Ramsey’s Mill, on the site of the present Lockville dam, canal and powerhouse, three miles north of the confluence of the Deep and Haw rivers, provided a campsite for the forces of General Charles Cornwallis. Following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, during the course of the British retreat to Wilmington, the army camped at Ramsey’s Mill. Although General Nathanael Greene’s forces initially pursued them, Cornwallis and his men escaped them and hastily continued to British-controlled Wilmington.
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Guilford Courthouse was the culmination of months of small skirmishes between Greene’s Patriot forces and Cornwallis’s British troops. The battle ended with the retreat of Greene’s forces to Troublesome Ironworks. However, the British had lost one-quarter of their forces, from which they never fully recovered. Following the battle, Cornwallis’s men remained on the field for two days, caring for the wounded and burying the dead.
Cornwallis’s men marched from Guilford Courthouse toward Dixon’s Mill on Cane Creek, where they camped on March 22, 1781. From there they continued toward the southeastern part of present-day Chatham County, to Ramsey’s Mill. Cornwallis’s forces remained at Ramsey’s Mill for two days before continuing their march toward Cross Creek (Fayetteville) and then on to Wilmington.
Cornwallis stationed his men at the mill, with the tavern serving as the headquarters for operations. The troops used the rocks of the mill dam to create a bridge over the Deep River, allowing for the army to continue toward Cross Creek. They then destroyed the makeshift bridge so Greene's men could not follow. Throughout the encampment, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee and his force, Lee’s Legion, had harassed Cornwallis’ forces while they worked. Additionally, Greene’s army pursued Cornwallis to within twelve miles of Ramsey’s Mill. All these factors led Cornwallis to abandon Ramsey’s Mill as quickly as possible, marching towards Wilmington.
Ambrose Ramsey, a member of the state assembly and provincial congresses, owned the mill. During the Civil War, Ramsey’s Mill was again important, providing flour to Confederate troops. Both the tavern and the mill were destroyed in the early 1900s by flooding.
Wade Hadley, Doris Horton, and Nell Strowd, Chatham County, 1771-1971 (1971)
Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter (2004)
Rachel Osborn and Ruth Seldon-Sturgill, The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County (1991)
Henry Armand London, “Address on the Revolutionary History of Chatham County” (1876)
North Carolina Department of Transportation, Lockville Archaeological Data Recovery report, online at: