The American Revolution in North Carolina

Little Raft Swamp

September 1, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Col. Thomas Wade
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. David Fanning






Original County: 

Bladen County
Present County:

Hoke County

aka McPhaul's Mill, aka McFall's Mill, aka Burnt Swamp, aka Beatti's Bridge #2.

Col. David Fanning arrived at McPhaul's Mill on August 27th. He stopped there to rest and to ascertain if there were any more Loyalist groups in the area that his men could collaborate with. He soon learned that Col. Thomas Wade was pursuing Loyalist Col. Hector McNeill because of his recent (Aug. 28th) raid on Fanning's Mill. Col. Fanning sent word to Col. McNeill that he would offer assistance if McNeill wanted it.

Col. McNeill gladly accepted and Col. Fanning rode west eight miles with 155 men to Beatti's Bridge. They arrived the next morning at sunrise and sent out scouts to locate Col. Thomas Wade and his Patriots. The scouts soon returned and told him that Col. Wade was camped on a hill that was in between the Little Raft Swamp and Drowning Creek (now called the Lumber River). The Patriots were deployed into a line facing the swamp, expecting an attack at any moment from that direction.

Being outnumbered two to one never stopped Col. David Fanning. He wrote in his memoirs that to make his force look larger than it was he had horsemen ride with "great Vacancies in order to appear as numerous as possible and to prevent the turning of my flank."

Col. Hector McNeill and his men were supposed to go across the swamp and move around Col. Wade's position to cut off any retreat across Beatti's Bridge.

Around eleven o'clock, Col. Fanning was almost in position when one of his men fell off his horse and discharged his rifle. The Patriots quickly overcame their surprise and fired. Eighteen Loyalists were knocked out of their saddles with the first volley. Col. Fanning's men dismounted and fired as they advanced up the hill towards the line of battle.

The hill was covered with little vegetation and only a few scattered pine trees. It was also angled such that whenever the Patriots rose to fire they were silhouetted against the sky and became easy targets. Most of the Patriots' shots went over the heads of the downhill Loyalists.

In Archibald Murphey's History of North Carolina, he wrote that Col. Fanning was "Dressed in rich British uniform, he rode between the lines during all the fight, and gave his orders with the utmost coolness and presence of mind. It is strange that he had not been selected by some of Wade's men, as he was at the close of the fight not twenty yards distant from them."

When Col. Fanning's men were twenty-five yards away, Col. Thomas Wade decided that he had had enough. He had his men disperse back towards Beatti's Bridge and towards the trap Col. Fanning had prepared. Col. Fanning was again amazed by his cohorts - Col. McNeill had only placed a small force at the bridge. These men were easily pushed aside by Col. Wade's Patriots as they fled across Drowning Creek. Col. Fanning's men remounted and pursued them for seven miles, capturing 54 men and 25 horses.

The battle lasted two hours. Four of the 54 prisoners died from their wounds that night. Col. Fanning paroled many, but sent thirty prisoners to Wilmington. One sent was Joseph Hayes. Loyalist Capt. John Elrod recognized him as the man who had raided his home on the Yadkin River and had assaulted his family. Hayes was sentenced to hang and was immediately strung up to a nearby tree. After hanging for fifteen minutes he was cut down, only to be pronounced by a surgeon that he was still alive. The doctor resuscitated Hayes and he was allowed to live.

Col. Fanning and Col. McNeill departed ways, with the former returning to his base camp at Cox's Mill on the Deep River. Along the way home, Col. Fanning captured Patriot Major Thomas Dougan of the Randolph County Regiment of Militia. Major Dougan had been spying on Col. Fanning trying to discover what his intentions were.

Col. Fanning sentenced Major Dougan to hang but several of Dougan's friends and neighbors who were in Fanning's militia protested. He ignored their protests and put Dougan on a horse with his hands tied behind his back and a noose around his neck. One of his men then stepped forward and threatened to shoot him if Dougan was hanged. Col. Fanning wisely allowed forty men to vote on Dougan's fate. He was spared by a close vote and sent to Wilmington.

Upon arriving in Wilmington, Major James H. Craig also wanted to hang Major Dougan, but Capt. John Elrod and some of Fanning's men spared his life a second time.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. Thomas Wade - Commanding Officer

Anson County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Thomas Wade, with at least four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt Patrick Boggan
- Capt. Alexander "Red" McNeill (Cumberland Co.)
- Capt. John Randle
- Capt. Stephen Tomkins

Richmond County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Thomas Crawford, with at least three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Hunter
- Capt. John Speed
- Capt. William Wall

Chatham County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. John Luttrell, with at least one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Abner Nash

A total of ~450 men.

Col. David Fanning - Commanding Officer

North Carolina Loyalist Militia - 155 men, with at least two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Benjamin Underwood
- Capt. John Elrod

Bladen County Loyalist Militia, led by Col. Hector McNeill, with 70 men









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