The American Revolution in North Carolina

Reedy Creek

February 8, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Col. Otho Williams
British Cdr:

Lt. General Charles,
Lord Cornwallis




included in above


included in above
Original County: 

Surry County
Present County:

Forsyth County

Major General Nathanael Greene sent orders to Lt. Col. Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee to abandon his collaboration with Brigadier General Francis Marion in their raids on British outposts in the South Carolina lowcountry. Lt. Col. Lee was ordered to join Greene's army, while Brigadier General Marion was to continue his guerrilla warfare along the Lower Santee River.

In the meantime, Major General Nathanael Greene also sent a request to North Carolina Governor Abner Nash for men and supplies, especially muskets to equip the unarmed militiamen that were appearing daily at his camp.

Never one to remain static in his thinking, Greene decided to create a new group of "Light Corps" to cover his retreat, and he offered command to Brigadier General Daniel Morgan. Morgan's physical health would not allow him to accept and he was granted permission to leave the army until he recovered. The command of this new group of "Light Corps" was given to Col. Otho Williams, Greene's Adjutant General from Maryland.

The Light Corps consisted of the most trusted and effective officers and the most experienced rank and file. This was the Maryland and Delaware Continentals, the cavalry under Lt. Col. Henry Lee and Lt. Col. William Washington, and the Virginia riflemen under Col. Richard Campbell.

Major General Greene issued orders for this Light Corps to keep themselves in between Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis and the British prisoners captured at the Cowpens, who were being marched northward. Lord Cornwallis was at a disadvantage - he had to continue marching over ground that the Patriots had already stripped clean of most food and forage. The Patriots also destroyed any boats along their route to keep the enemy from crossing the rivers easily.

Lord Cornwallis moved his army in a course calculated to intercept Major General Greene and the British prisoners - but he was not sure exactly which route Greene had taken after leaving Salisbury. Therefore, he ordered several patrols to be out in the general area looking for the Patriots.

The first contact came when a British patrol hit some of Col. Otho Williams's troops at Reedy Creek on the main road south of the Moravian settlements. Col. Williams had his men to move on before they could become engaged with the enemy. They also destroyed the bridge over Reedy Creek, which slowed down the British for several more hours. Sergeant Major Seymour wrote that Lt. Col. Lee and his cavalry met "their vanguard, consisting of an officer and twenty men, which they killed, wounded, and made prisoners, all but one man."

This new "Light Corps" forced the British to slow their march because of the constant threat of ambush. Col. Williams had his men to travel on a road in-between the British army and Greene's army, and their position allowed them to intercept any enemy movement towards Greene.

To make sure that he kept pace with the British army, Col. Williams had to come up with a strict schedule. He would not let the men set up a night encampment until nine o'clock, at which time one-half of the men were allowed to sleep, while the other half patrolled the perimeter and did picket duty. Every morning by three o'clock his men were on the move. They did not use tents so they could save time each morning.

One man always stayed awake by the campfire to keep it roaring. A single daily meal would be fixed in the mornings. After marching from the previous night's camp, the men would march to a location that was chosen by other men, who had been sent forward to find a location for breakfast. These men would start fires for breakfast. The first men fed were those who had been on night patrol.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. Otho Williams - Commanding Officer

Light Corps - Unknown number of men

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis - Commanding Officer

Unknown number of men

© 2011 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved