Re-enactors to make 40th annual trip across Watauga to celebrate 235th anniversary of historic event

Published 8:35 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Star File Photo  Re-enactors pause mid-stream during last year's river crossing to fire their muskets. Star File Photo
Re-enactors pause mid-stream during last year’s river crossing to fire their muskets.
This year when historic re-enactors cross the Watauga River to honor the Overmountain Men, they will be marking two important milestones — the 235th anniversary of the famous muster and the 40th year the historic crossing has been re-enacted.
Festivities for the event will span two states and several days. The week includes several major events as well as a few smaller activities as well. All of the events are designed to pay tribute to the men and women who lived in region during the revolution and to showcase the events that happened in the fall of 1780 as the Overmountain Men gathered at Sycamore Shoals before marching to Kings Mountain, S.C., and ultimately to victory.
Many historians point to the victory at Kings Mountain as a major turning point in the American Revolution.
Prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis, a renowned military strategist, was waging the southern campaign of the war. Charleston had already fallen, British Lt. Col. Banastre “Blood Ban” Tarleton had executed surrendering patriots in the infamous Waxhaws Massacre and the patriots had suffered a crushing blow at the Battle of Camden where 900 soldiers were killed and 1,000 more wounded and captured.
While the loses had a demoralizing affect on some and caused fear, it also riled up the anger of the frontier settlers. After British Maj. Patrick Ferguson issued a threat to invade the mountains, the militia rose up and marched to Kings Mountain to defend their homes from invasion, ultimately defeating Ferguson’s forces there.
After the defeat at King’s Mountain, Cornwallis had to halt his advance into North Carolina and withdraw his troops deeper into South Carolina. In the wake of Kings Mountain, the patriots defeated British forces first at the Battle of Cowpens then again at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The string of patriot victories led to the Battle of Yorktown and ultimately the end of the Revolutionary War.
Activities will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 19, here in Elizabethton at Sycamore Shoals State Park. A special memorial service and wreath laying will take place at the fort in the park at 10 a.m.
“The Sons of the American Revolution put that on,” said Park Ranger Jason Davis. “It’s a special year for them. It’s the 235th anniversary of the muster.”
Events will continue at Sycamore Shoals on Friday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Sept. 27.
“The actual crossing will take place on Friday, the 25th,” Davis said. “That morning Westside Elementary School will be coming down and will be having a special school day here and we will be putting on some educational programs for them.”
While this year marks the 40th year re-enactors cross the river, it will also mark a special first.
“This is the first time the Tennessee State Guard has participated in this event,” Davis said.
On Saturday and Sunday, historic re-enactors will take over the fort to present a militia encampment giving visitors a chance to see what life would have been like on the frontier as the militia gathered for war.
“We have a living history group that comes in and they volunteer on their own time and help us provide these education programs,” Davis said.
Events will begin at 10 a.m. on both days and run until 4 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Below are some of the activities taking place as part of this years Overmountain Celebration as well as how to find out more information on the events.

Saturday in Elizabethton
Celebration of the Gathering of the Overmountain Men at 10 a.m.
Location: Sycamore Shoals State Park
Contact: Ronnie Lail 423-914-8677

Sunday in Abingdon, Va.
Brody and Campbell Grave Service at 2 p.m.
Candlelight Tour Muster Grounds and Storytelling at 7 p.m.
Location: Abingdon Muster Grounds
Contact: Leigh Anne Surber 276-525-1050

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Sunday in Jonesborough
DAR Constitution Day at 3 p.m.
Location: Jonesborough Courthouse
Contact: Tom Vaughan 423-366-8639

Sept. 24 in Bluff City
Choates Ford Crossing at 4 p.m.
Location: South Fork of the Holston River near the Swinging Bridge
Starting at Patriots Trailhead on Silver Grove Road crossing to B&B Campground
Contact: Bluff City Mayor/City Manager, Irene Wells 423-538-7144
Sullivan County Planning & Codes Director, Ambre Torbett 423-279-2603

Sept. 24 in Piney Flats
Public Program at Rocky Mount Historic Area at 7 p.m.
Contact: Gary Walrath 423-538-7396

Sept. 25 in Elizabethton
River Crossing at 2 p.m. followed by The Story of the Overmountain Men
Location: Sycamore Shoals State Park
Contact: Sycamore Shoals State Park 423-543-5808

Sept. 26 through Sept. 27 in Elizabethton
Encampment at the Fort
10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday
10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday
Contact: Sycamore Shoals State Park 423-543-5808

Sunday, Sept. 27 in Roan Mountain
Walk Yellow Mountain Gap
Meet at Shelving Rock near Roan Mountain State Park at 9:00
Carpool to Hampton Creek Cove State Wildlife Area and start the walk at 9:30
Led by Bob Hardin – Author: Overmountain Victory Trail – Then and Now
From the trailhead to where the Overmountain Victory Trail intersects with the AT at
Yellow Mountain Gap is 3.5 miles, with about 1800 feet elevation gain