In the early morning hours of February 27, 1776, the militia of the NC Patriots were all lined up with muskets in hand, ready to fire. The Patriots awaited soldiers of Great Britain to come marching across the Moores Creek Bridge in Currie, NC. Though the battle only lasted a few minutes, it had a profound impact on the world for the centuries to come—but more so America, as it was the impetus for the American Revolution.
“A Patriot victory [would] allow North Carolina to become the first colony to send its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence,” says Jason Howell, historic weapons supervisor and park guide for Moores Creek, which became nationally recognized in 1933. According to Howell, on April 12, 1776, the Halifax Resolves was signed and adopted by North Carolina; they were the first official documents calling for the independence of America. It led to a domino effect among the Colonies to converge.
The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge ultimately created confidence and encouragement in the Patriots’ efforts to take on Great Britain. “Nothing was really going right for the Patriots,” Howell remarks. “Preventing the invasion of North Carolina and the Patriots scoring another victory at Fort Moultrie [South Carolina] in June of 1776 really paved the way for the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”
To commemorate the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, the national battlefield will host its anniversary event this weekend, which has been held as far back as the bicentennial celebration in 1976 of the country’s independence. One of the battlefield’s most historical figures, John Grady— the lone Patriot soldier to be slain by the Loyalists—had a monument placed in his honor in the park in 1857. It wasn’t until 1899 the Moores Creek Monumental Association hosted a wreath-laying commemoration on the Patriot monument, also known as “Grady’s Monument,” which was attended by 5,000 people.
“The park changed hands a couple of times from the Monumental Association to the US Army in 1926, and ultimately to the National Park Service in 1933,” Howell explains.
Since 2009, when Howell began working for Moores Creek, the event has evolved into including the program “Stories beyond the Battlefield,” composed of Colonial-style cooking, music and beverages, plus blacksmithing, cartridge rolling, and candle-making. “We try to diversify our programs because we know not everyone likes military history,” Howell says. “Hopefully, these programs will spark and people will want to know more about the park.”
There will be a living history program, also known as an interpretative battle program, which takes place on the battlefield. It will evoke what happened at the actual battle, without any actual firing of guns taking place. One of the leaders of the Patriots, Richard Caswell, who eventually became the first and fifth governor of North Carolina, officially will be portrayed. Sixty people will depict the Patriots who will fire their muskets in a 45-degree angle toward the bridge. Twenty-five people will simulate the Loyalists, who will be playing bagpipes behind the tree on the other side of the bridge letting attendees know they are there. During demonstrations, an announcer will describe how the Loyalists crossed the bridge and eventually retreated to the 1,000 Patriots. As well, the announcer will report on the casualties.
“To honor those Loyalists who died, we have a living historian to go place the British flag on the field in front of the earthworks,” Howell describes. “We have a patriot historian place a Grand Union flag in honor of John Grady. [It was also the] first American flag, known as the Grand Union flag.”
Brochures will be given out describing the events, and historians will be present and happily ready to discuss questions attendees may have. Attendees also can talk with the re-enactors.
In addition to celebratory events, the battlefield focuses on education about North Carolinian history. The Loyalists were made up of Scottish Highlanders, who influenced the North Carolina area. A Loyalist encampment will be set up at Patriot Hall for folks to learn aboiut their heritage, from their clothing (dressed in kilts) to the discussions on the instrments they play (bagpipes). Everything from home—notable places have been named after them such as Scotland Country and Scotland High School, to even names such as Kerr (Kerr Avenue), Cameron (Cameron Art Museum), and MacRae (Hugh MacRae Park)—to military life about the Scotts will be covered.
Moores Creek offers other events throughout the year, such as Junior Ranger Day in April, which gives kids an opportunity to learn about Colonial soldier and civilian life. They also host first Saturday events October through December, which cover how weapons and cannons work. They also give tours by request for school and history groups, as well as individuals. Every November they hold their candlelight tour on the third Saturday, and again events are re-enacted at all points during the battle before, during and after. The event takes place at night and really gives visitors an idea of what it was like for the soldiers battling in the dark, rather than daylight.