The American Revolution in North Carolina

Seven Creeks

November 16, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Major Joseph Graham
Loyalist Cdr:

Major Micajah Gainey (SC)






Original County: 

Brunswick County
Present County:

Columbus County/
Brunswick County

Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford ordered Major Joseph Graham and part of the NC State Legion to go out and reconnoiter the British defenses around Wilmington. Around midnight, Major Graham and his men were patrolling deep into Brunswick County, south of Wilmington, at a place named Seven Creeks, not too far from the South Carolina border.

South Carolina Loyalist Major Micajah Gainey detected the Patriots and ambushed them. Major Graham immediately charged, killing one of Major Gainey's men and wounding two others. Lt. Clark of Major Graham's force was killed, as were several horses.

Major Graham later wrote that Major Gainey was under truce with Brigadier General Francis Marion in South Carolina at the time, "but it appears he did not consider it binding in North Carolina."

The next morning, Lt. Col. Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee arrived and informed Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford about the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.

After Lord Cornwallis left Wilmington and marched northward, the British remaining in Wilmington were now vulnerable. By early November of 1781, they were already planning to leave, and the Patriots decided to force their departure by surrounding the town and not allowing any foraging parties out into the nearby countryside.

The following account comes directly from Major Joseph Graham in his memoirs - published under the title of "General Joseph Graham And His Papers on North Carolina Revolutionary History," by Major William A. Graham, Lincoln County, NC, published by Edwards & Broughton, Raleigh, NC in 1904:

".... Rutherford wrote that he had been informed by deserters that since the town had been hemmed in, the enemy had dispatched several barges and some troops - British and Tories - down the river, as we supposed, to Fort Johnston, Lockwood's Folly, or Shallot River, for the purpose of getting supplies, of which the action of our troops had deprived them through the usual channels; and he ordered Colonel [Robert] Smith to send a detachment around in that direction to prevent this, if possible, or route such parties of Tories as might be found embodied.

"Major Graham was ordered on this service with Polk's dragoons, Captain Caruther's mounted troops from Mecklenburg, Captain Smith's mounted troop from Surry, and part of Captain Sapp's [Lopp's] mounted troop from Rowan, under Lieutenant Monroe. In the whole, ninety men took the road down the river. The bridge on Town Creek being destroyed, we had to make a considerable circuit.

"At Brunswick, we saw a small craft at a distance, but could not ascertain her character; were informed that the barges which came down the river had passed through the new inlet at Fort Johnston. All was silent; no enemy was to be seen on land or water. The party took the route by Lockwood's Folly and Shallot River. Several Tories we met, and who fled, were taken after receiving a cut or two with the dragoons' sabres; we continued across the Newcomb River, and encamped at a place called Seven Creeks, not far from the South Carolina line.

"It had rained in the day, and was cold; the night was cloudy, and sometimes it was dropping. From some old houses the men had taken clapboards to make a kind of tent for shelter. The commanding officer assisted the officer of the day in placing the guard.

"Colonel Gainey, who commanded the Tories in South Carolina, between the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Drowning Creek [Lumber River], and who was at this time under a truce with General Marion, by some means or other had had notice of a party of the North Carolina Whigs being so near his district, and had collected about eighty of his adherents, and about 11 o'clock at night passed silenty and undiscovered along a ravine, between where the sentries were not more than sixty yards apart, and placed his men with fifty steps of our camp. A single gun was first fired, which made an alarm, but before the men had time to rise, a full volley was discharged on the camp.

"In the tent of boards, under which Captain Caruthers and six men lay, it appeared next morning ten balls had gone through, none more than five feet high; but when the fire came, his men had not got on their feet, and only one was wounded. A young Dutchman of Lieutenant Monroe's command, was lying with his head on a flat pumpkin for a pillow; two balls went through his pumpkin, but escaped him.

"The horses of the cavalry were scared - nearly one-third broke; the men began to rally about thirty steps in the rear of their tent. Those of the dragoons who got their horse mounted without saddles. About twenty formed; but the point of a fence was between them and the enemy. They were ordered to oblique to the left from behind the fence. The movement made some noise.

"The enemy by this time had loaded their pieces and discharged another volley at them. While their guns were empty was deemed a favorable opportunity, and the dragoons were ordered to charge, which they did rapidly and with a shout. Gainey's men fled and dodged behind the trees - only one was discovered and cut down. In so dark a night they easily made their escape.

"The infantry had formed, and came on after the cavalry for two hundred yards. The enemy were much scattered, and were heard endeavoring to collect in a swamp to which they mostly fled, about a quarter of a mile off. The Whigs were called back into a field near their camp to lie on their arms until daylight. A detachment was then sent on the enemy's trail four miles, but they had passed into South Carolina.

"We had one man killed - Lieutenant Clark - and three others wounded; four horses were killed, two of which were shot down under the dragoons when they charged, and several horses wounded. Only one of the enemy was killed. After burying the soldier and fixing the wounded for travelling, the party marched up to the White Marsh and encamped at Marsh Castle.

"It was believed that Colonel Gainey might get reinforced and make another attack at this place. Considerable defenses were made with fence rails, in such a manner that if the enemy had come, he would have been under a cross fire in all directions. Gaps were made in the enclosure for the cavalry to move whenever wanted.

"On the next day marched by Waccamaw Lake and joined Colonel Smith above Livingston Creek. On the succeeding day, heard considerable firing of small arms in the direction where General Rutherford lay. In the evening, Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, of the United States Legion, arrived. He had come by way of General Rutherford's camp from the American headquarters at Yorktown, in Virginia, and brough intelligence that Lord Cornwallis and the British army were captured on the 19th of October; and that General Rutherford, on receiving the news, had drawn up his army and fired a "feu de joie," which was the firing we had heard."

In his 1832 pension application, Jonathan Clark (S2438) asserted:

"Major Graham and myself were sent with about 60 men further to the South we were attacked by the British & Tories in the night lost one man killed & six wounded - myself slightly wounded - lost ten horses including my own..." [edited slightly]

In his 1832 pension application, John Smith (R9831) asserted:

"Major Grimes [sic, Graham] was dispatched with 80 picked men to Waggamaw River [sic, Waccamaw River] 70 or 80 miles, I suppose from Wilmington to disperse some Tories who with the British officers, were reported to be engaged in recruiting men for the British Army. We had several skirmishes while we were gone and killed a British Lieutenant and some Tories. Capt. Charles Poke [sic, Polk] was in company and killed one or 2 Tories who were found having some of our forces in possession the morning after we had been attacked in the night. We lost one man killed and 2 or 3 wounded. My messmate was killed."

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

NC State Legion detachment led by Major Joseph Graham, with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Carruth
- Capt. Charles Polk
- Capt. Minor Smith
- Capt. Daniel Wright
- Lt. Jonathan Clark (killed)
- Lt. Monroe

Chatham County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Alexander Clark

Total of ~90 Dragoons

Major Micajah Gainey - Commanding Officer

Little Pee Dee River Loyalist Militia (SC)

Total of ~80 men






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