The American Revolution in North Carolina

Wilmington

July 4-10, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Col. Thomas Bloodworth
British Cdr:

Unknown
Killed:

0
Killed:

4
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

0
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Original County: 

New Hanover County
Present County:

New Hanover County

aka Negro Head Point.


Lt. Col. Thomas Bloodworth wanted revenge for the massacre at Rouse's Tavern earlier that year in March. He could not muster enough men to take on the British in Wilmington, but he discovered a way to inflict death on them from a distance.

While on a fox chase one morning he discovered a tall cypress tree on Negro Head Point, directly across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington. This tree was seventy feet up to the first limb and the base was seven feet in diameter. The fox he had been chasing was inside the hollow tree when Lt. Col. Bloodworth arrived with his dogs. Looking up, he began planning how to avenge the death of his friend Major James Love at Rouse's Tavern.

Lt. Col. Bloodworth was a gunsmith and before the war his family sold fowling pieces at Richard Clinton's Trading Post and Tavern. He made a rifle that could carry a two-ounce ball from the cypress tree at Negro Head Point to the daily British formation area on Market Dock in Wilmington. He practiced shooting long distance at a drawn figure of a man on his barn door. All of this was done in secret, even keeping it from his family.

In early June, he took his son Timothy, also captain in the militia, and his servant Jim Paget to Negro Head Point on the pretense of hunting for racoon. He told the men to bring along some food, for it may be a long hunt. They filled two wallets with provisions and took an auger, a large jug of water, and "Old Bess," his huge rifle. The three of them canoed down the river until they arrived at the cypress tree. He then told his companions of his plan and also told them that they'd be living at the tree for two or three weeks.

The three of them built a scaffold inside the tree and made an opening with the auger. Other holes were bored higher up to admit light and air. They cleared away enough of the leaves and branches so as to have a clear shot at the Market Dock. Lt. Col. Bloodworth trusted that the wind, which normally went down the river, would carry away the smoke and the report of the large rifle.

On the morning of July 4th, he looked out through the bored hole and saw a group of British waiting in front of Nelson's liquor store. Lt. Col. Bloodworth took aim and fired, knocking down one man. Four other soldiers quickly carried the dead man into the store. He fired a second time and knocked down a second man. Those in the tree could hear the beating of the drums as panic set in.*

As a column of soliders marched down the wharf, Jim Paget asked if he could give the long gun a try. Lt. Col Bloodworth acquiesced and Jim took his place on the platform. Jim aimed at the formation and fired. The British broke and ran for cover.

Boats rowed across the river and the British began looking for the source, but none approached their location. The British simply thought it was impossible for a rifle shot to make it from there. The threesome called it a day, ate a small meal, and went to sleep in the hollow tree for the night.

The next morning, Lt. Col. Thomas Bloodworth looked again out of the hole in the cypress tree and saw no one on the wharf. Paget informed him that at grog time the British would line up at the liquor store. At eleven o'clock the soldiers went straight into the store, fearful of the hidden sniper. When there was no shots that morning they became more confident and waited in groups outside the door of the shops.

At noon, Lt. Col. Bloodworth lined up his sights on one of the groups and fired. He saw a soldier fall and then dragged into the shop. A dragoon rode up to the dock peering in the direction of the opposite shore, when he too was knocked from his saddle and into the water.

The snipers continued their deadly hunt for almost a week when a Loyalist told the British that he remembered seeing Bloodworth and two other men go to Negro Head Point with a large rifle of his own manufacture. The Loyalist told them that he was probably concealed on Negro Head Point and they should cut down all the trees and underbrush that could hide a man.

Lt. Col. Bloodworth saw boats coming towards his hiding place and had Jim to close up the hole they had been firing out of. Twenty men landed on the Point and began to cut away the undergrowth with axes. When they arrived at the cypress tree it was late in the evening, and they decided to cut it down the next morning.

Ten men were left on the island with three sentinels watching over them. At first, Lt. Col. Bloodworth thought of tomakawking the guard at the canoe, but Jim was discovered, and the sentinel cried, "who goes there?" Jim made the sound of a wild hog and the guard relaxed and was soon asleep.

Lt. Col. Bloodworth crept up to the sleeping guard, jammed a small stick into his mouth and bound him hand and foot, and the three Patriots then safely escaped.


*Negro Head Point was formed by the confluence of the North West and the North East Cape Fear River branches and was situated about four or five hundred yards in a northwestern direction from Market Street Dock. This would have been a tough shot, but not an impossible one.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Lt. Col. Thomas Bloodworth

Capt. Timothy Bloodworth

Jim Paget - servant

Unknown British soldiers

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