Moores Creek National Battlefield in Pender County, North Carolina

Photo by Michael Kleen

This quick and stunning patriot victory turned back British hopes of holding onto North Carolina during the Revolutionary War.

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The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge was fought on February 27, 1776 between American patriot forces led by Col. James Moore and British loyalists led by Lt. Col. Donald MacLeod near Wilmington, North Carolina during the American Revolutionary War. The short battle was a resounding Patriot victory, which led to North Carolina voting in favor of independence.

In 1775, Royal Governor Josiah Martin fled North Carolina after his house was attacked by rebellious colonists, and the British Army sailed from Ireland and New England to stamp out the insurrection. Martin raised a force of approximately 1,500 Loyalists in North Carolina, principally consisting of Scotch Highlanders, to arm and join with the British regulars. The Patriots moved to prevent the two forces from joining.

Two units of Patriot militia, led by Col. James Moore and Richard Caswell, tried to intercept the Loyalists before they reached the coast. Caswell reached Widow Moore’s Creek Bridge first and threw up fortifications to block their approach. The Patriot troops were bolstered by a cannon and a swivel gun they called “old Mother Covington and her daughter.”

Caswell’s 1,050 men camped on the western side of the creek, and when a British messenger saw their backs would be to the water, he urged Loyalist militia commander Brig. Gen. Donald MacDonald to attack. The Patriots, however, had withdrawn to the eastern side, and MacDonald was too sick to lead his men. The task fell on Lt. Col. Donald MacLeod to strike the blow. Things went terribly wrong when they discovered the Patriot camp abandoned.

The Patriots had also torn up the bridge planks and greased the supports. As the Scots charged across, some armed only with broadswords, the Patriots opened fire with devastating effect. After only a few minutes, 30-50 Loyalists lay dead or wounded. The Patriots lost one killed and one wounded. As the Loyalists retreated in disorder, the Patriot militia captured hundreds of them and looted their supplies. It would be two years before the British tried to reconquer the Carolinas.

Fought between Great Britain and her Thirteen American Colonies from 1775 to 1883, the Revolutionary War led to a Declaration of Independence and the formation of the United States of America in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies won their independence, at the cost of an estimated 158,000 British, American, French, German, Spanish, and American Indian lives. It was a dynamic and surprisingly international conflict.

In the early twentieth century, the Moores Creek Monumental Association sought to commemorate the Patriot victory at Moores Creek Bridge. A Patriot Women’s Monument was erected in 1907, and a granite obelisk dedicated to James Fulton Moore, first president of the Moores Creek Monumental Association, was raised in 1913.

Moores Creek National Military Park was established on June 2, 1926. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and re-designated a National Battlefield in 1980. Today, visitors can tour a small museum and walk a mile-long interpretive trail complete with earthworks and Revolutionary War-era cannon.

Moores Creek National Battlefield is located at 40 Patriots Hall Drive in Currie, North Carolina. The park is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, but the visitor center is only open Tuesday through Saturday. Both are closed for Federal holidays. There is no entrance fee, however, guided tours require reservations. Onsite parking is available, as is a picnic area and public restrooms. Call (910) 283-5591 for more information.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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