American Revolution Patrick Ferguson Breech Loading Rifle

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Patrick Ferguson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in June of 1744, and educated in a military academy. He joined the British army at age 15 and quickly picked up the job skills it takes to be an officer. He was an inventor of both military tactics and the Ferguson Rifle which was a breech loading rifle way ahead of its time. Ferguson served in the Seven Years’ War before being sent to quell the rebellion in America. Senior British military officers were so impressed by his abilities, he was given command of an experimental unit outfitted with his new rifle. During the Battle at Brandywine they fought well, and legend has it that he had the chance to end the war with one shot which he didn’t take on a senior looking military officer”-in his sites may have been George Washington. He was sent south to participate in the Southern Campaign where General Clinton named him Inspector of Militia” whose job it was to recruit and train Loyalist militiamen. Lord Cornwallis sent him into Western N.C. during his 1st invasion attempt of that colony to gather more loyalists and secure the backcountry from rebels (basically to protect his left flank). Here Ferguson warned the rebels to desist the rebellion or he would lay their country to waste with fire and sword! On October 7th, 1780 a group of over-mountain men attacked his camp on the ridge of King’s Mountain, defeated the Loyalist militia and killed Ferguson who was cut down by a Patriot volley while making a last ditch effort at a charge against the advancing enemy. Ferguson was the only British soldier in this battle, the rest of the men were all colonists.

Ferguson and Kings Mountain Analysis

Patrick Ferguson is important because he epitomized the British strategy in suppressing the rebellion of the colonies, which was to use British regulars to secure an area and to train and leave a loyalist militia behind to take control and govern the area while the regulars moved on to suppress the next area. He is also important in that the battle of Kings Mountain is where he lost his life and it was the beginning of the end for the British (the war went disastrous for them after this battle) and was a rallying cry for the Patriots, as well as a lesson to Loyalists, who suddenly became scarce whenever Cornwallis marched into an area, especially North Carolina. Ferguson, unlike other British military officers, believed that the Loyalist militias were the key to overall British victory over the colonies, but with the loss of his life so too was that thought lost. After King’s Mountain, Cornwallis had to retreat back to South Carolina, which gave General Nathaniel Greene plenty of time to organize the Southern army, which engaged Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse and forced his move into Virginia.

This is a picture of Ferguson posing with his Ferguson Rifle, a rifle way ahead of its time, just like its inventor.

This is Patrick Ferguson’s gravesite at King’s Mountain National Park in S.C. I encourage anyone who has not visited this park to go; it is well worth the drive. The

Gravestone Reads:

TO THE MEMORY OF COL. PATRICK FERGUSON SEVENTY-FIRST REGIMENT, HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY---BORN IN ABERDEENSHIRE, SCOTLAND IN 1744, KILLED OCTOBER 7, 1780 IN ACTION AT KING'S MOUNTAIN WHILE IN COMMAND OF THE BRITISH TROOPS---A SOLDIER OF MILITARY DISTINCTION AND OF HONOR---THIS MEMORIAL IS FROM THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN TOKEN OF THEIR APPRECIATION OF THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP AND PEACE BETWEEN THEM AND THE CITIZENS OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE. ---ERECTED OCTOBER 7, 1930.

Biographical Note: The information presented here was taken from the web sites and print sources featured. This page was compiled by Ian Brater for HIST 373, British History since 1688.