Before there was Bruce Willis, there was Moores Creek

“The overwhelming victory [at Moores Creek in 1776]  provided an unmatched opportunity for North Carolina patriots to display their patriotism to the rest of the country….John Penn, who had recently left Congress to return home to North Carolina, updated his former colleague John Adams….North Carolinians, Penn concluded in his letter to Adams, ‘are quite spirited and unanimous; indeed, I hear nothing praised but Common Sense and Independence. [They] say they are determined to die hard.’ ”

— From The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution”  by Robert G. Parkinson (2016)

Despite Penn’s usage, the term “die hard” didn’t enter the idiom until 1811. 

 

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