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Battle at Moores Creek Bridge February 27, 1776

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1 Battle at Moores Creek Bridge February 27, 1776
A History of events leading up to, during, and after the Battle at Moores Creek Bridge

2 Colonial North Carolina
North Carolina was established as a colony by the Charter of Carolina in as a British colony King Charles II of England awarded the territory to eight allies who helped him regain the throne From the beginning, Carolina developed as two separate regions, but it was not until that the province was divided into North and South Carolina

3 Problems Arise North Carolinians were British citizens, but being separated by 3,000 miles of water left them to somewhat govern themselves After the French and Indian War, Great Britain looked to reclaim some debts by taxing the British colonies in North America The Colonists protested, stating that they had no representation in Parliament- “No taxation without representation”

4 So the story goes…. Josiah Martin, Governor of North Carolina, could not stop political uprisings occurring throughout the colony When the Continental Congress called on each colony to send delegates to discuss issues between the colonies and Great Britain, Governor Martin refused Colonists, angry with the Royal government, formed the Provincial Congress and sent delegates to the Continental Congress

5 Governor Martin soon saw his colony turning towards revolution
Independent committees were meeting all over North Carolina, and Governor Martin had no control over these meetings May 20, Mecklenburg Declaration The Mecklenburg County body declared that it was a “free and independent people” Also stated that positions filled by the royal government were now vacant, and the only lawful government in the colony was the Provincial Congress

6 Governor Martin Flees Governor Martin lost all control of his colony, and through all the chaos, he heard a rumor that he was to be seized May 31, 1775 Gov. Martin leaves Tryon Palace, and flees to Ft. Johnson on the mouth of the Cape Fear River His stay at Ft. Johnson was short Hearing reports of a planned attack on the fort, Martin flees to the British ship Cruizer, which was lying just off shore

7 North Carolinians during the Crisis
There were three groups, or parties, in the colony: Patriots (Whigs) Made up nearly half of the population Stood ready to fight for a “redress of grievances” Loyalists (Tories, King’s Men, Royalists) Though they opposed British policies, they were still loyal to the king Neutrals Smallest of the three groups Governor Martin sought to convert these middle- grounders into Loyalists to strengthen his numbers

8 Individual committees formed throughout the colony
After Gov. Martin fled, North Carolina was left without an organized government Individual committees formed throughout the colony Though the initial thought was to remain loyal with peaceful opposition to British policies, secretly, the committees were preparing for a war Two regiments for the Continental Line were authorized Led by Col. James Moore Six battalions of “minute men” were to be formed Two of the commanders were to be Richard Caswell and Alexander Lillington

9 Governor Martin has a Plan
Gov. Martin sought help from British officials He pleaded with them to assist him in restoring the colonial government Much of Great Britain’s focus was on the New England and Middle colonies, but Gov. Martin stated that restoring royal governance to North Carolina would also help restore the entire South He pleaded with Lord Dartmouth, British Secretary of State to the colonies

10 Gov. Martin’s plan: A Loyalist army of 9,000
3,000 Scots Highlanders 3,000 Regulators 3,000 Tories Seven regiments of British soldiers from Great Britain, led by Major General Charles and Lord Cornwallis 2,000 British soldiers from Boston, led by Sir Henry Clinton A powerful fleet of 54 ships, led by Vice Admiral Sir Peter Parker (He also sought to restore his Army commission, but was unsuccessful)

11 They were all to rendezvous at Brunswick Town by late February, 1776
Lord Dartmouth liked this plan, and it became the major campaign plan of the British against the colonials The Plan: (1) Take North Carolina, and then (2) Charleston There was no plan after this, as they would decide the next objective after these two objectives were completed

12 Gov. Martin and the Scots Highlanders
Gov. Martin knew he had the assistance of the Scots Highlanders, a fairly new group of Immigrants who settled in North Carolina After the Union between the Scottish Highlanders and England was broken at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, many Highlanders sought the haven of North Carolina Many settled near Cross Creek in the Upper Cape Fear Valley

13 The Scots Highlanders took up an oath with the British government to remain loyal
Many went on to become merchants and farmers, and some succeeded in the naval stores industry, producing tar, pitch, and turpentine, which supplied the British navy

14 Scots Highlanders in Action
In July of 1775, Lt. Col. Donald MacDonald and Captain Donald McLeod were sent to North Carolina to recruit men for a battalion of the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment They were stopped and suspected of “some sinister designs”, but they pretended to be officers wounded at the battle of Bunker Hill, and they just wanted to settle among friends

15 What would a recruit receive for joining the Loyalist forces?
They remained in North Carolina and worked closely with Governor Martin Donald MacDonald was commissioned as a Brigadier General of the militia, and Donald McLeod was commissioned as a Lt. Colonel What would a recruit receive for joining the Loyalist forces? Free land (up to 200 acres) No land fees 20 years of tax exemption No duties outside of North Carolina Forgiveness of their transgressions against the Crown

16 The Struggles of the Plan
Though the possible recruit numbers seemed big, the actual number of soldiers obtained by the Loyalist forces were small A trusted Highland messenger, Alexander Mclean, told Gov. Martin that the Scots could recruit 6,000 men, fully equipped with horses and wagons The truth was that most estimates by MacDonald and McLeod put the estimates at half, or to even a third of McLean’s numbers They lacked arms, powder, and artillery Many Scots did not have guns, and typically fought with their traditional Broadswords and Dirks

17 January 10, 1776 Governor Martin issues a proclamation calling on all Faithful Subjects to rally to the royal standard and proclaiming those who refuse “Rebels and Traitors.” He empowers Loyalist leaders to raise an army and to march to Brunswick Town to join anticipated British forces from Boston and England February 9, 1776 Gen. Donald MacDonald gathers a force of 1,600 Highland Scots and Loyalist militia at Cross Creek

18 Patriots Mobilize Patriot leaders were aware of Governor Martin’s plan, and were alarmed by all of the activity going on in and around the Highland settlements Pleas to neighboring colonies for assistance came quick Virginia to the North gave North Carolina Patriot forces 500 pounds of powder, and South Carolina gave 1,000 pounds In early February of 1776, Patriot forces, comprised of militia and minutemen, as well as two regiments from the Continental Line, were put into action

19 The Days and Weeks Preceding the Battle at Moores Creek Bridge
Over the next couple of slides, you will see the movements taken by both Loyalist and Patriot forces The forces that will meet on the battlefield are not military soldiers, but rather citizen soldiers Both sides are fighting for their cause, and both believe their cause is the right cause, morally, legally, and politically

20 Their plan is to march to Wilmington, and then on to Brunswick Town
It begins in early February when the Loyalists gather at Cross Creek. Their plan is to march to Wilmington, and then on to Brunswick Town There they would meet British warships and receive arms and equipment to put down the rebellion in the colony Like a game of chess, both Patriot and Loyal forces seek to outmaneuver the other side Loyalist forces seek the coast Patriot forces seek to halt their movements

21 Blue= Patriot Movement Red= Loyalist Movement
February 9- February 26, 1776 Blue= Patriot Movement Red= Loyalist Movement February 9th Gen. MacDonald commands all Loyalist forces and raises the Royal Standard at Cross creek He moves his 1,500-man force toward Rockfish Creek Bridge on the road to Wilmington February 10th Col. James Moore of the 1st North Carolina Continental Regiment leaves Wilmington He marches toward Rockfish Creek Bridge to Block Gen. MacDonald from moving to Wilmington Col. Alexander Lillington and Col. John Ashe leave Wilmington with their Minute Men to join Colonel Moore


23 February 13 Col. Richard Caswell and his 850-man militia unit leave New Bern to join Colonel Moore February 19 Colonel Moore and 1,000 men and five cannons are entrenched at Rockfish Creek Bridge, blocking the road to Wilmington General Donald MacDonald retreats back to Campbell Town and crosses the Cape Fear River, hoping to bypass Colonel Moore’s forces Country-born men (non-Scots) are deserting his army


25 February 21 Colonel Moore learns of the Loyalist movement
He orders Colonel Caswell to take possession of Corbett’s Ferry on the Black River Colonel Moore detaches Colonel Lillington and orders him to reinforce Colonel Caswell at Corbett’s Ferry Should this fail, Colonel Lillington is to take possession of Moores Creek Bridge Colonel Moore marches his regiment toward Elizabethtown after leaving other militia units in the trenches at Rockfish Creek Bridge

26 February 24 General MacDonald learns that Colonel Caswell’s men have cut all the bridges, sunk all the boats, and are entrenched at Corbett’s Ferry Loyalists fire at Colonel Caswell’s men all day to distract them while they raise a boat up river and prepare to build a bridge Colonel Caswell learns of this deception and prepares to join Colonel Lillington at Moores Creek Bridge Colonel Lillington’s 150 Minute Men set up defensive positions at Moores Creek Bridge and await reinforcements


28 February 25 Colonel Moore begins to float his regiment down the Cape Fear River from Elizabethtown to Dollison’s Landing Cold and rainy weather prevail February 26 General MacDonald’s men successfully cross the Black River The Loyalists stop at Colvin’s Creek They are six miles from Moores Creek Bridge and it starts raining again There are only 500 firearms among the Loyalist forces General MacDonald is ill and Lt. Col. McLeod takes command of the army

29 Colonel Caswell reaches Moores Creek and sets up a deceptive encampment on the west side of the creek Colonel Lillington’s and Colonel Caswell’s men work on the real entrenchments on the east side of Moores Creek At 6 p.m., James Hepburn, secretary to Gen. MacDonald, is sent to Colonel Caswell’s camp with a proclamation that states “lay down your arms and swear allegiance to the King…or I must consider you as traitors…and take the necessary steps to conquer and subdue you.”


31 At the same time, Hepburn was acting as a scout, making mental notes of Caswell’s position and strength He returns to the Loyalist camp with the news, and Gen. MacDonald and his senior advisors decide to attack Col. Caswell’s camp in the middle of the night At approximately one in the morning of the 27th, 800 Loyalists began to march the six miles from Colvin’s Creek to Moores Creek It had been raining for nearly three weeks, and the grounds were muddy and the swamps were full of water, making this dark walk very tough

32 February 27, 1776 Battle at Moores Creek Bridge
During the night Col. Caswell, expecting an attack, pulled his men out of the camp on the west side of Moore Creek, and set up on the east side with Col. Lillington’s forces Their were roughly 1,000 Patriot forces occupying the newly built earthworks, and Col. Moore’s forces were not far away Less than an hour before daylight on that cold, wet morning, McLeod’s Loyalists finally made it to Caswell’s camp


34 McLeod was given two ideas of what happened to Caswell and his men:
On reaching Col. Caswell’s encampment, the Loyalist forces were disappointed to see that the Patriot forces had fled, fires still burning and tents still up McLeod was given two ideas of what happened to Caswell and his men: They fled, running through the countryside in retreat They left this camp to gain a better vantage point Lt. Col. McLeod ordered his soldiers to fan out in a line The word for attack was “King George and Broadswords”

35 Upon reaching the bridge, McLeod’s forces were met by two shadowy figures on the opposite side of the bridge The two shadowy figures, Patriot guards, challenged the Loyalist men on the other side of the bridge Alexander McLean, leading the Loyalist patrol, answered that he was “a friend” “A friend to whom”, stated the Patriots As McLean answered with “to the King”, the two shadowy figures diappeared McLean, believing that maybe they were his own men, issued a challenge in Gaelic, but was met without a reply

36 The Loyalists cross the Bridge
As the Loyalists went to cross the bridge at Moores Creek, they noticed that half of the flooring had been removed, and there were only to beams to cross To make the passage more difficult, the beams, which were narrow, had been greased with soft soap The Highlanders led the charge across the bridge They used their broadswords to cross by thrusting the points of the blade into the beams


38 As Col. McLeod and his force of nearly one hundred men who followed made it across the bridge, Caswell’s and Lillington’s forces lined the earthworks, waiting for the moment to fire upon them The Patriot earthworks gave them an advantage, as they were behind mounds of dirt, higher up, and fanned across the opening from the bridge McLeod led the charge as the Loyalist soldiers, wielding broadswords, made it within thirty paces of the earthworks when “old Mother Covington and her Daughter boomed their disapproval” “Mother Covington” was a two-pound English galloper “her Daughter” was a half-pound swivel gun mounted on a tree stump Both pieces of artillery shot swan shots- packs of musket balls


40 Artillery and “Brown Bess” Musket shots rang out through the swamps
The Loyalists, caught by surprise, were hit with a barrage of rounds Donald McLeod, newly appointed leader of the Loyalist forces, was mortally wounded during the charge Some accounts stated that he was hit by nine musket balls and 24 swan shots When the morning broke, the Loyalist forces accounted for at least thirty killed Col. Moore’s account lists the death toll to be much higher, with many more drowning in Moores Creek or in the surrounding swamps


42 John Grady The Loyalist suffered many casualties, but the Patriots only suffered two, with only one of them dying from his wounds John Grady, from Anson County, was the only Patriot to die at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge He soon became a martyr for the cause as America pushed for independence

43 After the Battle at Moores Creek Bridge
Many Loyalists retreated soon after the shots rang out Some militia returned fire from the other side of the bridge, but soon retreated as well When the first soldiers made it back to the Loyalist camp six miles away, Gen. MacDonald was still asleep, unaware of the events that occurred He would not run as he was took sick and too tired- he would be sent to a prison in Halifax

44 Col. Moore arrived after the battle was over, and soon took over command
His soldiers gave chase to capture and retrieve all persons of interest who may have been involved in the Battle at Moores Creek Bridge Troops were dispatched to key points to discourage any Loyalist from reaching the coast The escaping Loyalists fled through the swamps, and when it was discovered that many of there hometowns were under Patriot control, they disbanded and went into hiding Some had stuck together, but were soon surrounded and forced to surrender

45 The Spoils of War Nearly 850 men were captured, and then paroled pending they took up an oath not to fight against the Patriot cause in the future In addition to prisoners, the Patriots retrieved a large purse of valuables: 350 guns (fowlers and shot guns) and shot bags 150 dirks and broadswords 1,500 rifles (muskets and bayonets) 2 medicine chests, one being of great value 13 wagons complete with teams 15,000 pounds of sterling in gold coins

46 Outcome of the Battle The victory at Moores Creek Bridge was the first decisive American victory of the Revolutionary War The victory at Moores Creek Bridge, along with the Patriot victory at Sullivan’s Island, kept the British out of the south for another two years The victory at Moores Creek Bridge ended British authority and Loyalist sentiment in the colony, and influenced North Carolina to be the first colony to vote for independence The delegates of the Fourth Provincial Congress unanimously adopted the Halifax Resolves The Halifax Resolves called for total independence from Great Britain These actions led the 13 colonies to declare independence on July 4, 1776

47 First in Freedom North Carolina led the way in asserting the colonists’ right to govern themselves First Provincial Congress 1st govt. outside of British control Edenton Tea Party Boycott of British goods Mecklenburg Declaration All offices appointed by British officials were now vacant Halifax Resolves 1st colony to declare total independence from Great Britain

48 The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge
Click on Link: A Video Fieldtrip

49 Sources Hatch, Charles E. “The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge”, Office of History and Architecture, National park Service, Washington, D.C., 1969. Rankin, Hugh F. “The Moores Creek Bridge Campaign, 1776”,The North Carolina Historical Review, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC, 1953. Moores Creek National Battlefield Visitor Center Displays Moores Creek National Battlefield Information Brochures, National Park Services, Department of the Interior

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