The American Revolution in North Carolina

Alamance River

March 7, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Capt. Robert Kirkwood
British Cdr:

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton






Original County: 

Orange County
Present County:

Alamance County

The day after the skirmish at Whitesell's Mill, Col. Otho Williams decided to attempt surprising Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton at his own camp. Col. Williams dispatched Capt. Robert Kirkwood and his Delaware Continentals along with forty riflemen to make this attempt.

After reconnoitering Lt. Col. Tarleton's camp, Capt. Kirkwood and his men attacked at one o'clock in the morning. Lt. Col. Tarleton's sentries challenged Capt. Kirkwood's men, and when they received no answer they immediately fired and ran to their guards. One was captured and he was forced to guide the Patriots to one of the guard posts. The Patriots fired upon these guards and Lt. Col. Tarleton hurriedly formed him men and moved his camp two miles away - next to the main British army.

As he marched his men to the main British camp, Lt. Col. Tarleton ran into a large group of Loyalists who were also marching in to join up with Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis. Lt. Col. Tarleton incorrectly assessed that these were Patriots and his men began to cut them down. The Loyalists also incorrectly assumed that the British Legion were Patriot forces and they returned a heavy fire.

Sergeant Major Seymour wrote, "There commenced a smart skirmish in which great numbers of Tories were sent to the lower regions."

This was the last straw for many Loyalists in North Carolina. After Pyle's Defeat at Haw River and now this fratricide by Lt. Col. Tarleton, very few new Loyalists came to fight for Lord Cornwallis.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Capt. Robert Kirkwood - Commanding Officer

Delaware Continentals - Unknown number

40 Riflemen - Unknown unit

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton - Commanding Officer

British Legion - Unknown number


© 2009 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved