The American Revolution in North Carolina

Wilmington

January 28, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Col. Henry Young
British Cdr:

Maj. James H. Craig
Killed:

0
Killed:

0
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

0
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Original County: 

New Hanover County
Present County:

New Hanover County

After the battle of Cowpens, SC on January 17, 1781, Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis decided to chase after both Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and Major General Nathanael Greene who were leading him into North Carolina and on into Virginia. Prior to leaving South Carolina, Lord Cornwallis sent an order to Lt. Col. Balfour at Charlestown for him to dispatch a detachment of the 82nd Regiment under Major James Henry Craig to leave Charlestown and to go take Wilmington, North Carolina. This would provide the British with a port whereby Lord Cornwallis could receive supplies by way of the Cape Fear River, via Cross Creek (Cumberland County).

Major James H. Craig had been wounded at Bunker Hill and a second time at Hubbardton, Vermont. He had carried Burgoyne's dispatches back to England, and as a reward for his services he was given an appointment as a major in the newly-created 82nd Regiment. He had been with the regiment on the Penobscot Expedition in 1779.

Major Craig sailed from Charlestown on January 21st with 300 troops on board a frigate, two sloops of war, and eighteen other vessels. After sailing up the Cape Fear River, Capt. John Barclay and a contingent of Royal Marines landed twelve miles from Wilmington. They marched over land to the town, while the galleys sailed up the river. The town leaders attempted to gain favorable terms from Capt. Barclay, to no avail.

Fifty men of the New Hanover County Regiment of Militia spiked the seventeen guns (9-pounders and 12-pounders) in the two batteries around the town. Then, the Patriot militiamen left Wilmington to negotiate their own terms of surrender. Their commander, Col. Henry Young, sent large amounts of military stores out of the town so these would not be captured by the enemy. The British promptly seized the town and ignored Col. Young's attempt to negotiate terms for his surrender.

While waiting for Lord Charles Cornwallis to eventually make his way down to the Cape Fear region, Major James H. Craig used his occupation of Wilmington to launch many incursions into the surrounding countryside to harass the local militias and any North Carolina Continentals that might enter his sphere of influence.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. Henry Young - New Hanover County Regiment of Militia, with ~50 men

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Maj. James H. Craig, with a detachment of the 82nd Regiment, including 300 men

Royal Marines led by Capt. John Barclay, with unknown number of men

Frigate HMS Unknown - Capt. Unknown

Sloop HMS Unknown #1 - Capt. Unknown

Sloop HMS Unknown #2 - Capt. Unknown

18 Transport Vessels
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