Searcy's Ford.

What: Skirmish, Col. Guilford Dudley vs. *Col. David Fanning, (about) 13 May 1781

Other names: Randolph County NC

Where: 35.5211, -79.5978

Maps: [map notes]


  • A location was arbitrarily selected on the Deep River in the SE corner of Randolph County approximately where Searcy Ferry is shown on 1800 historical map available from Randolph County Historical Society. Map is on order.

  • The location of Searcy's Ford needs to be established by some other means, e.g., old map, land records.

  • Guilford Dudley, "A Sketch of the Military Services Performed by Guilford Dudley, Then of the Town of Halifax, North Carolina, During the Revolutionary War" (search for searcey) describes this action as having taken place at or near Searcy's Ford on Deep River.

  • Guilford Dudley, Pension statement:
    Having left the southern army beyond Camden on the road leading from the ferry there to Friday's Ferry on the Congaree, and returning through that town with my battalion, marched them back into North Carolina on the road General Greene marched them out, where I discharged them at the request of my officers, that they might take the nearest routes to their respective homes, determining myself to take the road leading from Pee Dee to Searcey's Ford on Deep River (where we crossed before) and thence to Chatham Courthouse, being my nearest route home. But when I got upon Little River of Pee Dee, I found the country in my front all the way to Haw River and Chatham Courthouse (on my right down along Drowning Creek and the Raft Swamp to Wilmington, on my left to Uharie Creek and the Yadkin River) in a state of insurrection and parties of armed Tories spreading themselves in every direction before me and on either flank. I nevertheless determined to push on with my baggage wagon and its valuable contents to Chatham Courthouse, not only as my best route home, but as my nearest point of safety, with only one companion in arms, a youth of nineteen years old and a cadet in Washington's regiment of cavalry. But before I got to Searcey's Ford I found we were hemmed in on every side; yet I was still determined to go on and cut my way through if possible, for there was no alternative, and retreat in any direction was equally hazardous for want of correct intelligence from some person upon whom I could rely, for they were all Tories and in arms. Crossing the ford, and leaving the wagon to come on with all expedition, I went forward with my young friend, both of us well armed with sabers and holster pistols.

    I soon fell in with the infamously celebrated Col. David Fanning, a loyalist (Tory), then and long before in the British service, and his party, lately recruited, well armed, and mounted upon the best horses the country afforded, with whom I had two rencounters [sic] in the space of little more than an hour, in the last of which I was forced to give up my baggage wagon with many valuable effects, both public and private, and retreated up the country to Randolph Old Courthouse, in a direction quite contrary to that I wished to go, and chased for about six miles by the party, when they had to decline the pursuit owing to the fleetness of our horses. Finding myself at the courthouse upon the old trading road leading from Hillsboro to Salisbury, I turned down it to the east and reached Bell's Mill on Deep River, three miles below, where I lodged in secret that night, being surrounded at that time by Tories in arms on every side, having traveled sixty miles that day, twenty of which was with my baggage wagon.

    Rising at daybreak the next morning, instead of keeping the direct road down to Hillsboro, about fifty-five miles, I had to turn to my left, among three roads that centered at Bell's Mill, and, directing my course in a north direction, entered the New Garden settlement of Quakers in about sixteen or eighteen miles, considerably above Guilford Courthouse,

  • John C Dann, The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence, pp.217, 225-6 discusses incident at Searcey's Ford on the Deep River. (Don't Have). P.226

  • A search in the NC Archives of Randolph County land grants , after its formation in 1778 and prior to May 1781, yielded two locations of interest. One was on Rocky Creek and some distance from Deep River. The other was in the SE corner of Randolph County, which seems too far away from the roads described by Guilford Dudley. It might be fruitful to search for William Searcy land grants in Guilford County prior to the formation of Randolph County in 1778.

  • Barefoot, Not found.

  • NBBAS:Three P. 235-7: (Note: This is mistakenly identified with Legat's Bridge (Rockfish))
    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.

  • Sherman, "Calendar...". Not found. To avoid long downloads, use option to "Save and view this PDF in Reader".

  • RevWar75   listing. Randloph County NC, 5/13/1781. British victory.

    Related sites: Bell's Mill

    Submitted by: Patrick O'Kelley. Location arbitrarily selected by John Robertson.

    Confidence level: 0