Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bits and Pieces of History for February 2014

(The Lexington and Concord of the South)

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord and amidst growing tension North Carolina royal governor, Josiah Martin began efforts to curb rebellion.  King George III granted permission to Allan Maclean to recruit a Scottish regiment among the Scots in North Carolina.  Two British generals, William Howe and Henry Clinton, planned to invade and secure a loyalist presence in Charles Town South Carolina with the help of both British and Loyalist Troops that were to meet in Brunswick North Carolina.  Maclean sent the 1,600 troops he mustered to join the British.

The troop movements and arrivals at New Bern of the two British generals did not go unnoticed by the NC Committee of Public Safety and the rebels soon set out to block the most direct route of the British.  The two forces would meet at Moore’s Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776.  Three Rebel colonels, James Moore, Alexander Lillington and Richard Caswell led approximately 1,000 patriots against the British force which included 700 Scottish Highlanders.

The patriots began preparing to meet the enemy by building earthworks on the east of Moore’s Creek under command of Col. Lillington.  Troops under Col. Moore blocked Rockfish Creek close to Cross Creek forcing the British to cross Moore’s Creek at Negro Head Point Road.  Meanwhile Col. Caswell and his force of 850 rebels positioned “Old Mother Covington”, a 2 ½ pound cannon, and her “daughter” a 1 ½ pound swivel gun, on the west side of the creek.

When the British and Scots were within six miles of the bridge they offered a pardon to the Rebels if they would surrender and swear loyalty to the king. The terms were refused and the messenger reported back both the refusal and the position of the rebel troops at the time.  However Caswell moved his men, leaving their tents up and fires burning and removed and loosened some planks from the Moore’s Creek Bridge, joining Lillington on the east side.

When Capt. McLeod and his Loyalists reached the rebel camp they realized it was empty.  He advanced his men to the bridge with the Highlanders in the front, armed only with broadswords.  Surging forward to the mournful sound of bagpipes and the cry “King George and Broadswords” the Scots moved onto the bridge only to discover the loosened and missing planks.  Old Mother Covington and her daughter discharged along with musket fire from the patriots.  The Loyalists suffered losses of more than 30 and countless others were lost in the swamps or drowned.  The rebels lost one man that night in battle and recorded one wounded.

The Battle of Moore’s Creek may have been the last battle of Scottish Broadswords and following their defeat many Scots left for Nova Scotia or took the oath of allegiance to the fledgling new country.

It was also a rallying cry of victory for the South.  The royal governor was forced to leave North Carolina and costal ports were closed to British ships.  On April 12 1776 delegates met at Halifax and endorsed the cause of independence.  It would be several years and many bloody battles later before true independence was won but the Battle of Moore’s Creek was a pivotal point in that war.

 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 coastal 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.

Submitted by Diane Price

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