The American Revolution in North Carolina

Fort Johnston

May 23, 1776


Patriot Cdr:

Unknown
British Cdr:

Private James Wilcox
Killed:

1
Killed:

0
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

1
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Original County: 

Brunswick County
Present County:

Brunswick County

By late May of 1776, General Sir Henry Clinton moved all of his men to Fort Johnston from the outlying areas. The British noted that they lived off rice and "cabbage trees." The "cabbage trees" were what the soldiers called the palm trees along the Southern coast. At night, the British would set fire to pine trees to illuminate their camps and to watch for rebel snipers.

On the night of May 20th, the Patriots sent a fire raft down the Cape Fear River in hopes that it would burn the British transport Glasgow Packet. The British intercepted this attempt and towed it to a marshy area where it burned out.

On the night of May 22nd, some Patriots on horseback approached Fort Johnston. A company of the British Light Infantry surprised them and drove them off with no harm to either side.

The next night there was a violent thunderstorm that Dr. Forster of the British hospital described as "a Thunder Storm by much the most dreadful one I ever saw in my Life, it terminated in a most violent storm of Rain and Wind, several Tents were thrown down and others blown some distance from the spot where they were pitched and many of the highest Trees shiver'd to threads by Lightning and others torn up by the Roots by the violence of the Wind, it was a most shocking night to pass in Camp."

During this storm, three Patriots crept up to the camp and fired upon a British sentry. The sentinel, Private James Wilcox, was wounded in the hand but he fired back, killing one of the attackers. Private Wilcox sounded the alarm and the other two Patriots fled, leaving their fallen comrade.

Snipers continued to fire upon the British ships in the Cape Fear River throughout the month of May. On May 24th and May 27th, the schooner St. Lawrence returned fire, to no avail.

General Sir Henry Clinton wavered on whether to invade the Chesapeake region or to move on down to Charlestown, South Carolina. Upon receipt of erroneous information from Maj. Moncrieff that Charlestown harbor was without any real defenses, he sailed south on May 31st to invade South Carolina - with as much success as he had in the Cape Fear.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants
Brunswick County Militia, led by Unknown, with unknown number of men Private James Wilcox - 33rd Regiment of Foot
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