The day following the battle the victors and their prisoners withdrew in the direction of the mountains. On the 13th of October they reached Bickerstaff's plantation, about 15 miles northeast of Gilbert Town. It was here that a number of the prisoners were tried by a court of officers, and 30 found guilty of "breaking open houses, killing the men, and turning the women and children out of doors and burning the houses." On the 14th nine of the convicted men were hanged.
Following this event the march was resumed in the direction of Virginia, in consequence of instructions, sent by Gates on the 12th that the prisoners were to be escorted under proper guard to Fincastle Court House, Va. By the time the Catawba was reached, like all partisan groups, these men thought their mission being accomplished they could return to their homes, and at this time there were no more troops than prisoners.
On reaching Bethabara, a halt was made, and on the 26th Campbell turned the command over to Cleveland, and he and Shelby repaired to Gates's headquarters in Hillsborough to arrange for the disposition of the prisoners. The official report of the battle was prepared some time subsequent to the departure from the command of Sevier and Lacey at Quaker Meadows, and was delivered to General Gates by Colonel Campbell October 31, or the day following.
Rumors of the disaster which Ferguson's army suffered probably reached the patriots in and around Charlotte Town late the following day or morning of the 9th. By the 10th Cornwallis's headquar-
ters had received sufficient intelligence to cause great fear that a disaster of some nature had occurred, and Tarleton's command was ordered to proceed immediately to reinforce Ferguson wherever he could be found, "and to draw his corps to the Catawba, if after the junction, advantage could not be obtained over the mountaineers; or, upon the certainty of his defeat, at all events to oppose the entrance of the victorious Americans into South Carolina." Tarleton proceeded to the Catawba, where he received certain information of the melancholy fate of Ferguson. Upon crossing this river, to "give protection to the fugitives, and to attend the operations of the enemy," he realized the complete disaster to the royal cause in the surrounding country. In his book description of the campaign of 1780 and 1781, published in 1787, he said:
On the 3d of December Cornwallis, who had recovered from his illness, wrote to the commander in chief from Wynnesborough of the various causes which prevented his penetration into North Carolina. Regarding Ferguson's mission toward the mountains he said:
was in the north. The seat of government was at Philadelphia; Washington's headquarters during the first of the year at Morristown; and the commercial center in New York, held, at the time, by the British. What concern was felt by Washington and Congress over conditions in the Carolinas was largely due to the uncertainty as to the strategy which Clinton would use in the North.
The year 1780, like those which had gone before, brought to Washington many problems of vital import to the American cause. The calm, dispassionate manner in which he planned for the Army and advised with Congress indicates a grandeur of character and a capacity for work too little understood. His faith in the justice of the cause and its ultimate success was unbounded, despite the fact that at times his optimism faltered and he felt that "'we are tottering on the brink of a precipice." But this temporary despair is explained by his overwhelming surprise over the treason of Arnold. Matters of more casual concern, such as difficulties in connection with the draft, depreciated currency, lack of supplies, intermittently starving Army, general disaffection amongst the troops; all these had been his problems for a long time; they had been solved some how or other, and he had faith in their solution for the future. He wrote to Baron von Steuben on April 2:
ceding year to use his tremendous enthusiasm for the American cause as a lever to pry from the King and his ministers a fleet and an army that would make of France an effective ally of America. His return to the Colonies on the 27th of April, 1780, with the joyous tidings that a fleet and army were soon to follow, heartened Washington and Congress beyond measure.
The British Army in the North was quiet during the first half of 1780, due to the detachment of a considerable part of the fleet and army for operations in the South. The American Army was quiet, as tidings from France were awaited, and when the French fleet and army finally did arrive, Washington abandoned his winter quarters early in June and prepared for operations to secure the reduction of the city and garrison of New York. He estimated that he would have a force of from 30,000 to 40,000 men, after the militia joined.
However, with the blockade of the French fleet in the port of Rhode Island, the projected campaign to conquer New York had to be abandoned, and a season of comparative inactivity on the part of his army drew to a close in October. The following month arrangements were made to go into winter quarters again.
With both Congress and Washington, their principal concern was the main army under his command. What occurred south of the Chesapeake were collateral issues to which only a limited amount of thought, energy, and assistance could be given. While Charleston was undergoing its siege, Washington wrote to Philip Schuyler, who was in Congress:
After the defeat at Camden, Washington wrote to Count de Rochambeau on the 8th of September that "this event must have the worst effect upon the affairs of the Southern States. Nor is it easy to say how far its influence may extend." But it was expected that if the inhabitants of the Carolinas were vitally concerned in independence, they would rise in sufficient numbers to acquire it, at least within their own boundaries, and affairs in the North still, continued to monopolize the attention of both Congress and Washington. However, there was sufficient concern to prompt action which resulted in sending to the Southern Department late in the year a competent commander, General Nathanael Greene. Receipt of the news as to how the mountain men overcame Ferguson thrilled the entire country, and Congress showed its appreciation of this magnificent feat in the manner already referred to, but beyond this it was but an incident of the southern campaign. Following Camden, Arnold's treason, and the inactive campaign of his army, on the day after Washington wrote that "we are tottering on the brink of a precipice," he said in a letter to General Cadwalader, "our case is not desperate, if virtue exists in the people, and there is wisdom among our rulers."
In considering the effect of the Battle of Kings Mountain upon the situation in the South, it was only this epic tragedy to Ferguson's army that halted Cornwallis in his subjugation of North Carolina. Without this, or a similar calamity, he would have reached the northern borders of the Province in December, and with the Chesapeake occupied by the British fleet, Virginia would have suffered the same fate. What the outcome of such a situation in the winter of 1780-81 would have been is problematic. In a letter to Count de Vergennes from M. de la Luzerne, the latter declared that the intention of the British was to sever the Carolinas and Georgia from the North. After the fall of Charleston, a gazette was published in that town in which the conquerors circulated insinuations that the Northern States had abandoned the South, and were about to make arrangements with England which would exclude the Carolinas and Georgia. The letter adds: