The American Revolution in South Carolina

Rugeley's Mills

December 4, 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Col. William Washington
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. Henry Rugeley
Killed:

0
Killed:

0
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

0
Captured:

0
Captured:

114
Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Kershaw County

aka Rugley's Mills.

While stationed at Hillsborough, NC with the recently defeated Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, recently promoted Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan learned that Loyalists were moving out of their posts at Winnsborough and Camden and intercepting Patriot supply trains at Lynches Creek. Under Brig. Gen. Morgan was Lt. Col. William Washington with about eighty cavalry only recently reconstituted. When the Loyalists learned of this new force they quickly returned to their posts.

On December 4, Lt. Col. William Washington and his dragoon force were sent by Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan to investigate a report that said Col. Henry Rugeley and a force of Loyalists was located at Rugeley's Mills. Rugeley's Mills was located at Cleremont. When Lt. Col. Washington arrived at Cleremont, he discovered the Loyalist force was inside of a fortified barn that was surrounded by a ditch and abatis. Lt. Col. Washington did not have any artillery so he ordered his men to open fire on the barn with their muskets. This did not do much damage. Washington then decided to try the Quaker gun trick. He had his men make a fake cannon out of a pine log and move it into view of the Loyalists. With this completed, he sent a request for the Loyalists to surrender or be blown up with the "gun".

Col. Rugeley came out with a number of Loyalists and accepted Lt. Col. Washington's surrender demand. Once all of the Loyalists were gathered together, they were marched back to the American camp. Col. Rugeley had 112 Loyalists under his command in the stockade house. Kirkwood gives the date of the surrender as 2 December, stating that the British lost "one Col. One Majr. and 107 privates." The men taken were apparently paroled, and the fort at Rugeley's was burned down. Lt. Col. Washington and his men then returned to Hanging Rock where the Continental light infantry were, and from there went to New Providence. The Continentals soon learned of their new commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene.


Thomas Anderson: “[November] 28 Received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at a moments warning; accordingly left our tents standing, with all our sick behind, and marched to Twelve Mile Creek – this creek is the line between North and South Carolina. From thence we marched to Hanging Rock, where the Infantry remained whilst Colonel Washington, with his Cavalry went down to Colonel Rudgely’s and with the deception of a pine log took the garrison, consisting of one Colonel, Major John Cook, three Captains, Four Lieutenants, and one hundred rank and file. From thence returned to camp with the prisoners, and arrived on the 2nd of December. 100 [miles].” See also Kirkwood’s almost identical entry at 28 November.
Many North Carolina pensioners asserted that they and their leaders were at this engagement, but no historians have identified their participation. The North Carolina Militia units below are derived from hundreds of pension applications submitted in or after 1832. The reader will make up his/her own mind as to the validity.
On May 14, 1833, Pensioner Daniel Ramsey (S4752) recounts the following:

"After remaining at home eight or ten days, he went to Hillsborough & again joined Col. Moore's Regiment the 1st of Sep 1780. There was 19 or 20 baggage wagons along going towards Guilford. In proceeding toward the Reedy Fork of Haw River, [we] found they were to be attacked by the British when Col. Moore & Col. Pickens formed their Regiments for battle & gave the wagons time to go on to the ford of the River. We were attacked by the British; gave them only one fire & removed to the ford of the River. Col. Washington & Col. Lee with their light horse guarded the ford until the wagons passed over.

"At Rugely [sic, Rugeley] Mills, there were a large number of Tories assembled. Cols. Moore & Pickens marched there with their Regiments & found the Tories stationed in a house. We have no cannon, cut a pine log; blacked the end & put it on wheels to represent one in order to deceive them in which we succeeded & took them without firing a gun. [We] carried the Tories from Rugeley's Mill to Salisbury & built a house to confine them. Applicant was then discharged by our Capt [John] Oldham after serving a tour of three months but has lost his discharge many years since."

Known Patriot Participants 

Known British/Loyalist Participants

3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons led by Lt. Col. William Washington with approximately 80 men

Guided by:

Maj. Joseph McJunkin and Thomas Young of the 2nd Spartan Regiment


South Carolina Militia units led by Col. Andrew Pickens, units unknown.
North Carolina Militia units led by Col. William Moore (Caswell County Regiment):

Caswell County Regiment detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Meshack Gentry
- Capt. John Oldham
- Capt. James Wilson

Edgecombe County Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Henry Scarborough

Granville County Regiment detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Bennett
- Capt. William Gilliam
- Capt. Richard Harrison

Lincoln County Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. George Smith

Mecklenburg County Regiment detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. James Byers
- Capt. Francis Miller
- Capt. John Sterns

Orange County Regiment detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Faulkner
- Capt. William Ray
- Capt. Adam Sanders

Warren County Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John White

Franklin County Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Jenkins Devaney

Halifax County Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Isaac Harris

Col. Henry Rugeley, Maj. John Cook, with 112 Loyalists under their command 

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