No stately column marks the hallowed place
Where in silence sleeps their sacred dust,
The first free martyrs of a glorious race-
Their fame a people's wealth, a nation's trust.
Above their tomb the golden harvest waves,
The glorious stars stand sentinel on high,
While in sad requiem near their turfless graves
The great Alamance slowly moaning murmurs by.
But holier watchers here their vigil keep
Than storied urn or monumental stone;
For love and justice guard their dreamless sleep
And plenty smiles above their bloody home.
Immortal youth shall crown their deathless fame,
And as their country's glories still advance,
Shall brighter glow, o'er all the earth thy name,
Our first-fought field for FREEDOM-ALAMANCE.
The Regulation movements instead of being a lawless
aggregation seeking to overthrow the State government as was claimed was only the crystallization of honest patriotic sentiment
seeking by concert of action to secure to themselves and people at large their just rights against the usurpation of official
tyranny and corruption which so sorely oppressed them. Many of these officials were foreigners who were political favorites
of the Crown and had come over to achieve a fortune, and, being corrupt at hearts they persistently oppressed the people to
that end. Mr. Caruthers in his Life of Caldwell says in regard to the causes which led up to the organization of the Regulators
and the battle of Alamance that "The people were defrauded by the clerks of the courts, by the recorders of deeds, by entry-takers,
by surveyors and by lawyers: every man demanding twice or three times his legal fee." It is no wonder that the people sought
a reformation in the management of public-affairs. The sheriff were sometimes very insulting as well as exacting. Caruthers,
in Revolutionary Incidents first series, gives an illustration.
When the sheriff was going over the country distraining
and selling the property of every man who did not instantly pay the amount of tax demanded accompanied too by his deputies
and perhaps some others, well armed and attending him as a life-guard he came to the house of a poor man who was not at home;
but as if determined not to be wholly disappointed in his object, and not finding anything else, or not enough of anything
else to satisfy his demands, he took off his wife's dress which she had on at the time and which she had made with her own
hands, sold it under the hammer for her husband's tax; and then; giving her a box or slap with his hand., told her to go and
make her another.
Just such acts as this with many others equally outrageous; caused the people to organize. The same
"It does not appear on the pages of history that the people of North Carolina were disposed to rebel,
without a cause, against the authority of those who were properly authorized to administer the laws, or that they ever refused
to pay whatever taxes might be necessary for the support of the government; but they were at all times ready, when they had
the powers to resist oppression or flagrant encroachments on their rights."
But it is unnecessary to further recount
the outrages inflicted upon a suffering people and we have scarcely begun to enumerate their deeds of wrong-doing for enough
has already been given to show that the people had cause for every step they took, and no one will be inclined to say them
nay. Amongst the Regulators were found many of the best men of North Carolinamen against whom nothing could be said to their
dishonor. The whole movement was nothing more than an honest, clean-cut movement to secure the rights of citizenship.
Johnston Riot Act of 1771
In 1765 George Sims delivered "An address to the People of Granville County." This speech, also called the "Nutbush
Address," charged the county clerk of court with malpractice. The problem of illegal fees and supposedly dishonest officials
had already led to mob violence in Granville County. In the address, Sims describes the average citizen's problems in obtaining
money to pay court fees and debts:
... if he has but one horse to plow with, one bed to lie on, or one cow to give a little milk for his children, they must
all go to raise money which is not to be had. And lastly if his personal estate (sold at one tenth of its value) will not
do, then his lands (which perhaps has cost him many years of toil and labor) must go the same way to satisfy these cursed
hungry caterpillars, that are eating and will eat out the bowels of our Commonwealth, if they be not pulled down from their
nests in a very short time, and what need I say, Gentlemen, to urge the necessity their is for a reformation...
March, the "Association" repeated the same points in stronger terms, and by April the group called themselves "Regulators"---they
would attempt to "regulate" local government. Tension was growing, and the Regulators now wrote a new "advertisement" demanding
that the Orange County sheriff show them his tax lists, collection records, and fee tables. Meanwhile, local officials were
furious. Edmund Fanning referred to the Regulators as "the mob," and declared that they seemed to think themselves "the sovereign
arbiters of right and wrong." A simple act was all that was needed to set off the Regulatory powder keg. Perhaps it was meant
as a show of force, perhaps it was merely bad timing. In any case, a day or two before the last Regulator petition reached
Orange officials, sheriff's officers seized a Regulator's horse, saddle, and bridle for tax payment. On April 8, 1768, eighty
angry Regulators marched on the county seat at Hillsborough. Armed with "clubs, staves & and cloven muskets," the group
captured and bound Sheriff Hawkins, then "rescued" the horse and tack. As they left town, some of the group fired shots into
Colonel Fanning's house.
There was other trouble
in the backcounty. On April 27, 1768, a mob of about 100 men disrupted the proceedings of the Anson County court. They questioned
the clerk on taxes and fees, openly debated possible violence, and resolved that they would not pay taxes. The men referred
to themselves as "this company of Regulators."
Robertson had come from the discontented
regions of North Carolina, where the Regulators were resisting oppression with all their might. For more than two years anarchy
prevailed there. Sheriffs dared not exercise their official functions. Judges were driven from the bench, and general lawlessness
was observed. Governor Tryon met this state of things as a passionate and unwise ruler would. Instead of being just, and protecting
the flock over which he had been set from rapacious wolves, he coalesced with the wolves and used the strong arm of military
power to crush rising and righteous rebellion. Bad men had attached themselves to the Regulators and brought discredit upon
their course, but a wise ruler would have discriminated between the good and bad of his opposers.
A rumor reached
the governor that a band of armed Regulators were at Cross Creek (now Fayetteville) ready to march upon New Berne to release
Herman Husbands, who had been temporarily imprisoned. Tryon fortified his palace and called out the militia of the several
adjoining counties. Husbands was released and his partisans retired. But the governor went ahead, and made a virtual declaration
of war against the Regulators. His council authorized him to march into the rebellious district with sufficient troops to
restore law and order. With three hundred militia and a small train of artillery, he left New Berne late in April (1771),
and early in May encamped on the Eno, where he was joined by reinforcements. General Hugh Waddell had been directed to collect
the forces from the western countries; and at Salisbury, where he rendezvoused his troops, he waited for powder then on its
way from Charleston. Its convoy was intercepted in Cabarras county by some Regulators with blackened faces, and routed, and
the powder fell into the hands of the assailants. Waddell crossed the Yadkin to join Tryon, where he received a message from
the Regulators telling him to halt or retreat. He found many of his troops wavering; and so he turned about, and re-crossed
the Yadkin, hotly pursued by a band of insurgents. They captured many of his men, but the general escaped to Salisbury.
Tryon heard of these disasters, he pressed forward toward the Allamance Creek, to confront the Regulators, whom, he heard,
were gathering in force on the Salisbury road. When he approached, they sent to him a proposition for an accommodation, with
a demand for an answer within four hours. He promised a reply by noon the next day. That night he treacherously moved forward,
crossed the Allamance at dawn, and moving stealthily along the Salisbury road, formed a line of battle within half a mile
of the camp of the Regulators, before he was discovered. The insurgents seized their arms, and the belligerents confronted
each other with deadly weapons. A parley ensued. An ambassador of the Regulators, named Thompson, who was sent to Tryon, was
detained as a prisoner. He resented the perfidy, and in bold words told Tryon some unpleasant truths. The governor, in hot
anger, snatched a gun from the hands of a militiaman and shot Thompson dead. He instantly perceived his folly, and sent out
a flag of truce. The Regulators saw Thompson fall, and they fired on the flag. At that moment the Rev. Dr. Caldwell, a staunch
patriot, fearing bloodshed, rode along the lines and begged the Regulators to disperse. Tryon, on the contrary, full of wrath,
gave the fatal word "Fire!" The militia hesitated. The governor, crazed with rage, rose in his stirrups and shouted "Fire!
fire on them or on me!" A volley of musketry and discharge of cannon followed this order. The fire was returned. For a few
minutes there was a hot fight. Some young Regulators rushed forward and seized the governor's cannon, but did not know how
to use them. There was no acknowledged leader of the insurgents excepting Herman Husbands, who, when the firing began, declared
that his peace-principles as a Quaker would not allow him to fight, and he rode away. He was not seen again in that region
until the close of the war of the Revolution. In that conflict nine of the militia and more than twenty of the Regulators
were killed, and many were wounded on both sides. It was the first battle in the war for independence. It was a sort of civil
war, for it was fought on the soil of North Carolina between citizens of North Carolina. The Regulators were defeated, and
the people in all that region--conscientious people--were compelled to take an oath of allegiance, which restrained their
patriotic action when the war of the Revolution was earnestly begun.
The victor exercised savage cruelty toward his
prisoners, showing a petty spite which was disgraceful to a soldier and a man. He condemned a young carpenter named Few, who
had suffered much from the bad conduct of Fanning (even the loss of a maiden to whom he was affianced), to be hung on the
night after the battle, and caused the property of his mother, at Hillsborough, to be destroyed. Other prisoners were marched
through the country, as in a triumphal procession, and the conqueror marked his path by conflagrations and destruction of
growing crops. At Hillsborough six more of the prisoners were hanged, as a terror to the inhabitants. Among them was Captain
Messer, who had been sentenced to be hung with Few. His wife hurried to Tryon, with their little son ten years of age, and
pleaded for her husband's life. The governor spurned her rudely, and Messer was led out to be executed. The boy broke away
from his mother, who lay weeping on the ground, and going to the governor said: "Sir, hang me, and let my father live." "Who
told you to say that?" asked Tryon. "Nobody," replied the lad. "Why do you ask that?" said the governor. "Because if you hang
my father," said the boy, "my mother will die and the little children will perish." Tryon's heart was touched. Messer was
offered his liberty if he would bring Husbands back. He consented, and his wife and children were kept as hostages. Messer
returned in the course of a few days, and reported that he overtook Husbands in Virginia, but could not bring him back. The
exasperated governor hung Messer at Hillsborough, with the other prisoners.
The movements of the Regulators was a
powerful beginning of that system of resistance which marked the people of North Carolina in the impending struggle. It lacked
the lofty moral aspect of the movements in New England. The North Carolinians were resisting actual oppression, in the form
of heavy taxation and extortion; the New Englanders were moved by an abstract principle of justice and right. The three per
cent. at pound duty on tea had no effect on the material prosperity of Massachusetts; but it represented oppression and injustice,
and they resisted its collection.
Popularly called the "General of the Regulators,"
James Hunter seems to have been genuinely interested in reform for reform's sake. Legend has it that he was asked to command
the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance but refused, commenting, "We are all free men and every man must command himself."
Hunter was born in Virginia in 1740, and was thus still a young man during the Alamance crisis. He was mentioned as a "ringleader"
in several pieces of government correspondence, and was outlawed after the Battle of Alamance. Yet, his main claims to Regulator
fame were (1) that he and Rednap Howell (an Orange County schoolmaster, traditionally known as writer of many "Regulator ballads"
presented a Regulator petition to Governor Tryon at Brunswick Town (June, 1768), and (2) Hunter was the intended recipient
of a letter written by Rednap Howell. This letter, intercepted by Tryon's agents in 1771, explained attempts to organize Regulator
groups in the east. Howell also commented on the anti-government resolves of the backcountry. The letter played a part in
convincing the governor and council that the Regulators were bent on insurrection. After the Battle of Alamance, James
Hunter went into hiding. In 1776 he appeared again, arrested by the Whigs as a potentially dangerous Tory. He later took an
oath of allegiance to the new state, represented Guilford County in the House of Commons (1778 to 1782), and at different
times served as sheriff, treasurer, and county court judge in Guilford. Hunter died in 1820, and was described by his grandson
as having been
Petition dated 9 October 1769.
and Gen't of the Assembly.
That the Province in General
labour under general grievances, and the western part thereof under particular ones; which we not only see, but very sensibly
feel, being crouch'd beneath our sufferings and not withstanding our sacred privileges, have too long yielded ourselves slaves
to remorseless oppression. - Permit us to conceive it to be our inviolable right to make known our grievances, and to petition
for redress as appears in the Bill of Rights pass'd in the reign of King Charles the first, as well as the Act of Settlement
of the Crown of the Revolution. We therefore beg leave at the Act of the Settlement of the Crown of the Revolution. We therefore
beg leave to lay before you a specimen thereof that your compassionate endeavors may tend to the relief of your injured Constituents,
whose distressed condition call aloud for aid. The alarming cries of the oppressed possibly may reach your ears; but without
your zeal how they shall ascend the throne - how relentless is the breast without sympathy, the heart that cannot bleed on
a view of our calamity; to see tenderness removed, cruelty stepping in; and all our liberties and privileges invaded and abridg'd
(by as it were) domestickes; who are conscious of their guilt and void of remorse. - O how darling! how relentless whilst
impending Judgements loudly threaten and gaze upon them, with every emblem of merited destruction. A few of the many grievances
are as follows, (viz't)
1. That the poor inhabitants in general are
much oppress'd by reason of the disproportionate Taxes, and those of the western Counties in particular; as they are geneally
in mean circumstances.
2. That no method is prescribed by law for the
payment of the taxes of the Western Counties in produce (in lieu of a currency) as in other Counties within this Province
to the Peoples great oppression.
3. That Lawyers, Clerks, and other petitioners;
in place of being obsequious Servants for the Country's use, are become a nuisance, as the business of the people is often
transacted without the least degree of fairness, the intention of the law evaded, exorbitant fees extorted, and the sufferers
left to mourn under their oppressions.
4. That an Attorney should have it in his power,
either for the sake of ease or interest, or to gratify their malevolence and spite, or commence suits to what courts he pleases,
however inconvenient it may be to the Defendants; is a very great oppression.
5. That all unlawful fees taken in Indictment,
where the Defendant is acquited by his Country (however customary it may be) is an oppression.
6. That Lawyers, Clerks, and others, extorting
more fees than is intended by law; is also an oppression.
7. That the violation of the King's Instructions
to his Delegates, their artfulness in concealing the same from him; and the great injury the People thereby sustains: is a
And for remedy whereof, we take the freedom
to recommend the following mode of redress, not doubting audience and acceptance which will not only tend to our relief, but
command prayers at a duty from your humble Petitioners.
1. That at all elections each suffrage be given
by Ticket & Ballot.
2. That the mode of Taxation be altered, and each person pay in proportion to the proffits arising
from his Estate.
3. That no future tax be laid in Money, until a currency is made.
4. That there may be established
a Western as well as a Northern and Southern District, and a Treasurer for the same.
5. That when a currency is made it
may be let out by a loan office (on land security) and a Treasurer for the same
6. That all debts above 60s (shillings)
and under 10 pounds be tried and determined without lawyers, by a jury of six freeholders, impaneled by a Justice, and that
their verdict be enter'd by the said Justice, and be a final judgement.
7. That the Chief Justice have no perquisites,
but a Salary only.
8. That Clerks be restricted in respect to fees, costs, and other things within the course of their
9. That Lawyers be effectively Barr'd from exacting and extorting fees.
10. That all doubts may be removed in
respect to the payment of fees and costs on Indictments whereas the Defendant is not found guilty by the jury, and therefore
11. That the Assembly make known the Remonstrance to the King, the conduct of the cruel and oppressive Receiver
of the Quit Rents, for omitting the customary easie and effectual method of collecting by distress, and pursuing the expensive
mode of commencing suits in the most distant Courts.
12. That the Assembly in like manner make known that the Governor
and Council fo frequently grant lands to as many as they think proper without regard to Head Rights, notwithstanding the contrariety
of his Majesties instructions, by which means immence sums has been collected, and numerous Patents granted, for much of the
most fertile lands in this Province, that is yet uninhabited and cultivated, environed by great numbers of poor people who
are necessitated to toil in the cultivation of bad Lands whereon they hardly can subsist, who are thereby deprived of His
Majesties liberality and Bounty nor is there the least regard paid to the cultivation clause in said Patent mentioned, as
many of the said Council as well as their friends and favorites enjoy large quanitities of Lands under the above-mentioned
13. That the Assembly communicates in like manner the Violation of His Majesties Instructions respecting
the Land Office by the Governor and Council, and of their own rules, customs and orders. If it be sufficiently proved, that
after they had granted Warrants for some Tracts of Land, and that the same was in due time suvey'd and returned and the Patent
fees timely paid into the said office; and that if a private Council was called to avoid spectators, and peremptory orders
made that Patents should not be granted; and Warrants by their orders arbitrarily to have been issued in the names of other
Persons for the same Lands, and if when intreated by a solicitor they refus'd to render so much as a reason for their so doing,
or to refund any part of the money paid by them extorted.
14. That some method may be pointed out that every Improvement
on Lands in any of the Proprietors part be proved when begun, by whom, and every sale made, that the eldest may have the preference
of at least 300 acres.
15. That all taxes in the following Counties be paid as in other Counties in the Province (i.e.)
in the produce of the County and that warehouses be erected as follows (viz), In Anson County at Isom Haleys Ferry Landing
on PeeDee River, Rowan and Orange at Cambleton in Cumberland County, Mecklenburg at __?___ on the Catawba River, and in Tryon
County at __?__ on __?__ River.
16. That every denomination of People may marry according to their respective mode Ceremony
and customs after due publication or License.
17. That Doc't Benjamin Franklin or some other known patriot be appointed
agent, to represent the unhappy state of this Province to his Majesty, and to solicit the several Boards in England.
Thomas Taylor------------------- James McIlvanilly---------------- John Bailey
Robert Webb------------------- Charles Hines-------------------
Jonathan Turner------------------- Daniel
Laws ----------------------- Thadwick Hogins
Barnabee Skipper------------------- Abraham Bellow-------------------
George Skipper------------------- Thomas Donnor ------------------- James E.
During the quiet period, then, the Regulator
movement seems to have developed a tradition; an esprit de corps; a certain understanding of their potential. This is evidenced
by the words of the Anson County petition of 1769, which pushes Regulator grievances further than ever before. The writers
That the violation of the Kings Instructions
to his delegates, their artfulness in concealing the same from him; and the great Injury the People thereby sustains; is a
The petition goes on to indict the governor
and council for several irregularities in assigning and accounting for land grants, asks that taxes be made payable in produce,
and suggests location for tax commodity warehouses in which to store these goods. Several of the locations mentioned are outside
Anson County--a strange inclusion, unless there had been previous consultation with other Regulator groups. Further, the petition
That Doctor Benjamin Franklin or some
other known patriot be appointed Agent, to represent the unhappy state of this Province to his Majesty, and to solicit the
several Boards in England.
Until new documentation is found, the
author or authors of the above-mentioned petition remain unknown.
Still, it might be speculated that the
fine hand of Herman Husband somehow reached out to Anson County and that, indeed, Husband was the chief agitator of the backcountry.
The 1767-1768 legislature had declared Hillsborough a borough town, eligible to elect its own representative to the assembly.
On March 12, 1770, the first such election was held, and the man elected was none other than Edmund Fanning. Orange County
returned Regulators Herman Husband and John Pryor, both of whom had served in the previous assembly. Thomas Person, a Regulator
from Granville County, was also returned to the legislature. During the summer of 1770 the Orange County Regulators drew up
a petition to be presented at the fall term of Superior Court, and on September 22, this court convened in Hillsborougb. The
only judge on the bench was associate justice Richardson Henderson. To him James Hunter presented the Regulator document.
Action on the petition was deferred until the following Monday. The New York Gazette, in an article datelined "New Bern,"
reported the next series of events.
……on Monday, the second day
of the court, a very large number of . . . people, headed by men of considerable property, appeared in Hillsborough, armed
with clubs, whips loaded at the ends with lead or iron, and many other offensive weapons, and at once beset the court-house.
The first object of their revenge was Mr. John Williams, a gentleman of the law, whom they assaulted as he was entering the
court; him they cruelly abused with many and violent blows with their loaded whips on the head, and different Darts of his
body, until he by great good fortune made his escape, and took shelter in a neighboring store. They then entered the court-house,
and immediately fixed their attention on Col. Fanning, as the next object of their cruelty; he for safety had retired to the
Judge's seat. . . from which he might make ... defense... but vain were all his efforts...
They seized him by the heels, dragged
him down the steps, his head striking very violently on every step, carried him to the door, and forcing him out, dragged
him on the ground. . . till at length. . . he rescued himself. . . and took shelter in a house: the vultures pursued him there.
. . they left him for a while, retreated to the court-house, knocked down. . . the deputy clerk of the crown, ascended the
bench, shook their whips over Judge Henderson, told him his turn was next, ordered him to pursue business, but in the manner
they should describe which was: that no lawyers should enter the court-house, no juries but what they pick, and order new
trials in cases where some of them had been cast for their malpractices. They then seized Mr. Hooper, a gentleman of the law
dragged and paraded him through the streets, and treated him with every mark of contempt and insult.
This closed the first day. But the second
day presented a scene, if possible, more tragic: immediately on their discovering that the judge had made his escape from
their fury, and refused to submit. . . they marched in a body to Colonel Fanning's house ... entered the same, destroyed every
piece of furniture in it, ripped open his beds, broke and threw in the streets every piece of china and glass-ware in the
house, scattered all his papers and books in the winds, seized all his plate, cash, and proclamation money; entered his cellar.
. . Being now drunk with rage. . . (and) liquor... they took his wearing clothes, stuck them on a pole, paraded them in triumph
through the streets, and to close the scene, pulled down and laid his house in ruins. . .
Other reports tell of the mob smashing
windows of private residents, administering other beatings, and generally terrorizing the town. The Regulators also held a
mock court session in the courthouse, entering judgments in the court minutes---"In McMund vs. Courtney the comment was 'Damn'd
Rogues'; in Wilson vs. Harris, "All Harris's are Rogues;" in Brumfield vs. Ferrel (sic), "Nonsense let them agree for Ferrell
(sic) has gone Hellward;" . . . in Fanning vs. Smith, "Fanning pays costs but loses nothing;" . . . Finally, the rioters dispersed.
They had numbered about 150 and had been led by William Butler, Rednap Howell, James Hunter, and Herman Husband.