George Washington Papers

General Orders, 27 October 1780

General Orders

Head Quarters Totowa Friday October 27. 1780

Parole Essex Countersigns G; W.
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[Officers] For the day Tomorrow[:] Brigadier General Huntington[,] Colonel Chambers[,] Lieutenant Colonel Mellen[,] Major Wiley[,] Brigade Major Ashley

Lieutenant Colonel Badlam is appointed member of the general court martial whereof Colonel Bailey is President vice Lieutenant Colonel Vose indisposed.1

The General has the pleasure to congratulate the army on an important advantage lately obtained in North Carolina over a corps of 1400 men, British troops and new Levies commanded by Colonel Ferguson The militia of the neighbouring country under Colonels Williams Shelby, and others having assembled to the amount of 3000 men detached 1600 of their number on horseback to fall in with Ferguson’s party on its march to Charlotte; they came up with them at a place called King’s mountain advantageously posted and gave them a total defeat; in which Colonel Ferguson with 150 of his men were killed—800 made prisoners and 1500 stand of arms taken. On our part the loss was inconsiderable. We have only to regret that the brave Colonel Williams was mortally wounded.

This advantage will in all probability have a very happy influence upon the successive operations in that quarter. It is a proof of the spirit and resources of the country.2

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1For the establishment of this court-martial, see General Orders, 14 October.

2This account of the Battle of Kings Mountain, which took place in South Carolina about twenty miles southwest of Charlotte, N.C., on 7 Oct., significantly overstates the mostly militia opposing forces and slightly understates British casualties (see Draper, King’s Mountain description begins Lyman C. Draper. King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It. Cincinnati, 1881. description ends , and Dunkerly, ed., Kings Mountain description begins Robert M. Dunkerly. The Battle of Kings Mountain: Eyewitness Accounts. Charleston, S.C., 2007. description ends ). Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis and his army left Charlotte as a result of the battle (see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 25 Oct., n.4).

Benjamin Rush wrote John Adams from Philadelphia on 23 Oct. that foiling “Arnold’s treachery” and news of the British defeat “have given fresh hopes and Spirits to the Whigs. We had forgotten former deliverances under our late losses and mortifications. But we now find that providence is on our Side, and that our independance is as secure as the everlasting mountains. We have discovered at last that God means that we should live only from hand to mouth, to keep us more dependant upon his power and goodness.

“Our Citizens are not wholly corrupted—our Officers are experienced, and our soldiers are brave. We want nothing but wisdom in our Congress to collect and direct properly the Strength of our country” (Papers of John Adams description begins Robert J. Taylor et al., eds. Papers of John Adams. 17 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1977–. description ends , 10:302–4).

James Williams (1740–1780), merchant, planter, and Patriot politician living on the South Carolina frontier, became a militia captain in 1775 and rose to colonel in 1779. Williams died from wounds the day after the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Isaac Shelby (1750–1826) was a frontier rancher who served as a Virginia militia captain in 1776 and represented Washington County in the Virginia legislature in 1779. He subsequently became a North Carolina militia colonel and gained election to the North Carolina legislature. Shelby later won multiple terms as governor of Kentucky.

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