Encampment at Rockfish Creek, Prelude to Moores Creek Bridge
On February 15, 1776, Patriot forces under Colonel James Moore camped on Rockfish Creek in Cumberland County.
Nearby more than 1,500 Loyalist militia, most of them Scottish Highlanders, gathered under General Donald McDonald at what’s now Fayetteville to march to Wilmington. By fortifying the encampment at Rockfish Creek with over 1,000 men and five artillery pieces, Moore blocked the Loyalists’ most direct route to the coast, forcing them to utilize a narrow bridge at Moores Creek.
There, on February 27, the Loyalists were ambushed by about 1,000 Patriots, artillery and rifles, from Col. Richard Caswell’s and Col. Alexander Lillington’s forces. The Patriots were victorious, killing or wounding at least 50 men and capturing about 850 more.
The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge was a pivotal moment in North Carolina history. Without Loyalist forces to protect the colonial government, the royal system collapsed, allowing Patriot leaders the chance to establish a fledgling state government. The Patriot victory also denied Britain use of North Carolina’s ports, which were logistically significant. The battle at Moores Creek is often referred to as the “Lexington and Concord of the South.”
Initially a state park, the battlefield is now managed by the National Park Service.