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Where exactly was Rouse’s Tavern?

Ben Steelman

It’s hard to say exactly, according to Chris Fonvielle, associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Accounts put it 8 miles outside Wilmington on the Old New Bern Road. U.S. 17/Market Street pretty much follows the path of the Old New Bern Road through New Hanover County, Fonvielle said, so that would put Rouse’s Tavern somewhere in the modern-day Ogden community.

Operated by Alexander Rouse, the tavern was a Colonial-era ordinary, serving as much as a roadside diner and a place to spend the night as a place to drink. Some people knew it as the Eight Mile House.

The tavern was the site of a notable skirmish in the Revolutionary War, which occurred sometime in March 1781 while the British under Major James Craig were occupying Wilmington. (The exact date has been lost, Fonvielle said.)

A group of Patriot militiamen under Major James Love had been rustling area cattle, to keep them from being seized by the British, and had been shooting sentries in an effort to lure redcoat detachments into an ambush.

The Patriots had stopped at the tavern and “caroused, drinking freely as men would do, who had lost their homes and are turned out on the bleak world,” according to one period account. “(T)hey forgot the flight of time, and about half past 12 (midnight)¬†they all betook themselves to rest on the floor of the dwelling, their saddles for pillows.”

Craig managed to surround the tavern with 60 to 70 soldiers from the 82nd Regiment of Foot. Love tried to fight his way out, using his saddle as a shield, but was bayoneted to death. The British were under orders to give no quarter. By some accounts, 11 Patriots were killed, another one or two were wounded, and another half-dozen were taken prisoner in mopping-up exercises later in the night.

At least three Patriot veterans, however, submitted pension applications in the 1800s, testifying they had participated in the “Rouse’s Tavern Massacre” or its aftermath.

For more information, see this website: http://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/revolution_rouses_tavern.html.


What was the Rouse’s Tavern Massacre?

How many battles were fought in New Hanover County? How many casualties were there?

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Steven M Sura DMD

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