Sugar Creek

Left for Dead, A Patriot Escapes

Location


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Coordinates: 35.2588, -80.7946.

Type: Stop
Tour: Race to the Dan
County: Mecklenburg

Access LogoDifficult

From the unpaved parking area of the Sugaw Creek Church cemetery, you can see the general vicinity of the action described below. To get a better view of the skirmish area, or see the memorial to Joseph Graham, take the sidewalk down Sugar Creek Road to the intersection with North Tryon Street.

Girl in a white tee shirt with a picture and list of patriot women

 

 
Man in a white tee shirt that says, "Just a Regulator Guy"

Description

Photo of four men in backwoods clothing with muskets
Militia re-enactors (Credit: John Foxe / CC BY-SA)

Patriot part-time “militia” soldiers were pushed from Charlotte by the British on Tuesday, September 26, 1780. The militia headed toward the Continental Army in Salisbury, and the Redcoat infantry pursued them up the Salisbury Road (now North Tryon Street). After stopping at two creeks to the south to fire off volleys, two companies of militia re-formed in a line near the intersection with today’s Sugar Creek Road, along a ridgeline.

That ridge is occupied now by the cemetery of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church. At the time it was called “Sugar” Creek, an anglicized version of the original Catawba name to which the nearby church changed in 1924.

The British infantry stopped well short, about 250 yards out. They took cover behind trees and fences and began to fire at will instead of in coordinated volleys.[1] This is unusual, which suggests the senior officer was under orders to avoid direct contact. The two sides exchanged fire from beyond the effective range of their weapons for about a half hour.

Then the Patriots learned the reason for the infantry action as Patriot stragglers passed through the crossroads and line. They found themselves pressed on two sides by British cavalry under Maj. George Hangar, totaling 350 green-coated men.  They trotted up the hill along both today’s Trade Street and from the left where Sugar Creek Road runs today, forcing the militia to fall back, knowing another Patriot position had been set three miles back. The cavalry met at the intersection. Apparently some engaged the rear guard here while the rest turned north, breaking into a canter to pursue the militia.[2] The Redcoat infantry then pulled back to Charlotte while the cavalry continued the chase.

Painting of a man with graying brown hair, a blue coat, and a white cravat
Joseph Graham

During the fight here, Patriot Capt. Joseph Graham ended up in a horseback sabre duel with one or more British dragoons. He was “badly wounded, with three bullet wounds in the thigh, a sabre thrust in his side, a gash on the neck, and four cuts to the forehead. He wrote of his head wound that, ‘some of my brains exuded.’”[3] British troopers found him after the battle somewhere in this vicinity, but decided not to bother killing him as he was clearly dying.

That was a mistake. After they left, he managed to crawl to a spring in the vicinity of the current church building across the street. He was found by a young woman who took him to her family’s home and nursed him through the next day. A British officer’s wife offered to arrange a surgeon’s visit, but to avoid being captured, Graham somehow took off that night for his home in today’s Lincoln County.[4] He eventually returned to the army.

What to See

A monument to Graham is on this side of Sugar Creek Road, facing it, near North Tryon Street. Dedicated in 1918 (not the date on the marker) it reads in part:

Major Joseph Graham
Patriot, Soldier, Statesman
Received Nine Wounds In
Battle Of Charlotte
Was Left For Dead On
Sugaw Creek Road
September 26, 1780[5]

By continuing to the intersection, you can get a sense of the view the militia had of the British advance. The distant Uptown skyline makes clear how far the British continued their pursuit.[6]

Photo looking across a wide urban road looking down another one at a distant skyline of skyscrapers
(AmRevNC photograph)

[1] Graham, William A. (William Alexander), General Joseph Graham and His Papers on North Carolina Revolutionary History (Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards & Broughton, 1904) <http://archive.org/details/cu31924032738233> [accessed 27 March 2020]

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lewis, J.D., ‘Charlotte’, The American Revolution in North Carolina, 2014 <https://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/revolution_charlotte.html> [accessed 24 December 2019]

[4] McGeachy, Neill Roderick, A History of the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, Mecklenburg Presbytery, Charlotte, North Carolina (Rock Hill, S.C. : Printed by Record Print Co., 1954) <http://archive.org/details/historyofsugawcr00mcge> [accessed 9 May 2020]

[5] ‘Major Joseph Graham, Charlotte’, Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina, 2010 <https://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/monument/887/> [accessed 17 June 2020]

[6] In addition to the other footnoted sources, “Stop” information comes from one of two guidebooks; NCpedia; the online essay for the relevant North Carolina Highway Marker; and related Sight pages (see “About Sources“).

Charlotte | Race to the Dan Tour | George Locke