The American Revolution in North Carolina


September 26, 1780

Patriot Cdr:

Col. William Richardson Davie
British Cdr:

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis






Original County: 

Mecklenburg County
Present County:

Mecklenburg County

In 1780, Charlotte was a small town of twenty or so houses. After the defeat of Major General Horatio Gates at the battle of Camden in South Carolina, Charlotte became the rendezvous point for the survivors and many refugees from South Carolina. Officers quickly attempted to mold what was left of the army into units then began a march to Salisbury.

The wounded of Camden were transported on wagons, litters, and on horseback. Refugees traveled with the column, mostly made up of women and children. In the rear came the 300 "half-naked" Catawba Indians.

The Mecklengurg County Militia units stayed behind. Col. William Richardson Davie and Capt. Joseph Graham were considered the two most competent soldiers in the state of North Carolina. Capt. Graham had previously been a quartermaster sergeant under Col. François DeMalmedy at Stono Ferry (SC), and had been discharged in August of 1779. He had taken a fever and was exempted from duties for three years. When Virginia Lt. Col. Abraham Buford was massacred at the Waxhaws, the North Carolina militia was called out "en masse," and Joseph Graham became an Adjutant under Col. William Richardson Davie.

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis decided to enter North Carolina because he thought that large numbers of North Carolina Loyalists would join his army. He also wanted to destroy the remaining opposition that had escaped from Camden, South Carolina a month earlier. When he crossed into North Carolina on September 25th, Brigadier General (Pro Tempore) William Lee Davidson issued a call for militia volunteers and then ordered Col. Davie to delay Lord Cornwallis at Charlotte for as long as possible.

On the night of September 25th, Col. Davie's men "hovered around the British army," and captured a number of prisoners. The Patriots moved into an occupied the town of Charlotte, taking key positions.

The next morning, Capt. Joseph Graham's pickets discovered the British advance guard moving towards the town. Col. Davie had placed Capt. John Brandon's company around the court house in the middle of the town. Capt. Graham's militia had protection from a chest-high stone wall also at the court house. Maj. Joseph Dickson and his men were posted in front of Capt. Graham and his men, in houses to the left and to the right of the court house. All were hidden from the approaching British Army.

British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton arrived with his Legion, but he quickly turned command over to Major George Hanger since he himself was sick with Yellow Fever. Capt. Graham's pickets sniped at the British as they deployed into line three hundred yards in front of the court house. The British deployed their cavalry into subdivisions and the infantry into platoons, with one hundred yards between the columns.

Major Hanger charged in typical Tarleton-like fashion. When the Legion cavalry had galloped to within sixty yards of the court house, the Patriots at the wall rose and fired. This volley broke the Legion's charge and they fled. The Legion Infantry pressed onwards.

As the Infantry engaged the flanks, the Legion dragoons reformed and charged the center. After another volley from the fortified Patriots they again withdrew - in confusion. The Legion Infantry and the 33rd Regiment Light Infantry were able to turn Col. Davie's flank, and he had his companies to withdraw and form a single line at the end of the street, one hundred yards from the court house. The Legion dragoons again attempted to break Col. Davie's line, but after receiving an intense fire from the Patriots they retired behind the houses. Lord Cornwallis had ridden to the front and shouted to Major Hanger's men, "Legion, remember you have everything to lose, but nothing to gain."

The Legion Infantry pressed the Patriots and Col. Davie gave the order to disperse through the adjacent woods. The men withdrew to the Salisbury Road and out of town. Capt. Joseph Graham's men collected at Kennedy Creek and waited for the British to appear. The men waited on horseback until a full platoon of British infantry appeared. They fired on the British then immediately withdrew. The British returned fire, but their shot hit trees, doing little damage.

After the war, Major George Hanger described this type of fighting. In An Address to the Army, he wrote:

"The crackers and militia in those parts of America are all mounted on horseback, which renders it totally impossible to force them to an engagement with infantry only. When they chuse to fight, they dismount and fasten their horses to fences and rails, but if not very confident in the superiority of their numbers, they remain on horseback, give their fire, and retreat, which renders it useless to attack them without cavalry; for though you repulse them and drive them from the field, you can never improve the advantage, or do them material detriment."

At Sugar Creek Church, Capt. Joseph Graham and Capt. John Brandon's men held a hill, and began to fire on the Light Infantry that were about 250 yards away. The Light Infantry moved behind trees and fences and fired for nearly half an hour at long distance. Capt. Graham's men returned fire in the same manner, but no damage was done to either side. Maj. Hanger arrived with the Legion Cavalry and charged the Patriots.

Capt. Joseph Graham was badly wounded, with three bullet wounds in the thigh, a sabre thrust in his side, a gash on the neck, and four cuts to the forehead. He wrote of his head wound that, "some of my brains exuded."

Lt. George Locke, the son of Brigadier General (Pro Tempore) Matthew Locke, was cut to pieces by the sabres of the British Legion. He tried to shield himself with his rifle barrel and it was cut in many places. Capt. Graham's men fled to the woods.

When the British withdrew back to Charlotte, they came upon the badly-wounded Capt. Joseph Graham. A British soldier pointed his pistol at Graham's head, but Major Hanger stopped him, saying, "put up your pistol, save your ammunition, he has had enough." Capt. Joseph Graham was left to die, but instead he crawled to a spring near a church.

At sunset, Susan Wilson discovered him. She rushed to get her mother and they brought Capt. Graham back to their home. They nursed his wounds and hid him from the British. Five months later, he would be back in the fight, trying to stop Lord Cornwallis again at Cowan's Ford.

Lord Cornwallis remained in Charlotte until October 14th - soon after hearing the bad news that Major Patrick Ferguson had been killed at Kings Mountain seven days earlier. When it came time to leave, many of his men were unable to march due to a recent breakout of Yellow Fever. Major George Hanger soon became sick with it and had to leave the British Legion, never to return to duty with that regiment.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. William Richardson Davie - Commanding Officer

NC State Cavalry-Western District Regiment led by Col. William Richardson Davie, Lt. Col. DeBrisbourn, Maj. Joseph Dickson, Maj. James Rutherford, Maj. Salter, and Maj. James White, with seventeen (17) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Alexander
- Capt. James Byers
- Capt. John Clark (wounded)
- Capt. Henry Connelly
- Capt. Thomas Cook
- Capt. Thomas Dougan
- Capt. William Gardner
- Capt. Daniel Gillespie
- Capt. Joseph Graham (badly wounded)
- Capt. John Harris
- Capt. Samuel Hart
- Capt. William Hart
- Capt. Robert McKnight
- Capt. David Reed
- Capt. Russell
- Capt. James Wauchope
- Capt. Oliver Wiley

Rowan County Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Brandon
- Capt. John Locke

Anson County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Maj. George Lee Davidson, with 70 men

Granville County Regiment of Militia "Mounted Volunteers" detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Snead

Halifax District Brigade of Militia detachment led by Lt. Col. William Brickell, with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt Blantain (Warren County)
- Capt. Sterling Clarke (Warren County)
- Capt. Elisha Hurt (Halifax County)
- Capt. Robert Temple (Franklin County)

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis - Commanding Officer

33rd Regiment of Foot, led by Lt. Col. James Webster, with at least one (1) company of Light Infantry led by:
- Capt. William Gore

71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders), 1st Battalion, Light Infantry company led by:
- Capt. Campbell

Royal Regiment of Artillery with two 3-pounders and one 6-pounder

British Legion, led by Major George Hanger, with two (2) known companies of cavalry (100 men) led by:
- Capt. David Kinlock
- Capt. Charles Campbell

Two (2) known companies of infantry (60 men), led by:
- Capt. Patrick Stewart
- Capt. Charles McDonald

Volunteers of Ireland detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Doyle, with 60 men










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