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Elizabethtown, Battle of

Thomas Robeson, NC Historical Marker, I-37. Image courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives & History. by Beverly Tetterton, 2006

The Battle of Elizabethtown, which took place on or around 27 Aug. 1781 and essentially crushed the Tories' sway in the North Carolina's Cape Fear region, involved one of the great ruses in the state's Revolutionary War history. Bladen County was firmly in the hands of the Tories, or Loyalists, and British forces numbering between 300 and 400 men were headquartered in Elizabethtown. The Patriots, about 60 or 70 men, had been driven from their homes and seen their estates ravaged and their houses plundered or burned. Led by Cols. Thomas Brown and Thomas Robeson, the Patriots knew they would need to rely on cunning and strategy against the militarily superior Tories.

Brown and Robeson devised a scheme in which the inferiority of their forces would be masked by false commands to "phantom" soldiers, intended to be heard by the enemy, to make the Patriot numbers appear greater than they were. Once the battle started, the Patriots went on the offensive, crossing the Cape Fear River and surprising the Tories into a disorganized retreat. The Tory commanders, John Slingsby and David Godden, were both fatally wounded, and their troops scattered into the darkness. Many of them plunged headlong into a deep ravine near the river, which has been known ever since as "Tory Hole." When the smoke of battle cleared, 17 Tories were either dead or mortally wounded. Not one Patriot was killed, and only 4 were wounded. In 1939 the state of North Carolina erected a historical marker on Main Street in Elizabethtown, memorializing the battle and the famous Tory Hole.


R. F. Beasley, The Battle of Elizabethtown (1901).

Bladen County Historical Society, Battle of Elizabethtown (1957).

Image Credit:

Thomas Robeson, NC Historical Marker, I-37. Image courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives & History. Available from (accessed June 1, 2012).

Battle of Elizabethtown, Elizabethtown Town Chamber of Commerce:



My relative Elizabeth Detheridge married and had a son Henry Miller born in Bladen Co, NC. 1786. I hit a brick wall trying to find the father's name. Elizabeth went back to her maidan name Detheridge after Henry Miller's father died. Where would I find birth records for Bladen Co 1786?


Dear Chris, 

Thank you for visiting NCpedia! 

Unfortunately, birth records were not kept in North Carolina on a state-wide basis before October 1913. There are some substitute records you can consult that may contain the information you are looking for. These include: bible records, cemetery records, church records, county records (apprentice, guardian, deeds, military, tax, wills), and private papers. 

You can search the NC Government & Heritage Library's online catalog for Bladen County abstracts & indexes: 

Additionally, the State Archives County Records Guides can be a good place to see what materials the archives have for Bladen County:

Molly Goldston, NC Government & Heritage Library 


Correction 27 Aug 1781 was battle of Elizabethtown.


My Third great Grandfather Benjamin McDonald fought at the battle of Elizabethtown 27 Aug 1779 ,and was slightly wounded. Is there any record of that .


man this was awesome i almost got a f


omg this helped me so much dat i got a freakin f on my prodject man what the heck why those blue lines.

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