On Thursday, new information will be presented about a battle of the American Revolution that was fought in what is now McDowell County.
Both the McDowell County Public Library and the McDowell County Historical Society will present a special program called “Battle of Cane Creek: Prelude to Kings Mountain.” This free program will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the lower level of the McDowell County Public Library at 90 W. Court St. in Marion.
On Sept. 12, 1780, this battle was fought between Patriot militia under the command of Col. Charles McDowell and the Loyalist troops under British Major James Dunlap and Major Patrick Ferguson. The fighting took place at the head of Cane Creek in what is now southern McDowell County. It was a significant event in the Kings Mountain Campaign, which is considered one of the turning points in the American Revolution.
A state highway historical marker on U.S. 64 informs people traveling through there that they are close to the site of the battle. The marker reads “Prelude to the Battle of Kings Mountain. Site of a skirmish on Sept. 12, 1780, between Loyalists and ‘Overmountain Men.’”
In the clash, both sides suffered fatalities and Dunlap was wounded in the leg. The news of this battle spread across the region and made the Patriot forces more determined to seek out Ferguson and his Loyalist troops. Although the fighting at Cane Creek was indecisive, it inspired the Overmountain Men and they won a major victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain a month later, according to the website for the state historic markers.
Using grant money, a study has been done to accurately document and determine the location of the battle. This is a project sponsored by the Foothills Conservancy of North Carina with funding from the National Park Service – American Battlefield Protection Program and additional support from the Overmountain Victory Trail Association.
The project to document the battlefield is now complete. On Thursday, historical archaeologist Ken Robinson will summarize his findings and conclusions about what happened on Sept. 17, 1780.
As an historical archaeologist, Robinson has researched many sites associated with the Overmountain Victory Trail, including sites associated with the Revolutionary War and Civil War in North Carolina. He has more than 40 years experience in conducting archaeological research in North Carolina and other places.
Robinson said to The McDowell News he has some new historical and archaeological information to present, which is a result of the Foothills Conservancy project. The Overmountain Victory Trail Association also provided assistance.
“Many details about the battle remain elusive and inconclusive, not surprising for a battle that took place 237 years ago, but my research has brought to light some new historical information about the battle,” he said. “Additionally, archaeological investigations yielded evidence possibly associated with the battle that is intriguing, although not conclusive.”
By most accounts, the Loyalist army prevailed in the fight, leading to the retreat of the Patriots to the western waters over the Blue Ridge Mountains. But the Patriot forces were able to regroup and come up with a plan to defeat Ferguson and his Loyalists before they could rejoin Cornwallis’ British Army.
“Many who fought at Cane Creek also fought at Kings Mountain,” said Robinson. “The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail - commemorating the Patriots who fought at King's Mountain - runs through the Cane Creek battlefield. I have defined a boundary for the battlefield that can be used for interpretative and preservation purposes moving forward.”
Doors to the library will open at 5:30 p.m. You can enter through the disabled/children’s library entrance on the lower level along West Court Street.