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



Marker Text:

     A wave of Scottish immigrants landed in North Carolina in the years just before the American Revolution. Torn between their recent homeland and their new lives, most were unsure of their role in the war. Many, such as John MacRae, sought to support their King and fought as Tories, or Loyalists, against the American Patriots. MacRae had moved into North Carolina in 1774, purchased land on McLendons Creek in modern-day Moore County and developed a new life for himself. However, once word of fighting reached inland, MacRae and his son felt compelled to advance towards the coast with other Scottish loyalists in 1776. The men were met by Patriots at Moore’s Creek Bridge and, after the fighting was over, MacRae’s son was mortally wounded and scores of Scots were captured.

     MacRae was able to escape capture but suffered economically during the War because of his Loyalist sentiment. Historians have differed on MacRae’s actions subsequent to Moore’s Creek Bridge but the most accepted theory is that he joined with other Loyalists in Charlestown, South Carolina, and marched northward to meet Patriots at the Battle of King’s Mountain in North Carolina where the British were defeated and many Scots were imprisoned or killed. One theory is that MacRae was captured at King’s Mountain, escaped and hid in the forests until the end of the war, filing compensation claims with the British government at the end of the conflict. However, some oral traditions maintain that MacRae met a violent death for his British sympathies.

     MacRae’s story as a Loyalist is made more interesting by his distinction as a leading poet and song-writer in his native home of Kintain in Scotland. His poems and songs have been preserved and they present a story of hope for an impending move to the American colony as well as promises of riches for a baby girl in her new home. His work also reflected his disillusion with America and, later, his despair at being exiled because of his pledge of loyalty to the English crown. MacRae’s poems, written originally in Gaelic, have been passed down through subsequent generations of Scots on both sides of the Atlantic and are still a testament of his ability to weave into rhyme the ups and downs of Scottish life during the tumultuous times of the American Revolution.

Duane Meyer, The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776 (1961)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 193—sketch by Richard Walser
Charles W. Dunn, “A North Carolina Gaelic Bard,” North Carolina Historical Review (October 1959): 473-475
A. McLean Sinclair, Gaelic Bards from 1715 to 1765 (1892)
James MacKenzie, “The Odyssey of John MacRae," The State (December 1971)
Moore’s Creek Bridge National Park Service website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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