Without background, it seems that this area would be an unlikely choice for the scene of a significant Revolutionary War battle. Understanding the dynamics at play, however, explains why the future site of the county seat and Ramsour’s Mill were ideal.
Stanley D.M. Carpenter, Ph.D, is a retired US Navy Captain at the US Naval War College in Newport, RI, and author of Southern Gambit: Corwallis and the British March to Yorktown, and a Raleigh native whose family has lived in the Lincoln and Gaston Counties region since the 1760s. According to Carpenter, British authorities calculated that the majority of southern colonists were loyal. They tended to cluster throughout the colony with the heaviest concentrations among the Highland Scots around Cross Creek (Fayetteville), Cumberland County, along the coast, and among the Germans in what was then Tryon County.
“Since the militia system was based on locality with typically all or most of the men coming from the same locale, both officers and troops, many if not most of the Ramsour’s Mill Loyalists lived with 30 or so miles of the Mill,” says Carpenter. The location was especially perfect to officers such as Lt. Col.John Moore and Major Nicholas Welch, who were native sons of Lincoln County from the Indian Creek settlement.
“That’s only one reason that Ramsour’s Mill was chosen as a mustering point. It also lay on the route of advance into North Carolina for Cornwallis,” says Carpenter. “More specifically, the Piedmont route wove up through the Mecklenburg, Tryon, and Rowan Counties region and then on toward the Hillsborough area. This route represented the Great Wagon Road down from Pennsylvania through Virginia into the Carolinas and was a natural route to take for an operating army, especially if one needed to move swiftly.
“Second, the first thing any force does in the period before embarking on active operations is to prepare food rations,” says Carpenter. “Musters were always at mills where the troops could gather crops and grind corn and wheat.
“Clark’s Creek and the Little Catawba River offered a reliable water source, with the river adding a transportation possibility for men and supplies.”
Several key roads passed through the area leading in all directions, so when the force was ready, they could march out to wherever they needed to be.
Finally, high ground is the most defensible, and the Ramsour’s Mill site offered two areas of high ground where the Loyalist troops encamped and where the main battle wound up being fought.
“So, geographically in 1780-81, Lincolnton was dead in the center of the action and represented the natural muster place for the Loyalist force,” says Carpenter.