The American Revolution in North Carolina

Myhand's Bridge

October 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Capt. John C. Williams
Loyalist Cdr:

Middleton Mobley
Killed:

1
Killed:

1
Wounded:

Several
Wounded:

Unk
Captured:

0
Captured:

Unk
Original County: 

Duplin County
Present County:

Sampson County

This skirmish is identified by some historians as happening in 1779 and by other historians as happening in 1780. When one looks at what was going on during 1781, this is most likely the year that this event happened.


Capt. John C. Williams was born with a harelip, which caused a speech impediment. He slurred the letter "c" into "she" or "shay," and became known as "Shay" Williams. After Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis invaded North Carolina in late 1780, Williams created a militia company in Duplin County. He had been a Private in the militia and a Lieutenant in the NC Continentals from 1776 to 1778.

Capt. Williams' men were hard fighters, well-drilled, and excellent horsemen. Their "discipline" was not so excellent - the men fought amongst themselves when not engaged with the enemy. They regulary settled petty disputes with long knives and fists, and all drank excessively when it was available.

After the war, Capt. Williams told Richard Clinton that his men could drill "as neatly as any militia could hope for, afoot or mounted, and fight like savages when needed."

After Lord Cornwallis's arrival into the state, the Loyalists became greatly motivated in many areas and they began to assemble and to organize. One of the leaders in Duplin County was Middleton Mobley, who gathered some of his followers and laid an ambush at Myhand's Bridge to disrupt traffic in the area.

Capt. John "Shay" Williams and his mounted men patrolled Duplin County looking for just such activities and they rode up to Mobley's ambush before they knew what was going on. Mobley had already captured some wagons when he spotted Capt. Williams and fired upon the Patriots, who for some reason became very disorganized. One of Capt. Williams's men was killed and several were badly wounded. Had Mobley pushed them he might have saved his captured wagons, but his Loyalists followed into the swamps and down the Cross Creek Road, sniping at the Patriots who were retreating, now in an organized manner.

Capt. Williams demanded that the last man standing, a wagon driver, surrender a load of meal and cloth that he thought had been stolen by the raiding party. The wagoner refused and threatened Williams and two men with a musket and a sword. Capt. Williams immediately shot the man with his pistol. He then ripped a piece of the striped fabric from the cargo, wiped his face and coat, and folded the rag over his belt.

His men then followed suit, some pinning a square piece of the cloth to their hats, others wrapping longer sections over their belts or around their waists. The "striped sash" became Capt. John C. Williams version of a cockade. From that time on, Patriots moving about in west Duplin County (now Sampson County) were advised to obtain a piece of striped cloth to show their Patriot sympathies.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Capt. John C. "Shay" Williams - Commanding Officer

Duplin County Militia detachment of one (1) company led by Capt. John C. "Shay" Williams, with unknown number of horsemen

Middleton Mobley, with unknown number of Loyalists

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