The Revolutionary War in the Southern Backcountry

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9781589805033: The Revolutionary War in the Southern Backcountry

Small armies of men waged a ferocious series of battles in the southern theater, changing the outcome of the Revolutionary War. When the British effort to subdue the Colonies moved to the southern provinces, the men of Appalachia sought to protect their homes and families. In the winter of 1780-81, the turning point of the southern war occurred in the Carolina back country. A trio of battles occurred at Kings Mountain, Cowpens, and Guilford Court House. These clashes proved pivotal to American independence, destroying British army capability in the south and facilitating the American victory at Yorktown.

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"A must read for anyone wishing to gain an understanding of the southern campaigns. Jim Swisher's skillfully crafted study brings enlightenment to these engagements with his in-depth descriptions of developing strategies and their collective results."
--F. Lawrence McFall, Jr., historian

"This outstanding, carefully researched, and readable book examines the social and political tensions from 1774 to 1781 detailing events and battles. . . . The character, background, and influences that affected this southern back country area warfare were the proud and ferocious American fighters who stood up to the British forces with few overwhelming victories--[but] nevertheless [won] our independence."
--Cranston Williams, Jr., retired newspaper executive and former board member, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Virginia

"Brings to life a little-known aspect of Revolutionary War history in a largely overlooked part of the colonial American landscape and truly allows the reader to understand the commonalties and divergences of the lives and personalities of the men involved in this series of battles. Swisher's book well augments the experiences of the colonial back country frontier soldier as well as the Hessian and British soldiers who were involved in a military campaign on shores entirely foreign to them. This book balances insightful historical research into a forgotten series of battles in colonial history with a fascinating portrayal of the human element during the Revolutionary War."
--Karen Castanes, associate director, Historic Sandusky Foundation, Lynchburg, Virginia

Author James K. Swisher has received the Jefferson Davis Medal and the Virginia State Library Book of the Year Award. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Few studies have focused on the southern campaign of the Revolutionary War without clear bias. British accounts, while considerably more accurate in military detail, are slanted to protect the reputation of their officers, and most early provincial accounts demonstrate a position that lionizes local heroes. Historical records are scarce because few frontier militia members could read or write well. Here, James K. Swisher demonstrates in captivating detail how Lord Cornwallis was eventually defeated by a coalition of backwoods militia and Continental regulars under the direction of innovative and confident officers willing to use new combat strategies.

Jacket art: William Ranney's Battle of Cowpens (courtesy of the South Carolina Senate)

From the Inside Flap:

Relatively small armies of men waged a ferocious series of battles in the southern theater, changing the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Goaded by the British and threatened with destruction of their farms, the over-the-mountain men flocked to the support of the hard-pressed Colonial army. Their stellar individual contributions revealed here characterize the final and decisive campaign of the revolution.

The American Revolution evolved into a back country encounter when the principal British effort to subdue the Colonies moved to the southern provinces. After a series of significant American defeats, the hopes of a new nation seemed lost. The British having successfully captured the seaports of Savannah and Charles Town, Lord Charles Cornwallis determined to take the southern interior. With almost the entire army of the south defeated at the battle of Camden, back country militiamen set out from the hills of Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas to reverse American misfortunes and push their bitter enemies from their homeland.

In the winter of 1780-81, the most significant campaign, the turning point of the southern war, occurred in the Carolina back country. A trio of battles occurred within a five-month period at Kings Mountain, Cowpens, and Guilford Court House. These climactic clashes proved pivotal to American independence, destroying British army capability in the southern colonies. The British chose to withdraw and consolidate their forces at Yorktown. The American victory was an inevitable conclusion.

James K. Swisher was awarded the Jefferson Davis Medal by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and in 2000 received the Virginia State Library Book of the Year Award. He was a Virginia Society of the Book Nominee and has published numerous articles in national publications, including America's Civil War, Confederate Veteran, Military Heritage, and Military History. He has a master's degree in history from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and he is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Sons of the American Revolution. He serves on the Lynchburg Museum Board and the Lynchburg Civil War Roundtable.

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