The battle opened on October 7, 1780, around 3 pm when 900 Patriots (including John Crockett, the father of Davy Crockett), approached the steep base of King's Mountain at dawn. The rebels formed eight groups of 100 to 200 men. Two parties, led by Colonels John Sevier and William Campbell, assaulted the 'high heel' of the wooded mountain, the smallest area but highest point, while the other seven groups, led by Colonels Shelby, Williams, Lacey, Cleveland, Hambright, Winston and McDowell attacked the main Loyalist position by surrounding the 'ball' base beside the 'heel' crest of the mountain.
The Patriots crept up the hill and fired on the Loyalists from behind rocks and trees. Ferguson rallied his troops and launched a bayonet charge against Campbell and Sevier's men. With no bayonets of their own, the rebels retreated down the hill and into the woods. Campbell rallied his troops, returned to the base of the hill, and resumed firing. Ferguson launched two more bayonet charges during the course of the battle. During one of the charges, Colonel Williams was killed and Colonel McDowell wounded. However, after each charge the Patriots returned to the base of the hill and resumed firing. It was hard for the Loyalists to find a target because the Patriots were constantly moving using cover and concealment.
After an hour of combat, Loyalist casualties were heavy. Ferguson rode back and forth across the hill, blowing a silver whistle he used to signal charges. Growing desperate, he slipped on a plaid shirt to cover his officer's coat. A soldier on one side or the other saw this and alerted his comrades immediately. At the crest, as the Patriots overran the Loyalist position, Ferguson fell dead from his saddle with eight rifle balls in his body.
Seeing their leader fall, the Loyalists began to surrender. Eager to avenge defeats at the Waxhaw Massacre and elsewhere, the rebels did not initially want to take prisoners. Rebels continued firing and shouted, "Give 'e...