Rockfish Creek, North Carolina
Craig’s Punitive Expedition
2 August 1781
In August Major James Craig announced that anyone who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the King would forfeit his property and his life. Since no one would come to him in Wilmington, he decided to go find the Whigs in the countryside. As Craig left Wilmington Colonel James Kenan and his Duplin County Militia were waiting behind breastworks lining Rockfish Creek. General Caswell’s militia had also reinforced Kenan at the ambush site.
There was a short, intense fight until the militia ran out of ammunition. When the British brought up their artillery and fired the militia decided they had enough and withdrew. Craig’s cavalry charged and the militia ran. Gordon’s dragoons rode them down and took thirty prisoners.
Craig remained in Duplin County for ten days and burned down the homes of anyone who did not take the oath of loyalty. During this stay in Duplin County 300 Loyalists came in and joined his army. When Craig marched to New Berne small mounted parties of Whigs darted among his column, striking whenever possible. There were no pitched battles though, because the Patriots did not have the ammunition to make a stand.