Longstreet Highroad Guide to the North Carolina Mountains
By Lynda McDaniel
[Fig. 21(1)] The mountains of North Carolina have long held a reputation for making life hard. Early settlers to this rugged New World soon encountered hardships, growing as strong and resourceful as the land beneath their feet. Later, in 1780, Lord Charles Cornwallis, British commander during the American Revolution, was severely tried by these mountains. The men the mountains shaped, men who lacked any formal military training, whom the British called mongrels, defeated his Royal troops at Kings Mountain, a battle that proved to be the beginning of the successful conclusion of the war.
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, only one of two trails east of the Mississippi to earn that designation, follows the route of the Kings Mountain campaign, starting near Abingdon, Virginia, coursing through Tennessee and the high mountains of North Carolina to Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina. Like the war itself, the formation of the 220-mile National Historic Trail took a cooperative effort by many groups, including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Overmountain Victory Trail Association (OVTA), local governments, citizens' associations, historical societies, and the states through which it travels.
Once a year history buffs and reenactors converge for a 15-day trip back in time, walking the trail and reliving the battles. There are three routes designated as the Overmountain Victory Trail: the actual historic route, which today is often inaccessible; the route used by OVTA each year during their September 23 through October 7 reenactment; and the public motor route through Elk Park, down US 19E to Spruce Pine, along US 221 and US 226, intersecting the Blue Ridge Parkway at Gillespie Gap, where troops camped on the night of September 29, 1780, before heading south to victory on October 7.
The OVTA route used by the reenactors is popular with hikers year-round, though some areas may become overgrown. Areas of the trail that are easily accessible surround Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton, Tennessee; Roan Mountain State Park in Roan Mountain, Tennessee; and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals near Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Look for the brown and white sign with the soldier and rifle logo at the trailheads.
Displays and brochures are available at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals in Gillespie Gap.
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