In the annals of American history, South Carolina is best known for its role in the Civil War. It was the first Southern state to secede from the Union and the site of the first shots fired in the War Between the States.
But long before Charleston cadets bombarded the federal garrison in Fort Sumter, patriots and loyalists were fighting in the rolling hills of the Piedmont. More battles and skirmishes of the Revolutionary War took place in South Carolina than in any of the other 12 colonies.
And none was more important than the battle at Kings Mountain in Blacksburg. The patriots' first major victory in the South, the hour-long engagement changed the course of the Revolutionary War.
Today, you can walk through the battlefield where 900 patriots surrounded an army of 1,000 loyalist militia and 100 red-coated Provincials on a summit named after an early settler. Kings Mountain National Military Park commemorates the battle that turned the tide on England's attempt to conquer the South, and in turn, the nation.
A 1.5-mile self-guided trail lets you see both the patriot and loyalist perspective of the battlefield. The paved path winds along the slopes of the ridge where the patriot forces attacked, and back across the top of the ridge to the site of the bloodiest confrontation.
Interpretive signs describe the battle as it took place on that cold October day in 1780. Along the trail you'll also find the gravesite of Maj. Patrick Ferguson, the leader of the British forces, and several memorials and markers, including the US monument, an 83-foot obelisk dedicated in 1909.
Before you set off on the trail, stop by the Visitor Center and watch a 26-minute film offering an overview of the battle at Kings Mountain. Then walk through the exhibit, which features listening stations designed to look like huge hollowed tree trunks. As you step into the center of each tree, you'll hear details of the engagement, why it occurred and how it changed the course of the Revolutionary War.
Throughout the year, the park holds special events showcasing military service, weapons, equipment and life skills of frontiersmen in the 1700s, including leatherworking, blacksmithing and woodworking.
Kings Mountain National Military Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended weekend hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Kings Mountain Military website.