On Thursday, June 20, which is the 239th anniversary of the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill, James “Jim” Craig Whitley III will present a discussion of the Revolutionary War in the south, from the Siege of Charleston to Yorktown. A discussion on the importance of the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill and Kings Mountain will be included. Local participants with personal anecdotes and daily life among the soldiers as well as those living in the areas will be included in the program.
Whitley, who has a history degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, started participating in historical reenactment events about 14 years ago during the 60th anniversary of World War II.
“I’ve gone back in time ever since,” he said. “If I could find anyone around here who did it, my passion is medieval history.”
He stopped his progression through history at the American Revolutionary War and currently is a member of a group that portrays the 7th Regiment of Foot or Royal Fusiliers, one of the oldest regiments in the British Army that fought in the Revolutionary War. The Royal Fusiliers were captured at Cowpens, South Carolina and ceased to exist after that battle.
“We weren’t at the commemoration of the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill because it was a battle between militia,” he said. “No reason to have the red coats out.”
After Lord Charles Cornwallis and his troops captured South Carolina and Georgia, he sent Lt. Colonel John Moore and Major Nicholas Welch, two American Loyalists, ahead to covertly organize the loyalist militia, but instead began gathering recruits openly at Ramsour's Mill. When word got to General Griffith Rutherford, leader of the Patriot forces, that Loyalists were gathering in Lincoln County, he organized militiamen from Burke, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Rowan counties to break up the loyalists. Neither side had uniforms and some didn’t even have weapons. To identify themselves, the Patriots pinned white paper on their hats while the Tories put green twigs in theirs.
“Moore was told not to raise the militia until Cornwallis got there but he jumped the gun,” Whitley said. “All kind of things went wrong for the British in the south which is what I’ll be talking about on Thursday. The version of history that we often get is focused on the war in the north and then it’s just, well, then we won. The war was really won in the south. It was the last place the British tried to win the war and get the loyalist uprising they were looking for.”
Whitley’s presentation will be a “quick and dirty” discussion of the war in the south from the time the British shipped into the south in 1779 until Cornwallis’ army was captured at Yorktown in 1781. He’ll be making the presentation in the uniform of a private in the 7th Regiment of Foot.
This British uniform, in and of itself, was not terribly conducive for fighting in the south. Given Whitley’s uniform is considered a late-war uniform, instead of featuring the knee breaches and stockings, he wears long trousers. The redcoat a wool coat lined with a layer of cotton over a wool vest over a cotton shirt, which is “pretty steamy.”
“After the British took Charleston and they started moving north pursuing the remnants of the southern army, it was the height of summer and ‘horse killing’ weather,” he said. “The horses were dying from exhaustion and heat. Everyone was just miserable. The theme I’m going to hammer on is that the longer the British Army spends in the south fighting, the less it looks like an army and the more it looks like a group of homeless people. Everything starts wearing out, the mud is sucking people’s shoe soles off. There’s North Carolina clay on everything.”
Everyone is invited, admission is free and refreshments will be served. Brevard Station Museum is located in downtown Stanley at 112 South Main Street. The program starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 20.