The American Revolution in North Carolina

Big Glades

April 15, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Col. Benjamin Cleveland
Loyalist Cdr:

Capt. William Riddle
Killed:

0
Killed:

0
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

1
Captured:

0
Captured:

3
Original County: 

Burke County
Present County:

Watauga County

aka Wolf's Den, aka Riddle's Knob.


On April 14th, Col. Benjamin Cleveland arrived at his cattle farm, known as the "Old Fields," on the southern fork of the New River. Loyalist Capt. William Riddle learned of his arrival and decided to go after him. Riddle stole Cleveland's horse then laid an ambush for him when he came to look for it.

Col. Cleveland and Richard Calloway went searching for the missing horse and Capt. Riddle and his men opened fire. Calloway was unarmed and Col. Cleveland only had two pistols. Calloway was shot in the thigh. Col. Cleveland grabbed a local woman, Abigail Walters, and used her as a shield until Capt. Riddle promised that he would ransom Col. Cleveland and not kill him.

The two Patriots were then taken to the Wolf's Den, and Col. Cleveland broke overhanging branches to mark the route. Wolf's Den was a cavern in Riddle's Knob and the hideout of Loyalist Capt. William Riddle.

Joseph Calloway learned of the two men's capture and he went looking for Col. Cleveland's younger brother, Robert, who immediately assembled some of Cleveland's men and took off in pursuit of his brother.

The next day, the Loyalists at Wolf's Den prepared an early breakfast. Col. Cleveland was under heavy guard and a sentinel held one of the colonel's pistols to his head. Capt. Riddle ordered Col. Cleveland to write out passes to certify that each of his captors were good Whigs. Fearing that he would be killed soon thereafter, Col. Cleveland took his time, blaming his delay on poor penmanship.

He was working on the final pass when his brother with others arrived and attacked. Col. Cleveland rolled off the fallen tree he had been sitting on and used it to shelter himself from the hail of bullets. Except for one wounded man, Capt. Riddle and his Loyalists all escaped. They were captured later and three of them - Riddle, Reeves, and Goss - were court-martialed in Wilkesboro.

Col. Cleveland presided over the court, where they were found guilty and hanged from the "Tory Oak." Two other Loyalists, Cowles and Brown, were also hanged for stealing horses.


In his 1832 pension application affadavit, Ishmael Titus (R10623) asserted:

"After I was dismissed at Holston River after the war was closed, coming home to Yadkin River, I (with ten others) was taken upon the top of the Allegheny Mountains by a party of Tories headed by a man they called Captain Bill Riddle. I recollect it was on Thursday in the afternoon we were carried back to the foot of the Mountain & there kept all night with our hands tied & a guard put over us the next day a guard was over us all day, our arms being taken from us.

"On Saturday they brought to us Col. Cleveland as a prisoner & bound him in the same manner. The next morning, I was sent by the Tories to look for the Tories' horses. I found all but one & took them back to the Tories. Then I was sent to search for the other horse on horseback, while looking after this horse, I discovered two companies under the command of Captains Cleveland, they inquired if I knew anything about their Father Colonel Absalom [Benjamin] Cleveland. I told him where he was & went with them to the place where the Tories had him.

"Colonel Cleveland as soon as he saw them said 'Come on my Boys,' when they rushed forward & shot at the Tories, they wounded one in the back, the rest fled into the Woods we then all of us came on home. Some one or two months after this, I saw all but one of the Tories viz nine hung at Rowan Court House."

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. Benjamin Cleveland

Richard Calloway

Joseph Calloway

Capt. Robert Cleveland, with unknown number of men

Capt. Nathaniel Gordon, with unknown number of men

Ishmael Titus

Capt. William Riddle, with unknown number of men

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© 2010 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved