IN the beginning of 1776, Congress ordered General Lee to the command of the southern department, which embraced the states of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. Four brigadier-generals, created on 1st of March, were directed to join him, one of whom was JAMES MOORE, of North Carolina.
The patriotic citizens of this state were among the first to rally to the standard of liberty, and it is believed that upon her soil was shed the first Tory blood in the Revolution. There existed here bands of "Highlanders," and "Regulators;" and the latter undertook to set law at defiance and reform the condition of society; and when united with the former, in defence of the royal cause, they became a formidable body. General McDonald, one of the Highlanders, was appointed to the command, and erected the king's standard at Cross Creek, where his force amounted to fifteen hundred men. Upon intimation of this movement of the Tories, Colonel Moore, at the head of the first continental regiment raised in the province, and such portion of the militia of the district of Wilmington as he could collect, took the field with a few pieces of cannon, and halting near the bridge on Rocky river in the county of Cumberland, about twelve miles from Cross Creek, fortified a camp, and patiently sat down to wait their proceedings. In the mean while, Colonel Caswell and Colonel Lillington, who commanded the minute men of the districts of Newbern and Wilmington, joined by some parties of militia and a few volunteer corps, encamped on the bank of Moore's creek, near its junction with the South river, in the county of New Hanover.