ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Alamance Battleground, North Carolina
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Alamance Battleground, North Carolina
A 3-pounder cannon looks out over the site of the
Battle of Alamance, a desperate fight that took place
in the North Carolina Piedmont in 1771.
A monument erected in the
1880s marks the site of the
Battle of Alamance near
Burlington, North Carolina.
First Battle of the Revolution?
A fight against oppressive
government and high taxes,
the Battle of Alamance took
place four years before the
official start of the Revolution.
Tryon's Line at Alamance
Red and blue flags mark the
lines of both the Regulators
and Governor Tryon's militia.
Alamance Battleground S.H.S.- Burlington, North Carolina
The Battle of Alamance, 1771
Allen House at Alamance
The Allen House, a restored
Quaker log cabin, helps
visitors understand life in the
Piedmont during the 1700s.
|Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Four years before the American Revolution, a
fight against exorbitant taxes and oppressive
government ended on the bloodstained field
of the Battle of Alamance.
Now a North Carolina State Historic Site,
Alamance Battleground preserves the scene
where the Piedmont's Regulation movement
went down to bloody defeat at the hands of
Royal Governor William Tryon's well-armed
colonial militia. It was a pivotal moment and
had the Regulators won their desperate fight,
the course of American history might have
been dramatically altered.
North Carolina's War of Regulation began
when residents of the Piedmont, many of
them farmers, organized to oppose soaring
taxes and oppressive government officials.
Many had lost property and possessions to
arbitrary seizures by government officials,
while all were generally infuriated over their
inability to meet with their representatives or
to petition for redress of their grievances.
These complaints, of course, would be
among the chief causes of the American
Revolution four years later and the rights of
representation, due process and petition are
among the key liberties that we enjoy today.
The Regulators sought to obtain these
liberties through peaceful appeals to their
colonial assembly and Royal Governor
William Tryon as early as 1768. Their pleas
for help, however, fell on deaf ears. As
frustrations grew, so too did violence.
Appointed officials were confronted and
sometimes assaulted. Court proceedings
were interrupted and, when two key leaders
of the Regulation were arrested, threats were
made to burn the town of Hillsborough to the
ground. The detainees were quickly released
from the jail there before the growing force of
Regulators outside town could take action.
The Regulators were considered a mob by
the elite men of the colony and their actions
were deemed rebellious. In March of 1771,
Governor William Tryon called out the militia
to suppress their movement.
The Governor's plan called for two columns
of militia to converge on the Regulators. One,
under General Hugh Waddell, was to march
to Hillsborough from Cape Fear by way of
Salisbury. The other, led by Governor Tryon in
person, would advance directly on the
Piedmont from the capital of New Bern.
Many militiamen had no interest in going to
war against their fellow North Carolinians
and Waddell's column turned out to be much
smaller than expected. Accompanied by only
284 men, he found his way barred by much
larger forces of Regulators and turned back
rather than risk battle with them.
Tryon, leading a larger command, reached
Hillsborough on May 11, 1771. Receiving the
latest reports on the Regulators and the
location of their main camp, he marched out
from the town and advanced to the banks of
Alamance Creek with a force of around 1,000
men. The Regulators were camped just two
The governor's final advance began on the
morning of May 16, 1771. He reached the
battleground to find himself opposed by
around 2,000 Regulators, many of whom
were either poorly armed or without firearms
at all. Supported by cannon, the militia was
formed into a double-ranked line of battle
and marched to within firing range of the
Hoping to avert bloodshed, the Regulators
sent three emissaries across to Governor
Tryon. These he immediately seized, coldly
executing one within view of the outraged
"rebels" across the field. He then ordered the
Regulators to disperse or he would open fire.
Their response was "Fire and be damned!"
Tryon ordered the militia to begin the attack,
but his men were in no hurry to open fire on
their follow Carolinians. The order was
repeated, but still the battle did not begin.
The governor finally yelled to his men that
they must fire on the Regulators or fire on
him. Fearful of defying royal authority, they
began the attack.
The Battle of Alamance lasted roughly two
hours, with the militia steadily advancing.
Many of the unarmed Regulators fled the field
when the battle began, a number of them
Quakers whose religion forbade violence.
Those who remained fought "Indian style"
from behind trees and other cover, but stood
no chance against the cannon and superior
arms and coordination of the militia troops.
Tryon won the battle, but at a heavy price.
Nine of his men were killed and 61 wounded.
Regulator losses were much heavier, but the
final tally is unknown. At least twelve were
captured, six of whom were later hanged.
The governor followed the Battle of Alamance
by unleashing a fury of devastation across
the Piedmont region. Homes and farms were
burned, men arrested and families left
hungry and destitute. His horrible retribution
forced many of the surviving Regulators to
flee the region, while others surrendered and
were paroled after pledging to never again
question their government.
The battle and end of the War of Regulation
sent shockwaves through the colonies and
were widely reported in newspapers
throughout America. The brutal suppression
of the movement helped plant the seeds of
the American Revolution.
The monuments on the battlefield describe
Alamance as the "first battle of the American
Revolution." While this claim is debated, the
significance of the engagement is not. Just
four years later many of the men from both
sides turned their muskets against the
British as North Carolina joined in the war for
Alamance Battleground State Historic Site is
located at 5803 N.C. 62 S. near Burlington,
North Carolina. It is just outside today's
community of Alamance.
The park features the battleground, where
the lines of both the Regulators and the
militia are marked by red and blue flags; a
museum; monuments, and the historic Allen
House, an 18th century log cabin. There is
also a Civil War Trails display noting the
Regulator's Field as the site where a portion
of the Confederate Army of Tennessee first
heard of the surrender of Robert E. Lee.
The battleground is open Monday through
Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed
Sundays) and is free to visit. Be sure not to
confuse the park with the nearby historical
society museum, which is also of interest.
Please click here to visit the official website
for more information.
Harmon Cox Powder Horn
This powder horn, now on
display at the park museum,
was carried at the Battle of
Alamance by Harmon Cox.
The Regulators' Field
The site of the Battle of
Alamance has been a noted
landmark since that bloody
day in 1771. It was here that
Confederate General William
J. Hardee learned of the
surrender of Robert E. Lee.