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Home North Carolina Duplin County City of Tin City Historical Markers Battle Of Rockfish

Battle Of Rockfish

NC-11, Tin City, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 34° 44' 40.49376", -77° 58' 34.96584"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"The British under Major Craig defeated the North Carolina Militia, Aug. 2, 1781, 300 yards S.E."
     Near the end of the Revolutionary War, Rockfish Creek in Duplin County was the site of a limited military encounter. The Battle of Rockfish took place on August 2, 1781, between British Major James H. Craig’s forces and the Duplin County militia under Colonel Thomas Kenan, supported by troops led by General Richard Caswell. The skirmish was part of a general campaign by Craig’s men throughout the Cape Fear Region in the late summer of 1781. The fight resulted in a clear defeat of the Patriot forces, but proved inconsequential with Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown in October 1781.

     Major James Craig and his forces gained control of Wilmington, both the town and the port, in January 1781. With the takeover, Craig’s troops gained eighteen fully supplied ships to add to their arsenal. For the next six months, Craig used Wilmington as a base from which his troops carried out attacks in the Cape Fear region. Throughout their attacks on the countryside, Craig and his men worked to enlist Loyalists and arrest Patriots, providing the British with a strong position in the areas surrounding present-day New Hanover County.

     In the early summer of 1781, Craig issued an ultimatum to the inhabitants of the Cape Fear region: pledge an oath of loyalty to the Crown and enlist in the Loyalist militia or suffer the consequences. On August 1, 1781, when the declared grace period ended, the British forces under Craig began to pillage the countryside around Wilmington. Early in their exploits, the British forces encountered the Patriot militia of Duplin County, under the command of Colonel Thomas Kenan, at Rockfish Creek.

     General Richard Caswell’s forces supported Colonel Kenan’s militia, together numbering around 330 men, when they met Craig’s troops at Rockfish Creek on August 2, 1781. There was a briefly intense battle, but the Patriots soon withdrew, lacking proper supplies. They were easily defeated, as they were poorly armed and inexperienced compared with Craig’s army, which included around sixty horses and two infantry companies.

     About sixty Patriots were killed in the skirmish, and Craig took an additional twenty to thirty Whigs captive. Following the battle, Craig and his men remained in Duplin County for ten days before returning to Wilmington. Although the Duplin Patriot militia continued its harassment of Craig’s men, no further battles or skirmishes resulted. Following Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown in October 1871, Major Craig and his troops were forced to withdraw from Wilmington, destroying the supplies and weapons they could not transport while en route to Charleston.

William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Faison McGowen and Pearl McGowen, Flashes of Duplin’s History and Government (1971)
Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter, III (2005)
Dan L. Morrill, Southern Campaign of the American Revolution (1993)
Jennifer F. Martin, Along the Banks of the Old Northeast: The Historical and Architectural Development of Duplin County, North Carolina (1999)
Battle Of Rockfish Historical Marker Location Map, Tin City, North Carolina