Legat’s Bridge, North Carolina
13 May 1781
Captain David Fanning received word from his scouts that there was a force of Whigs thirty miles away and they were assembling to attack him. He took seventeen of his men and rode all night to do a preemptive strike. At 10 o’clock the next morning he struck the enemy camp of Captain Fletcher. Fletcher’s twenty-five Cumberland County militiamen returned fire for about ten minutes then retreated, leaving behind four killed and one captured. Fletcher took three wounded men with him. Fanning captured eighteen horses from the militia and only had one man wounded. The wounded man was Daniel Campbell, who later died.
After the fight Fanning learned that Lieutenant Colonel Guilford Dudley was coming from Greene’s camp in Camden. Dudley had served with distinction at the battle of Hobkirk’s Hill and had been discharged by Greene on May 10th. His men were returning home with their baggage wagons and had light cavalry escorting them.
Fanning placed his men in an ambush site on the side of the road and waited. After a long wait he decided to see where Dudley was, so he took one other man and rode down the road to conduct a reconnaissance. After riding a mile and a half he ran into Colonel Dudley’s force with their baggage wagon. Fanning turned and sped back to his men with Dudley’s dragoons hot on his heels.
When Fanning reached his men Dudley’s dragoons attempted to fire their pistols several times, but the weapons misfired. Fanning’s men rose from the roadside and fired, killing five of the cavalrymen. Dudley’s dragoons fled with Fanning’s mounted militia in pursuit.
After a two and a half mile chase they captured three of Dudley’s men, the baggage wagon valued at “1,000 Sterling” and nine horses. Fanning decided to break off the pursuit and take his valuable cargo to Cox’s Mill. The baggage was mainly the possessions of Colonel James Read of the Continental Army.
Fanning’s continuous attack on the supply lines to Greene’s army was similar to what Francis Marion had done to Cornwallis’s lines of communication during the latter half of 1780. If Britain had won the war Fanning probably would have been known as one of the greatest partisans of the war.