While in exile aboard a warship in Cape Fear, North Carolina’s Royal Governor Josiah Martin issues a proclamation calling on the king’s loyal subjects to raise an armed force to combat the rebels, raise the royal standard and restore the province to its former glorious freedom. These North Carolina Loyalists were to march to the sea, where General William Howe intended to provision them with arms and supplement their numbers with troops from Boston and Ireland.
Governor Martin’s proclamation went on to say, every man who knows the values of freedom and blessings of a British subject, will join his heart and hand to restore to this country the most glorious, free and happy constitution and form of government. But North Carolina had seen little of such glorious, free, and happy government in the recent past. The backcountry uprising against corrupt gubernatorial appointees known as the Regulator movement had left North Carolinians all too familiar with warfare.
Only 1,500 men answered Martin’s call for a march to the sea. When they reached their destination, they were met not by Howe, but by Patriot troops. The Loyalists’ commanding officer, General Donald McDonald, knew it would be suicide for his unarmed men to fight until they had acquired arms and reinforcements from the British, but he soon fell ill and Colonel Donald McLeod took command. McLeod chose to lead an assault on the Patriots and disaster ensued. Fifty of his men died and 880 were captured, while the Patriots lost only two of their number.