War of the Regulators & the Battle of Alamance
The War of the Regulators was a series of violent incidences culminating in a real battle.
A precursor to the War of the Regulators occurred 24 Jan 1759. Francis Corbin was extorting money from people when collecting rents for Lord Granville. A group of men from Halifax and Edgecombe Counties kidnapped Corbin from his home in Edenton. Corbin was taken to Enfield and held in jail with his partner-in-crime, Thomas Bodley. Forced to pay a bond as a guarantee to appear in court in the spring, the two agreed to new rules governing rent and tax collection. The pair had to promise not to sue their kidnappers. During court, the pair were released after they promised to return all illegal fees and taxes collected. Lord Granville removed Corbin from office and the Assembly investigated the incident, referred to as the "Enfield Riot". Some of the captors were punished and imprisoned. Sympathizers and friends broke those prisoners out of jail.
The first organized conflict was in Mecklenburg County, when squatters chased off surveyors hired to survey the land in 1765. The conflict arose between the farmers and the affluent. The populations in the western areas of North Carolina rose sharply with the Scotch-Irish immigrants in the 1750s. Several dry years had limited the crops the farmers had been able to harvest. In turn, they didn't have any funds to purchase food, seed or anything else and had run up debts that they hadn't been able to pay and banks had foreclosed and taken possession of their farms. The court system was burdened and the lawyers were able to take advantage of the rural residents. A court system that protected everyone if everyone was honest had become corrupt. The rural residents were upset by this lack of control, lack of honesty and increasing taxes. Although most of the acts by the "regulators" were not organized, and the regulators did their best to upset the corruption in the system, the only real battle was 16 May 1771 along Great Alamance Creek. While some historians consider this the beginning of the American Revolution, many of the Regulators were not against the king, only the corruption and taxes.
On 9 May 1771, nine young men raided a British convoy carrying gunpowder to General Hugh Waddell's militia on Phifer's Hill just north of Concord. Waddell was en route to assist Governor William Tryon in dispersing the Regulators. The men disguised themselves as Indians before blowing up two wagons of gunpowder. The powder exploded was to be used against the Regulator uprising near Hillsborough. Because of their disguise and getting coated with additional soot, they received the moniker of "Black Boys of Cabarrus". The Regulators viewed the Black Boys as heroes, but Governor Tryon did not. Tryon labeled them as criminals and fugitives. The Black Boys his out in Georgia until the Mecklenburg Resolves in 1775, when they joined those patriots fighting the British.
On 15 May 1771, the colonial militia under Tryon captured seven regulators and the regulators captured two officers, Captains John Ashe and Walker. The next day, agreeing to the exchange, Tryon waited about a half hour before he realized that he wasn't going to see the two men. Two other regulators who were attempting to negotiate, Reverend David Caldwell and Robert Thompson, left Tryon's camp. When Caldwell got about halfway across the field, he was warned that Tryon was about to fire and was able to take cover. Thompson was treated as Tryon's prisoner. In a fit of rage, Tryon grabbed one of his militiamen's rifle and shot and killed Thompson. He sent a flag bearer, under a flag of truce, Donald Malcolm, in hopes of calming things down, but the regulators fired on him. The regulators, while having superior numbers, were not organized. Herman Husband, a Quaker, was leading the men, until he realized that a battle was about to start, then he departed. Other leaders for the regulators were Captain Montgomery (killed), James Hunter, James Few, Benjamin Merrill and Charles Harrington. The regulators, without leadership, and running low on ammunition, took an early advantage in the battle, but did not succeed in winning the battle. At one point, the McPherson brothers captured one of Tryon's cannons, but without ammunition for it were unable to take advantage of the capture.
In the end, Tryon took thirteen prisoners and executed James Few 17 May 1771 for refusing to give an oath of allegiance. Six others were executed 19 Jun 1771, by hanging in Hillsborough. Those six were Captain Robert Matear, Captain Benjamin Merrill, Captain Isaac Messer, Captain James Pugh, and two unknown men. Those who were excepted from pardon by Governor Tryon include: Joseph Boring, John Bumpass, Abraham Creson, Simon Dunn Jr, Samuel Jones, Benjamin Merrit, William Rankin, William Robeson, Edward Smith, Joshua Teague, Samuel Waggoner, John Wilcox, James Wilkerson Sr, and John Winkler. Those who were pardoned after being convicted of treason were: William Brown, James Copeland, Harmon Cox, James Emerson, Forest Mercer and James Stewart.
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