Kings Mountain hosting celebration for Revolutionary battle anniversary

This weekend, local history buffs will gather to stop the Redcoats from advancing into North Carolina again.

Kings Mountain National Military Park is hosting an anniversary celebration Saturday and Sunday to mark 234 years since a decisive Patriot victory credited with turning the tide of the Revolutionary War in the South.

Weekend festivities will include a mustering of five re-enactment groups in an 18th-century military encampment, ahead of a formal ceremony marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“We start Saturday with a living history display,” said Chris Revels, chief ranger at the park in western York County, which straddles the state line with North Carolina. “We’re going to have musket and rifle demonstrations at set times throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, re-enactments of other camp activities and children’s activities.”

In October 1780, some 900 Patriot militiamen marched south into South Carolina from Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee to halt the northern march of British forces under Lord Cornwallis. On Oct. 7, they surprised enemy forces – not Brits, but 1,000 Loyalists from the Carolina Backcountry raised to support Cornwallis – at Kings Mountain.

An hour of combat resulted in nearly 300 Loyalists killed and the rest wounded or taken prisoner, while fewer than 30 of the militiamen were killed in the battle. It was the first significant American victory since the fall of Charleston earlier in the year, and it caused Cornwallis to retreat from Charlotte back into South Carolina.

To mark the anniversary, the part of Revolutionary War soldiers will be played by members of the Backcountry Militia, the Guildford Militia, the New Acquisition Militia, the New Jersey Light Company and the Royal North Carolina Regiment. Besides the military displays, visitors also will see some daily aspects of life in 1780 – cooking, bullet and button molding, and basket weaving.

Visitors will get a chance to see a period performance from Signora Bella, the Italian “equilibrist.” As portrayed by Johanna Ellis, Bella is the kind of traveling performer who would have entertained settlements throughout the colonies in the late 1700s.

“She walks what’s called a ‘slack rope’ and does some other acrobatic feats,” Revels said. “She interweaves that with storytelling.”

Bella will perform at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday. Visitors also can take a candlelight tour of the battlefield at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“They’ll meet re-enactors on the tour who will talk about what it was like on the night after the battle,” Revels said.

To take the candlelight tour, visitors are asked to make reservations in advance by calling 864-936-7921.

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the band Threescore 10 will perform Celtic and folk music in the Visitors Center.

On Tuesday, a daylong affair will mark the anniversary. Around 100 chapters of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution will lay wreaths at the battle monument at 11 a.m., followed by a formal observance ceremony at 3 p.m., with the arrival of the Overmountain Victory Trail Marchers.

“They march every year on the anniversary from Abbington, Va., where the militias first gathered, and recreate the march south,” Revels said, acknowledging that modern re-enactors drive most of the way.

The keynote address will be delivered by author Michael Harris, who will sign copies of his Revolutionary War book “Brandywine” prior to the ceremony.

“Besides the anniversary,” Revels said, “this is a great time to visit the park, because the leaves are just starting to change.”