North Carolina was a deeply divided and fractured colony prior to the American Revolution, making it a prime target for a British invasion. Looking to take advantage of the situation, the British Crown planned to send 7,000 regular British troops, with an addition of 10,000 muskets and small artillery in order to supply those colonists still loyal to the British government.
By April 1775, British Royal Governor of North Carolina Josiah lost control of the colony and was sent into exile. While in exile Martin laid plans to re-take North Carolina. He would raise an army of 10,000 and march it to a coast to link up with British forces. Martin persuaded his London and North American superiors that his plan would restore royal rule in the Carolinas—but he could raise only 1,600 loyalist soldiers.
In August and September 1775, at news of the loyalists assembling under General Donald MacDonald at Cross Creek (Fayetteville) the patriots began gathering forces. Colonel James Moore was given over all command of patriot forces in the colony. In Wilmington they threw up breastworks and prepared to fight. New Bern authorities musteredminute men and militia under Col. Richard Caswell with orders to defend the colony.
The loyalists planned to join British forces at the coast to restore royal authority in the colony. On February 20, 1776, the loyalists moved towards the coast, but was blocked by Moore’s patriot forces from Wilmington. The loyalists then moved east to evade Moore while hoping to also slip past Caswell’s force coming from New Bern.
For the next few days, the Loyalists sought an open route to the coast, but found Caswell’s force blocking their path along the Black River. The loyalists, finding a different crossing point over the Black River the next day, forced Caswell and his men to take up a strong position at the bridge crossing Moores Creek.
Caswell was reenforced by 200 minutemen from the Wilmington District at Moores Creek Bridge. The patriots used the natural terrain of the creek to their advantage, placing strong earthwork on a ridge overlooking the creek on the east bank. By February 26, 1776 the loyalists were camped six miles patriots position.
Late that afternoon the loyalists sent a courier to Caswell’s camp to offer a chance for the patriots to lay down their arms. Caswell refused the proposal. Upon returning to General MacDonald, the loyalist courier conveyed that the patriots were camped on the west bank of Moores Creek and vulnerable to attack. The courier did not see the earthworks on the east bank. With only partial information of the patriots position the loyalists plan their attack. They begin marching about 1:00 am, on February 27. During the night the patriots move their forces to the east bank and awaited the loyalist attack.
At 5:00am the loyalists learned the patriots abandoned their camp on the west bank. Believing the patriots were fast retreating the loyalists pushed across a partially dismantled Moores Creek Bridge, up a long narrow dark causeway, where they were met with musket and cannon fire from the patriot earthworks. The battle of Moores Creek was brief, it possibly only lasting three minutes. This battle would mark the first decisive patriot victory of the American Revolution. Allowing North Carolina to become the first American colony to instruct their deligates sent to the Continetal Congress, to vote for independence!
Last updated: July 31, 2021