From Over the Mountain

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Another "Bobby" story, I hope you enjoy it. Let me know in your comments.

The Ravine

From Over the Mountain

By J.D. Anderson

 

Mr. Paulson walked into the classroom just as the bell rang and began writing on the chalk board.

“Good morning, class.” He said just loud enough to be heard over the various conversations that were quickly ending, “Please take out your books and turn to page one hundred and eighty-nine.”

Bobby broke his trance from staring out the window and opened his book. He went to the section on the American Revolution and, when he reached the prescribed page, saw a section designator in bold letters, “The Southern Campaign.” Bobby looked up at the board and saw what Mr. Paulson was writing; “Valley Forge, Ticonderoga, Bunker Hill, New York, White Plaines.” Mr. Paulson turned to the class, “Can anyone tell me what these battles have in common, besides being in the American Revolution?”

Bobby looked around the classroom with as puzzled a look as the rest of the class. He looked at his book and saw “The Southern Campaign” emblazoned on the page, but Valley Forge was in Pennsylvania, Bunker Hill was in Massachusetts. Bobby put two and two together but was still getting four and a half but decided to venture a guess.

“They’re all in Northern States?” he offered timidly.

“Northern Colonies,” said Mr. Paulson, correcting the error, “How many of you have heard of “The Waxhaws,” or “The Cowpens,” or “King’s Mountain?”

The class looked amongst themselves quizzically, and a few shrugged their shoulders.

“The British had found themselves having a hard time pinning down the Colonial Army, they had taken most of the major towns and population concentrations, but most of the population were farmers. Only about one third of the colonists were in open conflict with British authority, another third were Loyalists and aiding the British, or depending on them to protect them, which was about half of the Loyalists. The remaining third didn’t care either way, as long as whoever won left them alone, they liked their freedom in practice, but didn’t want to risk anything to keep it.”

“Today is Friday, the section in the book is only seven pages. I would like you to read for a half hour, then I will dismiss you to go to the library and find something on the Southern Campaign of the Revolution. On Monday, I would like each of you to tell me something about the Southern Campaign that was not mentioned in your text book.”

Bobby’s mind was spinning. George Washington was from the South, but all his battles were in the North. What battle could possibly have taken place without George Washington? He was The American’s only General, Wasn’t he? Bobby speed read through his book. Wait a minute; General Knox, American, but he was up North, doesn’t count. General Arnold, American, Traitor and in the North, he definitely doesn’t count. General Lee, Civil War? Nope, Light Horse Harry, father of Robert E., but still fought in the North, but getting warmer.

Mr. Paulson finally told the class that a half hour was up and that they could go to the library. “See you all on Monday.”

Bobby fast walked to the library and bee lined to the Revolutionary War section. His eye was immediately drawn to one book whose title he had seen on Mr. Paulson’s chalk board; “King’s Mountain.” He took the book to the check out desk and signed it out. As he walked through the halls, he paged through his new acquisition.

He sat on the steps going into the school and turned the pages of the book while he waited for the buses to arrive. On the facing page to the Title Page was a portrait of a man smartly dressed in a red, military jacket with sharp white lapels and gold brocade on the shoulders and chest. Underneath the picture was a description that said that the portrait was of British Major Patrick Ferguson, dressed as a captain of the Light Infantry Company of the Seventieth Regiment of Foot. Bobby was curious to find out why a book about an American Victory would showcase a portrait of a British officer, and only a Major at that.

Finally, the buses arrived, and bobby made his way to bus number three and picked a seat in the middle where sixth graders were “supposed” to be. He put his back against the wall of the bus, extending his legs across the seat and continued to picture hop through the book. He began to pick out reoccurrences amongst the text of the book. He saw numerous references to Ferguson, but also to the Waxhaws, which he remembered from Mr. Paulson’s black board. He also noticed references to “The Over the Mountain Men,” which made him think of “The Green Mountain Boys” at Fort Ticonderoga and wondered if they were similar.

The bus stopped in front of Bobby’s house, and he exited. He jumped down the three steps and then to the gravel drive way. He walked past the row of pine trees that bordered the front yard, running parallel to the ditch and highway in front of the house. He pulled on the screen door that protested with a creek, put his hand heavily on the door knob to the wooden inner door and moved his hand so the knob turned and then threw his hip into the door, causing it to pop open. He took four steps into the front dining room before he heard his mother’s voice seep from the walls.

“Take off your shoes, I just cleaned the floor!” he heard the lid to the washing machine clang shut and the ratcheting sound of his mother turning knobs. “There’s a couple of hours before supper, do you have any homework?”

“A math worksheet and some reading for History.” Said Bobby, kicking his tennis shoes in a pile beside the door. “I’ll do the math now and start reading before bed tonight.” He said as he dug in his backpack for his paper. He sat at the table with his notebook and paper, doodled a bit, and then started doing math. It took him an hour and a half to do the twenty-five problems on the math worksheet, including a couple of doodle breaks.

He finished the worksheet, jammed it, and his notebook back into his backpack. With the backpack securely in tow, he then went through the dining room, through the kitchen and up to his room. He put his backpack on his bed and pulled out his library book, placing it by his pillow.

He went back down stairs and into the kitchen where he heard his mother taking the laundry out of the washer and putting it in the dryer. At the same time, his father came in the front door and sat down in the first chair inside the door. He bent over and started unlacing his grease covered and stained leather boots. Bobby sat on another chair, near his father and watched him intently.

“Hi, Dad.” Said Bobby.

“Hello,” said Dad, craning his nek from his bent over position.

“Did you fix anything today?” Bobby asked inquisitively.

“Well,” said Dad as he sat back up and stretched his back, “I changed out the glow plug on a pulp truck, changed the air lines on the braking system of another, and finished patching the hole in another truck’s diesel tank.”

“Oh,” said Bobby, realizing he had no idea what any of the terms his father had just used meant or even were, that is except “fix” he knew what that meant. “was it hard to do?” he asked, trying to sound interested.

A half smile appeared on his face as Bobby’s dad looked at his son, “Yea, I guess it would be difficult for most people, but I’ve been doing this for a long time, so it’s gotten a little easier for me.”

Bobby’s mother breezed through the door to the utility and then into the kitchen where she started taking plates and glasses out of the cupboard.

“Supper will be ready in twenty minutes,” she said, “make sure you wash up.”

Bobby’s father raised both of his hands and looked at them. They were covered in grease, as were his forearms up to his elbows and the rolled-up cuff of his cotton work shirt.

“Guess I had better wash up.” He said, looking from his hands to Bobby and raising his eyebrows in a playful manner that made Bobby smile.

As his father went to the bathroom to wash up, Bobby went into the kitchen and opened the silverware drawer. He took out three spoons, three forks, and three butter knives and placed them on the three plates his mother had stacked on the counter. He then took the stacked plates and silverware to the table and placed them in their designated places. He then went back to the kitchen and took three glasses to distribute on the table.

When Bobby’s father returned, he sat down on his chair and looked out of the window to the front yard. Bobby went to his chair and mimicked his father. Bobby’s mother came from the kitchen carrying a skillet and tossed a pot holder in the center of the table. She placed the skillet on the pot holder and drew the lid from it. Inside was a reddish brown, bubbling mass in which bobby could recognize beans, peas, and corn, over the molten concoction were thick clouds of mashed potato, mostly white except for around the edges where the brown liquid had bubbled up and stained the potatoes.

Bobby’s mother held out a hand to his father, who casually filled it with a plate. She took the plate and dished up the meal making sure to put some gravy over the potatoes. She handed the plate back to her husband and reached for Bobby’s plate.

“There’s only ten pounds of ground venison left in the freezer. I used a couple pounds for the Shepard’s Pie. After that we’ll have to use beef.” She informed the family as she dished up her own plate.

“Deer season is in a couple of months, and we still have Partridge and Walleye.” Then he looked at Bobby, “In a couple of years you’ll be able to hunt too. Then we’ll have enough venison to last for a full year.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, then Bobby’s mom looked at Bobby. “You said you had some reading to do? What are you learning about now?”

“The American Revolution,” Bobby volunteered. He chewed a couple of times, “Mr. Paulson wants us to read something about the Southern Campaign.”

“The Southern Campaign,” said Bobby’s father after he swallowed what he had been chewing. “Never heard of it.”

“That’s what Mr. Paulson says.” Said Bobby, stopping the transfer of food from his plate to his mouth. “He says that more people know about the Northern Campaign than they do about the Southern.”

“So, what are you reading about?” asked his mother to keep the conversation going.

“My book is called ‘King’s Mountain.’ I left it on my bed so I can read it before I go to sleep.”

“That sounds interesting,” said his mother as she looked at his plate, “do you want any more Shepard’s Pie?”

Bobby looked at his plate and the two bites of mashed potato he had left.

“No,” he said, calculating the ratio between his hunger and the amount of food left on his plate, “I’m done. Can I be excused?”

“Yes, you can go,” she pointed to the kitchen, “don’t forget to put your dishes in the sink.”

Bobby placed his glass on his plate, then his silverware next to it and carefully balanced everything into the kitchen and set it on the counter next to the sink. He left the kitchen and walked up the stairs to the hallway that led to his bedroom. He entered his room, walked to his bed and, picking up the book he had left earlier, swung his legs up on the bed and rested his back against the headboard and wall.

He reached up to turn on the light that sat on a small night stand next to his bed. He paged through the beginning of the book and looked again at the portrait of Patrick Ferguson. He felt that he had heard the name before, and in the opening pages, found out why. Patrick Ferguson had developed a rifle, called the Ferguson Rifle, that was the breech loading counter part to the American Pennsylvania Long Rifle. He had also established units of British sharp shooters that the British used to devastating affect in the building of their empire.

He read further to find out that by the time of the Revolution, Ferguson had been sent to the Colonies to serve under General Lord Cornwallis. He was put in command of the loyal Colonial Militias and commissioned to recruit more militiamen to provide a flanking guard for Cornwallis’ main body of British Regulars.

In typical, high handed, British hubris, Ferguson threatened that if the militias did not aid the British, he would “lay waste to their country with fire and sword.” This did not sit well with the colonists in the Carolinas, who never let a threat go unchallenged, so they assembled and marched against the British. The area that these militias were from was in the Appalachian Mountains of the Carolinas and what would become Tennessee.

Ferguson had kicked the colonial Hornets nest and then chose to run to the protection of Cornwallis’ Regulars, but was caught by the Patriot militias on a rocky mountain top in South Carolina, with fifteen hundred Loyalist militiamen, called King’s Mountain.

Bobby felt his eyelids getting heavier, and he began reading the same sentences three and four times each, so he decided to mark his page and get some sleep. Tomorrow was Saturday, his favorite day of the week, and another day at the Ravine. He fell asleep with images of muskets, Red Coats, and cavalry swords careening through his mind.

 

“OUR HOUSE, IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR STREET.” The pounding bass on Bobby’s clock radio, which was set somewhere between “eardrum rupturing” and “spine restructuring,” and the clarion trumpet calls, in the hard pounding song by Madness, caused Bobby’s head to bounce from his pillow and search around the room, with fluttering eyelids, for the source of the offending noise. When his eyelids had stopped twitching as if they were sending a Morse coded message, Bobby swatted the large red button on the clock radio.

It was Saturday, and Bobby bounced out of bed ready to any suppressive regime that dared to make itself known.

“Bobby, make sure you put on socks,” a pause from the bodiless voice that permeated the room, “and brush your teeth.”

Any suppressive regime except that one. He looked around the room and made a surprising discovery, there was nothing on the floor, everything was gone. Then he made another discovery, he had a floor. Bobby quickly put two and two together and got six, his mother had picked up his room and sold all his things to teach him a lesson.

As he put on the jeans from the day before, which he could not remember taking off before he fell asleep, he called out to the spectral caretaker that was his mother.

“Mom, where are my socks?”

“In their drawer, where they should be.” Came his mother’s voice from down the hall.

Bobby looked blankly at the top drawer of his dresser. Socks, in the sock drawer, what a novel idea. He shrugged his shoulders and walked to the dresser. He pulled open the drawer and peered inside, he saw not one pair of socks, but four pair. He had struck the sock Bonanza!

He took out a pair of socks and put them on his feet, then made his way to the bathroom across the hall and squirted some toothpaste in his mouth.

“Use a toothbrush!” said his mother’s intercom like voice as he began to fill a glass with water to wash down the toothpaste. One of these days he was going to find the cameras she had placed around the house. He picked up his brush and swabbed quickly around his mouth and then took a drink of the already prepared water.

He went back to his room and opened his closet. Leaning against one wall was his wooden hockey stick. He grabbed it and headed for the stairway. He rumbled down the stairway, hockey stick in hand, and pivoted into the kitchen when he reached the bottom.

As he entered the kitchen he could smell the toasted bread and melted cream cheese of the bagel that was sitting on the counter.

“There’s a bagel in the kitchen and milk in the Fridge for you.” Said his mother from the Utility Room. Bobby opened the door to the Refrigerator and pulled a carton of milk from inside. He opened the folded opening and readied himself to take a drink. Just as his lips were going to contact the cardboard carton, his mother’s voice broke the silence. “Use a glass.”

He lowered the carton and looked around the kitchen. In the dish drainer next to the sink, he spotted a drinking glass and took the milk to the counter. He up righted the glass, filled it with milk and set the carton on the counter. He took the paper plate with the still warm bagel on it, and the glass of milk;, and walked to the table that was just on the other side of the half wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room.

His mother came out of the Utility Room with her luke-warm cup of coffee and walked into the kitchen. She took the carton of milk, closed it, and put it back in the Refrigerator, noticing the Hockey stick that was leaning against it.

“Planning a game of Hockey?” she asked as she picked up the stick.

“No,” said Bobby as he contemplated the bite he had taken out of his bagel, “Colonel Sevier has called up the Militia, and a good Militiaman is never far from his rifle.”

“Oh, I see,” she said, as she put the stick closer to Bobby, leaning it against the half wall between the kitchen and dining room.” So, who and why are we fighting today?” she asked as she went to the coffee pot to warm up her cup.

“Some British regular officer threatened to burn down our farms if we don’t fight for the king against the Rebels.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound very nice,” she said as she sat in a chair across the table from Bobby. “What are you going to do now?” she asked in mock interest.

“We have him trapped on King’s Mountain with his Loyalist militia. We’re taking nine hundred men there to tell him that we don’t like to be threatened.”

“Sounds like you’re serious.” She said as she squinted in playful severity.

“We are,” he said solemnly over his bagel and milk. “No one threatens the Overmountain Men and gets away with it.”

“Well,” said his mother as she took Bobby’s empty plate and glass, “be careful and I will see you when you’ve beat the British.” She took the plate and glass into the kitchen.

Bobby stood up, picked up his Hockey stick and went to the door, he shuffled on his shoes and pulled open the wooden door, tapped the latch of the screen door as he threw his hip into it. The door opened and he stepped boldly into the daylight.

 

Robert McGilfray was tired. He, and the now nine hundred other men had been riding all night, stopping along the way at several settlements to try recruiting more men to stand against the Loyalist militias that had camped atop King’s Mountain. The Commander of the Loyalists, a regular army officer, named Ferguson, had threatened the colonial militias by stating that if they didn’t fight for the Crown, he and his Loyalists would attack their farms “with fire and sword.” This just served to anger the militiamen even further after another British officer named Tarleton, had killed rebel militiamen who were surrendering under a white flag, at a skirmish nearby at Waxhaws.

Not expecting the amount of anger and resentment that these two actions had produced, Ferguson chose to run to the safety of the Regular forces under the command of Lord Cornwallis. Thinking that he was well ahead of his enemy and a mere day away from Cornwallis, Ferguson and his eleven hundred Loyalist militia had stopped on the rocky top of King’s Mountain.

The Overmountain Men were all hard men. They had cleared their lands of tree and Native with the same boundless energy, and now turned that energy toward this new challenge that was threatening their homes and livelihoods. They were damned if they were going to let, as far as they were concerned, and outsider come and ride rough shod over them. within an hour they were at the base of king’s mountain preparing to attack.

These men did not fight as European armies fought. They did not form squares and rely on mass volleys to whittle away at the enemy’s numbers. Each of the Overmountain men depended on their ability to shoot accurately to provide food and protection for their families and each man was able to shoot accurately for as far as two hundred yards. They also held an advantage with tactics. Rather than the “stand and deliver” method used by the Regulars and Loyalist militias, these men lived by the belief that “if they can’t see you, they can’t kill you” which they learned from their Native friends and adversaries alike.

At the base of the mountain, the nine hundred militiamen dismounted and separated into their familiar groups under their particular leaders. Robert’s group was under a fellow farmer and officer in the militia, John Sevier. The mountain was shaped, roughly like a foot print, with the highest ground being in the “heel.” The main body of the enemy was camped in the “ball” of the foot print and Robert, with the rest of Sevier’s men were to make their way near the Western end of the encampment, between the “heel” and “ball.”

They made their way silently up the side of the mountain, using rocks and foliage to cover their advance. Everyone of the nine hundred men had made a living, and stayed alive, by their ability to move silently and effortlessly through the forest. By mid-day, they were able to see movement in the enemy’s camp. Robert crouched near a large rock and waited for the others to get into position.

The enemy camp seemed to be unaware of their presence. As far as Robert knew there had been no encounters with sentries or pickets of any sort. Could Ferguson have been so foolish as to leave his position unfortified? Did he not know that he was at war? Robert began to choose targets. He differentiated between militia and provincial, then between officer and enlisted.

A shot was fired from Robert’s right, and a man crumpled where he had been standing as he smoked a pipe. Two more shots from the right and one from the left, one provincial fell into the fire that he had been crouching over, showering his comrades in sparks as they looked around confusedly. Another man suddenly clutched at his throat as blood erupted from the hole that had been bored in his neck, severing his artery.

Robert saw a provincial stand up next to a fire in his red coat and crossed white belts and point in Robert’s direction. Before the man could say anything, Robert shouldered his rifle, looked down the barrel, placed his front site where the white belts crossed on his chest, and pulled the trigger. Smoke and flame exited the pan of his rifle and then from the end of his barrel, obscuring his view of the man. Robert did not wait to see the affect of his shot, he got to his feet, ran to a large Maple tree about ten feet to his right, put his back to the tree and reloaded his rifle. 

When he had finished he looked at the camp and saw complete mayhem. Militia and provincials were running and shouting in every direction. The man that Robert had seen fall into the fire was now aflame from his waist to his head. Some tents were ablaze, some had bullet holes in the canvas, some had collapsed, more than one under the weight of a man.

Amongst the chaos, Robert saw one man, on horseback, who had managed to assemble a group of provincials and form them into a line. The man on horseback, distinguishable because he wore a red and white checkered shirt, drew a sword, and placed a silver whistle to his lips. He blasted a couple of notes on the whistle and the soldiers in front of him all drew bayonets. Another blast of the whistle and they attached the blades to the ends of their barrels. Yet another whistle blast and their weapons were at the ready.

“Bayonets!” came a call to Robert’s left, which was quickly repeated down the rebel line. The line of provincials began moving forward, gaining speed and momentum as they approached the Rebels. The Rebels, for their part, began turning the disappearing into the underbrush, just in front of the British line. When the bayonet charge had expended itself, and the soldiers moved back to their positions, the Rebels would regroup and move forward again, their shooting accuracy exacting a heavy toll.

After an hour of this back and forth, the provincials realized that they were getting the worst end of it. They had well over two hundred killed and half again of that wounded. But still Ferguson would not surrender. Someone had recognized the officer in the checkered shirt was Ferguson. When he appeared again to form another bayonet charge, this time at Sevier’s line, every Overmountain rifle was ready, and he rode into a hail of lead that he could not escape. As he emerged into view to initiate the charge, Robert saw his body jerk and twitch with every lead hornet that stung him. Robert saw at least seven bullets penetrate his body.

Ferguson fell from his saddle finally, but his foot caught in the stirrup, and he was dragged through the Rebel line. When the horse had come to a stop, several colonials, including Robert, ran to the bloody and battered for that Ferguson now took, and trained their rifles at him. A young colonial officer approached Ferguson and asked for his surrender, to which Ferguson responded by pulling a pistol out of his belt, hamming it into the young officer’s belly, and pulling the trigger.

Robert saw the flash as the powder ignited and watched the officer fall dead to the ground. Robert turned his rifle on Ferguson and pulled the trigger, as did several of the other militiamen surrounding Ferguson, he was dead before the last bullet was fired.

Upon seeing that their commander was dead, the Loyalists began surrendering, waving any piece of white cloth they could find, asking for quarter. Robert was not prepared for the response from his fellow militiamen.

“Give ‘em Tarleton’s quarter!” came a shout from farther along the battlefield.

“Tarleton’s quarter!” came another shout, the rifle shots.

Robert watched as three Loyalists were flushed from their underbrush hiding place waving a white flag. They were met by five Overmountain men who leveled their rifles and shouted, “Tarleton’s quarter!” and shot all three men at point blank range, two in the chest and one in the face.

To Robert, this was unconscionable. These men were enemies, this was true, but when everything was said and done, they were fighting for what they thought was right, just as the Rebels were. The had committed atrocities in the past, but for the Overmountain men to mimic those atrocities made them no better than those they were fighting against.

Robert began to reevaluate what kind of country would be produced from this war, and whether he wanted to be a part of it. Later after the officers had regained control of the men, Robert was approached by Colonel Sevier as he sat next to a fire.

“Hello, Mr. McGilfray, mind if I sit with you a spell?”

“No, Sir, that would be fine.” Said Robert, as he moved over to make room for the Colonel.

“I saw you during the battle, you did well, we could use more men like you in this fight.”

“Well, sir, I only signed on because there was a threat made against my kin. That threat ain’t there anymore. I reckon I’ll be goin’ back over the mountain to my land.”

“That is understandable, Robert, if memory serves me correctly, you have a young’un on the way, right?”

“Yessir, a couple more months and I’ll be a father again.” Robert straightened in pride.

“Well, then you being here is more of a sacrifice than any country has a right to ask from any citizen.” Said Sevier, bowing his head and looking at the fire. “I saw your reaction when some of the men were taking retribution.”

“It was murder, sir,” said Robert, looking Sevier in the eyes, “Those men were following their consciences, same as us, they saw that they had lost and surrendered, and we murdered them. how does that make us any better that Tarleton or Cornwallis, or King George for that matter? I thought we would be fighting for a better country, not a continuation of a bad one with a different name.” Robert looked back at the fire. “With all due respect, Sir, I’ll be heading back to my own country now, where I know where I stand.”

The two men stood, Sevier took Robert’s hand and shook it. “It was an honor to serve with you, Mr. McGilfray.” He said looking Robert in the eyes.

“Same to you, Mr. Sevier, I wish the outcome could have been better.”

Robert slung his pack over his left shoulder and rested his rifle over his right, turned to the West and started walking.

 

Bobby crested the top of the Ravine with his hockey stick resting on his shoulder. After walking a few yards, he started seeing his house. He was anxious to continue reading his book. It was good to go home, whether it was over a mountain or not. 


Submitted: July 01, 2021

© Copyright 2021 J.D. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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