Appalachian History On 2 Wheels - Overmountain Victory Trail

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by dlrides, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    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.

    [SIZE=-1]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. [/SIZE]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]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. [/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]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. [/SIZE][/FONT]



    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]
    " . . . That Turn of the Tide of Success" --Thomas Jefferson ​


    [/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]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. [/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]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. [/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]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. [/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1]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.[/SIZE][/FONT]

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


    http://www.ovta.org/2008%20MARCH/2008%20March%20Schedule%20Master%20September%2015%202008.pdf


    More info is available at these sites:

    http://www.nps.gov/ovvi
    http://www.nps.gov/archive/ovvi/home.htm
    http://www.overmountainvictory.org/index.html
    http://www.ovta.org/

    Enjoy, and let's get started !

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

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    The campsite at Dunn Meadows

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    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 !

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    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

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    more tomorrow !
    #1
  2. preacher dan

    preacher dan Adventurer

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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....
    #2
  3. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Very interesting. Will be waiting for this one to unfold. Thanks.
    #3
  4. obsidian

    obsidian Scared of the dark..

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    Yeah keep it coming! Really cool post, thanks.
    #4
  5. iloco

    iloco Been here awhile

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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. :)
    #5
  6. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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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 !

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    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

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    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.

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    The Sycamore Shaols

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

    Hey Jenny :wave

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    Let's cross the Blueridge Mountains next !
    #6
  7. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    iloco,

    Thanks for the contribution and info !

    :thumb
    #7
  8. knybanjo

    knybanjo kinda slow

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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.

    Ghosts? :eek1

    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!! :scratch

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

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

    :lurk

    :deal If they had not left their mountain homes ...... we may still be under British rule today.
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    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
    :bow
    #8
  9. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    Very true, plenty of details, and trails coming !
    #9
  10. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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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.

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    Nearby campsite

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

    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 !

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    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. :huh 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,..................

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

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    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 !

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    More later !
    #10
  11. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Enjoying the historical riding tour and pics :thumb

    :lurk
    #11
  12. Drowsy Dave

    Drowsy Dave Square Peg, No Hole

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    This is great. Thanks for posting this. :thumb

    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.
    #12
  13. Katoom119

    Katoom119 Mmmm....Orange Kool-aid

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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. :thumb
    #13
  14. knybanjo

    knybanjo kinda slow

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    :clap:clap

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

    Good job!! :thumb :thumb
    #14
  15. EVILONE

    EVILONE Long timer

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    Dang Dl,I get cold chills reading this kind of stuff!

    Cant wait for more man!:clap

    EVIL:evil
    #15
  16. MO Boot

    MO Boot mo boot

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    Great report!!!:clap Keep it coming!
    #16
  17. boatanchor

    boatanchor boat anchor

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    Wow!!!!

    Good timing!!!

    There is actually a front page article in todays Kingsport Times News about this very event. Seems a section of the trail is being dedicated as a National Park....:D
    #17
  18. DeBandi

    DeBandi Exploring Alabama

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    Another great ride report Don.:thumb


    I know how much work you put into these & we all appreciate the effort & the sharing of knowledge.


    Again, great subject & a great report.
    #18
  19. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    It's not over yet !


    :ddog
    #19
  20. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    OK, so the road turned rocky trail, turned walking path brings me out on Rt 261 at near Roan Mountain. I have to take Rt 261 accross Roan Mountain to Bakersville NC, then back NE along Cane Creek to a trail on the maps which should put me back on the original trail.

    While going up Cane Creek Rd, another one of those unique treasures appears, an old grist mill ! U-turn, which is customary for me, down to the Grist mill.

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    This is Dellinger Grist Mill, built in 1867 by Reuben Dellinger. This mill has been in the family for 146 years ! Owned and run by Jack Dellinger, just as it was in 1867, all water powered ! The damn is 200 yds upstream and built of log, and of course the water flume is 200 yds long. Jack was there on this day, and he took me for a detailed tour. Jack has an interest in history, so we talked quite a while about significant items in mountain history.

    If you are ever in the area of Bakersville NC, this is a DO NOT MISS ! Please help support him, this is truly a labor of love, and an important part of our mountain heritage. Send him an e-mail and thank him for his work at least.
    Here is a link to the mill's website:
    http://pages.prodigy.net/jackandleslie/index.html

    More of the mill

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    Jack Dellinger

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    Jack informed me that the road I was looking for no longer existed, but there was an old logging trail that used to go over to Rt 19 into Avery County. I found the road, but it was gated with some new mcmansions on top of the mountain. I work my way back over to Rt 19 and then towards North Cove, hoping I am close to the original trail.

    North of Hefner Gap, the march split into two groups, to reduce the chances of being caught by Ferguson, but Ferguson was still in SC. One of the routes taken down the Blueridge Mountains, happens to be a great gravel road that runs along Linville Gorge, that I have ridden before. This road offers some of the most magnificant views in the southeast.

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    From here the Overmountain Men marched to Quaker Meadows, near present day Morganton, NC. Since they marched down the river valley, which is Lake James now, I headed off to find Quaker Meadows and the McDowell House.

    While the Mountain Men were marching from the north, another group of 300+ left Elkin NC to meet at the McDowell House and Quaker Meadows. This put the total count around 1,100 men to go after Ferguson and the loyalist.

    I will break here to travel the Elkin to Quaker Meadows leg in NC, and then on to SC.
    #20