|Battle of Alamance|
|Part of the War of the Regulation|
"Alamance, The First Battle of the Revolution, Burlington, N.C." From the original drawing by J. Steeple Davis, written on a postcard, circa 1905-1915
|North Carolina Provincial Militia||North Carolina Regulators|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Royal Governor William Tryon||Herman Husband, Captain Montgomery, Captain Benjamin Merrill, others|
|appx. 1,000||appx. 2,000|
|Casualties and losses|
| Between 9 and 27 killed|
| 9 killed|
Unknown number injured
7 later executed for treason
The Battle of Alamance was the final battle of the War of the Regulation, a rebellion in colonial North Carolina over issues of taxation and local control. Some historians in the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries considered the battle to be the opening salvo of the American Revolution, 6 miles (9.7 km) south of present-day Burlington, North Carolina.and locals agreed with this assessment. Yet, this has been questioned by present-day historians arguing that the Regulators (though viewed in the eyes of the royal governor and his allies as being in rebellion against King, country, and law) were not intending a complete overthrow of His Majesty's Government in North Carolina. They were only standing up against those certain local officials who had become corrupt and unworthy tools of the King, and they only turned to riot and armed rebellion as a last resort when all other peaceful means through petitions, elections to the Assembly, etc. had failed to redress their grievances. Many surviving ex-Regulators became loyalists during the Revolution, and several anti-Regulators [e.g. William Hooper, Alexander Martin, and Francis Nash] became patriots during the Revolution. Named for nearby Great Alamance Creek, the battle took place in what was then Orange County and has since become Alamance County in the central Piedmont about
The War of the Regulation was an uprising in the British North America's Carolina colonies, lasting from about 1765 to 1771, in which citizens took up arms against colonial officials, whom they viewed as corrupt. Though the rebellion did not change the power structure, some historians consider it a catalyst to the American Revolutionary War. Others like John Spencer Bassett view that the Regulators did not wish to change the form or principle of their government, but simply wanted to make the colony's political process more equal. They wanted better economic conditions for everyone except slaves and Native Americans, instead of a system that benefited the colonial officials. Bassett interprets the events of the late 1760s in Orange and surrounding counties as "a peasants' rising, a popular upheaval.”
The Province of North-Carolina was a British colony that existed in North America from 1712 to 1776, created as a proprietary colony. The power of the British government was vested in a Governor of North-Carolina, but the colony declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. The Province of North-Carolina had four capitals: Bath (1712–1722), Edenton (1722–1743), Brunswick (1743–1770), and New Bern. The colony later became the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, and parts of the colony combined with other territory to form the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The American Revolution was a colonial revolt that took place between 1765 and 1783. The American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain, becoming the United States of America. They defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) in alliance with France and others.
In the spring of 1771, Royal Governor William Tryon left New Bern, mustering and marching approximately 1,000 militia troops west to address a rebellion that had been brewing in western counties for several years, but which had included only minor, scattered acts of violence, followed by refusals to pay fees, disruptions of court proceedings, and continued harassment of government officials. About 2,000 so-called "regulators" had gathered, hoping to gain concessions from the Governor by intimidating him with a show of superior force. Funded by council member and wealthy merchant Samuel Cornell for £6,000,on May 11, Tryon left the county seat of Hillsborough with his militia to confront the Regulators, who had made camp south of Great Alamance Creek in western Orange County (present-day Alamance County).
William Tryon was a British general officer and a colonial official who served as the 39th Governor of New York from 1771 to 1780, assuming the office after having served as the eighth Governor of North-Carolina from 1765 to 1771.
New Bern is a city in Craven County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 29,524, which had risen to an estimated 30,242 as of 2013. It is the county seat of Craven County and the principal city of the New Bern Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of an established authority.
On the evening of May 15, Tryon received word that the Regulators were camped about six miles away. The next morning, at about 8:00 am, Tryon's troops set out to a field about one-half mile from the camp of the Regulators. He formed two lines, and divided his artillery between the wings and the center of the first line. The Regulators remained disorganized, with no leadership –no officer ranked higher than captain –and no anticipation of an attack, expecting that their superior numbers would frighten Tryon's militia.
Tryon sent one of his aides-de-camp, Captain Philemon Hawkins II, and the Sheriff of Orange County with a proclamation:
Philemon Hawkins II was a planter, an officer in the North Carolina militia during the American Revolution, and a public officeholder in North Carolina.
|Alamance Camp, Thursday, May 16, 1771. |
To Those Who Style Themselves "Regulators": In reply to your petition of yesterday, I am to acquaint you that I have ever been attentive to the interests of your County and to every individual residing therein. I lament the fatal necessity to which you have now reduced me by withdrawing yourselves from the mercy of the crown and from the laws of your country. To require you who are now assembled as Regulators, to quietly lay down your arms, to surrender up your leaders, to the laws of your country and rest on the leniency of the Government. By accepting these terms within one hour from the delivery of this dispatch, you will prevent an effusion of blood, as you are at this time in a state of rebellion against your King, your country, and your laws.
(Signed) William Tryon.
While the terms were being read, Tryon's troops began to move forward. Shortly after that, Tryon was informed that the Regulators had rejected his terms. Herman Husband, a Quaker, realizing violence was about to take place, left the area.
Herman Husband (1724–1795), also known as Harmon Husband, was a farmer, radical, pamphleteer, author, and preacher. He is best known as a leader of The Regulators, a populist rebellion in the Carolinas in the years leading up to the American Revolutionary War. He was born in Cecil County, Maryland and raised as an Anglican. One of the many to be inspired to the Great Awakening after hearing George Whitefield preach, he became disenchanted with his original faith and became a "New Light" Presbyterian and then a Quaker. Husband was twice elected the North Carolina assembly, being expelled during his second term.
By midday the hour had expired. Tryon sent one final warning:
|Gentlemen and Regulators: Those of you who are not too far committed should desist and quietly return to your homes, those of you who have laid yourselves liable should submit without resistance. I and others promise to obtain for you the best possible terms. The Governor will grant you nothing. You are unprepared for war! You have no cannon! You have no military training! You have no commanding officers to lead you in battle. You have no ammunition. You will be defeated!|
Some of the Regulators petitioned the Royal Governor to give up seven captured Regulators in exchange for two of his men that they had captured the previous day. Tryon agreed, but after a half an hour, the captured officers did not appear. He became suspicious that his positions were being flanked and ordered the militia to march within 30 yards of the Regulators.Shortly thereafter, a large crowd of Regulators appeared in front of the militia, waving their hats and daring the militia to open fire.
At about this time, two men who had been attempting to negotiate a peace between the two sides left Tryon's camp: Reverend Caldwell and Robert Thompson. Caldwell made it to the field between the two lines, but was warned by the Regulators, who saw that the Governor was about to open fire. Thompson was detained by Tryon as a prisoner. Tryon, in a moment of anger, took a musket from a militiaman and shot Thompson dead. Realizing what he had done, he sent a flag bearer named Donald Malcolm with a white flag in hopes of calming things quickly. The flag bearer was himself fired upon by the Regulators, who called out, "Fire and be damned".
The Regulators lacked the leadership, organization, and ammunition that Tryon had, but the early course of the battle went well for them. They employed what was referred to as "Indian style" fighting, hiding behind trees and avoiding structure and lines. This allowed two of the Regulators, brothers named McPherson, to capture one of Tryon's three cannons. Unfortunately for them, the Regulators had no ammunition and it could not be used.
A man considered one of the principal military leaders of the Regulators, Captain Montgomery, was killed by a shell at about the same time a bullet hit Tryon's hat. The Governor sent a second white flag, but the aide-de-camp was killed while regulator Patrick Muller called for his fellow insurgents to cease fire. Outraged at the disregard of a second white flag, the Governor rallied his troops against the insurgents, whose ammunition was running out. Many of the Regulators fled the field. Delays prevented the 300 reinforcements under Captain Benjamin Merrill from arriving in time. Some of the Regulators remained behind to continue firing upon the militia. Tryon then ordered the woods to be set on fire.
Losses for both sides are disputed. Tryon reported nine dead and 61 wounded among the militia. Other historians indicate much greater numbers, between 15 and 27 killed.Both sides counted nine dead among the Regulators and from dozens to over one-hundred wounded.
Tryon took 13 prisoners. One of them, James Few, was executed at the camp, and six were executed later in nearby Hillsborough. Many Regulators traveled on to frontier areas beyond North Carolina. The Royal Governor pardoned others and allowed them to stay on the condition that they pledge an oath of allegiance to the royal government.
The battle took place in what was then Orange County. During the American Revolution a decade later, the same section of Orange County (subdivided into Alamance County in 1849) saw several minor skirmishes, including the infamous Pyle's Hacking Match in 1781. Recent archaeological studies at the site have shown that the area now known as Alamance Battleground was also the site of another skirmish in the revolutionary war and of a civil war era Confederate encampment.
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According to Tryon's journal, the following men served under his command:
The following individuals were numbered as members of the Regulators:
The following were excepted from pardons by Tryon:
Six men were found guilty of treason, but were pardoned at Tryon's behest:
Six men were found guilty of treason and were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, although in practice, they were only hanged:
Visitors to Alamance Battleground State Historic Site may view the field of battle, memorialized in 1880 with a granite monument and a second monument in 1903. Today the site contains exhibits, period cannon, and colored flags representing troop positions. The visitors' center offers exhibits, artifacts, and a presentation on the battle. Visitors may also tour the onsite Allen House, a restored frontier farmstead of the period.
The Battle of Alamance is further memorialized through an annual battle reenactment.
1771 (MDCCLXXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar, the 1771st year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 771st year of the 2nd millennium, the 71st year of the 18th century, and the 2nd year of the 1770s decade. As of the start of 1771, the Gregorian calendar was 11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
Richard Caswell was the first and fifth governor of the U.S. State of North Carolina, serving from 1776 to 1780 and from 1785 to 1787. He was also major general over all North Carolina militia in 1780 and from 1781 to 1783.
Robert Howe was a Continental Army general from the Province of North Carolina during the American Revolutionary War. The descendant of a prominent family in North Carolina, Howe was one of five generals, and the only major general, in the Continental Army from that state. He also played a role in the colonial and state governments of North Carolina, serving in the legislative bodies of both.
Edmund Fanning was a British North American colonial administrator and military leader. Born in New York, he became a lawyer and politician in North Carolina in the 1760s. He first came to fame as the focus of hatred of the Regulators, and led anti-Regulator militia in the War of the Regulation. When the American Revolutionary War broke out, he was driven from his home in New York, and joined the British Army, recruiting other Loyalists. He served during campaigns in New England and the South. At the end of the war in 1783 he became a United Empire Loyalist, settling in Nova Scotia.
The Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge was a battle of the American Revolutionary War fought near Wilmington in present-day Pender County, North Carolina, on February 27, 1776. The victory of North Carolina Revolutionary forces over Southern Loyalists helped build political support for the revolution and increased recruitment of additional soldiers into their forces.
James Few was born in 1746 in Hartford. His parents were William Few, Sr., and Mary Wheeler. James migrated with his parents and siblings to Orange County, North Carolina circa 1758.
The Battle of Cowan's Ford was a battle in the Southern Theater of Cornwallis's 1780–1782 Campaign that eventually led to the British Army's surrender at Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War. It was fought on 1 February 1781 at Cowan's ford on the Catawba River in northwestern Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, between a force of about 5,000 British and fewer than a thousand Americans who were attempting to slow the British advance across the river. The American general William Lee Davidson was killed in this battle.
The Battle of Lindley's Mill took place in Orange County, North Carolina, on September 13, 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. The battle took its name from a mill that sat at the site of the battle on Cane Creek, which sat along a road connecting what was then the temporary state capital, Hillsborough, with Wilmington, North Carolina.
The Battle of Ramsour's Mill took place on June 20, 1780 in present-day Lincolnton, North Carolina, during the British campaign to gain control of the southern colonies in the American Revolutionary War. The number of fighters on each side of the battle is still an issue of contention, but Loyalist militiamen outnumbered Patriot militia and had captured a group of Patriots who they were planning to hang on the morning of June 20.
Alamance Battleground is a North Carolina State Historic Site commemorating the Battle of Alamance. The historic site is located south of Burlington, Alamance County, North Carolina in the United States.
Hugh Waddell was a prominent military figure in the Province of North Carolina during its control by the Kingdom of Great Britain. Waddell formed and led a provincial militia unit in Rowan County, North Carolina and the Ohio River Valley during the French and Indian War and the Anglo-Cherokee War, and supervised the construction of Fort Dobbs near the settlement of the Fourth Creek Congregation. His career was well-served by close connections to several provincial governors of North Carolina.
John Butler was a military officer in the Hillsborough District Brigade of the North Carolina militia during the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1784, and served as its commanding general between 1779 and the end of the conflict. He was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons for several terms simultaneously with his military service. Butler commanded soldiers in several major engagements throughout North and South Carolina, but is perhaps best remembered for his role in the Patriot defeat at the Battle of Lindley's Mill. Butler died shortly after the end of the war, and his career as a military commander has received mixed reviews by historians.
John Sampson (1719–1784) was a politician in North Carolina during and after the American Colonial era. After immigrating to the colony from northern Ireland, he settled near Wilmington. He was appointed to local offices, raised a militia to defend against the Spanish Alarm, and served as a Revolutionary War Patriot militia officer. He was an early settler in Duplin County, North Carolina. He served as mayor of Wilmington, North Carolina starting in 1760. Sampson County, North Carolina was named for him.
A battle at the crossing of the Yadkin River took place on May 9, 1771 just prior to the Battle of Alamance. Governor William Tryon had dispatched Gen. Hugh Waddell to raise militia in Rowan and Mecklenburg counties for the purpose of capturing a force of Regulators under Benjamin Merrill known to be operating in the area.
The Rowan County Regiment was originally established in about August 1, 1775 as a local militia in Rowan County in the Province of North-Carolina. When the North Carolina Provincial Congress authorized thirty-five existing county militias to be organized on September 9, 1775, the Rowan County Regiment was included and all officers were appointed with commissions from the Provincial Congress. The members of the Rowan County Regiment were mostly from what was Rowan County at the time. Prior to establishment of the Rowan County Regiment, many of its officers were active in the Rowan County Committee of Safety. The regiment included 160 known companies and one or more of these companies were engaged in 36 known battles or skirmishes during the American Revolution. After the establishment of the Rowan County Regiment, several other counties were created from Rowan County, including Burke County in 1777, Iredell County in 1788, Davidson County in 1822 and Davie County in 1836.
The Rutherford County Regiment was authorized on October 30, 1779 by the Province of North Carolina Congress. It was created at the same time that Rutherford County, North Carolina was created out of the western part of Tryon County, North Carolina when Tryon County and its regiment of militia were abolished. Officers were appointed and commissioned by the Governor. The regiment was engaged in battles and skirmishes against the British during the American Revolution in North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina between 1779 and 1782. It was active until the end of the war.
Benjamin Merrill was a captain in the militia of Rowan County, North Carolina who sided with, and fought with, the Regulators. He was captured following the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771, and shortly after ordered executed as a rebel and traitor by Governor William Tryon.
Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina by Marjoleine Kars.
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