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"Sweet Lips: The Battle of King's Mountain"

I hope y'all will bear with me as I concentrate yet again on our heroic ancestor, Colonel Ben Cleveland. Despite the fact that he was a Revolutionary War hero and one of our most colorful family members, I have developed a genuine love for the old gentleman over the years of my interest in genealogy. I am not his direct descendant ~ my great-great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Cleveland, was his cousin (degree of which still to be proved). Nevertheless, I am always eager to learn more about Cousin Colonel Ben, and I always seem to be stumbling over new and interesting information concerning him.

The latest comes from my cousin, William C. Cleveland, of Lanagan, MO. One day as Bill was keeping busier than he was before his retirement, he heard on the radio a song about the Battle of King's Mountain. Since Cousin Colonel Ben was mentioned in the song, Bill thought, and I agreed, that we needed to investigate further. Eventually Bill learned that the name of the song was "Sweet Lips: The Battle of King's Mountain," by Grandpa Jones of old Hee Haw fame.

After checking in at my first source for musical purchases,, I was dismayed to learn that the only CD available with this song was in a Grandpa Jones box set that cost over $125. (Last time I looked, I wasn't independently wealthy.)

Then I cheated (persistently), and after several unsuccessful searches, I found and downloaded the song through Napster ~ which was, at the time of the download, free from any injunctions and court orders and very much in business, so I can sleep with a clear conscience.

One afternoon, I sat and listened over and over and over (and over and over) again to the song as I transcribed the lyrics to include in this newsletter. Fortunately it is quite a catchy little ballad.

Right out of the chute, however, there is an error. The Battle of King's Mountain happened on 7 Oct 1780, but I guess that whoever wrote the song figured that date was close enough to 1781 to use that later year for an easier rhyme.

The *Nolichucky Jack* who is prominently mentioned in the song is Colonel John Sevier of Tennessee. After checking in Lyman Draper's The Battle of King's Mountain, I could find no mention of a John *Gillam* as owner of *Sweet Lips,* so I am, until anyone tells me differently, assuming that Gillam is a bit of historical fiction created by the lyricist.

There are some mentions of the rifle named *Sweet Lips,* however. In one account highlighting the accuracy of the marksmen at King's Mountain, Robert Leckie (in George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution) mentions, "As testimony to the accuracy of both sides, most of them were found to have one eye open and the other shut: they had been squinting over their sights when hit. One frontiersman, who carried the rifle called 'Sweet Lips,' recalled: 'I recollect I stood behind one tree and fired until the bark was nearly all knocked off, and my eyes pretty well filled up with it.'"[Reference online:, 6 Jan 2002]

In another reference to *Sweet Lips,* Lyman Draper, in his history of the King's Mountain heroes, says, "One of Col. Sevier's men, named Gililland, who had received several wounds, and was well nigh exhausted, seeing the advance of Ferguson and his part, attempted to arrest the career of the great leader, but his gun snapped, when he called out to Robert Young, of the same regiment: 'There's Ferguson! Shoot him.' 'I will try and see what Sweet Lips can do,' muttered Young, as he drew a sharp sight, discharging his rife, when Ferguson fell from his horse, and his associates were either killed or driven back. Several bullets had taken effect on Ferguson apparently at the same time, and a number claimed the honor of shooting Ferguson." [Reference online:, 6 Jan 2002]

Robert Young was the father-in-law of a John Gilliland and fought with John at King's Mountain, "where John received several wounds. Robert Young was credited with killing Patrick Ferguson, the commander of the British forces at the Battle of King's Mountain." [Reference online:, 6 Jan 2002]

Perhaps the name Gilliland inspired the name Gillam as owner of *Sweet Lips* in the Grandpa Jones song? Or perhaps Gillam is close enough a pronunciation of the name Gilliland that Grandpa Jones was actually singing Gilliland and I misunderstood? In any event, according to what I could determine from the sources I checked, *Sweet Lips* belonged to Robert Young.

Here are the lyrics. If you have the proper wav player properly installed in your browser, you can hear a snippet of the song here ~ just enough to give you a good idea of the melody. However, if you hear nothing, don't be alarmed. I couldn't hear it on my own computer and had to rely on the kindness of others to be sure that I had the proper coding in place. If you cannot hear the song excerpt, e-mail me at vikki4cfc(at), and I will attach the wav in an e-mail to you. Since this is just a snippet, I think we are okay with the copyright people?

"Sweet Lips: The Battle of King's Mountain"
Sung by Grandpa Jones

It was back in '81 that a man named Washington
Was fighting hard for freedom in this land,
But his men were poor and ragged,
And against the British gun,
Well, he didn't even dare to make a stand.

Old Ferguson was marching toward the Carolina hills,
Making brags he'd hang a man to every tree,
But the news that he was coming
Raced across the mountain tops,
And they heard about it over in Tennessee.

At the shoal of old Watauga, where the sycamores grow tall,
They rallied around ol' Nolichucky Jack,
And they said, "We'll drive the Redcoats
Back across the briny deep.
Yes, we'll lick 'em, or we're never coming back!"

There was Chucky Jack and Campbell, Colonel Shelby in their band,
Mountaineers who loved their liberty,
And a lovesick boy named Gillam
With a brand new rifle gun,
Named for his girl in Tennessee.

Sweet Lips was a rifle named for a girl in Tennessee.
When Sweet Lips spoke,
The chains that bound us broke.
She struck a mighty blow for liberty.

When they rode across the mountains onto Carolina soil,
The Tarheels with their muskets gathered 'round
To go and head off Ferguson
Before he got to them
To hang 'em all and burn their houses down.

When Ferguson heard the mountain men were camping on his trail,
He first began to laugh and then to scoff,
Said, "We'll go up on King's Mountain,
And then let the rebels come,
For the powers of Hell will never drive me off."

But Campbell and Ben Cleveland, Colonel Shelby, and their men,
And John Sevier ~ ol' Nolichucky Jack ~
Well, they loaded up their rifles,
And they climbed the mountainside,
Said, "We'll lick 'em, or we're never coming back!"

Oh, he blew his silver whistle, and he shouted and he cursed,
"Use your bayonets to drive the rebels back!"
But the Redcoats never made it,
For before they reached the line,
The mountain rifles jumped them in their tracks.

Sweet Lips was a rifle named for a girl in Tennessee.
When Sweet Lips spoke,
The chains that bound us broke.
She struck a mighty blow for liberty.

Ol' Ferguson was dashing up and down the battlefield,
And it seemed that he must lead a life of charm,
For the mountaineers were aiming
At his gaudy checkered coat,
But their bullets passed him by and did no harm.

Then up stepped young John Gillam with his brand new rifle gun,
Named for his girl back home. He said,
"Well, I wonder what Sweet Lips can do?"
And when he took his aim,
Sweet Lips spoke, and Ferguson fell dead.

Cornwallis heard that Ferguson and all his men were lost,
And he said, "This place is just too hot for me."
So he soon went off to Yorktown,
Where he laid his weapons down,
And ever since this country has been free.

Sweet Lips was a rifle named for a girl in Tennessee.
When Sweet Lips spoke,
The chains that bound us broke.
She's gone and did her part for liberty.

While we are on the subject on King's Mountain, there is a website dealing with the King's Mountain National Military Park near Blacksburg, SC, in case any of you are making vacation plans in that area:

Joan S. Baity of Wilkesboro, NC, was kind enough to send to me a copy of the address by Judge T. B. Finley as he presented Rendezvous Mountain to the Daughters of the American Revolution at their Conference in Charlotte, NC, 2 Mar 1926. Rendezvous Mountain was the place where Colonel Ben stood to blow three long blasts from his tremendous horn to summon his fellow mountain men. There he trained the 225 patriots whom he later led to a rendezvous at Quaker Meadows, near Morgantown, NC, where he joined Campbell and Williams from Virginia, Sevier and Shelby from Tennesse, and the McDowells from North Carolina. These combined forces were the ones to win the pivotal battle at King's Mountain.

Madam Chairman, Officers and Daughters of the American Revolution:

It is with a great deal of diffidence that I appear before an organization composed of the most distinguished leaders of North Carolina, who are not only leaders in their own community, but the entire state, and not only leaders in all social and civic up-lift, but leaders in preserving history, the greatest of all secular human efforts; therefore, I deem it a rare honor to be permitted to address a conference composed of such distinguished citizens.

In order that you may full understand the nature of the proposed Park and patriotic shrine at Rendezvous Mountain, it is necessary to make a brief historic sketch of the surrounding country and conditions during the Revolutionary period and since.

In 1755 the Moravians, after making a tour of inspection over the northwest section of what is now North Carolina, selected what appeared to them to be the garden spot of the entire country. They granted forty-eight hundred acres, including the present Town of Wilkesboro, and forty-three hundred acres in the Yadkin Valley, west of Wilkesboro, now called Goshen, on account of its fertility. It is notable that the first grant does not include the bottom lands and plateaus on the North side of the Yadkin River where the Town of North Wilkesboro is now located. The legend is that when the surveyors reached the southern bank of the Yadkin River, they ascertained that the Indians had gathered in large numbers from along distance, and were having their annual corn dance on the north side of the Yadkin River; so the surveyors went up the south side of the river and crossed to the north side about a mile to the west of the Town of North Wilkesboro. By reason of the proximity of so many Indians, the Moravians later established their headquarters near where Winston-Salem is now located.

Surry County was formed from Rowan in 1770. Wilkes County was cut off from Surry in 1777, and extended to the Mississippi River, this being nearly twenty years before the State of Tennessee was formed. Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, a dominating historic character of the Revolutionary period, was chairman of the first county court. William Lenoir, of Revolutionary fame, afterwards General, was clerk of this court. One of the first cases tried in the county, as now appears on the old court records, was Daniel Boone vs. John Brown. The jury for its verdict said that John Brown owned the land in controversy. For sometime Daniel Boone had lived on Beaver Creek near the Yadkin River, in the western portion of the present county. The mound from his chimney is yet in evidence. Soon after losing his law-suit, doubtless chagrined by the fact that neighbors dared to maintain ownership of the land claimed by him, Daniel Boone moved from the beautiful valley of the Yadkin where he had lived for several years, crossed the Blue Ridge and went on through the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Gap into the Blue Grass fields of Kentucky. Therefore he was not present to participate in the Battle of King's Mountain, and the other battles engaged in by Wilkes County troops. At that time there were ten companies under the command of Colonel Ben Cleveland in Wilkes County. He lived at Roundabout on the Yadkin River, about fifteen miles east of Wilkesboro, where the Town of Ronda is now located. His brother Bob, who was captain of the companies, lived in the valley of Lewis Fork Creek. His two-story log house still stands. Bob Cleveland weighed 350 pounds. Among his tableware is still preserved his individual dish?twenty inches in length. Lewis Fork Valley and Reddies River Valley near by, where thickly settled at the time. Rendezvous Mountain is the highest point on a mountain range dividing these two valleys, and by reason of its location, was doubtless chosen by Colonel Ben Cleveland as the most suitable point to assemble his troops, because from this place the largest number of troops could be reached.

About twenty years ago Honorable Cyrus B. Watson, a distinguished lawyer and statesman, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at one time a candidate for the governor of our State, gave me the first inspiration to perpetuate the patriotic importance of Rendezvous Mountain. Mr. Watson stated that Colonel Ben Cleveland, who at the time weighed 300 pounds, and before his death weighed 450 pounds, had the largest horn ever seen in use; that he stood on top of Rendezvous Mountain and turned his horn toward Reddies River Valley on the north and gave three long blasts. That from this point he could see many of the patriots saddle their horse and start at a gallop in response to his summons; that then he would turn his immense horn to the southeast, over the intervening plateau, on to the Wilkesboros and Yadkin Valley, about nine miles distant, and give three more blasts, and then he would turn his horn to the southwest toward Happy Valley and the upper reaches of the Yadkin River and give three final blows from his immense trumpet that echoed and re-echoed and reverberated until it finally broke on the Blowing Rock, about thirty miles distant, and in a short time, by the relayed signals, his ten companies would assemble. So truly it can be said that a blast from Benjamin Cleveland's horn was worth a thousand men as he stood upon his native heath.

These troops were frequently assembled in a little wooded dell making a sylvan amphitheater near the crest of the mountain, where councils of war were held, and from this cradle of liberty bodies of troops were organized to suppress the Indians and to engage in many battles against the British, and from this point 225 picked troops were accepted without draft to accompany Colonel Ben Cleveland and his captains to King's Mountain, and there aid in winning a victory of national importance. In fact this battle, won largely by the prowess of soldiers from the mountain section, was the forerunner and principal cause of colonial independence culminating at Yorktown.

Colonel Ben Cleveland was noted for three things: his military genius, his many judicial positions, and stringent law enforcement. He not only presided over the first court in Wilkes County, but was also a dominant factor in the court martial proceedings that sentenced thirty-two Tories to death after the battle of King's Mountain. The "Tory Oak" still stands in the Court House square at Wilkesboro, on which Cleveland hung three Tories at one time, and two at another. He hung Tories on numerous occasions. In fact hanging Tories seemed to be an obsession with him at that period. After the Revolutionary War the government gave him 5000 acres of land in upper South Carolina, near the Georgia line, in recognition of his eminent services. After moving to South Carolina he became chairman of the District Court, with General Pickens and Colonel Anderson as associates.

History states that when the arguments by the attorneys were long and prosy he frequently went to sleep and his associates would wake him by nudging. This was when he weighed 450 pounds. Soon after he moved to South Carolina the Indians stole some of his horses and he went to see the chief. When the chief looked him over he decided that Cleveland could whip a hundred Indians, Cleveland went back with his horses.

Rendezvous Mountain is a beautiful spot and a suitable place for commemorating patriotic achievement. In fact it stands as a perpetual monument to the creative genius of the Great Architect of the Universe, and by your help will ever stand as a consecrated monument to the heroic deeds of our ancestors. Nature preaches a continuous sermon from the depths of the sounding sea to the tops of its everlasting hills. The mountains have ever been an inspiration to the musician, the poet, the patriot and the preacher. It was on Mount Sinai amid the thunder and clouds that the Ten Commandments were handed to Moses. It was on Mount Ararat that the human race was saved from the flood. The greatest sermon that ever fell from the lips of man was the Sermon on the Mount. In 1314 Scotland's freedom was won by Bruce, largely with the Scotch Highlanders at the Battle of Bannockburn, and the Battle of King's Mountain turned the tide of war for our revolutionary ancestors.

The best people in my section request your patriotic organization to "look to the hills from whence cometh our help" and aid them in making this mountain a patriotic shrine and perpetuate its history in commemorating its importance in the revolutionary period.

I bought the land on this mountain about twelve years ago, and sometime thereafter I made to some of the officers of your organization the same suggestion I am now making to you. They asked me to bring the matter definitely before them, but the pressure of many duties prevented. In fact the question of caring for the mountain and its surroundings was not solved until a few months ago, when it occurred to me that it be donated to the State as a Park to be held in trust in order that the roads might be built to it for reforestation and that it might be beautified and properly preserved; and that your organization place a bronze tablet on a boulder or monument erected on its highest peak with the names of the Revolutionary heroes thereon who assembled at King's Mountain, and that suitable camps be provided at the four springs on the four sides of this mountain, so that the North Carolinians and their tourist visitors will have a suitable place to rest while visiting this historic site.

Wilkes County, formed during the Revolutionary War, was named for John Wilkes, the British friend of the colonies in parliament. Its extensive domain has been cut down from time to time by the organization of the State of Tennessee and many counties in North Carolina until it attained it attained its present proportion. It is still one of the largest counties in the State, and by reason of the fact that it is nearly as large as the State of Rhode Island, it is sometimes called the "State of Wilkes." The County Seat was located at the confluence of two rivers and four creeks; so nature constituted this a central point. The Indians recognized it as a strategic point; the white men realized the same thing, and in recent years the State Highway Commission has recognized the same condition by converging six of its roads at the same place. Three of these highways cross the Blue Ridge and pass through Alleghany, Ashe and Watuaga Counties, and on to the middle and far west, thus verifying the slogan that Wilkesboro is the "key to the Blue Ridge." This was the largest territory east of the Mississippi River without a railroad when our road was built and terminated there over thirty years ago. This section is rich in historical lore and future possibilities. The towns are developing faster than any of the smaller towns in the western part of the state. Therefore I beg you to use your best efforts in organizing a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, so that unrecorded history can be gathered from the vast territory and this enable it to take its place among the other historic spots in the Grand Old North State that your honorable body has heretofore consecrated by your services.

When all arrangements are completed and you get ready for the final dedication of this monument in this State Park, on this beautiful mountain, that is radiant with attractive and picturesque scenery, where the primeval forest, flowers and vines produce nature?s most fragrant odors, "like incense swung from an unseen censer," then we invite you, one and all to come and participate in the celebration that will be unequalled by any in that entire section of the country.

In the first years of the last century a great battle was fought on the plains of the Danube. A determined charge on the Austrian center gained the victory for France. The courage and example of a private soldier, who there fell, contributed much to the success of the charge. Ever after, at the parades of his Battalion, the name the name of Latour D'Auvergne was first called, when the oldest Sergeant stepped to the front and answered, "Died on the field of honor."

Madam Chairman and ladies, may you so continue your patriotic services that in Valhalla, beyond the grave, where spirits of warriors and patriots assemble, when the Supreme Regent of the Universe calls the roll and your names are reached, it will be for the majestic shades of Washington and Lee to pronounce the highest eulogy known to our race, "Died on the field of duty."

* * * * * * * * * *

Since the above was written, Major J.E. Alexander, of Winston-Salem, has informed the writer that the Hon. C.B. Watson was very familiar with the history of Rendezvous Mountain by reason of the fact that was attorney for Mr. Cloud, of Georgia, who was administrator for his uncle, Judge Cloud, who was a great-great-grand nephew of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, and that Judge Cloud owned the immense metal horn used by Colonel Cleveland in assembling his soldiers on Rendezvous Mountain.

That Mr. Watson told the administrator that if he would donate this horn to him, in order that he might put in the Hall of History, he would not charge him any additional fee for his services. Mr. Cloud agreed to this, but asked permission to take the horn to Georgia and show it to his people and that he would return it. The horn never was returned. Negotiations are now pending to get possession of this horn if possible.

The Daughters of the American Revolution at the conference at Charlotte, after the speech of Judge Finley, adopted a resolution thanking him for the opportunity offered them to participate in this patriotic purpose, and also resolved to erect two monuments on Rendezvous Mountain: one to the memory of Benjamin Cleveland and his soldiers, and the other, on which they will put a bronze tablet, thanking Judge T.B. Finley, of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, for his services in connection with the re-dedication of this mountain.

c2002 by Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland and Cleveland Family Chronicles
All rights reserved.

Overmountain Victory Trail Association
Support group for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail: They have been the primary support and caretaker of the trail and the Campaign to the Battle of Kings Mountain since it was designated by Congress in 1980.

Links to Other Clevelands

Cleveland Family Chronicles
Cleveland Family Forum
Colonel Benjamin Cleveland
Edmund Janes Cleveland and Horace Gillette Cleveland
Original Immigrant of the Southern Clevelands
Original Immigrant of the Northern Clevelands
In Memory of L. Jeanne Cleveland
The Cleveland Connection to Black Hawk Down: SSG William David Cleveland, Jr.
The Cleveland Coat of Arms
President Grover Cleveland
Early History of the Cleveland Family
The Cleveland/Cromwell Connection
The Prevost Novel on "The Natural Son of Cromwell"
More Genealogical Links
Rooting Out Your AnceStory: A Primer for Beginning Genealogy

E-mail Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland at

Graphics courtesy of Linda's Border Sets
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