative because all those Campbell’s were related,” said Charles S. Owens, a historian from Farragut and a third-great-grandson to David Owen of Western North Carolina, who fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain under Col. Benjamin Cleveland.

Lynn Fox — a Knoxville area historian, military re-enactor and former West Knox County resident — is an ancestor of John Fox, who fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain. “He was my fourth-great-grandfather, he was actually wounded at the battle and still has the musket ball in his body, he was buried with it,” Fox said. “... So I have a warm place in my heart for King’s Mountain.”

In addition, “I’m a cousin of Sam Houston, on my mother’s side.”

As for the “fighting words” leading up to the battle, Fox said Loyalist commander Maj. Patrick Ferguson spread the word that “we’re going to come across the mountain with fire and sword, we’re going to hang your leaders, we’re going to burn you cabins, we’re going to give your wives and children to the Indians, and we’re going to desecrate your graves,” Fox said. “Isaac Shelby [a colonel who later became the first governor of Kentucky], he immediately got on a horse to find [Col.] John Sevier [later the first governor of Tennessee who commanded the Washington County militia] ... they were best of buddies.”

While Shelby and Sevier persuaded Col. William Campbell to bring “about six hundred” men from Virginia to fight, “Isaac Shelby and John Sevier put out the word that their homes had been threatened and they were going to go and kill Patrick Ferguson. It didn’t take long for word to get out.”

According to a report written shortly after the battle and signed by Col. William Campbell and colonels Cleveland and Shelby, the Overmountain Men “… began [its] march with nine hundred of the best men about eight o’clock the same evening, marched all night, and came up with the enemy about three o’clock p.m. of the 7th, who lay encamped on the top of King’s Mountain.”

Shortly thereafter, “… Campbell’s regiment began the attack, and kept up a fire on the enemy while the right and left wings were advancing to surround [the enemy],” the report said.

Owens said the Loyalists, or Tories, were overconfident. “Patrick Ferguson had the Tories up on the bluff up there and he didn’t realize that these mountain boys could shoot a runnin’ rabbit at two hundred yards,” he said. “Ferguson was up on top of the hill, he said, ‘nobody can push us off here, this is impenetrable.’

“These [Loyalists] had to expose themselves to fire down on the troops below, on the militia,” Owens added. “Of course, every time they exposed themselves they got popped.”

Less than seven years later, “In March 1787, ‘Elder’ David Campbell, with his wife and infant son, William L., and with his brother Alexander and family, joined [Capt.] David Campbell — who was known as “Colonel” — and Archibald McCaleb … in settling in the Grassy Valley of what is now [Farragut], Tennessee,” Luttrell said.

Capt. David Campbell’s original home still stands at the corner of Campbell Station Road and Kingston Pile.

Hardships rivaled the Loyalists’ enemy fire, having “laborious work to do,” Luttrell said. “In addition to felling trees, building cabins, clearing land and planting crops, the men were ever on alert to protect their families from unfriendly Indians. … The enemy would fire at the men while they were plowing and hoeing in the fields and would steal their horses.”

While Col. David Campbell sold his real estate holdings at Campbell’s Station in Knox County in 1823 and 1824 and moved to Wilson County, “Elder David is the one who stayed here, and his generations, and we’ve got his great-grandson, John [Campbell] on our [Folklife museum] committee,” said Doris Owens, director of Farragut Folklife Museum in Farragut Town Hall and wife of Charles S. Owens.


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