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Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge


In February of 1776, North Carolina Patriots embattled several hundred Tories at Moore’s Creek Bridge, and it was the first battle on North Carolina soil during the Revolutionary War. Later dubbed the “Lexington and Concord of the South,” the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge became a significant Patriot victory, mainly due to the leadership of three colonels: James Moore, Alexander Lillington, and Richard Caswell.

The lead-up of the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge began when Royal Governor Josiah Martin ordered General Donald MacDonald and Lt. Colonel Donald McLeod to capture Brunswick Town. Martin had been in exile and he sought to organize an effort to take North Carolina back under control of the crown. As British forces made their way to Wilmington, Patriot forces gathered at a small bridge, high above the Moore’s Creek which proved a prime defensive position for the militiamen.

McLeod led his nearly 2,000 troops through the swamps at Moore’s Creek, and he discovered a Patriot camp. Caswell had knowingly left the fires burning at the camp to confuse the enemy while he moved his forces in position at the Moore’s Creek Bridge. McLeod thought he was chasing a retreating enemy, but Caswell had ordered his troops to grease the platforms of the bridge, build impediments to block the Loyalists from climbing the ridge, and to post artillery on the ridge.

On the early morning hours of February 27 the British ground forces made their way on the bridge. Nearly 500 soldiers stormed the bridge, but they were met by an extreme amount of Patriot musket fire. After only three minutes of fighting the battle was over, and the Patriots had claimed victory. Almost 70 Loyalist soldiers had been killed, nearly 850 soldiers were captured, and Lt. Col. McLeod had been killed in the battle.

Historians admit that the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge led to the demise of British royal government in North Carolina. The royal government had to flee from the colony, and Britain was no longer allowed port in the colony’s costal towns. In addition, the victory aroused delegates to meet at Halifax on April 12, 1776, to discuss North Carolina’s support of Independence, and the battle allowed the Patriots to hold to the South at the early outset of the Revolutionary War. Presently, the Moore’s Creek Bridge has been reconstructed in Pender County and a park commemorates the early Revolutionary War victory in North Carolina.



Sources:

“Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).

“Moore’s Creek Bridge.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (accessed January 16, 2011).

By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project


See Also:

Related Categories: Revolution Era
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Related Lesson Plans: Civil War in North Carolina
Timeline: 1776-1835
Region: Coastal Plain

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