The evening before the battle, a small scouting party approached the bridge and saw only a small encampment on the north side of the bridge. They were not aware of the much larger force hidden behind the earthworks on the south side of the bridge. They reported their findings back to Lt. Colonel McLeod, who then believed they would encounter little to no resistance when crossing the bridge.
At dawn on February 27, 1776, the Highland Scots, under the command of Lt. Colonel McLeod and Captain John Campbell, arrived at the bridge to find it blocked by Americans, commanded by Colonels Alexander Lillington and Richard Caswell.
The Loyalists rushed at the bridge, only to be met by heavy Patriot fire at point-blank range. The Scots, armed only with broadswords, stood little chance against the rifles of the Patriots. With the whole attacking party cut down in just three minutes, the Americans rushed across the bridge in a counter-attack, forcing the remaining Highlanders and Loyalists to flee.
The Patriots were victorious, having had only one man killed and one wounded, while inflicting about 70 casualties, including the deaths of both McLeod and Campbell, upon their enemy and preventing the planned rendezvous with the British regulars. Private John Grady of Duplin County was the first North Carolinian killed in battle during the American Revolution. Over 850 Loyalists were captured over the next few days.