The North Carolina Visitor Center




Battle of Raft Swamp

Revolution in Robeson
by Blake Tyner, Historian

While Robeson County was not the scene of major battles of the American Revolution, there were many skirmishes and encounters between the Patriots and Tories who backed the British crown. The only physical reminders of the Battle of McPhaul’s Mill and Battle of Raft Swamp are two historical markers and a 1941 mural at the Red Springs Post Office.

McPhaul's Mill and Tavern became a rally point for the Tories, referred to at the time as rendezvous for all the Tories east of the Yadkin River at least during the latter part of the Revolutionary War. At 11:00 on the morning of September 1, 1781, the Patriots under leadership of Col. Thomas Wade were attacked by the combined force of British Colonel David Fanning’s 225 cavalrymen and Tory Colonel Hector McNeill with seventy enlisted men and numerous recruits. Wade’s men mounted a furious counter assault on the numerically superior and better positioned enemy. The battle lasted for approximately two hours and evolved into stiff hand-to-hand combat.

Wade reported only four men wounded, while Fanning reported the Patriots’ loss as nineteen dead and fifty-four prisoners. Fanning’s casualties were five wounded and five dead horses.  William Lowrie, grandfather of Henry Berry Lowery, was piloting Col. Wade’s men across Drowning Creek when he was attacked by Tory James McPherson.  He received a severe sword cut to his left hand and was said to have been granted a federal pension. 

The Patriots arrived at McPhaul’s Mill on October 15th to discover that four hundred Tories had fled about an hour earlier and were in rapid flight down the Raft Swamp. Setting out in hot pursuit, the Patriots quickly caught up with and subdued the Tories’ rear guard, then made a dash to the bridge crossing the swamp in an effort to stop the main Tory body. Hand-to-hand fighting, using sabers, erupted with many, including horses, being thrown into the water. A number of the embattled Tories were able to break away, reassembling across the swamp in a field. But being in no position to withstand the charging dragoons, they fled into the nearby swamp, thus bringing to an end the Battle of Raft Swamp. The Tory loss was given as sixteen killed and about fifty wounded; the Patriot loss was one killed, and about thirty wounded.