Keeping the story of the Overmountain Men alive

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Stretching 330 miles through four states (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina) the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail traces the route used by patriot militia during the pivotal Kings Mountain campaign of 1780.

Re-enactors have been on the march since last week when they cross the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals. There, marches from Virginia and other parts of Northeast Tennessee met with other marchers to begin the long trek across the mountains to Kings Mountain, S.C. They are due to arrive in Kings Mountain Friday. The actual battle took place Oct. 7, 1780, which ended in an American victory over the British. The battle was a key turning point in the war for independence.

For almost two weeks this small band of farmers and long hunters forded rivers, scaled mountains and tracked through an early snow on the Roan without the benefit of a general officer, chaplain, or supply wagons. Like many Carolina patriots, who joined them en route, they provided their own flintlocks, blankets and rations with scant prospects for remuneration. But, in the end they were victorious.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Many history books have overlooked the importance of the Kings Mountain Battle and the raw courage and heroic ventures of the Overmountain Men. Their stories have been overshadowed by other American Revolution heroes such as Washington, Hale, Revere, Jefferson, Adams, and even a traitor, Benedict Arnold.

The OVT re-enactment, which has become an annual event since 1975, not only pays tribute to that first ragged army of frontiersmen who took up the cause of freedom, but seeks to give the event the recognition it deserves.

In 1978, due partly to the determination of this small group of re-enactors, the U.S. Congress authorized a feasibility study to determine if the Overmountain Victory Trail qualified as a National Historic Trail which it did in 1980.

In 1979, the re-enactors along with other interested parties formed the Overmountain Victory Trail Association so it could legally accept titles to property easements and make leases. Since then, the OVTA has been able to identify the original trail and where possible, establish it as a walking trail. By means of signage, the story of that first march is told along the trail.

That same pioneer spirit lives today among the re-enactors, some who make the march every year. It is they who keep the story of the Overmountain Men alive.

For those early frontiersmen, who laid down their plows and picked up their rifles and marched across the mountains, it was a time to fight back. They kindled the spirit of freedom, initiated the plans, and raised the funds for the march against the British. They didn’t wait for authorization from Philadelphia or seek help from the colonists in the Northeast, they fought their own battle. All they had to offer was themselves and their fierce determination to find freedom and hope in a new land.

They were men and women who thirsted for freedom. We still have men and women today who have that same thirst and determination. Many have given their life for the cause of freedom in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea and Germany and on the beaches of Normandy.

As long that spirit lives, America will remain free.