The American Revolution in North Carolina


February 11, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Col. Henry Lee
British Cdr:

Capt. Miller






Original County: 

Guilford County
Present County:

Guilford County

aka Bruce's Crossroads, aka Dix's Ferry, aka Gillies' Death. One source claimed this happened on February 12th. Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton claimed it happened on February 13th.

On the morning of February 11, Col. Otho Williams and his "Light Corps" were eating breakfast at the home of Charles Bruce. One of Bruce's neighbors, Isaac Wright, told them that Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis and his men were nearby.

Col. Williams sent Capt. James Armstrong and three other men of Lee's Legion to investigate. James Gillies, Lt. Col. Henry Lee's 14-year-old bugler, lent his horse to Isaac Wright so the farmer could lead Lee's men to the British. The young Gillies waited on the side of the road with the farmer's nag.

Capt. Armstrong and his men soon found the lead elements of Lord Cornwallis's army and they quickly withdrew. The young lad Gillies saw Capt. Armstrong re-appear being chased by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton's men. Capt. Armstrong and his men raced past the boy and around a curve in the road, where they met Lt. Col. Henry Lee, who had been ordered to go assist Capt. Armstrong.

Lt. Col. Tarleton's men found James Gillies holding the bridle of the farmer's nag at the side of the road and they hacked him to death. Lt. Col. Lee and his men rounded the curve in the road at this point in time and saw the boy's death. Lee's men attacked in a rage, killing seven British immediately. More of Tarleton's men arrived and Capt. Miller rode into the fight and lost thirteen more men. Capt. Miller attempted to escape but Lt. Stephen Lewis rode him down and captured him.

Lt. Col. Lee was furious at the death of Gillies and had ordered Lt. Lewis to show no quarter. When Lt. Lewis returned with Capt. Miller and three other men, Lt. Col. Lee reprimanded Lt. Lewis for not carrying out his orders to show no quarter.

Lt. Col. Henry Lee held Capt. Miller responsible for the boy's death. He gave Miller a pencil and paper and told him to write down his last words to his friends. Just as Miller was about to be hanged, the advance group of Lord Cornwallis's army appeared. Lt. Col. Lee was forced to return to Col. Otho Williams. He sent Capt. Miller to Major General Nathanael Greene as a prisoner of war.

Lord Cornwallis and the remainder of the British army arrived the next day and they buried the British dead alongside the road. Bruce's plantation served as the camp for the British that night.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Lt. Col. Henry Lee - Commanding Officer

Capt. James Armstrong, with three men

Capt. Miller - Unknown number of the British Legion


© 2009 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved