Tartan day 2007

Happy Tartan Day:

Absinthe & Cookies once again hosts the "Gathering of the Blogs." Today is Tartan Day, a day established to celebrate Scottish heritage.

Given the readership's interests, I thought we'd talk about the Battle of King's Mountain. One of the turning points of the Revolutionary War, this battle was fought largely by Scots and Scots-Irish who had taken up residence in the backcountry. Its importance is reflected in the prominence of the mountain fighter in the crest of the Scottish American Military Society. Because they crossed over the Appalachians to resist the British, the Patriot's backcountry fighters were called "Overmountain Men."

Thomas Jefferson said at the time that it was a major turning point in the war; that sentiment was confirmed by Theodore Roosevelt in his history The Winning of the West, with the benefit of more than a century's perspective. He pointed out the importance of the mountain fighter in subsequent American history:

The warlike borderers who thronged across the Alleghanies, the restless and reckless hunters, the hard, dogged, frontier farmers, by dint of grim tenacity overcame and displaced Indians, French, and Spaniards alike, exactly as, fourteen hundred years before, Saxon and Angle had overcome and displaced the Cymric and Gaelic Celts. They were led by no one commander; they acted under orders from neither king nor congress; they were not carrying out the plans of any far-sighted leader. In obedience to the instincts working half blindly within their breasts, spurred ever onwards by the fierce desires of their eager hearts, they made in the wilderness homes for their children, and by so doing wrought out the destinies of a continental nation. They warred and settled from the high hill-valleys of the French Broad and the Upper Cumberland to the half-tropical basin of the Rio Grande, and to where the Golden Gate lets through the long-heaving waters of the Pacific. The story of how this was done forms a compact and continuous whole. The fathers followed Boon or fought at King's Mountain; the sons marched south with Jackson to overcome the Creeks and beat back the British; the grandsons died at the Alamo or charged to victory at San Jacinto.
(King's Mountain is associated with the excellence of the now-famous Ferguson Rifle, because that rifle was designed by the British commander, Patrick Ferguson, although it is not clear that any of his rifles were deployed there. Louis L'amour wrote a novel around the idea that he had two of them, and gave one away: The Ferguson Rifle. Fans who want to read one of his works set in an early period of the American frontier will enjoy it.)

Ferguson sent a challenge to the backcountry to lay down their arms, or he would bring them fire and sword. Instead, they decided to bring the fight to him. The battle was decisive in preventing the British from cutting off the American South from the Continental Congress. We might have had two Canadas, in other words: a few remaining British colonies in the north, and a few in the South. That makes for an interesting mental adventure -- perhaps someone should write a book about it.

If you wish to read still more, Wikipedia's page is here.

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