Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge

After the failure at the Kemp’s Landing, the Patriots needed a victory, and they got it in the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.

General William Howe

With the growing tension of the American Revolution, the royal governor of North Carolina Josiah Martin began to muster the Loyalist militia in order to suppress the unrest and growing Patriot movement. Scotsman Allan Maclean successfully lobbied for permission from King George III to raise a Scottish regiment and to recruit Scottish Loyalists who had settled the North Carolina area. At the same time, British General William Howe and General Henry Clinton planned to target Charleston, South Carolina, one of the largest and busiest ports, in the hopes that a show of force would instill fear into the rebellion and inspire Loyalists to join the cause. The plan was for the Loyalists troops to rendezvous with the British troops in Brunswick, near Wilmington, North Carolina.

Maclean sent men and mustered nearly 1,600 Loyalists who set out for the coast to meet with the British troops. The Patriots, hearing of this plan, blocked the most direct route to the sea near Cross Creek, forcing the Loyalists to cross Moore’s Creek Bridge, where almost 1,000 Patriots were camped.

The Loyalists sent a messenger to the Patriot troop, offering pardon if they surrendered. They refused and sent the messenger back, who reported their position. That night, expecting an attack from the Tories, they moved across the creek, leaving their tents and fires as a trap. They also removed some planks from the bridge and greased the supports. Around 1 a.m., the Loyalists charged the camp, found it empty and saw some men across the bridge.

Captain McLeod of the Loyalist troop ordered a charge across the compromised bridge. The Patriots opened fire with two cannons and muskets. The Battle of Moore’s Bridge resulted in one Patriot death and more than 30 Loyalist fatalities. The remaining Loyalists scattered, and some were captured and imprisoned. The Patriots seized much-needed supplies and imprisoned the officers as prisoners of war.

The Battle of Moore’s Creek, though seemingly small and insignificant, convinced North Carolina to instruct its delegates the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence from Great Britain. That victory as well as the one at Sullivan’s Island drove off Britain’s attempt to subdue the rebellion in the South until around 1780.

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