The British Are Coming!

Charlotte battle helped spark turning point in war

The small bandof perhaps three hundred patriots huddled behind a three-foot wall at the courthouse and hid among the fences and houses along Tryon Street.  The date was September 26, 1780, during the Revolutionary War, and the 2,300-man British Army commanded by General Charles Cornwallis was marching north out of South Carolina.

The patriot militiamen were commanded by Colonel William R. Davie, later to become governor and founder of the University of North Carolina. Although they were greatly outnumbered, the patriots intended to execute a delaying action against the British troops.

A unit of British cavalrymen was first to storm up the hill toward Tryon Street. Convinced the militia could be easily dislodged, the British commander ordered his troops to gallop full speed toward the courthouse with swords flashing. Davie ordered his men to hold their fire until the British were in range. As the British troops neared the courthouse, the hidden militia emerged from behind the rock wall and fired volley after volley, forcing the cavalrymen to retreat.

The militiamen were finally forced to retreat north along Tryon Street, past Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church and towards the Rocky River. Cornwallis and his forces occupied the little village, but the British general would soon realize that his expected push through the Carolinas would end in Charlotte.

British foraging parties were driven away and British couriers were killed by patriots waiting in ambush. "There's a rebel behind every bush," declared the distressed British general. "It's a veritable nest of hornets."

The battle at nearby Kings Mountain on October 7 broke the back of the British drive northward and three days later Cornwallis broke camp in Charlotte and pushed back into South Carolina. Never again would the British ride the crest of a victorious surge northward.

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