The American Revolution in North Carolina

Ramsey's Mill

March 19, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Major Pleasant Henderson
British Cdr:

Lt. General Charles,
Lord Cornwallis






3 or 4
Original County: 

Chatham County
Present County:

Chatham County

Soon after the battle of Guilford Court House, Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis decided to take his army to Wilmington, where they could be rested and resupplied. A third of his army was sick and wounded and "the rest were without shoes." He stopped at Ramsey's Mill on the Deep River to tend to his wounded and to procure provisions from the locals.

While there, Lord Cornwallis ordered a bridge to be built across the river. Thomas Riddle and his riflemen occupied a house across the river and they fired on the bridge builders, inflicting numerous casualties.

When Lord Cornwallis had entered North Carolina back in January to pursue Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, Governor Abner Nash ordered a regiment of two hundred mounted infantry to be raised. He gave command to Col. Francois DeMalmedy, Marquis of Bretagne. Major General Nathanael Greene ordered Col. DeMalmedy to attempt to lure part of the British Army away from the battle of Guilford Court House, therefore the NC Light Dragoon Regiment was not involved in the actual battle.

Major General Greene then ordered Col. DeMalmedy to move his dragoons between the Rocky River and the Haw River to intercept any supplies heading towards the British. He also ordered them to spread the word about the results of the battle of Guilford Court House to discourage any Loyalists from volunteering. Col. DeMalmedy then ordered Capt. Baron DeGloback to attack Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton's dragoons in order to draw them out and to lead them into an ambush manned by Major Pleasant Henderson with four other companies under his command.

Capt. DeGloback's company rode to within forty yards of two pickets, and when they fired the Patriots charged. About thirty sentries ran to support the pickets, but after seeing the charging cavalry they turned and ran. Capt. DeGloback captured three Jäegers but soon became surrounded by the entire Jäeger regiment. He could not return the way he came and instead charged towards the British camp and around their flank. He and his men escaped through a storm of buckshot with their prisoners - without a scratch.

Lt. Col. Henry Lee and his Legion were ordered to cross the river ten miles above the stream, make a night march, and attack the British at Ramsey's Mill from the rear. He learned that the British had been reinforced and thought that this attack was beyond his men's capabilities, so he called off the attack. Lord Cornwallis then learned that Lt. Col. Lee was on his way so he hurried his army across the Deep River and destroyed his newly-built bridge. Lt. Col. Lee arrived just afterwards.

Not long after Lord Cornwallis's departure, Major General Nathanael Greene arrived and remained at Ramsey's Mill for several days to replenish his supplies. While there, he contemplated what his next move should be. Lt. Col. Henry Lee recommended going back into South Carolina to destroy the many British outposts in the backcountry - now that Lord Cornwallis was gone, these were now move vulnerable than before. On April 4th, Major General Greene decided to return to South Carolina.

Lt. Col. Henry Lee's Legion was reinforced with the Maryland Continental company under command of Capt. Edward Oldham, and these two were ordered to march towards Cross Creek in Cumberland County, North Carolina to make Lord Cornwallis think that all of Greene's army was still in pursuit. At some point, Lt. Col. Lee turned south and marched his men for Fort Watson on the Santee River in South Carolina and joined up with Brigadier General Francis Marion of the South Carolina Militia.

Major General Nathanael Greene then sent Expresses to Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, Brigadier General Francis Marion, and Brigadier General Andrew Pickens in South Carolina that his army was returning to South Carolina to finish what they had started four months earlier.

In his 1832 pension application, William Davis (S31158) asserted:

"....after the engagement was over (battle of Guilford Court House) & Greene commenced his pursuit of Cornwallis the horse under the command of Col. Malmedy were ordered in front & at Ramsey's Mill we overtook the British & charged on the rear guard of Cornwallis Army & took four prisoners & got two of our men slightly wounded..."

In his 1832 pension application, John Taylor (S7684) asserted:

"... while Cornwallis was at Ramsey's Mills, Col. Malmedy ordered an attack on Tarleton's Dragoons in order to draw them out in pursuit, that Major Pleasant Henderson with a detachment placed in an ambush might attack them when thus drawn out. The command of this attack I have recently been informed was given to DeGloback a young Frenchman, though I had always believed he was subordinate to myself. The necessary preparations having been made DeGloback and myself set out at the head of the company ordered to make the attack consisting, I think, of about 40 men.

"Riding side-by-side DeGloback remarked to me that one or the other of us would in all probability be killed. To which I replied if they kept double pickets perhaps we both would be. In a little time accordingly we saw two pickets after getting within about 40 yards they fired at us, and we rushed forward at full speed. The pickets ran a short distance when they joined 20 or 30 more of their fellows who had been stationed as sentries to the main body. The whole of them then ran in the direction of the main body which was perhaps two or 300 yards further on; but they were overtaken by us and three of them taken prisoners.

"While our attention and operations were thus directed to the guard, before we were aware of it, we were nearly surrounded by about 400 Hessians, and being unable to return in the direction in which we made the attack, were compelled to retreat in a different direction although the enemy assailed us with a shower of shot, we sustained not the least injury and brought off our prisoners. In conversation with Major P. Henderson afterwards he said he felt 3,000 shot had been fired at us.

"I have understood that Tarleton refused to pursue us suspecting that it was a decoy of General Greene. The prisoners were ordered by DeGloback to be executed on the pretense that the enemy would pursue us, but this order was countermanded by me."

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

NC Light Dragoons detachment led by Major Pleasant Henderson with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Baron DeGloback
- Capt. John Henderson
- Capt. John Taylor
- Capt. William Thomas

Orange County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Ray

Lt. General Charles, Lord Corwallis - Commanding Officer

Unknown number of men





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