Letter from James Moore to Cornelius Harnett [Extract]
Moore, James, 1737-1777
Volume 11, Pages 283-285
Extract of a letter from Brigadier James Moore, in the Continental Service, to the Honourable Cornelius Harnett, Esq. President of the Provincial Council, North Carolina, dated Wilmington, March 2, 1776.
“On the earliest intelligence that the tories were collecting and embodying at Cross Creek, which I received on the 9th of February, I proceeded to take possession of Rockfish-bridge, within seven miles of Cross Creek, which I considered as an important post. This I effected on the 15th, with my own regiment, five pieces of artillery and a part of the Bladen militia; but as our numbers were by no means equal to that of the tories, I thought it most adviseable to entrench and fortify that pass, and wait for a reinforcement. By the 9th I was joined by Col. Lillington with one hundred and fifty of the Wilmington minute-men, Colonel Kenon with 200 of the Duplin militia, and Col. Ash with about 100 of the volunteer independent yagers, making our number then in the whole about 1100; and from the best information I was able to procure, the tory army, under command of General McDonald, amounted to about 14 or 1500. On the 20th they marched within four miles of us, and sent in, by a flag of truce, the Governor's proclamation, a manifesto and letter from the General, copies of which, together with another Letter, and my answer you have enclosed. I then waited only until Col. Martin and Col. Thackston, who I had certain intelligence were on their march, should get near enough to
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cut off their retreat, and determined to avail myself of the first favorable opportunity of attacking them. However, contrary to my expectations, I learnt on the 21st that they had, the night before, and that night, crossed the N. West River, at Campbelltown, with their whole army, sunk and destroyed all the boats, and taken their route the most direct way to Negro Head Point; I then dispatched an express to Col. Caswell, who was on his march to join us with about 800 men, and directed him to return and take possession of Corbert's Ferry over Black River, and by every means in his power to obtruct, harrass, and distress, them in their march; at the same time I directed Col. Martin and Col. Thackston to take possession of Cross Creek, in order to prevent their return that way. Col. Lillington and Col. Ash I ordered, by a forced march, to endeavor, if possible, to reinforce Col. Caswell; but if that could not be effected, to take possession of Moore's Creek Bridge, whilst I proceeded back with the remainder of our army to cross the North West at Elizabeth Town, so as either to meet them on their way to Corbert's Ferry, or fall in their rear and surround them there. On the twenty-third I crossed the river at Elizabeth-Town, where I was compelled to wait for a supply of provisions till the 24th at night, having learnt that Col. Caswell, was almost entirely without. Just when I was prepared to march, I received an express from Col. Caswell, informing that the tories had raised a flat, which had been sunk in Black river, about five miles above him, and by erecting a bridge, had passed it with their whole army. I then determined, as the last expedient, to proceed immediately in boats down the North West river, to Dollison's landing, about sixty miles, and take possession of Moore's Creek Bridge, about ten miles from them, at the same time acquainting Col. Caswell of my intentions, and recommending him to retreat to Moore's Creek Bridge, if possible, but if not, to follow on in the rear. The next day by four o'clock we arrived at Dollison's landing, but we could not possibly march that night for want of horses for the artillery; I dispatched an express to Moore's Creek Bridge to learn the situation of affairs there, and was informed that Col. Lillington, who had the day before taken his stand at the bridge, was that after noon reinforced by Colonel Caswell, and that they had raised a small breast work, and destroyed a part of the Bridge. The next morning, the 27th, at break of day, an alarm gun was
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fired, immediately after which, scarcely leaving our people a moment to prepare, the tory army, with Capt. McLeod at their head, made their attack on Col. Caswell and Col. Lillington, and finding a small entrenchment next the Bridge, on our side empty, concluded that our people had abandoned their post, and in the most furious manner advanced within thirty paces of our breastworks and artillery, where they met a very proper reception.
Captain McLeod and Captain Campbell fell within a few paces of the breast-work, the former of whom received upwards of twenty balls through his body, and in a very few minutes their whole army was put to flight, and most shamefully abandoned their General, who was next day taken prisoner. The loss of the enemy in this action, from the best accounts we have been able to learn, is about thirty killed, and wounded; but as numbers of them must have fallen in the creek, besides many more that were carried off, I suppose their loss may be estimated at about seventy. We had only two wounded, one of which died to-day. This Sir, I have the pleasure to inform you, has happily terminated a very dangerous insurrection, and will, I trust, put an effectual check to toryism in this country.
The situation of affairs at this place made it necessary for me to return here, which, at the special request of the committee, I did last night with my regiment. The large requisitions made by the men-of-war, who now lie just before the town, gave the inhabitants reason to apprehend everything that could be suffered from their disappointed vengeance, however the committee have spiritedly determined rather to suffer the worst of human evils than afford them any supplies at all, and I have no doubt we shall we able to prevent them from doing any great injury.
In order to lessen as much as possible the expence incurred by this expedition, I some time ago directed Col. Martin to disband all the troops under his command, except 1000, including the regulars, and with those to secure the persons and estates of the insurgents, subject to your further orders.
And then to proceed to this place, unless otherwise directed. However, as I do not think the service just now requires such a number of men in arms, I shall immediately direct him to disband all except the regulars, and with those to remain in and about Cross Creek until further orders.