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Old 09-23-2008, 10:55 PM   #1
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Appalachian History On 2 Wheels - Overmountain Victory Trail

This is the first installment in a series of ride reports on Appalachian History. The theme will be historical in nature, but not a "history lesson", but the roads, people, and sights of Appalachian life through history.

The Overmountain Victory Trail is a forgotten and extremely important part of our American history. The route taken by these mountain men to a battle in 1780 assured the formation of our country.

I acquired a map of the original trail, which I scaled and overlayed on Gazetteers and topos to follow as close as possible to the original route. There are several variations from the motor route, but with a little work most of the original route can be followed on a motorcycle. This was not an easy task, and took 3 days to travel the 330 miles.

I have many photos with details of the ride, so the report will have to be condensed. Read the historical markers in the report to follow the above description. I will post a link to the smugmug galleries at the end, so all the photos can be viewed.

Below is a cut and paste, condensed version of the complete discription, which is important to follow the ride.

In the summer of 1780, the Southern American colonies - and hopes of independence - seemed at the mercy of an invading British army. Believing the Southern colonies mostly loyal, the Royal army planned to conquer the South and recruit Loyalist militia (local volunteer soldiers) to help British regulars and British Provincial troops defeat the Continental Army and the local Patriot militia.

When Charleston, South Carolina, surrendered May 12th, 1780, the British captured most of the Continental troops in the South. Additional large losses occurred later in the summer with Patriot defeats at Waxhaws, South Carolina, May 29th, and Camden, South Carolina, August 16th. Only Patriot militia remained to oppose a British move through North Carolina into Virginia, America's largest colony. Victory for Royal troops and an end to talk of independence seemed near.
Lord Charles Cornwallis, the British commander, appointed Major Patrick Ferguson as Inspector of Militia for South Carolina to defeat the local militia and to recruit Loyalists. Ferguson's opposition included men from South Carolina's backwoods under Thomas Sumter, North Carolinians commanded by Charles McDowell, and Over mountain men from today's Tennessee under Isaac Shelby.
Moving into North Carolina, Ferguson attempted to intimidate the western settlers, threatening to march into the mountains and"lay waste the country with fire and sword" if they did not lay down their arms and pledge allegiance to the King. The response was a furious army formed on the western frontier. Growing in numbers as they marched east, some 1,100 men gave chase to Ferguson, surrounding his army at Kings Mountain, South Carolina, and killing or capturing Ferguson's entire command.

" . . . That Turn of the Tide of Success" --Thomas Jefferson

Ferguson's defeat was a stunning blow to British fortunes. The strength of the Patriot militia was affirmed. The hoped for Loyalist support didn't materialize. Cornwallis was forced to pull back from North Carolina, giving the Continental Army time to bring fresh regulars and new commanders south. On January 17,1781, Daniel Morgan, using Continentals and militia, defeated Colonel Banastre Tarleton's British army at Cowpens, South Carolina. That winter saw a running campaign between Cornwallis and the armies of Morgan and Nathanael Greene. Try as Cornwallis might, the Americans always seemed to cross the river to safety before Cornwallis could cut them off.
At Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, on March 15th, Greene finally turned to face Cornwallis. Greene's army was driven from the battlefield, but Cornwallis suffered severe losses which he could not replace. Cornwallis pulled back to recuperate, finally moving his army north into Virginia without subduing North Carolina. In the fall of 1781, George Washington rushed his army south to join French reinforcements. When French warships fortuitously gained control of the Chesapeake Bay, Cornwallis was besieged and forced to surrender on October 19,1781, just over a year after Kings Mountain.
Kings Mountain was the beginning of the successful end to the Revolution, assuring independence for the United States of America. On an unimposing and obscure mountain, Americans fought Americans to determine their destiny. The citizen militia of the community, the predecessors of today's National Guard and Reserves - like volunteer fire departments - organized to protect their community.
Men without formal training or recognized social standing - Ferguson called them mongrels - took hold of their destinies, just like the men who began the American War for Independence on April 19,1775, at Lexington and Concord. They relied upon their individual initiative, skills with the rifle, and courage to ensure the success of their cause.

The annual commerative march starts this week. Check this link for the schedule, and try to go out and support the OVTA members:

More info is available at these sites:

Enjoy, and let's get started !

Dunn Meadows in Abingdon VA, this is where it all started !

The campsite at Dunn Meadows

From this point the trail heads down the Holston Valley, where present day South Holston Lake fills part of the valley. The first nights encampment was on the land of Col.John Pemberton, near the "great oak". This was something I had to find, as it is rumored to have been 600+ years old before it fell in 2002. Part of the trunk still stands, and is difficult to find !

Pull out the maps, tab through the GPS screens, trying to find a "red dot" on the motor route map. Follow a small road for a short distance, come around a corner....................................

The Pemberton Oak !

Now, this is where the people come into play on a trip like this. As I get off the bike, a lady starts walking towards the gate down a hand laid brick path, with three dogs in tow. After an introduction she invited me in to take some photos. A great conversation began, and I spent considerable time with her enjoying the family history, details about the campsite, and land.

Sue Pemberton Vaughn is the direct descendant of Col. John Pemberton ! Born in the family house pictured here, built arouind 1867. The present house replaced the original log cabin. This was one of the many highlights of the trip. Sue is an angel, and will recieve some mail with a copy of the ride report !

Sue Pemberton Vaughn

more tomorrow !
"The BSC was strong in that one, had to get out !"

dlrides screwed with this post 09-25-2008 at 12:19 PM
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Old 09-23-2008, 11:07 PM   #2
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thanks for the ride,it brings back alot of memories of my youth....i often went to cowpens battleground durin high school,and kings mtn where the battle also took place..i even went to elizebehton tenn where they mustered to go fight fergerson...lookin forward to more of the report...thanks....
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Old 09-24-2008, 12:55 AM   #3
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Very interesting. Will be waiting for this one to unfold. Thanks.

A '00 KLR 650 40,000 miles, A '07 1250S 77,000 actual, A '03 5.3L Chevy Truck 77,000 + '43 style dude , Simper Fi ;-)
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Old 09-24-2008, 01:39 AM   #4
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Yeah keep it coming! Really cool post, thanks.
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Old 09-24-2008, 06:03 AM   #5
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As I readd this I can look out the window at the graveyard where William Campbell is buried.
I live just a few hundred yards from where he lived. The old home place was torn down just a few years ago. I really miiss that old home made from logs.
Anyone Interested in some pictures of the cemetary I can get some and post a link to them. :)

Here is THE LINK to some pictures taken at the Aspenvale Cemetary where Gen Cambbell is buried. Patrick Henrys Sister is also buried here whom married into the Campbell family. :)

This Cemetary is located off Interstate 81 at Exit 35 about 4 miles from the exit at Seven Mile Ford, Va.
Anyone interested in seeing this cemetary let me know and can meet you and show what little I know about it and where Gen Campbell lived. :)
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Old 09-24-2008, 07:39 AM   #6
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On towards Sycamore Shoals !

Past the Pemberton Oak campsite, the motor route, seperates from the original route. The original route mainly followed rivers and river bottoms, to a campsite SW of present day Bristol TN, past Fort Womack (which no longer exist), joins present day 19E to Elizabethton. The original route is thought to have followed near or on the Jonesboro Turnpike. I skipped the motor route and tried to follow the original route around Bristol to Elizabethton, I think I nailed it !

Sycamore Shoals has some unique history of it's own, being the home of the Wataugans. The Watuagans actually formed the Watauga Association, an independant government, and an independence document four years before our "Declaration of Independence" ! Major Ferguson sent a message to the Wataugans that stated:

"lay waste to the country with fire and sword"

The mountain men from VA and NC (TN did not exist at this time) valleys gathered at Watauga Fort for "the chase" of Ferguson. A sermon by reverend Samual Doak stated:

"My countrymen, you are about to set out on an expedition which is full of hardships and dangers, but one in which the Almighty will attend you"

"Taxation without representation and the quartering of soldiers in the homes of our people without their consent are evidence that the Crown of England would take from its American Subjects the
last vestige of Freedom."

"Your brethren across the mountains are crying like Macedonia unto your help. God forbid that you shall refuse to hear and answer their call-but the call of your brethren is not all. The enemy is marching hither to destroy your homes"

People just don't talk like that anymore !

Sycamore Shoals

Sycamore Shoals is a must visit ! There is a recreation of Fort watauga, several historic artifacts, and the actual river crossing is behind the fort.

The Sycamore Shaols

Park Ranger Jenny Kilgore provided me with some great information, great conversation, with a charming personality !

Hey Jenny

Let's cross the Blueridge Mountains next !
"The BSC was strong in that one, had to get out !"

dlrides screwed with this post 09-24-2008 at 07:46 AM
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Old 09-24-2008, 07:40 AM   #7
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Thanks for the contribution and info !

"The BSC was strong in that one, had to get out !"
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Old 09-24-2008, 07:44 AM   #8
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Sweet...I've ridden parts of that route as the Battlefield is just down the road from my house and my wife and I walk our dogs there quite often.


Our GSD, who is more prone to bark at strangers, once got spooked and suddenly scrambled to hide behind me when Nobody else was there!!

Alot of blood was shed on that hillside in the hour that battle took place!

Show us just where these Great Men came from!!!

If they had not left their mountain homes ...... we may still be under British rule today.

BTW...those red spot indicate the defeats the Patriots had suffered....
with Kings Mtn being THE Major Patriot victory that wiped out 1/3 of the British army in the South!!

We truly owe our freedom to the men that travelled the Over Mountain Victory Trail

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Old 09-24-2008, 07:50 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by knybanjo

If they had not left their mountain homes ...... we may still be under British rule today.
Very true, plenty of details, and trails coming !
"The BSC was strong in that one, had to get out !"
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Old 09-24-2008, 08:53 AM   #10
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From Sycamore Shoals the march went up the Doe River towards Roan Mountain. As dark approached, and in heavy rain a campsite was found near a rock ledge. This ledge was important to keep their powder dry ! Now known as the Shelving Rock, with an almost hidden plaque to mark the significance.

Shelving Rock has been reduced over time for road improvements, but still has the plaque in place.

Nearby campsite

The original route seperates again from the motor route after the Shelving Rock campsite, and becomes "interesting" on a motorcycle.

Hampton Creek was followed towards Yellow Mountain Gap, then to Bright's Trace. Hampton Creek Road ends and the trail area is designated a "Natural Area". Supposedly several 1780 period homesites are along this section of the trail, but I don't think a motorcycle would be a good idea here !

I find a road one hollow over that is shown to come out on Rt 261 on Roan Mountain per the GPS, but the Gazetteer showed a dead end. Those that have ridden with me know, I can't resist this opportunity ! The road turns from narrow pavement, to gravel, to rock two-track,..................

Then to "I hope I can wrestle this beast through" ...................................

To, "Oh no", before I popped out on the pavement ! (no time for pics on the "oh no" part) Here is where I come onto Rt 261 !

More later !
"The BSC was strong in that one, had to get out !"
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Old 09-24-2008, 09:07 AM   #11
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Enjoying the historical riding tour and pics

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Old 09-24-2008, 09:20 AM   #12
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This is great. Thanks for posting this.

I was born in Elizabethton and still have alot of family there. Next time I make it up there I need to explore some of the trail. Thanks for the inspiration.
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Old 09-24-2008, 09:39 AM   #13
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I've been meaning to research the roads and ride this trail all summer. Now I have to get moving before it gets too cold.
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Old 09-24-2008, 10:15 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by dlrides
Then to "I hope I can wrestle this beast through" ...................................

To, "Oh no", before I popped out on the pavement ! (no time for pics on the "oh no" part) Here is where I come onto Rt 261 !

I have NOT ridden any part of Overmountain that looked like that!!

Good job!!
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Old 09-24-2008, 03:30 PM   #15
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Dang Dl,I get cold chills reading this kind of stuff!

Cant wait for more man!

Dont be THAT guy!
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