The American Revolution in North Carolina

John Alexander Lillington

Colonel over the Wilmington District Minutemen - 1775-1776
Colonel over the 6th NC Regiment - 1776
Brigadier General over the Wilmington District Brigade of Militia -1779-1783

On 9/9/1775, John Alexander Lillington was commissioned as Colonel/Commandant over the Wilmington District Minutemen. He led this regiment at the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on 2/27/1776.

Most historians claim that Col. Richard Caswell of the New Bern District Minutemen led the entire NC military at the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, but it is more likely that Col. John Alexander Lillington was actually in command since the battle took place within his district, and since he was the first commander on the scene. Others assign command to Col. James Moore of the 1st NC Regiment (Continental Line) since he was "in the area" and the "ranking officer," but he was not on the scene of the actual battle until after it was over - he had tried earlier to stop the Loyalists at Rockfish Creek in Cumberland County, but they went around his entrenched force.

All Minutemen regiments were disbanded on 4/10/1776.

On 4/15/1776, John Alexander Lillington was commissioned as Colonel/Commandant over the newly-created 6th NC Regiment on the Continental Line. He resigned on 12/31/1776 citing ill health. He remained a civilian until 1779.

On 2/12/1779, John Alexander Lillington was commissioned as a Brigadier General over the Wilmington District Brigade of Militia, replacing John Ashe, Sr., who had recently been promoted to the state's first Major General over all NC Militia units on 11/18/1778.

Brig. Gen. John Alexander Lillington led the Wilmington District Brigade of Militia at the battles of Briar Creek, GA (3/3/1779), Heron's Bridge (1/30/1781), and Webber's Bridge (8/17/1781).

In December of 1779, Brig. Gen. John Alexander Lillington was assigned to lead the initial NC Militia troops into South Carolina in anticipation of a British invasion. He and his men arrived in January of 1780 and they began the arduous task of erecting breastworks for the defense of Charlestown, SC. Lillington and most of his initial troops were discharged in late March of 1780, well before the town surrendered.

Brig. Gen. John Alexander Lillington took a leave of absence for personal reasons in the late summer of 1781, and James Kenan was appointed Brig. Gen. (Pro Tempore) for less than two months. Brig. Gen. John Alexander Lillington retained this position until the end of the war (assumed, records incomplete).


The town of Long Creek in New Hanover County was renamed to Lillington in 1859; it was changed back to Long Creek in 1874. In 1874, the town of Harnett Court House was renamed Lillington in honor of John Alexander Lillington, and it has been the County Seat ever since.

Although his entire name was John Alexander Lillington, he went by Alexander, and most historical information is simply about Alexander Lillington.

John Alexander Lillington was born c.1725 in Beaufort County, the son of John Lillington and Sarah Porter, and he died in April of 1786 in New Hanover, what became Pender, County. He married Sarah Watters of Brunswick County, and they had two sons and two daughters.

Click Here for a brief online biography of John Alexander Lillington provided by Kay Midgett Sheppard.

Click Here for a photo and brief writeup on the gravesite of John Alexander Lillington.



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