Backwatermen fighting in the Battle of King's Mountain, including those under command of Isaac Shelby.
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18th century newspapers: Shades of modern social media.


Modern social media has become known for a substantial quantity of inappropriate activity and content, foul language, and being overly personal, all happening because it’s too easy to just ‘let go’ and let emotions take over without stopping to think.


This newspaper clipping just goes to show that the same was true of historical media. Look carefully and you will find juicy articles from 18th century newspapers that showed shades of modern social media.


Featured image: Backwatermen fighting in the Battle of Kings Mountain, many under the command of Isaac Shelby.


Although access was not as immediate, it was the outlet for those with axes to grind, political aspirations, etc.

I found this clipping to be eye opening and entertaining all at once.

Major Ferguson makes his feelings known about those gentlemen who were taking a passive stance during the Battle of King’s Mountain and leaving the protection of citizens to the “backwatermen.”



Although this term is loosely applied to other groups of American colonists beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is more accurately restricted to those living in what later became Tennessee. Also known as back water men—”apparently,” according to Sydney George Fisher, “because they lived beyond the sources of the eastern rivers, and on the waters which flowed into the Mississippi”—their principal settlements were along the Watauga, Nolachucky (later Nolichucky), and Holston Rivers (Struggle for American Independence, vol. 2, p. 350 n.). Principal leaders were John Sevier and Isaac Shelby. Although they are often referred to as “mountain men,” Fisher points out that “very few people lived in the mountains at the time of the Revolution, and the Back Water men were merely North Carolinians, mostly of Scotch-Irish stock, who had crossed the mountains to enjoy the level and fertile lands of Tennessee, in the same way that the Virginians who followed Boone crossed the mountains into Kentucky” (ibid., vol. 2, p. 351 n.). Another misconception is that the Battle of Kings Mountain was won by the over mountain men; although their leaders, Shelby and Sevier, deserve credit for this levée en masse, their manpower contribution was only 480 out of the 1,800 or so who eventually arrived on the eve of the battle.

Aside from their part in the skirmishes leading up to this battle and in the battle itself, the over mountain men did little fighting. Sevier and Shelby showed up with some men after the Battle of Eutaw Springs (8 September 1781), but they faded back into the mountains when Greene asked them to reinforce Marion during the subsequent operations leading up to the advance on Dorchester, South Carolina, on 1 December 1781 (Ward, War of the Revolution, p. 838). William Campbell’s Virginia mountain riflemen, who figured prominently at Kings Mountain and appeared in the final phases of Lafayette’s maneuvering against Cornwallis in the Virginia military operations, were not over mountain men in the strict sense of the term.

[Excerpt from]


Following is my transcription of the clipping word for word as it appeared in the Maryland Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland on 24 Nov 1780, on page 1.

Obviously, it made an impression on the newspaper Editor as well for it to be placed on the first page.

Major Ferguson’s address to the inhabitants of North-Carolina, dated Denard’s ford, Broad river, Tryon county, Oct. 1, 1780.


Shelby Letter; Newspaper - Modern social mediaClipping
18th century newspapers: Shades of modern social media.


” U N L E S S  you wish to be eat up by an inundation of barbarians, who have begun, by murdering the unarmed son before the aged father, and afterwards lopped off his arms, and who by their shocking cruelty and irregularities, give the best proof of their cowardice and want of discipline : I say, if you wish to be pinioned, robbed, or murdered, and to see your wives and daughters in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind ; in short, if you wish or deserve to live and bear the name of man, grasp your arms in a moment and run to camp. The Backwatermen have crossed the mountain, McDowell, Hampton, Shelby, and Cleveland, are at their head, so that you know what you have to depend upon. If you choose to be pissed upon for ever and ever, by a set of Mongrels, say so at once, and let your women turn their backs upon you and look out for real men to protect them.

PAT. FERGUSON, major 71st regt.”


A fifties' child, mom, wife, avid genealogy researcher, web contributor and author/owner of four blogs including Empty Nest Ancestry, Feathering the Empty Nest Nest, Top Web Blog Tips, Job Bully, and our extensive family genealogy database site at Blythe Genealogy.