north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     In late September 1780, the British army led by Lord Charles Cornwallis entered North Carolina pursuing the retreating American forces that he had defeated the previous month at Camden, South Carolina. On September 20, Patriot militia under the command of William R. Davie ambushed a section of the British column at Wauchope plantation. Cornwallis, angered by Davie’s actions, ordered an advance on the small hamlet of Charlotte, considered a center of Patriot support in the area.

     Charlotte at the time consisted of “about twenty Houses built on two streets which cross each other at right angles in the intersection of which stands the Court-House.” On September 25, Davie and his nearly 150 North Carolina militia dragoons joined by a party of volunteers under Major Joseph Graham skirmished with advance elements of Cornwallis’s army near Steele Creek Church. The following morning, Cornwallis’s dragoons and light infantry arrived on the outskirts of Charlotte.

     Defending the hamlet, Davie ordered his men arranged themselves along a stone wall in front of the courthouse, and along the flanks of the roads behind several hedges and homes. He intended to ambush the British if they advanced directly into the town center. Major George Hanger, commanding Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion, took the bait, charging his dragoons directly towards Davie’s men. The Americans wounded Hanger and repulsed the charge, as well as a second attack, before being forced to withdraw as British light infantry units turned their flank. Five Americans were killed and six wounded while an unknown number were taken prisoner. The British suffered forty-four casualties in the skirmish.

     Withdrawing from town, Davie and Graham made a second stand near Sugar Creek Church, but were dispersed by a third cavalry charge. Graham, shot three times and severely wounded by a saber, miraculously recovered from his injuries. Matthew Locke’s son George, a lieutenant with Graham’s volunteers, was not so lucky. He attempted to surrender, but was hacked to death by several Loyalist dragoons.


References:
Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing But Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas, II (2004)
Dan L. Morrill, Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution (1993)
Blackwell P. Robinson, ed., Revolutionary War Sketches of William R. Davie (1976)
Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780-1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (1781)
Joseph Graham Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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