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King's Mountain Controversy - James Williams #6

Posted February 5th, 2012 at 09:59 AM by Baltis

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Memorial Monument

Continuing on with the James Williams mystery as started by Col Hill in his memoirs. Entry #5 provided some detail regarding Thomas Sumter and some other officers who frequently served with him. Particularly Hill and Lacey who were the primary enemies to Williams on hand during the march to King's Mountain. Here in entry #6 we should take a look at a couple of Williams own followers along with the man himself.

Samuel Hammond

Samuel Hammond joined the revolution early. He lived in Virginia at the time and accompanied Andrew Lewis in Dunmore's War at the battle of Point Pleasant. Samuel also fought at Great Bridge near Norfolk in 1775. Early in 1779 Samuel moved to Edgefield district near Ninety-Six in the South Carolina back country. He served under Col. Leroy Hammond and Gen Andrew Williamson during the 1779 Georgia campaign. A captain by the summer of 1780, Samuel had been involved from the very beginning. After Charletown fell the British invaded the backcountry and set-up occupation forces throughout the back country. General Williamson and Colonel Pickens laid down their arms and gave parole in June 1780. A handful of men that just happened to include both Samuel Hammond and James Williams refused to surrender and took refuge in North Carolina. They came south and joined with Sumter after Huck's defeat but split with him and stayed with Colonel Williams after Hanging Rock. Like Williams, Samuel Hammond was anxious for a return to his home district. After the battle at Musgrove's Mill, Samuel went to Hillsborough to deliver prisoners with Col Williams. While there, Gov Rutledge gave Hammond a promotion to Major. He was 23 at the time.

For the mystery surrounding James Williams death at King's Mountain, Samuel Hammond provides an example of men loyal to Williams. Unlike Hill and Lacey, Hammond considered splitting with Sumter after Hanging Rock a simple and routine matter that led to the victory at Musgrove's Mill. In his writings after the war, Samuel didn't even mention the dispute with Sumter over command or the supply train. Only that Williams and Bratton joined with Clarke and Shelby before the battle. It is interesting to note at this point that Lacey's old enemy, Colonel Bratton, also split with Sumter to join with Colonel Williams prior to Musgrove's Mill. All the more reason for Col Lacey's blood to boil at the mere mention of the name, James Williams. No wonder he tried holding a gun to Williams head in an attempt to prevent their departure.

Joseph McJunkin

Joseph Mcjunkin was only 20 years old when he first participated in the revolution. He rode with Col Thomas in the Snow Campaign and then with Sumter against the Cherokee a year later. By the summer of 1780 Joseph was a captain under Colonel Thomas Brandon. Joined with Sumter, they fought at Rocky Mount and Hanging Rock. At that point, word arrived of Tories at Musgrove's Mill. McJunkin says that Sumter disagreed with Colonel James Williams who wanted to join with Shelby and go after the tories. Joseph doesn't really go into any detail concerning the disagreement other than stating, "the troops joined with Sumter or Williams just as their own inclinations led them." McJunkin chose to join Williams and fought at Musgrove's Mill. For the story of James Williams and Colonel Hill's accusations, Joseph McJunkin's statements are important in that he verifies that Williams parting from Sumter was actually a disagreement over command of the army and not a matter of Williams stealing public stores in the middle of the night.

James Williams

Col James Williams was from the Ninety-Six district and previously served under General Andrew Williamson in the Cherokee War of 1776 and again on the Georgia Frontier. He remained active throughout the 1778 invasion of Georgia and then Lincoln's repulse from Savannah. He was mostly unknown to the officers in Sumter's army and when he first tried to join with them in July 1780, they resisted his rank and made him the commissary officer. After the battle of Hanging Rock, Williams argued with Sumter the army should join with Clarke and Shelby against the tories at Musgrove's Mill. Sumter refused and the army split with Williams taking part of the supply train along with a good portion of the army. Among the officers electing to go with Williams was Colonel Bratton. Once they won the battle at Musgrove's Mill, Williams took the prisoners to North Carolina and presented them to Gov Rutledge who was there in exile. With news of Gates defeat at Camden and Sumter's defeat at Fishing Creek, Rutledge promoted Williams to Brig General of the South Carolina militia. Newly promoted General Williams returned to South Carolina. With his small regiment, Williams entered Sumter's camp and presented his commission. Sumter and his officers refused to honor the promotion and ran Williams off. He returned briefly to North Carolina and recruited about 70 additional men for a return to South Carolina. General Williams again went to Sumter's camp and presented his commission for command. Sumter and his colonels (Hill, Winn, Lacey, etc.) held a council whereby they decided to meet with Governor Rutledge personally to protest Williams promotion and his attempt to assume command. Only Col Hill and Col Lacey remained with Sumter's army while the five other commanders traveled to North Carolina. They approached Williams with an offer for all the South Carolina militia units to join up but Williams needed to share command with them. Williams refused. Later, he met up with Shelby and Sevier who came down from the mountains with some North Carolinians to make an attempt on Patrick Ferguson who had been threatening them and terrorizing the area. General Williams tried to persuade the Overmountain Men to make an attempt at Ninety-Six but they remained firm. A junction at the Cowpens was arranged. Without other options, General Williams joined in the procession to King's Mountain where he led his regiment into position and into a hotly contested part of the battle. After the loyalists started waving white flags but before the Patriots stopped firing, General Williams was shot in the chest. He died at a nearby farm soon after.

Letters to his wife prior to the Kings Mountain campaign show James Williams to be a very religious man yet somewhat given to physical encounters. The story goes he once picked a fight with the loyalist, Robert Cunningham, during an election gathering. Williams threw the first punch but Cunningham quickly gained the upper hand even though Mrs. Williams had jumped in from behind. Even so, Col Williams was well thought of in the community consistently chosen to lead the Little River Regiment as its colonel. He tried for election to the state assembly. Unfortunately, his political ambitions didn't go as smoothly since many in the district were loyalists who consistently sent Cunningham or Fletchall to the assembly. Author Joseph Johnson said all who knew Williams considered him very brave although he was frequently "represented to have been a rough, rash man."

For our mystery, James Williams is the victim who led his regiment to the top of King's Mountain and victory only to get shot by one of his fellow patriots. Once the loyalists raised the white flag and Ferguson tried to ride away on the other side of the mountain, Colonel (perhaps, general) Williams was shot. Very possibly shot just as he tried to rush forward in an attempt to personally engage Patrick Ferguson. Col William Hill indicated it was commonly believed and understood to have been one of Sumter's men who did the shooting.
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  1. Old Comment
    Great info there, thanks for sharing it. :)
    Posted February 8th, 2012 at 09:18 AM by Brisieis Brisieis is offline
  2. Old Comment
    You've written a thoughtful blog about this controversy. My ancestor's memoirs served the purpose he intended - to expose the actions of James Williams. Without his writing, Col. Williams' actions would not have been studied.
    Posted June 1st, 2018 at 10:27 AM by Registrar Registrar is offline

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