The Patriots are gathering on “Liberty Mountain.” Three weeks of intensive rehearsals are underway at the Joy Performance Center in Kings Mountain, leading up to the first of 15 summer performances beginning June 26. A cast of 30 is bringing the story of the Revolutionary War battle of Kings Mountain to life under the direction of veteran theatre professional Caleb Ryan Sigmon.
Rehearsals began last Sunday (June 7) when the entire cast and crew spent several hours at the Kings Mountain National Military Park, where the battle took place on October 7, 1780. Their experience began at the National Park Service’s excellent visitor center, with its interactive exhibits that introduce visitors to the battle site, the Patriot and Loyalist leaders who led the combatants, and the weapons they used. A highlight of the visitors center is a film by the History Channel which vividly portrays the savage fight that turned the tide of the American Revolution.
The cast walked the site of the battleground itself and saw how Patriot fighters, attacking up the slopes of the ridge, firing and taking cover behind trees and rocks, took a deadly toll of the Loyalist militiamen on top. The battle lasted only an hour, but when it was over the Loyalist force was destroyed – killed, wounded and captured. Its leader, British major Patrick Ferguson, lay dead.
Director Sigmon says, “I thought it was critical for our theatre group to walk the ground where it took place, to see for themselves how the Patriots, against great odds, prevailed. The actors are taking that first-hand experience back to the theatre and weaving it into their portrayals of the characters in the play. I think we all came away with a sense of how these Patriots risked everything, and how profoundly their sacrifice resonates in the America we enjoy today.”
The tour concluded with a demonstration from Park Ranger Leah Tabor, who is an expert in Revolutionary War-era weapons. And the weapons involved in the battle played a major role in the outcome. As Tabor told the cast, the Loyalists were equipped with British muskets, which could be loaded and fired relatively quickly, but were notoriously inaccurate. The Loyalists on the ridge, shooting at the Patriots attacking from below, often fired over their opponents’ heads. The Patriots, veteran Indian fighters, were equipped with long rifles – slower to load and fire, but highly accurate, used mainly for hunting by frontiersmen who were superb marksmen. The Patriots’ rifles were perfectly suited for the terrain and the kind of fight that took place. Tabor showed how both kinds of weapons were loaded and fired.
“Liberty Mountain” portrays the fierce battle, but also the lives of the men, women and children who settled the frontier Carolinas, who were swept up in the struggle for American independence, who made difficult choices about which side to support, and who ultimately played what historians acknowledge was a pivotal role in American victory.
Performances of “Liberty Mountain” are June 26 and 27, and July 3, 10, 11, 17, & 18 at 7:30 PM. June 27 and 28, and July 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, & 19 at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $15 each.
“Liberty Mountain” is sponsored by Patrick Yarn Mills.
For more information on the play and online ticket sales, visit www.kmlibertymountain.com.