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'Gallant Ferguson': Major Patrick Ferguson (1744-80).

Inspector of Militia

American popular history has mythologised the regular army officers who commanded Loyal American troops. Banastre Tarleton, unforgiven for surviving to a ripe old age, has been vilified on questionable grounds as Bloody Ban the Butcher. By contrast, Patrick Ferguson -- nicknamed The Bulldog for his tenacious courage -- has often been treated more generously for designing a breech-loading rifle, winning the favour of American gun-enthusiasts, and for being killed in heroic circumstances. As in the US History Channel's recent drama-documentary on King's Mountain in Frontier: The Decisive Battles, he has been depicted as an unappreciated maverick genius whose invention was foolishly neglected by the stereotypically stuffy 'brass', thereby costing the British the war. This is untrue, and as misleading as the concomitant demonisation of Tarleton: it has become customary in the US to play these two young men off against each other as 'good cop, bad cop'. Ferguson is detached from his context and his comrades, and t reated almost as an 'honorary American', i.e. Rebel: hardly a compliment, he might have observed. For the Americans with whom he worked, and for whom he gave his life, were the Loyalists.

Patrick Ferguson -- 'Pat' or 'Pattie' to friends and family -- was born on 24 May (Old Style)/4 June (New Style) 1744, almost certainly in Edinburgh. He was the fourth child (of six) and second son of James Ferguson (1700-77) and his wife Anne Murray (1708-93). James Ferguson was an advocate. His honorific as a judge, Lord Pitfour (after 1764) has been misunderstood by some US writers: it is not an aristocratic title. Scots judges are called Lord as a mark of respect as Lords of Session (civil court) or of Justiciary (criminal court). The Fergusons were legal professionals from a landed gentry background, not titled aristocracy. Anne Murray was a daughter of the 4th Baron Elibank -- but barons are quite low down in the Scots nobility, and her family was tainted with Jacobitism.

Although James was laird of Pitfour estate in Aberdeenshire, his legal practice meant that the family lived mostly in or near Edinburgh. Their city home was an apartment on three floors of a socially-mixed tenement at Roxburgh's Close, 333 High Street (demolished c. 1930). This fact is crucial to any understanding of Pattie's character and career: he grew up at the very heart of the most intellectually exciting environment of the eighteenth century -- the Edinburgh Enlightenment. The Fergusons were connected with most of the leading figures of that Enlightenment through legal circles, the Select Society, and the Poker Club. They are name-checked in the letters of Adam Smith, David Hume, James Boswell; the lives of Monboddo and Kames. In 1759, 15-year-old Pattie read Richardson's Clarissa on the recommendation of the philosopher David Hume, a family friend. The uncle after whom he was named, Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank, was a noted literary patron. Little wonder, then, that he should combine literary flai r and wit with scientific curiosity and technological skills.

Judging from portrait busts, The Bulldog looked more like a whippet, with a fine-featured, slightly elfin face. Pattie was a slight, wiry young man, who joked all his life about his lack of flesh. As a teenager in London, he claimed that "I only want a little feeding, Blood & Butter don't so well agree with my lanthorn jaws", and "not that I have any complaint but leanness". [1] In his thirties, he still made jests which turned on his being "nothing but Bone". [2] By then he had proved he was far more resilient than he looked.

In character, he was an intelligent, affectionate and honourable young man, shaped by a lively and loving family. His stoicism, wit and perseverance helped him overcome career-threatening disabilities. His mother called him "my gentle Pattie" [3] -- an epithet which then implied nobility and gentlemanliness, besides sensitivity. But he also had a sharp sense of humour. He wrote at 15: "as I am a great Admirer of Scots frases & also of the word fun I beg not to be brought upon the Stage as an fine English Gentleman nor do I think my natural prejudice will ever let me think amiss of anything belonging to the Land of Cakes." [4] His letters and essays suggest gifts which could have produced a fine volume of memoirs, had he lived. He also wrote occasional verses, although so far I have identified only one surviving pastoral piece.

In 1756, when Pattie was twelve, his father purchased an ensigncy for him in his uncle Colonel James Murray's regiment, the 15th Foot; but it was cancelled, since, with war brewing, he was too "young & little" to be of service. [5] In 1759, shortly after his fifteenth birthday, Pattie was bought a Cornetcy in the Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys). However, he did not join his regiment until 1761. For nearly two years he studied at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, on the recommendation of Uncle Jamie (by then General Murray -- Wolfe's successor and Military Governor of Quebec). There he developed a lifelong interest in the design of fortifications, under the tuition of the noted expert John Muller.

Pattie embarked for Germany with his regiment in spring 1761, to serve in the Seven Years' War. His active service was cut short at the turn of 1761-2 by a leg ailment, possibly TB, which kept him bedridden in Osnabruck for six months. He returned home in summer 1762, and spent a year convalescing in Edinburgh with his parents, and at Pitfour (which he had never visited before) with his father's spinster sister, Aunt Betty (1698-1781). The sprightly teenager proved a handful:

"She gave me great attention to my Diet [&.sup.c] [&.sup.c] as She knew me to be an invalid...; at last however having observed me leaping with a pole over a Wall she exorted me to drop that Practice & in a very earnest manner pointed out the many accidents, befalling people that leaped in that manner...". [6] He also found time to flirt with several of the young ladies of Buchan!

With rest, he recovered but remained prone to arthritis if he overtaxed his leg. For a time, the illness, combined with the usual stresses of adolescence and lack of promotion, left him self-conscious and insecure. But by his mid-twenties, as his health and career improved, he recovered his vitality.

Pattie returned to the Greys in August 1763. He spent the next 5 years travelling around Britain with them from Kelso as far south as Kent and East Sussex on garrison and policing duty (there was no regular police force until the nineteenth century). In 1766, Pattie twice visited France. On his first visit, he went to see the Jacobite Lord Ogilvy, widower of his cousin Margaret Johnstone. On the second trip, he intended to study at a French military academy in Angers, but was sidetracked by the social life of Paris.

In 1768, Pattie bought a company in his cousin Lieut. Col. Alexander Johnstone's regiment, 70th Foot. The commission was cheap since the regiment was sailing for the West Indies for garrison duty on islands ceded by the French in 1763. Pattie arrived in spring 1769. He combated scurvy among his troops by making them cultivate their own fruit and vegetables. He also taught himself to play the fiddle. Taking a lead from his cousin Colonel Johnstone, who had purchased a plantation, Pattie bought a sugar estate for the family at Castara on Tobago.

But by 1771 his health was suffering. Circumstantial evidence suggests his arthritic leg was troubling him again. He returned to Britain via either Boston or New York in 1772, before the rest of his regiment took part in quelling the Carib Revolt. His younger brother George sailed out to replace him as "laird" of Castara.

Pattie was living in London in 1773. In 1774, he took part in a training camp for Light Infantry at Salisbury, organised by General Sir William Howe, who had established permanent light companies in the army in 1771. Pattie's interest in and aptitude for light infantry work drew Howe's attention even at this early stage -- and Howe would remember him 2 years later. It was apparently after this, c. 1775, that Pattie embarked upon designing the Ferguson Rifle, a modification of Chaumette and Bidet's breechloading system for military use.

At the turn of 1775-6, Pattie was back in Scotland. In April, he went to Leicester to try to interest Lord Townshend in his rifle design. He eventually succeeded, and by May was at the Tower in London, supervising the making of trial models and taking part in tests before leading generals and dignitaries. The test held on 1 June received full coverage in the Annual Register.

On 4 July, while the Rebel Continental Congress voted for independence and sent its declaration for publication, Pattie was in Birmingham supervising the manufacture of the first 100 Ferguson Rifles made for military service.

Pattie viewed the continuing colonial rebellion with anxiety at its human cost. A friend, possibly related by marriage to his cousins, was a New Yorker: "Mrs Johnstone is much to be pitied. Ia a very few weeks we will probably hear, that the Town where she was born & bred is annihilated, & a Society the happyest in the world thrown out to ruin & Misery. May God forbid it," [7] he wrote. In December, he was glad to be able to ask Betty to "tell Mrs Johnstone that Her father mother & Kitty were well at new york on the 12 Oct.""". [8] This early, personal interest in the plight of Loyal Americans is worth noting: he later became committed to training them in their own defence, and held strong views on protecting civilians from depredation.

On 1 October Pattie demonstrated the rifle before the King and Queen at Windsor. The King was impressed by the display, and asked him:

"how many shots I could fire in a minute. I answered that I had fired 7. He said Lord Townsend had told him so I took the liberty of adding that altho I could fire that number of random Shots yet I could not undertake to bring down above five of his Majesties Enemys in that time. He laughd very heartily..." [9]

Pattie "fired nine shots viz. three upon my back and the other six as fast as I could standing and put five balls into the black Spot and the other four within four inches of it". [10] He also showed the King a design for a practical rifleman's uniform, which another soldier was modelling. George then asked Colonel Egerton "if I was not Gen. [1] Murrays Nephew & told him I had been recommended to him by Gen. [1] Howe when with the Light Companys at Salisbury". [11] Pattie presented the King with sketches and a description of the rifle. Via Major Cuyler, Howe's ADC, he received the General's backing, and petitioned the King to command an experimental rifle corps in the Colonies.

The rifle patent was approved on 2 December 1776, and he also received private orders from individual officers and the East India Company for rifles. These helped his finances: he had got into debt through paying for the early models and trials from his own Captain's pay and had borrowed money from relatives to pay for the patent. He was already working on a small field-gun.

In January 1777 he received permission from Townshend and General Harvey to train 200 recruits at Chatham for his experimental corps. However, with news of defeats at Trenton and Princeton, he was ordered to make ready more quickly, with only 100 men. He officially received his command on 6 March. At the end of one campaign, he and his men were to be returned to their original regiments, unless Howe specified otherwise.

In March 1777, Pattie and his corps sailed on the Christopher to New York, where they arrived on 26 May. The experimental field piece blew up in its first test, having been sent out with the wrong size of ammunition. However, the corps -- uniformed in the green cloth that had been sent out with them -- saw some action in New Jersey. They took part in the expedition to the Chesapeake, where Howe, a light infantry enthusiast, was impressed with them. He assured Pattie that he intended to expand the rifle corps. Unfortunately, events at Brandywine on 11 September 1777 ended these prospects.

Ferguson's Corps performed well in the battle, fighting alongside the Queen's Rangers, under James Wemyss. Pattie had the chance to pick off an important-looking Rebel officer but declined to do so for reasons of honour. He was later told in hospital that the officer may have been Washington, but this cannot be proven with certainty. Pattie, at any rate, believed it was, and wrote, "I am not Sorry that I did not know all the time who it was". [12] There were graver matters on his mind.

Moments after the alleged encounter with Washington, a musket ball shattered Pattie's right elbow-joint. He spent the winter in Philadelphia under threat of amputation. He endured numerous unanaesthetised operations to remove bone splinters which repeatedly broke open his wounds. In November, he also received news of his father's death in June. Yet in letters home, he bravely made jokes about his operations. On 23 December, just before going under the knife yet again, he dictated a darkly whimsical letter to Alexander Scrymgeour, his sister Betty's husband:

" right hand is still at Nurse & notwithstanding it is well swadled & duly supply'd with pap (alias poltice) it is a most peevish Brat & has led me a very unpleasant Life & what is most extraordinary it has been several times brought to Bed, & my Grand-Children are tolerably like me being nothing but Bone: this veryday I am to have an Addition to my Family, my Elbow is already in Labour & the Accoucheur is preparing his Instruments for the Caesarian operation." [13]

As for the grey-faced surgeons:

"the sons of Esculapius judging from themselves think every man whose countenance is of the same cadaverous hue with their own is made of stuff only fit to hang wigs upon they however now allow that I am made of tougher materials... & the partisans of my arm conceive great hopes from a virtue which it seems they have discoverd in me & which I'm sure was neither born nor bred with me namely Patience which I put up with from hard necessity being married to her agt my consent & therefor God willing shall kick her out o doors as soon as I can wield my Limbs." [14]

But he was never again able to wield his limbs as before. His right arm was crippled, permanently bent at the elbow: he later received the King's Bounty for its effective loss. He therefore learned to write, fence and shoot left-handed. It was 13 May 1778 before he was fit to return to duty -- still wearing a sling. His rifle corps had been disbanded This fact has given rise to a variety of dubious conspiracy theories, especially in American secondary works: claims that the corps was suspended because of Howe's 'jealousy', etc., but the simplest explanation is the most plausible. The rifle company had been set up as an experiment, a field trial for one campaign only. As already noted, Patrick's orders were that he was to return to his own regiment at the end of that campaign, unless Howe "should have a further occasion for his services". What further services could be expected from a rifleman with a smashed arm, threatened with amputation? Under eighteenth century medical conditions, it was not unreasonable to assume he would never again be fit for command. Besides, Howe, who had talent-spotted him in 1774 and been supportive, was on the point of returning to Britain just as Pattie returned to duty. Similarly, the oft-touted (American) idea that the corps' disbandment turned the course of what was now a world war does not bear scrutiny.

Pattie accepted that he would have to wait until he returned to Britain before he could devote more time to perfecting his rifle and does not seem to have lost much sleep over it. He was less obsessive about that particular project than many later American writers on it have been. He threw his energies into building a working relationship with Howe's successor, Sir Henry Clinton. His first engagement since he was disabled was the battle of Monmouth, but his role in it remains obscure. Back in New York, he impressed Clinton with treatises on strategy and military ethics. He was given command of a new unit of light troops, a mixed command of regulars and Loyal Americans. Barely a year after he was disabled, he led them on daring raids against Rebel salt works and privateer bases at Chestnut Neck and Egg Harbor in New Jersey (15 October 1778). Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy but he tried to avoid harming civilians:

"We had an opportunity of destroying part of the Baggage and Equipage of Polaski's Legion by burning their Quarters, but as the House belong'd to some inoffensive Quakers, who I am affraid may have sufficiently suffer'd already in the confusion of a Night's scramble, I know, Sir, that you will think with us that the Injury to be thereby done to the Enemy would not compensate for the Sufferings of these innocent People." [15]

That winter in New York, Pattie wrote satirical essays for Rivington's Royal Gazette as Egg-Shell (in riposte to Pulaski's self-justifying account of Egg Harbor), John Bull and Memento Mori, published in several issues through November and December. He associated with the Peace Commissioners, including his cousin,Commodore George Johnstone, and their Secretary, Professor Adam Ferguson of Edinburgh University, a family friend (no relation) and later his first biographer.

Early in 1779, Pattie led reconnaissance and mapping missions in New York and New Jersey. His warnings to Clinton about the weak fortifications on the Hudson were confirmed when Stony Point fell to the Rebels on 16 July. On its return to British hands 2 days later, he was given the task of refortifying it. Clinton appointed him Governor and Commandant of Stony Point and of Verplanck's Point on the opposite bank. Pattie expended much time and effort on this post, only to be ordered to dismantle the works and withdraw in autumn. With wry sarcasm he wrote to his brother-in-law, 'Scrym':

"Like my Predecessor Sancho Pancho, I have been obliged very soon to abdicate my Government, not however by the Great Washington, nor by these miracles of humane Wisdom & Virtue the rebel Congress, but by superior orders in Consequence of foreign Circumstances which the Lord confound, otherwise should I have remained all winter the bleak Lord Paramount of the throne of Mountains 50 miles north of this upon which the Destiny of this infernal Quarter of the Globe in a great measure depends." [16]

In December he was given command of the American Volunteers, made up of New York and New Jersey Loyalists. They set sail on 26 December 1779, landing at Tybee a month later. On 7 February 1780 at Savannah, Clinton formalised Pattie's provincial brevet as Lieutenant Colonel of the American Volunteers, backdated to the beginning of December. While in Savannah, Pattie drew up designs for refortifying the city with blockhouse bastions.

On 14 March, Pattie was bayoneted through the left arm in a 'friendly fire' incident at MacPherson's Plantation, SC, when Major Charles Cochrane and the British Legion infantry mistook his encampment for that of the enemy. For 3 weeks, he had limited use of his one good arm, but chivalrously forgave Cochrane.

During the siege of Charleston, Pattie worked closely with Banastre Tarleton (1754-1833) and the Legion horse, under Lieut. Col. James Webster (1740-81), 33rd Foot, to cut off Rebel supply routes. Pattie and 'Ban' worked well together, and, contrary to myth, respected each other. Pattie regarded Tarleton, a Liverpool merchant-shipping magnate's son, as "a very active gallant young man" [17] and the latter wrote well of him in his Campaigns. They defeated Huger at Monck's Corner on 14 April. But that night a couple of drunken Legion troopers, celebrating the victory, broke into Fair Lawn Plantation and terrorised Jane Giles -- a young Englishwoman whose first husband had been Sir John Colleton, Bt. -- and her three companions. Pattie sent men to arrest the culprits, intending to execute them. Webster commuted the sentence to flogging - if 'commuted' is the phrase for a punishment which could kill more slowly. There is no evidence that Ban regarded the matter lightly. Mrs. Giles (still often called "Lady Colle ton") was a Loyalist, and her friend Anna Fayssoux, the wife of a prominent Rebel army surgeon. Politically, it would have been damaging to let the attack go unpunished. But from this incident, which actually preceded Pattie's generous description of Ban, nineteenth century American writers such as Washington Irving and Lyman C. Draper derived the myth of enmity between the two officers. This has been perpetuated by later writers, in the UK as in the US, and on the US History Channel's Frontier: The Decisive Battles episode.

On 18 April, Clinton confirmed Pattie in a permanent promotion, a Majority in the 71st Foot (Fraser's Highlanders), backdated to the previous October. Pattie therefore gave up his brevet Lieutenant Colonelcy, although he never served with the 71st Foot as a regimental officer.

He and his American Volunteers took part in the capture of Fort Moultrie, of which they took command on 16 May, 4 days after the surrender of Charleston. He began to devise plans for erecting fortifications to defend all the principal roads and communications by land and sea in the province.

On 22 May, Pattie was appointed Inspector of Militia by Clinton, to recruit and train local Loyalists:

"an office of neither rank nor Emolument, but which I am persuaded will prove usefull to our Country & of Course Creditable to me. It is the charge of forming & disciplining the Militia here as Inspector... I could have 20 or 30 shillings a day for it, but in fact I have a guinea already as major, so that it is no Sacrifice & a Decent act to refuse it, amidst the general greed for Plunder that is the bane of the civil Department of this army." [18]

He left Charleston on 26 May to march up country. In June, he raised a regiment of 240 men at Orangeburg, but his base for most of that summer was around Fort Ninety-Six. The militia flocked to him and he began training them to respond to signals from his light infantry silver whistle.

Clinton had by now been succeeded by Charles, Lord Cornwallis, as commander in the South. Cornwallis was less enthusiastic about using militia and also generally favoured his own appointees. This caused problems for Pattie, since one of them, Lieut. Col. Nisbet Balfour of Dunbog (1744-1823), was Commandant at Ninety-Six. Pattie had begun designing fortifications for Ninety-Six, which he had forwarded directly to Cornwallis and Clinton, not via Balfour, who often complained about him in his letters to Cornwallis. But by August, rivalries at Ninety-Six had eased. Balfour was posted to Charleston and replaced by Col. John H. Cruger, a New Yorker. Pattie got on well with Loyal Americans, and, without Balfour's sniping, relations with Cornwallis improved. Work on NinetySix's defences was under way by early September.

Pattie's men had been pursuing Clarke, who defeated Loyal militia at Musgrove's Mill on 18 August. At Winn's Plantation the next day, Pattie learned of the victory at Camden. He then set Out to pursue Sumter, but on 21 August learned that Tarleton had surprised and defeated Sumter at Fishing Creek. On 23 August, Pattie rode to Camden to get new instructions from Cornwallis. He was to operate on the left flank, detached from the main body of the army: to aid the Loyalists, and forage from and punish the Rebels. Cornwallis had misgivings about his chances, yet nevertheless authorised him to do this - a decision he would regret, and for which Sir Henry Clinton later castigated him.

Pattie marched his men up into North Carolina on 7 September. Leaving most encamped, he took 50 American Volunteers and 300 militia towards Gilbert Town and Cane Creek, to surprise McDowell. But McDowell, like Clarke, Shelby and Williams, had withdrawn into the Back Country. Pattie paroled a prisoner to warn these Rebels "that if they did not desist from opposition... he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword".[19] Shelby passed on the message to Sevier, of the Washington County Militia. They mobilised the other militias along the Watauga. At Sycamore Shoals on 25 September, they were joined by forces from Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas. Incited by the fanatical Rev. Samuel Doak's sermons to wield "the Sword of the Lord and of Gideon" in a holy war, they intended to destroy Patrick Ferguson and his army. The son of Enlightenment Edinburgh was to face a force motivated by the seventeenth century militant Bible-Belt bigotry which his ow n country had outgrown.

Meanwhile, Pattie won numerous people over to the Loyal cause. On 24 September, 500 men came in. He and his troops left Gilbert Town on 27 September. He learned of the large Rebel advance from deserters from Sevier. Pattie wrote to Cornwallis, then in Charlotte, and to Cruger at Ninety-Six for support. Cruger could spare none and advised retreat. On 1 October, at Denard's Ford, Pattie wrote to Cornwallis that more Rebels were mustering. He reported that two old men --survivors of a party of 4 -- had just been brought into camp "most barbarously maimd by a Party of Clevelands Men". [20] The incident angered him: he used it in an impassioned proclamation that day to rally the Loyalists:

"Gentlemen: Unless you wish to be eat up by an inundation of barbarians, who have begun by murdering an unarmed son before the aged father, and afterwards lopped off his arms, and who by their shocking cruelties and irregularities, give the best proof of their cowardice and want of discipline; I say, if you wish to be pinioned, robbed, and murdered, and see your wives and daughters, in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind -- in short, if you wish or deserve to live, and bear the name of men, grasp your arms in a moment and run to camp.

"The Back Water men have crossed the mountains; McDowell, Hampton, Shelby and Cleveland are at their head, so that you know what you have to depend upon. If you choose to be pissed upon forever and ever by a set of mongrels, say so at once and let your women turn their backs upon you, and look out for real men to protect them." [21]

He began to withdraw towards Charlotte, and wrote to Cornwallis requesting support. The Legion could not be sent Out immediately, because Tarleton had been seriously ill with yellow fever or malaria and was still weak. Instead, Cornwallis ordered Pattie to rendezvous with Major Archibald McArthur and the 71st at Arness Ford.

On 6 October, Pattie and his troops set off towards Charlotte, but encamped at King's Mountain, to wait for McArthur's approach. An anecdote collected by Draper in 1874 suggests Pattie spent his last evening with his 2 doxies, Virginia Sal -- a buxom young redhead -- and Virginia Poll or Paul(ina): "one of whom was seen plaiting his long Hair just on the eve of the battle while the other lay in his bosom and sung him a song". [22] Little is known of them: another of Draper's correspondents, Wallace Moore Reinhardt, suggested one may have been a Miss Featherstone, [23] and their shared epithet suggests they may have been Loyal refugees from Virginia.

The following afternoon, the Rebel forces surrounded King's Mountain and launched a surprise assault. Incited by Doak's sermon, and by exaggerated reports that Tarleton had 'massacred' Buford's command at Waxhaws in May, their countersign was "Buford". The implication was "No quarter" for Ferguson and his men -- or his women. Sal's bright red hair made her an easy target: among the first casualties, she was shot as she helped one of the wounded to the tents.

The Loyalist militia, running low on ammunition, began to fall back. Some seventy uniformed American Volunteers bore the brunt of the fighting. They raced from one side of the mountain to the other, making bayonet charges that thrice succeeded in driving back the Rebels -- but only briefly. Pattie was in the thick of the action: a wiry, dynamic figure, sword in hand, riding to the weakest points of the line to rally his men, signalling with his famous silver whistle. Two horses were shot from under him. He took a third. It was a grey: his career had come full circle.

Knowing that there was scant hope of quarter, he swore he "never would yield to such a damn'd banditti". [24] With two other mounted militia officers, Colonel Vezey Husbands and Major Daniel Plummer, he led a last, desperate attempt to break the enemy line, and, sword drawn, spurred his horse forward -- into a blaze of rifle-fire.

Husbands was killed outright, Plummer badly wounded. Pattie himself was a conspicuous target, with his sword in his left hand, his bent-up right arm, and a checked duster-shirt protecting his uniform. A massive volley blasted him from the saddle. Rifle-balls broke both his arms, and tore his thigh. About half a dozen shattered his breast. One, mercifully, pierced his head. His foot caught in the stirrup of his horse as he fell, and he was dragged along the ground. He died within minutes, in the arms of his friends. Jubilant Rebels stripped and urinated on his corpse, before his orderly Elms Powell and other companions were allowed to bathe and shroud him in a raw beef-hide. He was buried in a shallow grave, beside poor Sal, from whose corpse a Rebel took a necklace of glass beads. Poll was taken prisoner, but released at Moravian Towns and returned to the army in Charlotte, where she apparently found a new protector.

"Don't kill any more! It's murder!" the Rebels' nominal commander, William Campbell protested as, with cries of "Give them Buford's play!" and "Tarleton's Quarter!", they ignored the Loyalists' white flags. Only with great difficulty did he prevent a wholesale massacre. Rebel casualties were 28 dead and 64 wounded, but 157 Loyalists were killed, and 163 so seriously hurt that they were abandoned on the mountain. Some, like Daniel Plummer, were rescued by local Loyalists, and nursed back to health. Others were less fortunate: for weeks afterwards, turkey-buzzards, wolves and hogs fattened themselves on human carrion. The rest -- nearly 700 men, including walking wounded -- were marched off as prisoners. Along the way, they were ill-used, even hacked with swords. Campbell had to order his officers to "restrain the disorderly manner of slaughtering and disturbing the prisoners". [25] At Red Chimneys -- plantation of Aaron Bickerstaff, a Loyalist Captain mortally wounded in the battle -- nine militia officers we re hanged from a tree after 'trial'. The newly-widowed Martha Bickerstaff and an old servant buried them. Many more would have been killed, had not a rumour spread that Tarleton was coming. Another man was hanged for trying to escape. Cleveland beat up Uzal Johnson, the young New Jersey doctor, "for attempting to dress a man whom they had cut on the march", his friend Lieutenant Anthony Allaire (American Volunteers), wrote. [26]

Tarleton and the Legion arrived 3 days too late, and learned the worst. Ban later wrote in his Campaigns: "the death of the gallant Ferguson threw his whole corps into total confusion... The mountaineers, it is reported, used every insult and indignity, after the action, towards the dead body of Major Ferguson, and exercised horrid cruelties on the prisoners that fell into their possession." [27]

News of Pattie's death reached his family about 10 days before Christmas. His family was "disconsolable" at his loss [28] -- as are most people who come to know him through his charming letters. Cousin Betty Johnstone wrote to his sister Betty:

"My Good Aunt what must She feel -- He was her favorit Son and justly did she Love him -- ...He possesd so many noble qualitys that non who knew him did not regard and respect him

"I scarce ever knew a more feeling Heart then your worthy Brother was possesd of -- no Family but what would have been Honoured by Such a Son and justly is he Lamented by his own..." [29]

His memory is now neglected in his native Edinburgh. The site of his home, now covered by City Council offices, is unmarked, while the University puts up a plaque to the Rebel Dr. Witherspoon, Samuel Doak's mentor. Visitors to Greyfriars Kirkyard pay their respects at the grave of a policeman's terrier, ignoring the mausoleum of the family of one of Scotland's most courageous and endearing heroes.

Yet the defeat was not total, nor the sacrifice in vain. The country which Pattie's uncle Jamie Murray had helped found gave a home to his men and their families. Anthony Allaire, his friend Dr. Uzal Johnson, Frederick de Peyster, and many other King's Mountain veterans built their lives anew as United Empire Loyalists in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The nineteenth century American author Draper, despite regarding Ferguson's Loyalists as at best misguided, but mostly "the worst characters which war evolves from the dregs of mankind", [30] gave Patrick Ferguson his best epitaph: "As long as Ferguson lived, his unyielding spirit scorned to surrender. He persevered until he received his mortal wounds". [31] That indomitable perseverance is the keynote of his heroism -- not only in his death, but in his longer battles against disability. Draper quoted a Rebel tradition that, rallying his men in battle, he said "he was on King's Mountain, that he was king of that mountain, and God Almighty" -- and "all the Rebels out of hell" -- "could not drive him from it". [32] One of his correspondents in 1880, sniffed puritanically that Pattie's "blasphemous threats met with a sad ending". [33] But in death, Major Patrick Ferguson, the unbroken, gallant spirit in the broken young body, won that victory. Beneath a nineteenth cairn and 1930 headstone -- the epitaph of whic h contains a few errors regarding his rank, regiment and birthplace -- he still lies, with Sal: for ever the 'King of the Mountain'.


With sincere thanks to the Earl and Countess of Dundee and the staff of the National Register of Archives (Scotland) for permission to quote from the Scrymgeour- Wedderburn Papers, NRA(S) 783; to Lord Elibank and the Scottish Records Office for use of the Elibank Papers; and the Special Collections Department of Edinburgh University Library for letters from the Laing MSS collection. Thanks also to Dr. Bobby G. Moss and Chief Ranger Christopher C. Revels, Kings Mountain National Military Park, Kings Mountain, South Carolina, for access to microfilms of the Draper MSS, and to Philip M. Edwards, Narragansett Armes Ltd.

A replica Ferguson Rifle, of the type used by the original corps, presented by Narragansett Armes Ltd. on the anniversary of King's Mountain, 1999, may be seen in the regimental headquarters of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Scots Greys) in Edinburgh Castle, while a rifle privately commissioned by an officer of the 71st Foot (Fraser's) and used in America is displayed in the National War Museum, also in the Castle.

Dr. Marianne McLeod Gilchrist

The author, a freelance professional historian, has completed a biography of Pattie Ferguson, to be published in paperback by the National Museums of Scotland by 2002, and is editing his letters for Kings Mountain National Military Park. Her distant uncle, William McLeod, an emigrant from Sutherland, was commissioned by Ferguson in the Cumberland County Militia in 1780 and may have fought at King's Mountain: he later served under Col. David Fanning. Her booklet on the family, The Fergusons of Pitfour: A Hero & His Family, is published by the Friends of the Kirk of the Greyfriars, Greyfriars, Tolbooth & Highland Kirk, Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ, Scotland, UK, and is available from them, price [pound]1.00 sterling (postage & handling extra).


(1.) To his sister Betty Ferguson (1742-1810, later Mrs. Alexander Scrymgeour), London, 12 February 1760 and 24 January 1761, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/1 and 140/2/6.

(2.) To Alexander Scrymgeour (1743-1811, after 1778 Scrymgeour-Wedderburn), Philadelphia, 23 Dec. 1777, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/72.

(3.) Anne Murray Ferguson to her daughter Betty Scrymgeour, n.d. [1772], Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/1/17.

(4.) To Betty Ferguson, London, 24 January 1761, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/6. So much for John Buchanan's patronising description of him as an "Anglicized Scotsman"! Buchanan, John, The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997, p. 229.

(5.) Col. (later General) James Murray (1721-94) to his brother Patrick, Lord Elibank (1703-78), Yeovil, 8 November 1756, Elibank Papers, SRO, GD 32/24/10.

(6.) To Betty Ferguson, Pitfour, 15 March 1763, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/1/6-7.

(7.) To Betty Scrymgeour, (London) 30 May 1776, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/50.

(8.) To Betty Scrymgeour, (London) 29 Dec. 1776, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/63.

(9.) Transcript of Pattie's letter, probably to his parents, London, 2 Oct. 1776, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/1/143.

(10.) Ibid.

(11.) Ibid.

(12.) To unnamed recipient (John Home?), Philadelphia, postscript dated 31 Jan. 1778, Edinburgh University, Laing MSS, La 11, 456. Alexander Scrymgeour's copy is in the Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/79-80.

(13.) To Alexander Scrymgeour, Philadelphia, 23 Dec. 1777, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/72.

(14.) To unnamed recipient (John Home?), Philadelphia, n.d. [c. Jan. 1778]; Edinburgh University, Laing MSS, La 11, 456.

(15.) Hugh F. Rankin, "An Officer Out of His Time: Correspondence of Major Patrick Ferguson, 1779-1780", in Howard H. Peckham, ed., Sources of American Independence, vol. II, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1978, p. 314. This is an excellent collection of documents, with a useful introductory essay.

(16.) To Alexander Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, New York, 8 Nov. 1779, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/2/84

(17.) To Alexander Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, Charleston, n.d. [late May 1780], ibid., 140/2/85

(18.) Ibid.

(19.) Lyman C. Draper, King's Mountain and Its Heroes, Cincinnati, 1881; Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992, p. 169. The warning was communicated orally by returned prisoners and is known only from Rebel sources.

(20.) I am grateful to Dr. Bobby G. Moss for information re: Pattie's dispatch of 1 October 1780 to Lord Cornwallis (Cornwallis Papers, Public Records Office, Kew, 30/11/3/160-161).

(21.) Hank Messick, King's Mountain: The Epic of the Blue Ridge 'Mountain Men' in the American Revolution, Boston & Toronto: Little. Brown, 1976, p. 100; Draper, King's Mountain and Its Heroes, p. 204 (bowdlerised version). In his preface, Messick dedicates his book to America's great unsung hero, the "redneck" - which reveals everything you need to know about its tone... Draper and Messick alike claim that the maiming of the old man was a fabrication for propaganda purposes - Draper calls it "a figment of the imagination", Messick "an outright lie". They were clearly unaware of Patrick's official dispatch to Cornwallis.

(22.) W. D. Glenn to Lyman C. Draper, Pleasant Ridge, NC, 4 July 1874, Draper MSS (microfilm, Kings Mountain National Military Park), 15 DD 44.

(23.) Wallace Moore Reinhardt to Lyman C. Draper, Lincolnton, NC, 22 November 1880, Draper MSS, 4 DD 102.

(24.) Shelby, Isaac, "King's Mountain", in Draper, King's Mountain and Its Heroes, p. 543.

(25.) Campbell, William, "Col. Campbell's General Orders", in ibid., p. 531.

(26.) Allaire, Anthony (UE), "Diary", ibid., pp. 510-2.

(27.) Tarleton, Banastre, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America, London: T. Cadell, 1787; North Stratford, NH: Ayer Company, 1999, p. 165.

(28.) Janet Gillespie (sister of Alexander Scrymgeour) to Betty Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, Mountquhanie, 22 January 1781, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/1/50.

(29.) Betty Johnstone to her cousin Betty Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, Alva, 30 Jan. 1781, Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Papers, 140/1/55.

(30.) Draper, King's Mountain and Its Heroes, p. 242.

(31.) Ibid., p. 288.

(32.) Ibid., p. 217.

(33.) C. L. Hunter to Lyman C. Draper, Lowesville, NC, 25 August 1880, Draper MSS, 6 DD 149.
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Author:McLeod Gilchrist, Dr. Marianne
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2001
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