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Battle of Moore`s Creek Bridge

Known as the "Lexington and Concord" of the South, the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776, near Wilmington, North Carolina, crushed the loyalists, encouraged the Whigs, stimulated the independence movement and kept the British from invading the state in 1776. As part of the British war strategy in 1776, General William Howe instructed General Henry Clinton to open a front in the American South. The prime target was Charleston, South Carolina, and it was hoped that a show of force would rally the area’s considerable loyalist population to the cause. Clinton’s army was to arrive by sea from Boston and join a force being sent from England, in the waters off Cape Fear, North Carolina. However, before the plan could unfold, an important confrontation occurred outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. Royal Governor Josiah Martin had raised an army of 1,600 Crown supporters, including Scottish Highlanders and former Regulators. This army, commanded by one Donald MacDonald who was ailing at the time, sought out a smaller rebel force rumored to be encamped along Moore’s Creek, 18 miles above Wilmington. When the Loyalist soldiers arrived, they found that their quarry had withdrawn across a bridge after taking up its planks and greasing its supports. Armed primarily with pikes and broadswords, the Loyalists unwisely decided to advance across the compromised structure. The Patriots under Richard Caswell and Alexander Lillington opened fire with two cannon and muskets, quickly leveling the struggling soldiers. The “battle” ended in short order with the Loyalists sustaining 30 killed and the rebels only one. In addition to the impact on the troops, the Whigs also captured 350 guns, 150 swords, 1500 rifles, 13 wagons, medical supplies and 15,000 pounds sterling. When Clinton arrived in the area in mid-March, no Loyalist army was waiting to join his offensive. After reassessing his situation, Clinton joined with Charles Cornwallis and headed south to Charleston and further disappointment.

See timeline of the War of Independence.