The American defeats at Camden and Fishing Creek convinced Lord Cornwallis that the time was right to mass Major Patrick Ferguson’s Loyalists on the Overmountain Men west of the Blue Ridge, while he invaded North Carolina to destroy the remnants of the American southern army reorganizing at Hillsboro. Monitoring Cornwallis’ advance were about 80 dragoons and about 100 riflemen under Colonel William Richardson Davie.
After the Battle of Hanging Rock in July, Davie was disillusioned with Thomas Sumter and went to North Carolina where he thought his talents would be appreciated. In early September, the North Carolina General Assembly appointed him to commandant of all cavalry in the Western District, just in time for Cornwallis advance on Charlotte. Cornwalis’ army sacked and burned the American leaning countryside his army traversed through, with the 71st Regiment, Fraser’s Highlanders, particularly brutal. One of Davie’s subordinates, Captain James Wauchope (pronounced “Wahab”) family plantation was on the border between North and South Carolina. About 300 Loyalists were encamped on the plantation which was overlooked by the 71st’ camp about ½ mile away as part of Cornwallis’ rear guard. Davie, though desiring to teach the highlanders a lesson, decided to attack the loyalist camp when it was discovered a small 60 man detachment of Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion were there. Tarleton was sick with yellow fever and not in camp but his second, Major George Hanger was.
Guided by Wauchope around Cornwallis’ main body, Davie surrounded the loyalists at Wauchope Planation on the morning of 20 September 1780. His riflemen snuck through a cornfield to the back of the mansion and occupied it through the backdoor during a change in the guard. As the new guard approached, the patriots then fired on the surprised loyalists camped in front of the mansion. The loyalists were caught between deadly accurate rifle fire from the mansion, as they tried to form, and Davie with his dragoons charging down the manor’s entrance lane behind them. Hanger and the loyalists scattered with barely firing a shot. At the cost of one wounded, Davie inflicted 20 killed and twice as many wounded on the loyalists, most of whom never returned after the attack.
As the 71st beat to formation, Davie gathered up one hundred horses, 120 muskets, and all the powder his men could carry, and escaped. Davie’s men, now all mounted, force marched sixty miles that day back to Charlotte with the supplies. Charlotte was Cornwallis’ obvious next stop on the way to Hillsboro, and Davie was determined to make Cornwallis pay in blood before he set it to the torch.