Profile of Major William Chronicle

Chapter members
Chapter members at grave of
Major Chronicle —
Kings Mountain State Park
Photo Courtesy Melanie C. Ford

Major William Chronicle was born about 1755, in present day Belmont, Gaston County, North Carolina, the only son of William Chronicle and Dinah McKee Chronicle. Dinah was first married to John McKee and they had one son, who they named James McKee.

The Chronicle family home, known as Mansion House, was located on present day Catawba Street, Belmont, North Carolina, which was near the 1901 Chronicle Mill that was named in honor of Major William Chronicle.

Major Chronicle helped organize the Tryon County Militia in 1775. His first military service was as the head of the company in the Snow Campaign in South Carolina. In 1779, he marched to Georgia, and afterwards to the relief of Charleston, and then to the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill on June 20, 1780, in present day Lincolnton, North Carolina.

Major William Chronicle was the leader of a group of militiamen known as the South Fork Boys because many of them were from the region of the South Fork of the Catawba River.

Following the British victories in Charleston and Camden, South Carolina, in 1780, British Lord Charles Cornwallis dispatched Major Patrick Ferguson to gain Loyalist support through intimidation as well as to suppress the militia unrest that had begun growing in the Carolinas.

Ferguson’s aggression angered many militiamen who began to organize. One of the organizing patriot forces was a regiment of sixty to eighty militiamen from Lincoln County which appointed William Graham as colonel, Frederick Hambright as lieutenant colonel, and William Chronicle as major.

The Lincoln County Regiment, including the South Fork Boys led by Major Chronicle, were a part of the men from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and the “Overmountain Men” from present-day Tennessee, that separately had begun to pursue Ferguson.

The patriots located Ferguson and his forces on a southern spur of Kings Mountain as they had camped on the top of a 60-foot ridge.

Colonel William Graham had to leave his command of the Lincoln County Regiment as his wife had become seriously ill prior to the battle. He suggested that Major Chronicle assume his command since he knew the area so well. Lt. Col. Hambright agreed.

The patriots planned their attack based on the information furnished by Major Chronicle and his scout Enoch Gilmer. On Oct. 7, 1780, they moved into position surrounding Ferguson on all sides and began their assault about 3 o’clock.

Major Chronicle led his South Fork Boys on one of the initial charges up the northeast end of the ridge. As they reached the base of the ridge, Major Chronicle was 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. Reports place him only twenty-five feet from the British position when he died.

Major Chronicle was buried at the site where he was killed in present day Kings Mountain National Military State Park. Buried along with him were Captain John Mattocks, William Rabb, and John Boyd — three others who died during the battle.

A neighbor, also in the battle, took Major Chronicle’s horse and put it in his father’s stable, saddled as in battle. The next morning when his father found the horse, he knew his son had been killed. Major Chronicle’s sword, pistols, and spurs were given to his half-brother James McKee.

The Battle of Kings Mountain lasted about an hour and is considered one of the turning points of the American Revolution, as it was the first major patriot victory to occur after the 1780 British successes at Charleston and Camden. Thomas Jefferson called it “The turn of the tide of success.”

Causalities were high on the British side. Major Ferguson was shot from his horse and died while attempting to retreat, along with 225 Loyalists. The remaining Loyalists surrendered shortly after. Only 26 patriots were killed during the battle, which raised the morale throughout the newly formed nation.

The first commemorative celebration of the Battle of Kings Mountain was July 4, 1815. It was a privately funded event by then North Carolina State Senator Dr. William McLean (Lincoln County). Dr. McLean had erected a dark slate rock marker at the burial site of his friend Major Chronicle, for others who were buried with Major Chronicle and in remembrance of the battle. Wording on the east side of the marker reads “Sacred to the memory of Major William Chronicle, Capt. John Mattocks, William Robb and John Boyd, who were killed here on the 7th of October, 1780, fighting in defense of America” and on the west side, “Colonel Ferguson, an officer belonging to his Britannic Majesty, was here defeated and killed.” According to the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment website, Sir Henry Clinton formalized Patrick Ferguson’s provincial brevet (promotion) on Feb. 7, 1780, as Lieutenant Colonel of the American Volunteers, backdated to the beginning of December 1779. Major Ferguson’s promotion was in transit when he died.

In 1914, a second stone marker was placed beside the 1815 marker to help preserve the original wording. The 1815 inscriptions from both sides were inscribed on the front of the 1914 marker along with the addition of “Note: This inscription is a copy of that on the old monument erected by Dr. William Maclean in 1815. This stone has been placed here by the Kings Mountain Association of Yorkville South Carolina.”

In 1930, the Major William Chronicle Chapter marked the burial site of Major Chronicle. For more information, please visit the Chapter History page. On Oct. 7, 2000, chapter members rededicated the 1930 marker as part of the chapter’s 75th anniversary celebration events.

A North Carolina Department of Transportation, Highways and Archives’ historic marker (O-42) is located at the Belmont Historical Museum, on Catawba Street in Belmont, North Carolina, to designate William Chronicle’s birthplace — transcribed as follows: “Major in Revolution, leader of Lincoln County forces at the battle of Kings Mountain, 1780, where he was killed. His home stood nearby.”

Major Chronicle was only 25 years of age when he was killed. At the time, he was engaged to Miss Alexander of Mecklenburg County and was wearing a gold ring she had given him. He was a ceaseless defender of liberty, a man of great promise, and an idol of his friends and soldiers.

Note: This profile information was adapted from the 1930-2000 Major William Chronicle Chapter records, with additional research by Melanie Campbell Ford and Wilma Ratchford Craig, August 15, 2013.
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