Ramsour’s Mill

Bob Bowen, Chairman, Historic Sites and Celebrations Committee


In some circles, the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780 is credited with providing a spark that helped hasten the defeat of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown the following year.   The battle here is particularly meaningful to me because I had relatives who fought here.  Family tradition reveals that two Costner brothers fought here. 

Major Jacob Costner was a great-grandfather.  He fought and survived as a Patriot.  His brother, Peter Costner, a Tory, was killed and buried in this mass grave.

Major Francis McCorkle, a fifth great grandfather, also fought here.

McCorkle was one of 25 members of the Rowan County Committee of Public Safety in 1774-75. He lived on Mountain Creek, about ten miles northeast of Lincolnton. His tombstone and that of his wife and many members of the McCorkle family can be found there today. He never failed to attend a Public Safety meeting in Salisbury, 30 miles away.  McCorkle, along with 24 other Rowan County patriots, signed the Rowan Resolves on August 8, 1774.  He was a Patriot soldier of the Revolution who fought at Ramsour's Mill, King's Mountain, Cowpens, and was with General Peter Forney in the skirmish against LtCol. Banastre Tarleton at Torrence Tavern.

There is a passage in Reverend Jethro Rumple’s History of Rowan County, North Carolina concerning Major McCorkle.  Rumple writes on pages 211 and 212:

"After the battle of Ramsour's Mill, one of the victorious patriots reported that McCorkle was killed.  But, to the great joy of the family he soon rode up alive and unharmed.  He then ventured to sleep in his own house for a few nights.  But, after the third night he was suddenly awakened by the sound of horse's hooves.  Hearing his name called, he answered, and was told to get up and come to the door. 

He requested time to put on his clothes, but with abusive words they told him is was no use, as they intended to kill him.  Then they asked him 'whom he was for?'  He replied that he did not know whether they were friends or foes, but if he had to die, he would die with the truth in his mouth--he was for liberty. 

He was then told to put on his clothes, that they had more of his sort, and they would slay them all together.  He went with them, but when he arrived at the main body, he was agreeably surprised to learn they were all Whigs, and they had met for a jollification after the battle of Ramsour's and wished to have him in their company."

So, the wreath I present today is for all those who fought at Ramsour’s Mill on June 20, 1780.  About seventy … from both sides … were killed and more than 100 wounded.  Whether British Loyalist or American Patriot, they fought for what they believed in.  Brother against brother.  Father against son.  Uncle against nephew.  And, my great grandfather, Major Francis McCorkle, a Patriot.  He fought.  His side won.  And, he lived to party-hearty in the aftermath.