Friday, August 6, 2010

Joseph Graham Describes Ramsour’s Mill (1)

Graham’s Description of the Battlefield

Joseph Graham began his account of the battle of Ramsour’s Mill by describing the disposition of the Loyalist militia (or “Tories”). He wrote:

“The Tories were encamped on a hill, three hundred yards east of Ramsour's Mill, and half a mile north of the present flourishing village of Lincolnton. The ridge stretches nearly to the east on the south side of the mill-pond and the road leading from the Tuckasege Ford by the mill, crosses the point of the ridge in a northwestern direction. The Tories occupied an excellent position on the summit of the ridge; their right on the road fronting to the south. The ridge has a very gentle slope, and was then interspersed with only a few trees, and the fire of the Tories had full rake in front for more than two hundred yards. The foot of the ridge was bounded by a glade, the side of which was covered with bushes. The road passed the western end of the glade at right angles, opposite the centre of the line, and on this road a fence extended from the glade to a point opposite the right of the line. The picket guard, twelve in number, were stationed on the road, two hundred and fifty yards south of the glade, and six hundred yards from the encampment.”

Terrain Features at Ramsour's Mill According to Joseph Graham (click to enlarge).

The miniature battlefield I created was based on the Reep/Reinhardt map, but Graham’s description mostly works with it, as shown above. Each of the terrain features mentioned by Graham are labeled, and there are, as he indicated, 300 scale-yards between the mill and the Tory line, 200 scale-yards of open space in front of the Tory Line, and 600 scale-yards between the Tories and their picket guard and 250 scale-yards between the southern end of the glade and the picket guard.

The Tory encampment is not shown in the image above (I imagine this would have included many brush huts, a number of wagons, and a few tents). Also, to facilitate view of the miniatures, I’ve included fewer trees and less undergrowth than historically would have been present.

There are two minor discrepancies between Graham’s description and the Reep/Reinhardt map. Graham mentioned a fence bordering on the right of the Tories; the Reep/Reinhardt map does not show this. The Reep/Reinhardt map shows a line of felled trees on the edge of the glade; Graham did not mention this. I included both the fence and the line of felled trees on the miniature battlefield.

Support From Others

Added evidence in favor of the above account can be found in the observations made by two of Graham’s contemporaries: Richard Winn and William Davie. Like Graham, these officers were with Griffith Rutherford’s force, which arrived after the fighting had ended (cf. Joseph Graham's timeline).

Winn commented that there were 1,000 Tories at the battle, that on the right of their position there was an open plantation with a high fence, that on the left there was a steep hill full of trees, and that in the rear there was a river and mills. Davie commented that there were 1,100 Tories, that there were formed on a high ridge with oaks, that on their right flank there was a fence, and that in their rear there was a mill pond.

How Many Loyalists?

Graham claimed that there were "nearly" 1,300 Loyalists at Ramsour’s Mill, but he did not claim that all of these men took place in the fighting. Graham indicated that ¼ of the Loyalists were without arms and that they fled to the mill before the battle was joined; he also indicated that some men with arms also did not fight, either because they also fled before the battle was joined, or because they were away from the Loyalist encampment at the beginning of the battle [see footnote]. These deductions leave the Loyalists with perhaps 950 men.

If one applies the deductions suggested by Graham's account to Davie’s total of 1,100 men, or Winn’s total of 1,000 men, then it’s possible to come up with an even smaller total. Alternatively, one might suspect that the Americans overstated enemy strength, as commonly occurred (by both sides) throughout the war, allowing one to reasonably propose an even smaller total.

In any event, a total considerably less than 1,000 seems warranted by the dimensions of the battlefield. The approximate location of each flank of the Loyalists' battle line is known from incidents described by Joseph Graham and others. Again, relying on a modern analysis of the Reep/Reinhardt map, it appears that the Loyalist line was around 800 feet in length (give or take a couple hundred feet). If the Loyalists were deployed in 2 ranks in close order, then only about 600 men could have fit in this space. If the Loyalists were deployed in 2 ranks in open order (as seems more likely), then fewer than 500 men could have fit in this space.

For the miniature representation of the battle, I ended up using a battle line consisting of 500 Loyalists (or more precisely, 25 figures using a 1:20 ratio). That total is shown below.

The "Tory" Battle Line at Ramsour's Mill (click to enlarge).


For Joseph Graham's account, see William A. Graham (1904). General Joseph Graham and His Papers on North Carolina Revolutionary History. Below are statements by Graham that shed light on the number of Loyalists that participated in the fighting.

"By the 20th nearly thirteen hundred men had assembled at Ramsour's, one-fourth of whom were without arms."


"As soon as the action began those of the Tories who had no arms and several who had, retreated across the creek.

"These were joined by others when they were first beaten back up the ridge, and by the two hundred that were well armed, who had arrived two days before from Lower Creek, in Burke County, under Captains Whitson and Murray. Colonel Moore and Major Welsh soon joined them, and those of the Tories who continued to fight to the last crossed the creek and joined them as soon as the Whigs got possession of the ridge."


"[Whig] Captain M'Kissick was wounded early in the action, being shot through the top of the shoulder; and finding himself disabled, went from the battleground about 80 poles to the west. About the the time the firing ceased he met ten of the Tories coming from a neighboring farm, where they had been until the sound of the firing started them."


  1. 一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼....................................................

  2. Thank you for your work on this battle. I am looking forward to see it progress further.

  3. Looking good as always. You are the gold standard of blogging the American Revolution!!!!

  4. Thank you again for the kind comments.

    I have to disagree on the "gold standard." In my view that belongs to Boston 1775: scholarly, well-written, and amazingly prolific.

  5. Boston 1775 is in a different World!!!! Also the diaromas you create from scratch take you to a different World also. You are a gold standard

  6. Looks great. I love lovely looking terrain like this. I'm working on some 15mm trees with Spanish moss for our southern games.