The American Revolution in North Carolina

Raft Swamp

October 15, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Major Joseph Graham
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. Duncan Ray
Killed:

1
Killed:

16
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

50
Captured:

0
Captured:

15-20
Original County: 

Bladen County
Present County:

Robeson County

The Loyalists never completely dispersed after the capture of Governor Thomas Burke and his transport to Wilmington, and many were still encamped on the Raft Swamp near McPhaul's Mill. Their ranks had grown to between 300 and 600 men, and they drilled and practiced every day. Col. Duncan Ray was now considered the overall leader of the Loyalists in the area.

Hector "Old Hector" McNeil had been killed at the battle of Lindley's Mill, but Hector "One-Eyed Hector" McNeill had been put in his position to conceal the death of the old colonel. Col. Ray thought that if the men though that "Old Hector" was still alive they would continue to stay with his army.

Col. Ray and Col. McNeill soon learned that Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford was on the move towards their camp. Brigadier General Rutherford sent Major Joseph Graham and his dragoons forward to overtake the Loyalists and to keep them occupied while the remainder of the army marched on towards Wilmington. The Loyalist leaders wisely decided to avoid a fight and fell back to a more defensible position.

The Loyalists then decided to make a stand on a hill near the Raft Swamp. This hill overlooked a causeway that emerged from the swamp. To slow down the cavalry, they removed the planks of the bridge. While they were preparing their defenses, Major Graham's dragoons surprised them and rode right into the swamp, not bothering to even use the bridge.

Major Graham later wrote:

"The enemy broke and fled as fast as they could, but the stout horses and expert riders of the west soon overtook them; and when they came in contact with the sand-hill ponies, went through, trod down, and turned over horses and riders. After their first fire, the enemy thought of no further resistance, but endeavored to make their escape, and aimed for a branch of Raft Swamp to their front, over which there was a causeway two hundred yards wide. Our troops entered the causeway with them, using sabre against all they could reach. As soon as it was felt, the Tories would throw themselves off each side into the ditch, quitting their horses and making off into the swamp; the dragoons near the front fired their pistols at them in their retreat. By the time the Whigs got half-way through, the causeway was crowded with dismounted ponies for twenty steps before them, so that it was impossible to pass. Two or three stout men dismounted, and commenced pushing them over into the ditch, out of the way. When it was a little cleared, the dragoons rushed over."

Thirty-five of Col. Archibald McDugald's Loyalists tried to mount a defense with the tightly packed Loyalists on the narrow causeway. This did not stop the Patriot dragoons who cut through their ranks. Many were shot and drowned while they were mired in the swamp. The Loyalists were chased down and shown no quarter. There was no massacre due to the numbers of men and horses trying to escape across the causeway impeding pursuit, and due to the approaching darkness.

Major Graham again wrote:

"As the enemy were much scattered and completely beaten, it was thought inexpedient to pursue the victory further. The men were collected by the sound of the trumpet, at the west side of the swamp, and marched back to where General Rutherford had encamped, near McFall's Mill, where they arrived about 10 o'clock at night."

Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford had a reputation for being very cruel towards the Loyalists. His reputation was well founded and even Major General Nathanael Greene warned him to tone down his actions against them.

Major General Greene told him:

"That you are treating the Inhabitants denominated Tories with great severity driving them indiscriminately from their dwellings without regard to age or Sex and laying waste their possessions destroying their produce and burning their houses."

He also told Rutherford that if he continued with his extreme measure he would "authorize the enemy to retaliate."

The Loyalists now knew that they were no match for this large Patriot force and they dispersed to their homes. Others fled to South Carolina, to take up arms there.

The Patriots searched the swamp the next day for any survivors, but found none. They then marched to Brown Swamp and set up camp there again to re-assure the people of the area that even though they had been defeated at that spot a short time earlier, they were not vanquished.

After remaining for several days, Brigadier General Rutherford then moved his army to the outskirts of Wilmington to begin the long-anticipated siege of that British stronghold.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Major Joseph Graham - Commanding Officer

NC State Legion detachment led by Major Joseph Graham with ten (10) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Lilly
- Capt. John Lopp
- Capt. Charles Polk
- Capt. John Rogers
- Capt. Richard Simmons
- Capt. Frederick Smith
- Capt. Minor Smith
- Capt. Robert White
- Capt. Daniel Wright
- Capt. Wynn

Anson County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Patrick Boggan

Bladen County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Thomas Owen, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Peter Robeson

Chatham County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Alexander Clark

Granville County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Blackwell

Guilford County Regiment of Militia detachment of four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Bethel
- Capt. David Humphreys (Surry County)
- Capt. John McAdow (killed)
- Capt. Smith Moore

Orange County Regiment of Militia detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. George Hodge
- Capt. Baxter King
- Capt. William Smith

Randolph County Regiment of Militia detachment, led by Lt. Col. James Dougan, with at least two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Day
- Capt. John Gillespie

Wake County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Lewis Bledsoe

Col. Duncan Ray - Commanding Officer

Royal North Carolina Militia of Anson County, led by Col. Duncan Ray, with 150 men

Royal North Carolina Militia of Bladen County, led by Col. "One-Eyed Hector" McNeill, with 150 men

Royal Militia of Cumberland County, led by Col. Archibald McDugald, with 300 men in two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. "Sober John" McLean
- Capt. Archibald McKay

Fanning's Regiment, led by Major John Elrod, with unknown number of men

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