Clio Logo
North Carolina and the American Revolution: Battles and Skirmishes
Item 14 of 15
This is a contributing entry for North Carolina and the American Revolution: Battles and Skirmishes and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

This entry includes a virtual tour! Take the tour.

Charlotte was of vital importance during the American Revolution as it lay directly on the invasion route, now Tryon Street. On 26 September 1780 General Cornwallis found himself pitted against a greatly outnumbered but rowdy bunch of North Carolina Patriots, commanded by General William Lee Davidson. Davidson ordered most of his force to retreat, and sent a detachment, under Col. William R. Davie, to delay Cornwallis at Charlotte, little more than a place of about 20 homes, two streets, at the intersection of the courthouse, present day Trade and Tryon Streets. British cavalry formed a line about 300 yards from Davie's men and charged. The Patriots held their fire until the cavalrymen were about 60 yards away. The musket fire stunned the British. Pulling back, Davie's men repelled two more charges. The British continued pressing, Davie moving back, his men covering each other. Davie continued withdrawing until his force crossed the Rocky River, 16 miles from Charlotte and four miles in front of Davidson's army. Though the Battle of Charlotte was not in itself decisive, it showed the stubbornness of the outnumbered Americans and symbolized the resolve of Mecklenburg County, leading to the area given a new nickname. Cornwallis, after 16 humiliating days in Charlotte, was heard to say that this place was a hornet's nest. Charlotteans were so honored to be dubbed in such a manner that they permanently adopted the nickname in perpetuity. The official city seal features a hornet's nest.