The American Revolution in North Carolina

Shallow Ford

October 14, 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Maj. Joseph Cloyd (VA)
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. Gideon Wright
Killed:

1
Killed:

15
Wounded:

4
Wounded:

4
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Original County: 

Surry County
Present County:

Forsyth County/Yadkin County

The Surry County Loyalists under Col. Gideon Wright and his brother Col. Hezekiah Wright continued to grow in numbers. On October 13th, 500 Loyalists arrived in Bethabara, then marched south to join the British army in Charlotte the next day. Some counted their numbers as high as 900. Along their way, they plundered many Patriots' homes.

Capt. Andrew Carson lived about fifteen miles west of Shallow Ford. When he heard the first reports of a Loyalist uprising he mounted his horse and rode to the headquarters of Brigadier General (Pro Tempore) William Lee Davidson. Davidson commanded the Salisbury District Brigade of Militia near Charlotte and had assumed command two weeks after Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford was captured in mid-August at the battle of Camden, SC.

Brigadier General (Pro Tempore) Davidson assigned 52 men to Capt. Andrew Carson and sent them out to meet the Loyalists under the Wrights.

In the meantime, Lt. Richard Vernon had to take over command for Capt. George Peay who had become sick and unable to ride. Vernon wrote that Col. John Peasley had also been sent with 750 militia from Guilford County (part of the Salisbury District) to find and "to disperse a body of about 380 Tories collected on the Shallow Ford of the Yadkin, in Surry County."

Brigadier General Jethro Sumner (NC Continental not captured at the Fall of Charleston - leading several militia units while waiting for his Continental regiments to be refilled) also dispatched two companies under Capt. Nichols and Capt. Miller to do the same. Four companies from Montgomery County, Virginia under Maj. Joseph Cloyd had followed the forces headed to meet Major Patrick Ferguson - when they learned of Major Ferguson's defeat at Kings Mountain they were sent to Surry County in North Carolina. This disparate Patriot force somehow managed to join up with each other.

On the morning of October 14th, about 350 well-armed Patriots were on the west side of a small stream, near the Shallow Ford crossing of the Yadkin River. They saw the Loyalist force that had threatened the county for the past two weeks - the Loyalists had crossed the Yadkin River and were moving westward, on the Mulberry Fields Road.

A single cry of "Tory! Tory!" was quickly echoed among the ranks of the Patriots. From across the branch came similar cries of "Rebel! Rebel!" Officers on both sides quickly formed ranks and fired across the river.

Capt. Bryan of the Loyalists was the first to fall. Five rifle balls passed through him and his horse. Capt. Isaac Campbell of the Virginia militia was forced to flee under an intense fire, and he left his men to fend for themselves. The Patriots advanced towards the ford as the Loyalists fell back and formed again.

Capt. Henry Francis of the Virginia militia was shot through the head and fell dead on the ground a few steps from his son, Henry. His other son, John, took careful aim and fired at the Loyalist who had killed his father. Though outnumbered, the Patriots quickly gained the advantage and took down several more Loyalists. After exchanging a few more rounds, the Loyalists fled back across the Yadkin River, shouting, "we are whipped, we are whipped."

The Patriots clubbed the wounded Loyalists to death after their comrades had fled. A black Loyalist named Ball Turner continued to fire at the Patriots until they charged his location and riddled him with bullets.

At the close of the battle, three hundred militiamen under Col. John Peasley arrived, along with Col. Joseph Williams of Surry County, who had heard the rifle fire from his home. Major General William Smallwood arrived in Salem the next day with about 150 horsemen, 30 infantry, and three wagons. He had set out from Guilford Court Jouse the day before. Finding that the militia had already defeated the Loyalists, he ordered his militia to pursue those who had fled. Smallwood was a Maryland officer who had been asked to lead all of North Carolina Militia very recently. This irritated Brigadier General Jethro Sumner so much that he resigned his Continental commission on October 15th and went home in disgust with his civilian leaders.

Richard Vernon wrote, "We killed several and took 30 or 40 prisoner. Among the killed was Captain Jas. Bryant. Col. Peasely took charge of the prisoners and we conducted them to Moravian town and left them under guard."

The victory at Shallow Ford dispersed the Wright brothers' Loyalist force in Surry County, and they were never able to gather in such numbers ever again. Hezekiah Wright was later shot and wounded in his own home. His brother Gideon fled to the safety of Charlestown, where he died on August 9, 1782.


In his 1844 pension application affadavit, Henry Ward (R11114) recounted:

"... on the first day of October he joined Lieutenant John Blalock in Captain Gissam Wooldridge's Company of County Rangers for the purpose of pursuing the Tories and in what was called the delinquents he marched from Surry County under Lieutenant Blalock to Salem in North Carolina there joined some troops from Virginia and remained as Rangers for taking the Tories and protecting the Country when Cornwallis marched through NC the said Company was attached to General Pickens Army -- and pursued Cornwallis to near the Virginia line when said Company was detached to return for the protection of the Country against the Tories etc. which duty he was performing as County Ranger under Lieutenant Blalock and Captain Wooldridge until the treaty of Peace in 1783 leaving this deponent and their three little children at home that he followed no other civil pursuit or occupation other than serving his Country -- he was in the Battle at Shallow Ford on Adkin River [sic, Yadkin River]..."


In his 1833 pension appication affadavit, John Snow (S17690) asserted:

"that Captain [Gibson] Wooldridge Beat up for volunteers to march immediately to Surry County against the Tories that he volunteered & was marched to Surry County and there joined a Regiment under Colonel Campbell & was marched to the Shallow Ford & there met the Tories & a Battle ensued that the Tories were defeated with the loss of fourteen killed on the part of theWhigs five were killed..."


In his pension application statement, dated August 13, 1832, Richard Oldham asserted:

"He was also at Briant’s Defeat on the Yad River at the Shallow Ford [sic: Skirmish at the Shallow Ford of Yadkin River 10 mi W of Winston Salem NC, where Loyalist Capt. James Bryan was killed, 14 Oct 1780] – Marched all night from Sloan’s Ferry on the Yadkin to get there. Dudley Runnels [Dudley Reynolds] was his Capt there – went under him from head quarters till his return. This was sometime before the Battle of Guilford, but cannot state the year."

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Maj. Joseph Cloyd (VA) - Commanding Officer

Montgomery County (VA) Militia, led by Maj. Joseph Cloyd, with 160 men in four (4) known companies. led by:
- Capt. Henry Francis (killed)
- Capt. Isaac Campbell
- Capt. George Parris (wounded)
- Capt. Abraham Trigg

Surry County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of thirteen (13) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Joseph Cloud
- Capt. James Gains
- Capt. John Horn
- Capt. David Humphreys
- Capt. Joel Lewis
- Capt. William Terrell Lewis
- Capt. Salathiel Martin
- Capt. Benjamin Parks
- Capt. Arthur Scott
- Capt. Henry Smith
- Capt. William Underwood
- Capt. Gibson Wooldridge
- Capt. Daniel Wright

Rowan County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment led by Maj. Thomas McGuire, with six (6) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Andrew Carson
- Capt. James Miller
- Capt. Jacob Nichols
- Capt. James Noland
- Capt. James Pearson
- Capt. Samuel Reid

Wilkes County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Richard Allen
- Capt. John Chandler

Guilford County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. George Pearce

Caswell County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Dudley Reynolds

Orange County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Faulkner (actually from Caswell)

Caswell County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Wilson

Bladen County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Ephraim Mulford

Col. Gideon Wright - Commanding Officer

Surry County Loyalist Militia, led by Col. Gideon Wright, Col. Hezekiah Wright, with 500 men in four (4) known companies led by:
- Capt. James Bryan (killed)
- Capt. Kyle
- Capt. Lakey (wounded)
- Capt. Ben Burke (killed)

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