Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Last Battle

Yesterday, driving from Winston-Salem to Jacksonville, we took a detour south of Charlotte to the Kings Mountain National Historic Site. The monument, left, talks about "grateful descendants".

The Battle of Kings Mountain, October 7, 1780, was a pivotal encounter in the struggle for independence. It came on the heels of devastating British incursions in South Carolina that included brutal tactics by Banastre Tarleton, who butchered Patriot prisoners after their surrender on several occasions.

Ferguson, a more honorable soldier, was pushing into North Carolina with around a thousand Loyalist militia, determined to crush any allegiance to the struggling American cause. Four loosely organised companies of Patriots rallied, including 150 "Overmountain Men" who crossed the Appalachians to protect their independent way of life.

The forces converged at Kings Mountain, chosen by Ferguson for its defensive attributes. But the Loyalists were overwhelmed by the conviction and the spirit of the Patriots, and the battle ended in a rout, with the angry Americans offering "Tarleton's Quarter" even after the white flag was raised. It took a long time for the commanders to regain control, and even then a Kangaroo Court quickly hung nine prisoners of war before order was restored.

Kings Mountain was the beginning of the end for Loyalist forces; it was the point at which the tide most discernibly turned in the favor of Independence.
Rebekah and I especially wanted to visit the site because three of her direct ancestors fought there. They were Alexanders, and they also signed the 1775 "Mecklenburg Declaration" of Independence.

Once again, though, I was overwhelmed by the tragic brutality of it all. Engagements like Kings Mountain were 90% civil war. Neighbors fighting neighbors, cousins and former friends hacking each other to pieces, offering "Tarleton's Quarter" to folk they sold vegetables to last month, or passed on the street on their way to church.

I wonder at what we are capable of... and I think about how critically important it is that we work extra hard to listen to one-another, and to respect the right of all people to hold independent viewpoints and to live according to the dictates of their conscience.

Violence bubbles close under the surface of even the most civil society. Intolerance is the fuel that too often brings it to the fore. Here in America it's critical that we respect those we disagree with. We simply must be willing to listen to one another - especially those people who we can't - or won't - understand.

And when it comes to this moral-superiority self-righteous holier-than-thou nonsense I hear on the airwaves, and too often proffered in the name of those who helped establish this nation...? Do I even need to say any more...?

Peace - and I really, really mean that - DEREK

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