Britons Under Craig Rout Militia, 1781

Battle of Rockfish - The British under Major Craig defeated the North Carolina Militia. Aug 2. 1781. 300 yards S.E.On August 2, 1781, British forces clashed with the North Carolina Militia near Wilmington in a skirmish now known as the Battle of Rockfish.

In the months following his January 1781 capture of Wilmington, British Major James Craig issued a proclamation threatening the loss of life and property to all who would not swear loyalty to English King George III. When the period for taking the oath expired largely unheeded, Craig began to devastate the territory around Wilmington.

On August 2, his troops found their path through Duplin County blocked by a Militia force under the command of former state governor Richard Caswell and Thomas Kenan. The militiamen were posted behind breastworks bordering the bank of Rockfish Creek.

A skirmish ensued, ending when the militiamen ran out of ammunition and were forced to withdraw under a barrage from the British artillery. Casualties were slight, with perhaps 60 militiamen killed and another 30 captured.

Craig continued his marauding and recruited 300 Tories. His local success was negated by the surrender of the main British force in the South under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19.

Craig evacuated Wilmington on November 19.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.