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.