Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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FERGUSON, Patrick, British soldier, died at King's Mountain. N. C., 7 October 1780. He was a son of James Ferguson, an eminent jurist, and a nephew of Lord Elibank. At the age of eighteen he entered the army in Flanders. He came to this country in the spring of 1777, and was engaged in the battle of the Brandywine in September of that year. In October 1778, he led a band that destroyed the shipping at Little Egg harbor, burned houses, and laid waste the lands of the patriots. 'They surprised Pulaski's command, and killed all taking no prisoners. Ferguson was active on the Hudson in 1779 and so distinguished himself at the siege of Charleston in 1780 that the commander-in-chief particularly mentioned him, they could, taking no prisoners.
Ferguson was active on the Hudson in 1779 and so distinguished himself at the siege of Charleston in 1780 that he was particularly mentioned by the commander-in-chief, Sir Henry Clinton, and appointed major of the 71st regiment. He was deputed to visit each district in South Carolina, to procure lists of the militia, and to see that the orders of Cornwallis were carried into execution. Any Carolinian thereafter taken in arms against the king might be sentenced to death for desertion and treason. In September when Cornwallis began his March he relied on the loyalists of North Carolina to recruit his army. On his left, Major Ferguson was sent with 200 of the best troops to the uplands of South Carolina, where he enlisted young men, loyalists who had fled to the mountains for security, and fugitives of the worst character, who sought his standard for the chances of plundering. After a gallant defense, he was defeated and slain in the bloody contest of King's Mountain, the spirit of which victory to the American soldiers was, says Bancroft, "like the rising at Concord, in its effects like the successes at Bennington, and changed the aspect of the war. It encouraged the fragments of the defeated and scattered American army to seek each other and organize themselves anew."
Ferguson was reputed to be the best marksman in the army. He invented a musket to be loaded at the breech, which could be fired seven times in a minute with remarkable precision. Just before the battle of the Brandywine, General Washington was taking observations outside the lines, attended by a French officer in hussar uniform. Ferguson, who did not recognize the approaching party, ordered three shots fired at them, but quickly countermanded the order. The hussar made a circuit on his return, but Washington passed very near Ferguson, and was ordered by him to halt, which order was disregarded. There was ample opportunity to take his life, but it was not attempted. On the following day Ferguson learned the name of his distinguished visitor.
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