Our ride ended prematurely, as I mentioned earlier, at Moores Creek National Battlefield about 20 miles outside of Wilmington, NC. It bills itself as the first victory by the American colonists, in February 1776, and came more than four months before the Declaration of Independence. Depending on who you believe, the fighting lasted as little as three minutes (an early account) or 20 to 30 minutes (the volunteer at the visitors center).
This is a battle that I am guessing doesn’t get much attention beyond fourth-grade North Carolina history class. Basically, a group of Scottish loyalists needed to get to Wilmington to link up with the British. In their way were a few groups of patriots who came together at Moores Creek. The loyalist commander sent an emissary the night before saying give up and all will be forgiven … or else. And reported back that it was just a small group of fighters. The main group was actually across the bridge, and the small group moved there under the cover of night. So when the loyalists attacked just before dawn (with just broadswords, not guns!), well, it didn’t go well. It’s a really swampy area (this is the view from the boardwalk, not the bridge), so no one knows how many drowned as they fled.
Beyond the immediate victory, this battle undermined hopes that the South would side with Britain. Instead, North Carolina was one of the first to instruct its delegates to vote for independence a few months later.
Stopping at sites like this is part of what I enjoy about touring by bicycle. This is not the sort of National Parks Service site that draws lots and lots of visitors. How many will detour off Interstate 40 for this? But it’s on the East Coast Greenway. And I would have stopped even if it wasn’t the end of the ride.
Another factoid: in the aftermath, the patriots captured more than 15,000 pounds, which is nearly $14 million today (maybe I should say $13 million given the pounding sterling has just taken!).
The bridge itself has been replaced many times since the battle, most recently after Hurricane Floyd demolished it in 1999. Here’s hoping Hurricane Matthew doesn’t do the same.