The Search for a Brother Killed by Tories on King’s Mountain

By Jeannette Holland Austin


During the American Revolution, Patriot irregulars under Colonel William Campbell of Virginia defeated the Tories at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. The army of Major Ferguson was served mostly by American Loyalists from South Carolina and was part of the western wing of the North Carolina forces under General Lord Cornwallis. Colonel Campbell assembled approximately one thousand frontiersmen from the back country to prevent the advance of Major Ferguson. Ferguson positioned his Tory forces in to defend a rocky, treeless ridge named King’s Mountain. The Patriots charged the hillside multiple times, demonstrating expert marksmanship against the surrounded Loyalists. However, Ferguson was unwilling to surrender and led a suicidal charge down the mountain where he was cut down by a hail of bullets. After his death, some of his men tried to surrender, but they were slaughtered in cold blood by frontiersmen who had already encountered the savagry of “Bloody William” Cunningham and “ and “butcher” Tarleton. 157 Tories were killed and 698 captured, while the force of Colonel Campbell lost only 28 soldiers, with 60 wounded. Charles Bowan, serving in the company of Captain William Edmondson of the regiment of Colonel William Campbell participated in this battle. Afterwards, upon hearing that his brother, Lt. Reece Bowen had been killed, searched for him, but instead came across his own fallen Captain Edmondson, shot in the head and dying. He found himself near the enemy and hid behind a tree, then shot down the first man who hoisted a flag and turning to reload, his own Colonel Cleveland advanced on foot, suspecting he was a tory and demanded the countersign, which Bowen had forgotten. Cleveland levelled his rifle at the breast of Bowen, attempted to shoot, but it missed fire. Bowen, enraged, seized Cleveland by the collar, snatched his tomahawk from his belt, but was arrested by a soldier named Buchanan, who knew both parties. Bowen now remembered the countersign and gave it as “Buford.” Find your North Carolina Ancestors