Cornwallis' British Army Crossing of the Shallow Ford
From General Joseph Graham and his Papers on North Carolina Revolutionary History, by Major William A. Graham. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1904, pp. 309-310.
[General Joseph Graham, at that time a Captain, was with troops
following on the rear of Cornwallis' army as they marched from
Salisbury toward the Shallow Ford. On February 6, 1781,] "At dark he
had passed all the creeks and arrived at a farm, within ten miles of
the Shallow Ford. There he learned that the rear of the enemy had
passed this place a little before sunset, and that the men were much
scattered on their march, and appeared fatigued. The man of the house
thought they were upwards of two hours in passing, most of the cavalry
being in front. Captain Graham's party camped at this place for the
night, and at the first cock-crowing on the morning of the 7th, set
out, intending to attack the enemy's rear at Shallow Ford; as he
thought it scarcely possible that they could all have passed the
evening before. He proceeded cautiously, and came within half a mile of
the ford by light, and moved up to it, but not a human being was to be
seen. The enemy had all passed over in the night. Some of the officers
ascending a hill above the ford, could see a field in the low ground,
where the whole British army was just parading. As they watched, the
front marched off; soon the whole followed, before sunrise.
"The American cavalry was mortified at coming so far and achieving
nothing. It was decided that twenty of those best mounted, under
command of the Captain, should, after divesting themselves of their
marks of distinction, pass the river. The Lieutenant was ordered to
draw up the others at the ford, to cover their retreat, if pursued, and
to place videttes on the roads some distance in his rear, lest some
parties of Tories might be following the Americans. The party went
over, saw several men whom they did not molest, and who, on being
questioned, made professions of loyalty to the King and showed their
protections. After going about three miles, the two soldiers who were
kept in advance about one hundred yards, made signal of seeing the
enemy. When Captain Graham came up, he saw about fifty dragoons,
marching slowly in compact order. He followed them for two miles
unperceived, but finding that they kept the same order, it was thought
imprudent to go further, as the country that they were in was reputed
to be favorable to the British. Returning about a mile, the Americans
discovered three men in red coats, who fled, but being directly run
down, surrendered. On proceeding further, they met a Hessian and a
Briton, who also fled. On being overtaken, the Briton surrendered, but
the Hessian held his piece at a charge and would not give up. He was
cut down and killed. Before reaching the ford, the Americans took two
armed Tories, who were following them. Having killed one and taken six
prisoners, the party re-crossed the ford."
From Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, Vol. IV, ed. by Adelaide L. Fries, M.A. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1930, p. 1765.
[Bethania, 1781] "Feb. 7. ...The report that the English were there
[in Salem] was without foundation, but it was said that a party of them
had been in Bryant's Settlement. After midnight an express brought word
that about eight hundred of the English had reached Colonel Hound's.
"Feb. 8. ...This evening we heard that the English army under
General Cornwallis had passed the Shallow Ford about three o'clock."
© 1996-2011 Ann Brownlee. This page was created on July 25, 2000 by Ann Brownlee. Last revision August 2011.