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In the aftermath of the Tory victories at McPhaul’s Mill and Lindley’s Mill, Loyalists in southeastern North Carolina consolidated their forces. Several hundred Tories, under the overall command of “Old One-eye” Hector McNeill had joined up with the forces of Duncan Ray and Archibald McDougald at Raft Swamp. On October 15, 1781, Whig militia commanded by Griffith Rutherford assaulted the Tory stronghold, destroying the Loyalist forces in the region.
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Rutherford’s forces consisted of nearly 950 local militia infantry, as well as several companies of light dragoons from Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Rowan counties. A small group of horsemen from Bladen County joined his army just before the action. On October 14, Rutherford dispatched Major Joseph Graham with mounted militia to locate the Tory encampment.
Graham located the Loyalists the following day, and although outnumbered, ordered an assault on their camp. McNeill’s men made their stand atop a small hill overlooking the only bridge across the swamp. Having removed the planking from bridge, the Tories likely felt confident that they were safe. Graham’s men ignored the bridge and rode directly into the swamp and mounted a causeway that led to the hill.
The Loyalists, surprised at Graham’s actions, attempted to flee along the narrow confines of the causeway. So many Tories were cut down that their horses began clogging the passageway. Graham’s men resorted to “pushing them over into the ditch, out of the way.” A small group of McNeill’s men attempted to mount a rearguard, but were all killed.
The Whigs pursued the Loyalists through the swamps for several hours, until Graham decided, “As the enemy were much scattered and completely beaten, it was thought inexpedient to pursue the victory further.” The next day, Graham’s men returned to the site under orders from Rutherford, and searched the swamp again for any survivors. Shortly thereafter, Rutherford’s army marched for Brown Marsh, and besieged the British garrison at Wilmington.
Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing But Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas, III, 375-376
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006), 936—entry by Lindley S. Butler
Eli W. Caruthers, The Old North State in 1776, 2 vols. (1856)
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XXII, 205-206