The American Revolution in North Carolina

Rockfish Creek

August 2, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Brig. Gen. William Caswell
British Cdr:

Maj. James Craig
Killed:

60
Killed:

Unk
Wounded:

included in above
Wounded:

Unk
Captured:

30
Captured:

0
Original County: 

Duplin County/New Hanover County
Present County:

Duplin County/Pender County

aka Rock Creek, located east of present-day Wallace. One source asserts this engagement happened on 7/15/1781. Another source asserts this engagement happened on 8/3/1781.


In August of 1781, Maj. James Craig, occupying commandant of Wilmington, announced that anyone who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the King would forfeit his property and his life. Since no one would come to his headquarters in Wilmington, he decided to go find the Whigs in the countryside.

As Maj. Craig left Wilmington, Brig. Gen. James Kenan and the Duplin County Militia (~150 men) were lying in ambush behind breastworks lining Rockfish Creek. Brig. Gen. William Caswell's militia (~180 men) arrived just before the fight and reinforced them. Since Kenan had only recently been commissioned a Brigadier General, Caswell had seniority and is listed as the official commander for this engagement - even though this engagement was on Kenan's turf.

[Interestingly, all the men under Caswell later recounted that they were under Kenan at this engagement.]

When Maj. Craig and his men arrived, there was a brief and intense fight until the militia ran out of ammunition - a chronic problem during the summer of 1781. When the British brought up their artillery and fired, the Patriots withdrew. Maj. Craig's cavalry charged and the militia ran. Capt. John Gordon's dragoons ran them down and took thirty prisoners.

Brig. Gen. James Kenan later wrote that Capt. John James of Duplin County acted bravely during the heated contest.

Maj. Craig remained in Duplin County for ten days and burned down the homes of anyone who would not take the oath of allegiance. Three hundred Loyalists came to his camp and joined his army. Then, Maj. Craig marched on to New Bern, the Patriots struck his army whenever possible. However, there were no pitched battles because the Patriots did not have the ammunition to take a stand.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brig. Gen. William Caswell - Commanding Officer

New Bern District Brigade detachment led by Brig. Gen. William Caswell with ~180 men in the following seven (7) known companies:
- Capt. Baker (Edgecombe County)
- Capt. James Green (Craven County)
- Capt. William Hall (Nash County)(Wounded/POW)
- Capt. Jacob Johnston (Dobbs County)
- Capt. Edmund McKeel (Beaufort County)
- Capt. Nicholas Murphy (Franklin County)
- Capt. John Rogers (Mecklenburg County)

Wilmington District Brigade detachment led by Brig. Gen. (Pro Tempore) James Kenan with ~150 men from the following two (2) regiments:

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

Duplin County Regiment of Militia led by Maj. Benjamin Hicks and Maj. John Moulton, with sixteen (16) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Nicholas Bowden
- Capt. Jacob Carnega
- Capt. William Dickson
- Capt. David Dodd
- Capt. John Giles (Johnston County Regiment)
- Capt. James Gillespie
- Capt. John James
- Capt. Jonathan Parker
- Capt. Asa Pipken
- Capt. Shadrack Stallings (maybe, maybe not)
- Capt. Jonathan Taylor
- Capt. Charles Ward
- Capt. Jesse Ward
- Capt. Aaron Williams
- Capt. Frederick Wills
- Capt. James Wright


Total Patriot Forces - ~330 men

Maj. James Craig - Commanding Officer

82nd Regiment of Foot (The Hamilton Regiment), led by Maj. James Craig, with 250 men

Royal Regiment of Artillery, with unknown number of men and unknown number of field pieces

NC Independent Dragoons, led by Capt. John Gordon, with 78 men


Total British Forces - ~325 men

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© 2012 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved