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Battle of Moore's
Creek Bridge



Shave, Grease Up and Put on Your Skirt: A Scotch Loyalist in the Battle at Moore's Creek Bridge

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The style of fighting used in the Revolutionary War
Imagine this: You're a Scottish soldier loyal to the King of England, and it's the year 1776. You live in North Carolina near the big slave-trading town called Wilmington. Because you're loyal to the king of England, you are called a Loyalist. You think that the King of England should have almighty control over the colonies here in America, and you also don't mind the taxes that the King is going to levy throughout the colonies.

Your enemies are the people called the Patriots. They don't honor the King of England. They want to break away from the king because they believe that it will give them more individual freedom. They believe that the King should not have any control over the Colonies -- and that means he shouldn't be able to tax colonists at all. They feel that this is a new place, and a chance for people to be completely free from government control. Some of the things they hope to gain by breaking away from England include religious freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom to live peaceably.

Before you became a soldier for the Loyalists, you had a family, and you lived with your brother, your wife, and your two kids. One night you're sitting at the kitchen table, and you all start arguing about the politics of England's control over the colonies. You feel that you owed everything to the King, because you wouldn't even have your job if it weren't for him. Your wife and your brother across the table believe that this is the new world, and that it's time to break away from King of England. They don't think the King has the right to tax or to limit freedom in any way.

You simply can't believe it. These people you love so much have such a different view from yours! The discussion erupts into a yelling match. The result is that you leave your wife and kids, going to join the Loyalist militia. When you leave, your brother says to you, "If you walk out the door, I'll see you in battle." You reply, "I'll see you there." The idea of fighting your own brother breaks your heart, but you act on your principles and go anyway. Can you imagine an argument at the kitchen table leading you to face your own brother in battle? This kind of story actually happened, because differences in views about England's involvement in colonial America split families right down the middle.

So you join up with 1600 other Loyalists. You are Scottish, so you wear a kilt. You shave, so when you go to battle, your enemy doesn't have anything to grab. You also grease your body with animal fat, so you'll slip easily from your enemy's hands. Because of your Scottish background, your style of fighting is to get close and fight with your sword and hands. That's why you prepare so thoroughly for hand-to-hand combat.

You recruit any men you can find. You can feel the heat and intensity of war coming on. You and your fearless leader Captain John Campbell have a plan that's virtually foolproof. Because John Campbell knows that your allies the British are coming by boat from the east, you and your fellow troops plan to come from the west and attack the colony from both sides. Your only hurdle is to cross the Cape Fear River and Moore's Creek in order to get to the colony. The big question is: can you get across the bridge before your brother and the rest of the Patriots arrive?

On February 26, 1776, you and Campbell realize that you have been beaten to the bridge. At 1:00 a.m. on February 27, you start your march toward Moore's Creek Bridge, where your enemies await your arrival. You march slowly through swamps and thickets. When you get near the bridge, you regroup and wait for daybreak. Just before dawn, shots ring out around the bridge. In the faint light, you scream and run towards the bridge, yelling "King George and broad swords!" Shots and bagpipes sound through the air. You fight long and hard for what you believe, but when you reach the other side of the bridge, you're greeted by musket shots and Lafayette cannons. As you lie bleeding, you hear the Loyalists retreat and the Patriots cheer.

A Lafayette cannon that greeted the Loyalists when they crossed Moore's Creek Bridge
This was the battle at Moore's Creek. In the end, 30 Loyalists were dead and 40 wounded. Only one Patriot died. The battle was small, but the implications were large. This Patriot victory demonstrated surprising Patriot strength in the countryside, and it discouraged Loyalists from organizing in the South. The word of the Patriot victory spread throughout the colonies. This strong feeling of revolution made it virtually impossible for the British to win.

Another outcome of the battle at Moore's Creek was that North Carolina became the first colony to declare complete independence from Britain. On April 12, 1776, the Halifax Resolves came into effect, stating that North Carolina declared complete independence from the British. More colonies were to follow. Many historians say that if the British had won this battle and gained more popularity in the South, it might have made their conquest possible -- and the Patriots might not have won the Revolutionary War.

As I walked around Moore's Creek Battle National Battlefield, I realized that this was a very small battle. But it had great meaning and large effects. This was the battle that really got the American Revolution rolling. I walked across Moore's Creek Bridge with ease. But I thought of all the soldiers who had to climb and struggle through the deep thick swamp that lay before me. I'm sure glad I wasn't in their shoes.


Please email me at: nick@ustrek.org


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