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One of the first battles of the American Revolution was fought at Moores Creek (in Pender County, near Currie, North Carolina) on 27-28 February 1776. It pitted local North Carolina Patriots -- farmers, merchants, blacksmiths, and slaves -- against Loyalist militia forces, mostly Scottish Highlanders who were North Carolinians fighting for what they considered to be right and just to protect their families in their new home granted to them by King George III. In the early morning hours of 27 February 1776, about eight hundred Loyalists charged across a partially dismantled Moores Creek Bridge. Beyond the bridge, nearly a thousand North Carolina Patriots waited quietly with cannons and muskets poised to fire. Expecting to find only a small Patriot force, the Loyalists gave the battle cry "King George and Broadswords" as they charged up the causeway in front of the earthworks and advanced four times to take the bridge and failed. When the guns ceased and when the smoke cleared, about 30 to 70 Loyalists lay dead or wounded, including Lieutenant Colonel Donald McLeod who was killed while leading the charge. Stunned, outgunned and leaderless, the Loyalists either surrendered or retreated in confusion. According to the National Park Service, "this battle marked the last broadsword charge by Scottish Highlanders and the first significant victory for the Patriots in the American Revolution." This dramatic victory ended British rule in the colony and stalled a full-scale British invasion of the South for nearly four years. It also greatly influenced the creation of the Halifax Resolves on 12 April 1776, which instructed the three North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence. North Carolina was the first colony to vote explicit sanction to independence and this is why the 'Old North State' became known as the "First in Freedom." Less than three months later, on 4 July 1776, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
Commemorative efforts at the Moores Creek battlefield site began in 1856 with the drive to erect a monument to the Patriots who fought in the battle. Forty years later, the property was preserved as a historical site by the state through the Moores Creek Monumental Association (now known as the Moores Creek Battleground Association) founded 7 March 1899, a private organization. The federal government took over the site as a national military park operated by the War Department on 2 June 1926; the National Park Service began managing the battlefield in 1933. On 8 September 1980 the official name of the park was changed from Moores Creek National Military Park to Moores Creek National Battlefield. Today, the National Park Service continues the preserve and interpret the history behind the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge and life in colonial North Carolina.
A total of six monuments can be found within its battlefield landscape, one of which has the dual distinction of being the oldest 'women's monument' in North Carolina and one of America's tallest monuments dedicated to the women of the Revolution. As recorded in North Carolina's Charlotte Daily Observer, an immense gathering of people attended the elaborate ceremonies in connection with the unveiling on 15 August 1907 of a monument erected "TO THE HONORED MEMORY OF THE HEROIC WOMEN OF THE LOWER CAPE FEAR DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1775-1781." The monument was built at a cost of more than $2,000 with a weight of more than 25,000 pounds. On top of a tall Winnsboro blue granite base, approximately nine feet and six inches by five feet and seven inches, rests a statue five feet and eight inches tall of imported Italian marble in carved likeness of a beautiful young woman posing "Remembrance" in a classic contrapposto stance. She wears a loose dress reminiscent of a Greco-Roman style, and her cascading curls of hair are partially pulled back. Her arms are crossed and she grasps in her left hand a laurel wreath, a symbol of victory and eternity. The column beneath the figure bears an inscription on all four faces, and the top of the column above the inscription is adorned with a double band of oak leaves and acorn sprigs. These are a traditional mourning symbol of longevity, strength, and courage.
Inscribed on the Northeast face of the monument were the words "UNSWERVING IN DEVOTION, SELF-SACRIFICING IN LOYALTY TO THE CAUSE OF THE COUNTRY, THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM; AND THEIR CHILDREN RISE UP AND CALL THEM BLESSED." On the Southwest face of the monument, it not only displayed the Motto of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America "VIRTUTES MAJORUM FILIAE CONSERVANT" ("Daughters Conserve the Virtues of Their Elders") but also included a short text that singled out Mary "Polly" Slocumb for her act of bravery, riding sixty five miles in the night to the Battle of Moores Creek after having dreamed that her husband, Lieutenant Ezekiel Slocumb, was wounded. Mary discovered that he was safe and nursed wounded Patriots before returning to her home the following night. Although the story was published as early as 1848, it is almost certainly pure legend based on the fact that Mary and Ezekiel were only fifteen and sixteen years old at the time of the battle and Ezekiel did not enlist until 1780 -- almost five years after the Battle of Moores Creek. Nonetheless, at the urging of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the bodies of Mary and Ezekiel Slocumb were moved from Mount Olive, North Carolina, and re-interred on 20 September 1929 at the base of the Heroic Women Monument each marked with both head and foot stones on the grave beds.
As part of the digital publishing program of the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, their "Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina" website documents the state's history through a spatially based presentation of commemorative monuments, shrines, and public art. The site not only reflects their interest in historical memory but also encourages users to reflect on what parts of their history they have elected not to commemorate as well as how the commemorative landscape is likely to change in the future. Within its growing collection of 933 monuments and memorials, it includes 158 associated with the Revolutionary War and eight categorized as 'women monuments'. Based on this published information, the "Monument to the Heroic Women of the Lower Cape Fear" is the oldest 'women's monument' in North Carolina and considering its approximate total height of fifteen feet and two inches, it is as well one of America's tallest monuments dedicated to the honored memory of the heroic women during the American Revolution. It is believed to be the only monument in America dedicated to 18th century women and their sacrifices during the American Revolution. The monument, also known as the Patriot Women's Monument or the Mary Slocumb Monument, continues to commemorate the strength and vitality of 18th century women of the Lower Cape Fear.
On this day, 15 August 2021, we commemorate the 114th anniversary of the unveiling of the monument honoring the contributions of colonial women in the Lower Cape Fear during the American Revolution and mark more than 245 years since the Battle of Moores Creek in North Carolina.
André M. Levesque