Battle of King's Mountain (1780 AD)
Fast Play Rules for Students

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By Rod Redden

Historical Background: Battle of King's Mountain (1780 AD)

America's first Civil War should be the name for the American Revolution. During the time period of 1775-83 1/3 of Americans supported the Revolution, 1/3 supported the Crown while the remaining 1/3 remained neutral. The Battle of King’s Mountain was not fought between British troops and American Regulars.  It was Americans fighting against their neighbors, family and friends. Major Ferguson was the Loyalist commander and was a part of Lord Cornwallis’ army. His command was to the west of the main British Army and was intended to show Loyal subjects in the South that their army would prevail and to try and recruit more men. Ferguson’s troops were mostly Loyalist militia but there were a few ranger and provincial regiments with him. His troops were well known for plundering the homes of Patriot troops and he had incurred the wrath of the people who supported the Revolution in South Carolina. On October 7th 1780, Ferguson set up a camp on King’s Mountain. The Continental Army under the command of Col. Shelby surrounded Ferguson on the mountain and proceeded to shoot down his men. Some of the Americans had rifles and were able to pick off the Loyalists at the top of the hill. The Loyalists attempted to drive off the Patriots with bayonet charges but each time they were cut down by musket and rifle fire.

Due to the fact that Ferguson’s men had been robbing and plundering the countryside, the Patriots yelled “Tarleton quarter” (no prisoners) and after the battle, all the Loyalist troops were killed, wounded or captured. After the battle, the Patriot units tried and hanged 10 of the Loyalists for the offense of pillaging. Of the numbers, 300 Loyalists were killed or wounded and 700 captured. Only a few had been able to escape to inform Lord Cornwallis. Ferguson was killed and the ultimate outcome of the battle was to force Cornwallis to abandon his invasion of North Carolina. Another consequence of the battle was that Loyalist families were forced to flee to British North America (the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) from 1783-1785. Their settlement in Canada meant that the British had a loyal population which would resist American invasions during the War of 1812.

Playtest Results
The battle was a resounding Loyalist victory, surprisingly enough. Although the Patriots had one full unit of militia more than the Loyalists, some good luck and tactical discretion on the part of the Loyalists allowed them, while defending against attacks from the south and west, to crush the southern attack force and wheel up the foot of the mountain to fend off the western Patriots that were beginning to crack the other defensive line.


Building the Armies: Imex plastic 1/72 scale Revolutionary War figures are excellent for this battle. Accurate Miniatures also make a nice set of British infantry, the Light Infantry figures can be painted as Loyalists, and the American Militia set can be painted as both. But for sake of clarity mark clearly on the base which unit is Patriot and which is Loyalist. Here are some paper soldiers you can print and use.  Infantry can be mounted with one or two figures per base.  Commanders are based singly. 


Major P. Ferguson
The American Volunteers (6 bases) Rifles
The King's American Regt. (6 bases)
North Carolina Militia (6 bases)
South Carolina Militia (6 bases)
South Carolina Royalists (6 bases) Rifles
North Carolina Volunteers (6 bases)
Georgia Refugees (6 bases)


Col. Shelby, Campbell, McDowell, Sevier, Williams, Lacey, Cleveland, Hambright, & Winston
2nd South Carolina Regt.2 units (6 bases each)
Tennessee Militia 2 units (6 bases each) Rifles
Locke's Dismounted Militia 2 units (6 bases each)
Hillsborough District Militia 2 units (6 bases each)

The Board: The Battle was fought on a mountain which is oval shaped. The Loyalists had made a camp on the summit but had little defenses. The table should be 2 meters by 1 meter. The area was forested which can be recreated by model trees, or deep green felt.  If you choose not to model the trees it will not affect game play. The hill should be represented by darker felt. The Loyalists start at the top of the hill, the Patriots at the bottom surrounding the entire hill.

Victory Conditions: The Patriots must capture or remove all Loyalist troops from the hill and kill Major Ferguson.

Formations: This battle was fought in the woods by irregulars so the usual line and column formations don’t apply. The Loyalists are in a defensive position on a hill while the Patriots have to charge up it.  A unit may spread out as long as all the bases of the unit are within a 6” radius.  To fire, both sides do need to form a firing line so that the bases in the unit don’t block each other’s line of fire.. No units can fire over the heads of a friendly unit. n once per turn.

Sequence of Play:
1. Patriots Move
2. Patriots Shoot
3. Loyalists Move
4. Loyalists Shoot
5. Charges
6. Melee

Movement: Infantry can move and charge 6".  Commanders can move and charge 12".

 Infantry  6"

Shooting: Infantry units may fire at enemy units that are in range.  The Range is measured from the center of the unit to the center of the target unit.  Bases may not shoot over friendly units, there must be a gap of at least 1" to fire between friendly units.  Roll 1D6 for each base that can fire.  The shooting table below shows the number needed to score a hit.  Remove one enemy base for each hit.  If a unit is reduced to 1 surviving base the last base is eliminated automatically.

 Musket  5-6
 Rifle  4-6  5-6

Charges: Both sides may charge during the charge phase. A unit may not declare a charge unless it is within charging range of the enemy. If it matters, the Loyalists charge first. A player may measure to see if a unit is within charge range. One enemy unit must be chosen as the target of the charge. A unit that wishes to charge must first pass a morale check. If the unit fails morale, nothing happens, if it passes, then the target unit must do a morale check. If the target unit fails, it loses one unit and falls back 6”. If the target unit passes it morale check, it may fire at the charging unit at a range of 1”. If both sides contact, they fight a melee.

Morale checks: If a unit has to take a morale check, roll one die and add any modifiers. If the roll is less than or equals to the number of bases (plus a commander if one is present), then it has passed. If the roll is greater then it fails.

Morale Die Roll Modifiers:
Rifle: -1

Melee: If a charging unit contacts an enemy unit there will be a melee. Each side rolls a die and applies the modifiers. High roll wins. The loser removes a stand and retreats 12". If the roll is a tie, each side removes a stand and rolls again.

Melee Die Roll Modifiers:
Has more bases than the enemy: +1
Commander leading charge: +1
Hitting the flank or rear: +1
Defending camp:  +1

Commander: A commander may join or leave one of his units during movement. This unit gets a +1 bonus on all melee rolls and the officer counts as a base when testing morale. Every time a unit with an attached commander is completely eliminated by enemy fire (last base removed) or is engaged in a melee (win or lose) roll one die. If the roll is a 6, the commander is a casualty and is removed from play. This is the only way commanders can be eliminated.

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