The Battle of Ramsour's Mill at Lincolnton was a preview of another better-known battle a little over three months later. The Ramsour's Mill skirmish left less than a hundred dead, about evenly divided between the Loyalists and the rebels (now known as Patriots). That June 20, 1780 event was a forerunner of the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7th. At Kings Mountain, the casualties were over 1200--over 1100 of those Loyalists. It was considered a turning point in the War for Independence.
For the last several years (not including the pandemic year in 2020), a play, "Liberty Mountain: The Revolutionary Drama," has been performed in Kings Mountain. This year's performance was also canceled because of the virus; the decision was made before most of the restrictions on events were lifted.
Lincoln County's "Thunder Over Carolina," a play about the Battle of Ramsour's Mill and related events, will be held this year. It has a new home--WoodMill Winery just off John Beam Road near Cat Square. The play will be performed at 7:30 each evening Thursday, Friday & Saturday June 17th, 18th & 19th. Tickets are $15, $10 for students, senior citizens, and active military; they are available via eventbrite.
As we continue our series of history articles from the DAR related to the Revolution, this week Jennifer Baker tells about one of the heroes of the Battle of Kings Mountain, Major William Chronicle.
Compiled by Jennifer Baker, Vesuvius Furnace
One of the heroes slain in the Battle of Kings Mountain, William Chronicle was a Lincoln County citizen and soldier of the American Revolution. He was the only son of William Chronicle, Sr., and his wife, Dinah McKee Chronicle, farmers of Pennsylvania Dutch origin. Major William Chronicle was born about 1755 in Rowan County and was raised in what is now the town of Belmont in the old family home known at "Mansion House." The house stood across the street from the Chronicle Mill named in honor of Major Chronicle's memory. The land on which Belmont now stands was owned by Major Chronicle's father. He received only the elementary education made available to youth in those days by the tutorship of family kindred, or a clergyman, or such a local schoolmaster as Frederic Baldstaff, who before the Revolution taught school in the neighborhood where the Chronicle family lived.
Chronicle was appointed an officer in the county militia before he was twenty years old and, though he continued to retain his militia rank and responsibilities, was commissioned a captain in the guerilla organization known as the North Carolina Partisan Rangers.
From 1768 to 1779 the Chronicle family resided in Tryon County, created in 1768 from Mecklenburg County in honor of royal Governor William Tryon. Many leading people of the county, including the elder William Chronicle, did not like Tryon and favored the Regulator rebellion, which was crushed at the Battle of Alamance in 1771. Tryon County was abolished at the request of its own people, to curry support from its ex-Regulators at a crucial phase of the Revolution. Lincoln, one of two new counties formed in 1779 when Tryon was abolished, was named for a Continental Army officer from Massachusetts, General Benjamin Lincoln. When the Lincoln County militia regiment was organized in 1780, with William Graham as colonel and Fredrick Hambright as lieutenant colonel, William Chronicle the younger was elected major. Graham did not accompany the regiment to Kings Mountain because of illness in his family, and Chronicle led the charge of his regiment up the mountain slope. As they reached the base of the ridge, Major Chronicle was a little in advance of his men. He raised his military hat, crying out, "Face to the hill!"
He was struck in the breast and fell mortally wounded. An early death came to Major William Chronicle, aged only twenty-five, when he was killed instantly as he led the "South Fork Boys" of Lincoln County, North Carolina. From a monument now at the site of his death a visitor is afforded an intimidating glimpse of the desperate conditions of the battle. Above the monument, King's Mountain rises steeply, its rough terrain and tangled timber appearing all but impenetrable--particularly against volley-firing defenders and bayonet charges. His sword and spurs were brought home by his comrades and were given by his father to Chronicle's half-brother, James McKee. A neighbor, also in the battle, took Major Chronicle's horse and put him in his father's stable saddled as in battle. The next morning when his father found the horse, he knew his son, Major Chronicle, was dead.
Chronicle was never married. He had a sister, Sarah, who married Abraham Scott and by 1785 and raised a family. Chronicle's mother, whose maiden name has not been found, had been first married in Pennsylvania to a McKee who died in about 1753, during or soon after migration with his family to North Carolina. He left his widow with an infant son, James. The widow married William Chronicle, Sr., in 1754.
James McKee, in December 1801, while a resident of Lincoln County, petitioned the General Assembly to be allowed to inherit military lands and other benefits accruing to the estate of his deceased half-brother, "who was killed at the Battle of King's Mountain and died intestate leaving behind him no legal heirs." Petitioner McKee stated that "if the law of descent had been the same as it is at the time of this petition, then petitioner would be entitled to inherit this officer's estate." The General Assembly passed a special act in his favor. The statement that Chronicle left behind him no legal heirs at the time of his death was quite contrary to fact, however, since his father, mother, sister, nieces, and nephews were still alive five years after the Battle of Kings Mountain, when Chronicle's father wrote his will. The will was duly probated and executed in Lincoln County in 1786. It is possible that all these legal heirs had died without descendants by 1801, but the failure to account for them is itself remarkable. McKee attained prominence in Lincoln County. Among his descendants was a grandson, William Henry, M.D. (7 Sept. 1814–Apr. 1875), of Raleigh, who was the father of James, M.D. (5 Jan. 1844–5 Jan. 1912), also of Raleigh.
William Chronicle's exact place of burial is unknown, but presumably he was buried near where he fell at Kings Mountain battleground in South Carolina.