"Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it." ~ Patrick Henry, Speech on the Stamp Act in the Virginia House of Burgesses, May 29, 1765
In 1776 Burlingham 1st would have been sixty-eight years old. There is no evidence of when he died, but we do know he was exempted from taxes in 1771 when he was sixty-three years old. There is also no evidence that his wife, Elizabeth, was still alive. If Martha, their eldest daughter was living, she would have been about thirty-seven, married and had children, some of which might have been military age. Burlingham 2nd was about thirty-five, and we know he had a son named Burlingham 3rd who was about fifteen. He likely had some younger children and perhaps had a living wife also. There is also evidence of a William Rudd who appears to be a younger son of Burlingham 2nd living in Anson at this time. We also know that Burlingham 1st and Elizabeth baptized one other son named Walter, but I find no trace of him in Anson. He would have been about thirty-three. Then we have George Lounsdell, and we have no evidence of how old he would have been. But no doubt, he was married by this time and had children. The number of children he had is uncertain, but probably more than the four sons he named in the Screven Co., GA Deed of Transfer of Property. And we know that he also had a daughter named Margaret named later in a Charleston land deed. So you see there are potentially several military age males in the family but the only evidence we have is from the Revolutionary War Pension Application of Burlingham 3rd. And there are many reasons why we find no records of service by other Rudd males. First, just like Burlingham 3rd, their service was in the county militia; those militias have no rosters or payrolls. The Act of Congress that authorized county militia service as eligible for a War Pension was passed on June 7, 1832 and many of those who served were dead by that time. Or those that could be witness for them were dead. So only those who lived long enough and applied for a pension are in the records. And this is much of the case across the colonies. Continental service was rewarded and the records were kept, but since militia service was called-up and funded by the Provincial governments in each colony, the our newly formed federal government did not extend that reward to local militia members. George Washington funded his troops through legislation passed by the 2nd Continental Congress, which in turn was funded by taxes that came up from those same Provincial governments. So, it took about fifty years after the War had been won for the surviving militias member to be allowed pensions for their service.
In "The History of Anson County, North Carolina, 1750-1976", Mary Medley describes the ruthlessness of the guerrilla war between the Loyalists and Patriots in the area around Anson County. It started with Indians attacks along the western frontier and then came the skirmishes among neighbors that grew into murderous ambushes and conspiracy between Loyalists and Cherokee. Much more is described by Malcome Fowler in his book, "They passed this way; a personal narrative of Harnett County History", Mr. Fowler describes the predicament that the Scottish immigrants in the area of Cape Fear found themselves in shortly after their arrival. The colonial records tell us that their predicament was designed by new Governor Martin and the Earl of Dartmouth. The Scots were intended to be the secret weapon in the southern colonies, but the Regulators' War, the Battle of Alamance, in a very ironic way sealed their fate. This is where the Regulators' Movement and the Revolutionary War cross paths in North Carolina. The British intended to recruit Loyalists in South Carolina with the assistance of the Scots who had been granted land at Cape Fear, it was a quid quo pro that the Scots were made aware of before they left Scotland. But the planned rendezvous at Wilmington didn't go as planned, the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Widow Moore's Creek Bridge, and Henry Clinton and Peter Parker were defeated by the Patriots and General Moultrie at the Battle of Sullivan Island. Those defeats came before the Declaration of Independence was signed and gave confidence to the Continental Congress when the news of British defeat reached their ears. And of course, right across the border was General Francis Marion, "the Swamp Fox" in South Carolina. An excellent source for the intensity of that period is described by William Dobein James in his book, "A Sketch of The Life of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion".
Have no doubt, that period in our history was vicious, brutal, cruel and very bloody. The local arch-nemesis on the side of the Loyalists was a man by the name of David Fanning, who wrote his own memoir "Narrative of Colonel David Fanning" concerning his service in the Revolutionary War.
I previously told you about the Regulators' Movement and the Aftemath, but now I want to give you a behind the scenes look at what happened in North Carolina that lead up to the Revolutionary War including the impact of the Regulators' Movement.
We have all learned about the Stamp Act in American History, but it was much more than just a protest against tax legislation, it set the stage for the engagement of the populous in the pre-war days a good ten years before. From there, the Sons of Liberty were born and the Correspondence Committees were conceived. The network had been laid by representatives of Samuel Adams so when the time came to rise up, the shadow governments were in place in each of the colonies.
Next Grenville instituted reforms in the customs service and the regulation of trade with the colonies. The first thing he did was mandate that custom officials had to live in the colonies. No longer could they live in England where they enjoyed the refinements of comfort and culture, and performed their duties long distance. Now, enforcement was on location. The Royal Navy was empowered to act as customs agents in American waters which expanded the reach of the agents with intentions of curtailing smuggling. They were authorized to conduct general searches of ships and warehouses for contraband under a general warrant. The Admiralty Courts were expanded and allowed to conduct proceedings without juries. And colonial governors, some of whom were complicit in evading imperial trade regulations, were put on notice.
Then Grenville took the 1733 Molasses Act which levied a sixpence tax on imported non-British (French and Spanish) sugar and molasses and refashioned it into the 1764 Revenue Act (Sugar Act) by reducing the tax by half and increasing the list of items taxed to include wine, cloth, coffee, tropical fruits and silk. Since rum was a major product of New England distilleries, for years the colonists had worked around the tax through smuggling and black markets and the 1733 Act was no longer of any significance to them. But now, with the tightening of the customs laws, general warrants to search for contraband and customs agents living in the colonies, they felt the pinch. American exports of iron and lumber were also closely supervised and shippers were required to complete bonding procedure before loading cargoes, so shippers began to feel that pinch. This caused immediate economic hardship on the New England and middle colonies. The economy slowed down and people began to hoard their hard currency of gold and silver and increased their use paper money to settle debts. The distillers began a non-importation boycott of British goods that was adopted in Boston and spread to outer areas of New England and New York. It was during these protests that the cry of “no taxation without representation” was first widely heard.
This was followed by the 1764 Currency Act which ended the use of paper money and bills of credit as legal tender in the colonies and mandated hard currency in its place. Colonial America had always experienced currency shortage problems to the extent that commodity trading in beaver pelts, tobacco and corn had been made legal tender. But British merchants had complained about the dubious value of paper money which had an impact on Great Britain’s economy. The economic depression was a disaster for the working class as we saw in the Regulators’ Movement in the North Carolina backcountry when extortion and corruption among the ruling class brought poverty to the middle class.
Now Grenville had ignited the anger of the two disparate classes of American society, the laborers and small farmers of the working class and the merchants and planters of the wealthier class. His next program succeeded in drawing the anger of the middle class, the 1765 Stamp Act which was paired with the 1765 Quartering Act.
After the French and Indian War, the British government was faced with the additional expense of soldiers returning from the colonies and providing these veterans with pay and pensions. If they could keep the soldiers in service in America, then the colonies would have to pay for them and that would relieve the English from the financial burden. American colonials did not believe a standing army was necessary, they felt the major threat to their security was the French and they had been vanquished. When there was a security problem with the Indians, the colonial militias were called into duty and when the problem subsided, the militias were disbanded. They also were skeptical of the reason for the military to be kept in America, and the Proclamation Line with the restrictions on expansion westward added to that skepticism.
Under the Quartering Act, each colonial assembly was directed to provide for the basic needs of the soldiers stationed within its borders which included such things as, bedding, cooking utensils, firewood, beer or cider and candles. The law was expanded to include housing for soldiers in taverns and unoccupied houses. The Stamp Act was intended to raise the funds needed to pay the soldiers. So the legislation for the Quartering Act and the Stamp Act were both passed in March 1765 with the Quartering Act effective immediately and the Stamp Act being effective on November 1, 1765.
a list of fifty-four items including all legal documents, newspapers, broadsides, pamphlets, letters, almanacs, calendars, posters, playing cards, everything made of paper, skin or vellum and ... apprenticeships. Violators of the Act would be tried in the Admiralty Courts, those with royal appointed judges and without juries whose authority was intended to be maritime. The reaction in the colonies was loud and quick!
There was a distinction in the rallying cry “no taxation, without representation” that the colonists understood that many in England did not. They recognized themselves as British citizens, and therefore, they had the same rights as those living in Britain. But they had no representation in the British Parliament. There were some members in the Parliament that agreed with them. However, many others did not, nor did George the Third. For almost their entire 150+ years of existence, the colonies had pretty much enjoyed self-rule, even at this point in time as royal colonies with Crown appointed governors, they had a government structure that allowed for elected assemblies and these assemblies were authorized by the colonial electorate to levy taxes as needed for the operation and security of the colony. They were use to taxes being levied for a designated purpose and when that purpose was fulfilled the assemblies eliminated the taxes. The only real mandated internal tax was the one which supported the Church of England as the official church.
So when the Sugar Act was instituted, even though it drew protests in specific colonies where it had a drastic impact, it was viewed largely as an indirect and external tax on trade. But when the Stamp Act was instituted it was viewed as a direct and internal tax. This distinction was incomprehensible to the Parliament and royal officials. But it served to unite some of the most powerful and influential elements of colonial America … lawyers, clergy, journalists and merchants. Rioters took to the streets and violence against royal officials ensued, so much so that by mid-November, all but the appointed Stamp Agent in Georgia had resigned.
Shortly after the passing of the Sugar Act and when Grenville floated the idea of the Stamp Act, James Otis, a well known radical of the Massachusetts Assembly, sent a circular letter to the other colonial assemblies calling for a meeting to plan organized resistance. By November 17, 1764 the letter had been received and was laid before the Lower House of the North Carolina Assembly. During the following months, North Carolina Governor Dobbs became ill and died on March 28, 1765. The Lt. Governor, William Tryon, succeeded him in April 1765 and did not call meetings of the Assembly from May 1765 to November 1766. This prevented the selection of a delegation from North Carolina to New York for the Stamp Act Congress on October 7, 1765. At the Congress, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania was mostly responsible for the 14-point Declaration of Rights and Grievances that emerged which argued that colonial taxation could only be imposed by their own assemblies. The Stamp Act and the use of the Admiralty Courts (trial without jury) were singled out for specific criticism. They also ended their statement with a pledge of loyalty to the king which reinforced their demand that they be treated the same as all other British citizens. Some of the more radical elements of the colonial assemblies believed the statement to be too moderate and would not sign it, but it didn’t matter because the British Parliament rejected it.
On November 2, 1765, The ”North Carolina Gazette” recorded the protests that took place in the days following the Stamp Act Congress. There is no way my description can do justice to this report, so here it is:
Wilmington - On Saturday the 19th of last Month, about Seven of the Clock in the Evening, near Five Hundred People assembled together in this Town, and exhibited the Effigy of a certain Honourable Gentleman; and after letting it hang by the Neck for some Time, near the Court-House, they made a large Bonfire with a Number of Tar Barrels, &c. and committed it to the Flames.—The Reason assigned for the People's Dislike to that Gentleman, was, from being informed of his having several Times expressed himself much in Favour of the STAMP-DUTY.—After the Effigy was consumed, they went to every House in Town, and bro't all the Gentlemen to the Bonfire, and insisted upon their drinking, LIBERTY, PROPERTY, AND NO STAMP-DUTY, and Confusion to Lord B-TE and all his Adherents, giving three Huzzas at the Conclusion of each Toast.—They continued together until 12 of the Clock, and then dispersed, without doing any Mischief. And, on Thursday, 31st of the same Month, in the Evening, a great Number of People again assembled, and produced an Effigy of Liberty, which they put into a Coffin, and marched in solemn Procession with it to the Church-Yard, a Drum in Mourning beating before them, and the Town Bell, muffled, ringing a doleful Knell at the same Time:—But before they committed the Body to the Ground, they thought it adviseable to feel its Pulse; and when finding some Remains of Life, they returned back to a Bonfire ready prepared, placed the Effigy before it in a large Two-arm'd Chair, and concluded the Evening with great Rejoicings, on finding that LIBERTY had still an Existence in the Colonies.—Not the least Injury was offered to any Person.On November 16, 1765, William Houston the Stamp Agent resigned, on November 18th, Governor Tryon invited a committee of fifty gentlemen representing New Hanover, Brunswick and Bladen counties to dinner to discuss his proposal. These counties represented the center of shipping commerce for the province and Tryon wanted to try and head off any trouble when the stamps arrive. It went something like this:
On Saturday the 16th of this Inst. William Houston, Esq; Distributor of STAMPS for this Province, came to this Town; upon which three or four Hundred People immediately gathered together, with Drums beating and Colours flying, and repaired to the House the said Stamp-Officer put up at, and insisted upon knowing, “Whether he intended to execute his said Office, or not?” He told them, “He should be very sorry to execute any Office disagreeable to the People of the Province.” But they, not content with such a Declaration, carried him into the Court-House, where he signed a Resignation satisfactory to the Whole.
As soon as the Stamp-Officer had comply'd with their Desire, they placed him in an Arm-Chair, carried him first round the Court House, giving three Huzzas at every Corner, and then proceeded with him round one of the Squares of the Town, and sat him down at the Door of his Lodgings, formed themselves in a large Circle round him, and gave him three Cheers: They then escorted him into the House, where was prepared the best Liquors to be had, and treated him very genteely. In the Evening a large Bonfire was made, and no Person appeared in the Streets without having LIBERTY, in large Capital Letters, in his Hat.—They had a large Table near the Bonfire, well furnish'd with several Sorts of Liquors, where they drank in great Form, all the favourite American Toasts, giving three Cheers at the Conclusion of each. The whole was conducted with great Decorum, and not the least Insult offered to any Person.
Immediately after the appointed Stamp-Master had comply'd with their Commands, they call'd upon Mr. A STUART, the Printer,—(who had not printed the GAZETTE for some weeks before the ACT took Place, it having pleased GOD to afflict him with a dangerous Fever) when he appeared, they ask'd him, if “He would continue his Business, as heretofore?—And Publish a Newspaper?” He told them, that “As he had no Stampt Paper, and as a late ACT of Parliament FORBID the Printing on any other, He could not.—He was then positively told, that “If he did not, he might expect the same Treatment of the STAMP-MEN,” and demanded a positive Answer:—Mr. Stuart then answer'd, “That rather than run the Hazard of Life, being maimed, or have his Printing-Office destroy'd, that he would comply with their Request;” but took the WHOLE for Witness, that he was compell'd thereto.
His Excellency our GOVERNOR has been for some Time past very ill of Health: but we have the pleasure to say he is now recovering.
Circular Letters were sent last Week by the Governor, to the Principal Inhabitants in this Part of the Province, requesting their Presence at his Seat at Brunswick, on Monday last; where, after Dinner, his Excellency conferr'd with them concerning the Stamp-Act: The Result of which shall be in our Next.
We hear from Newbern, that the Inhabitants of that Place, try'd, condemn'd, hang'd, and burn'd Doctor William Houston, in Effigy, during the Sitting of their Superior Court.—Mr. Houston, however, thinks that there was too much of the Star-Chamber Conduct made Use of, in condemning him unheard; especially as he had never solicited the Office: Nor had he then heard he was appointed Stamp-Officer.—At Cross-Creek, 'tis said, they hang'd his Effigy and M' Carter's together, (he who murder'd his Wife;) nor have they spar'd him even in Duplin, the County where he lives.
We are told that no Clearances will be granted out of our Port, till a Change of Affairs.
Tryon assured them he would use his influence in England to promote the prosperity of the colony bearing in mind his duty to King and country and he would be most happy if he could at the same time serve “his Majesty’s faithful subjects of this Province.” He criticized the assaults taking place in other colonies against royal appointees including having their houses torn down, furniture and belongings destroyed and stamped paper burned. He hoped that no violence would come to North Carolina when the stamps arrived and warned of the consequences if it did. He would not discuss the right of Parliamentary taxation but hoped the Province wasn’t considering separating from Great Britain and urged the prudent thing was not to oppose the legislation. He then told them that it was unlikely the Stamp Act would function in parts of the province anyway because cash was too scarce to cover one year of tax. So he would ask for an exemption for the colony unless his “endeavours were frustrated by the conduct of the people” and noted that the other colonies who had refused the stamps had suffered the economic consequences of obstructed trade. Tryon then proposed that if they accepted the small stamps, he would pay the fees associated with those documents that required stamped paper, such as, land documents, testimonials, marriage licenses, Last Wills and probate documents, and also would provide four wine licenses for Edenton, Newbern, Wilmington, Salisbury and Halifax, two for Brunswick and Cross Creek and one each for Bath and Tarborough.
The next morning the fifty gentlemen offered their reply. After praising Tryon for his generous offer and acknowledging his influence in England and how very fortunate they were that he was their governor, they said:
...every view of this Act confirms us in our opinion that it is destructive of these Liberties which, as British Subjects, we have a Right to enjoy in common with Great Britain.Governor Tryon responded that he was comforted by their expression of loyalty to the King and their assurance of support for his administration, but regretted that his offer was not accepted because of the consequences that would come from their position.
To our Sovereign we owe, and shall always be ready to testify by our Conduct, every Act of Loyalty and Obedience consistent with the Rights of a free people; and we most sincerely pray, that the British Throne may never want Heirs of the present illustrious House of Hanover to secure that happy constitution: But the Extention of the Stamp Act, by a melancholy presage of America being deprived of all, or most of the British Privileges, naturally suggests to us, that the submission to any part of so oppressive and (as we think) so unconstitutional attempts, is opening a direct inlet for Slavery, which all Mankind will endeavor to avoid.
For these Reasons it is with great pain we are obliged to dissent from what your Excellency has been pleased to mention of your paying the Stamp Duties on the Instruments enumerated in the Proposal; nor can we assent to the payment of the smaller Stamps: An Admission of Part, would put it out of our Power to refuse with any Propriety, a Submission to the Whole; and as we can never consent to be deprived of the invaluable Privilege of a Trial by Jury, which is one part of that Act, we think it more consistent as well as securer conduct to prevent to the utmost of our Power, the operation of it—At the same time, we assure your Excellency, that we will upon every occasion, avoid and prevent, as far as our Influence extends, any Insult or Injury to any of the officers of the Crown; but must confess, that the Office of Distributors of the Stamps is so detested by the People in general that we dont think either the person or Property of such an Officer, could by any means be secured from the resentment of the Country.
The stamps and the stamped paper arrived on November 28, 1765 aboard the sloop Diligence under the command of Captain Phipps but there was no Stamp Agent to receive them and they sat on the sloop. As a result of having no stamps to affix to documents, no ships left port. Commerce ceased. No business was transacted in the courts, all civil government came to a halt, public business and commerce stagnated. There was little to no currency circulating and the province fell into economic depression.
On February 1, 1766, Governor Tryon wrote to England and reported the stamps were still on the ship. He also said that since there is no activity at the ports, he could not receive any dispatches from England with instructions, so direct his mail to the Governor of South Carolina and it will be sent over by express.
A few weeks later the stand off at the port caused all heck to break loose. Ships had been seized by port inspectors carrying smuggled contraband; ships attempting to leave port without stamped papers had been stopped and not allowed to depart. Ship owners, plantation owners and merchants became irate.
On February 18th, an association was formed and an oath was taken for the purpose of stopping the Stamp Act. This appears to be the birth of the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Liberty. Cornelius Harnett was their leader.
An Association signed by the Principal Gentlemen, Freeholders and Inhabitants of several Counties in this Province. North Carolina.On February 19th, a group of men broke into Mr. Dry’s office, the Collector, and stole the unstamped paper belonging to one of the seized ships and pursued an effort to force the release of the ship. On February 21st, about 8 o’clock that morning a group of armed men shut down all the roads to Governor Tryon’s house. At 10 o’clock about 500 armed men surrounded the house and a detachment of about sixty led by Cornelius Harnett came down the road and demanded to speak to Mr. Pennington, the Comptroller, who had taken refuge in Tyron’s house. Tryon refused to allow him to leave, but Mr. Pennington agreed to go to them. He did and they forced him to sign a resignation and promise to never issue any stamped paper. Afterwards, Pennington informed Tryon that all the clerks of the county courts and other public officers had also been forced to make the same promise.
“We the Subscribers, Free and Natural-born Subjects of George the Third, true and Lawfull King of Great Britain and All its Dependencies, (whom God preserve) whose Sacred Person, Crown, and Dignity, We are ready and Willing, at the Expence of Our Lives and Fortunes to defend, being fully convinced of the Oppressive and Arbitrary Tendency of a late Act of Parliament, imposing Stamp Duties on the Inhabitants of this Province, and fundamentally subversive of the Liberties and Charters of North America; truly sensible of the inestimable Blessings of a free Constitution, gloriously handed down to Us by Our Brave Fore Fathers, detesting Rebellion yet preferring Death to Slavery, Do with all Loyalty to Our most Gracious Sovereign, with All deference to the Just Laws of Our Country, and with a proper and necessary Regard to Ourselves and Posterity, hereby mutually and Solemnly plight Our Faith and Honour that We Will at any Risque whatever, and whenever called upon. Unite, and truly and Faithfully Assist each other, to the best of Our Power, in Preventing entirely the Operation of the Stamp Act.
Witness Our Hands this 18th day of February 1766.
Tryon writes to Great Britain:
By the best accounts I have received the number of this insurrection amounted to 580 men in arms, and upwards of 100 unarmed. The Mayor and Corporation of Wilmington and most all of the gentlemen and planters of the counties of Brunswick, Newhanover, Duplin, and Bladen with some masters of vessels composed this corps. Thus, Sir, I have endeavoured to lay before you the first springs of this disturbance.Many of the men involved in this incident were members of the elected Lower House of the General Assembly. So in his next dispatch to England, March 1766, Tryon told the minister that he had decided not to call an Assembly, he did not want to fan the flames. He had been told by General Thomas Gage that British troops could not reach him until October and he only had about twenty-two days of provisions on hand.
The non-importation of British goods began to spread and London merchants began to feel the effects. Even though they preferred the colonies pay some taxes, they were more concerned about the non-importation movement and the effect on trade. On January 17, 1766, they appealed to Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act and on March 17, 1766, Parliament did just that, but not because they agreed with the American’s argument.
As a result of the upheaval over the Stamp Act, Grenville’s government fell, and he was replaced with the Marquis of Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth. As soon as the Stamp Act was repealed, the Parliament passed the Declaratory Act which stated that Parliament:
“had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statues of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of AMERICA, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”Some colonial leaders were too busy celebrating to pay attention to the Declaratory Act, but others were outraged. They recognized that it hinted more restraints would be coming. It had been copied almost word for word from the Irish Declaratory Act which had placed Ireland in a position of subjugation to the British Crown and that implied the same fate was intended for the Americans. They were right.
The New York colony was the base for the British military under General Thomas Gage so the Quartering Act had a significant impact on the colonials. The Assembly resisted full compliance with the requirements laid out in the legislation and that resulted in a confrontation between a group of soldiers and the Sons of Liberty. General Gage ordered the suspension of the Assembly which eventually forced compliance with the Quartering Act. This was followed by the passage of the Townshend Acts in 1767.
Five laws were included in the Townshend Acts; the Revenue Act, the Indemnity Act, the Commissioners of Customs Act, the Vice Admiralty Court Act, and the New York Restraining Act. The last one specifically intended to punish New York. The other four were intended to raise money to pay salaries for governors and judges, to establish Parliament’s supremacy in raising taxes, and to enforce trade regulations.
In Boston, the protests and boycott led by Sons of Liberty leader, Samuel Adams, prompted the Governor to request assistance from General Gage. In October 1768 British troops arrived in Boston and occupied the city. That resulted in the Boston Massacre in 1770. But as an outcome of the confrontation and subsequent trial of the British soldiers involved, the British Parliament repealed most of the taxes in the Townshend Act, except the tax on tea.
Some historians assert the Battle of Alamance was the opening battle in our War of Independence. Governor Tryon certainly portrayed the insurgency as a rebellion against the Crown government which elevated his status. However, the petitions that were addressed to Governor Tryon, appealing to him for redress, do not indicate this was a movement to break from England, although the Regulators did claim their constitutional rights as the subjects of England were being violated. Outside of North Carolina, published accounts and letters appeared in newspapers, such as, the Boston Gazette and Pennsylvania Journal. There were a few in support of Governor Tryon which were countered with others condemning his actions and laying the facts before the public. The most demoralizing one was a “Letter from “Atticus” to Governor Tryon” on November 7, 1771 in The Virginia Gazette which we now know was anonymously penned by Maurice Moore, an Associate Justice of the Superior Court in North Carolina during the Regulators’ Movement. He was on the bench during the trial of Edmund Fanning when the guilty verdict was deferred to England for clarification and consequently not enforced, and he was on the bench during the trial after Alamance which resulted in the hanging of six Regulators for treason, one of the six was Benjamin Merrill, who certainly would have been pretty well known and respected in the county to be the Captain of the Rowan County Militia.
“Atticus” not only recounted the Regulators’ Movement from its origins and condemned Tryon’s actions, but also exposed the ruse Tryon created that the Regulators were in rebellion against the Crown when actually the upheaval was against Tryon’s government. Moore was especially critical of Tryon’s manipulation of the legislative process that created the temporary law, the Johnston Riot Act. There is so much detail and first hand knowledge in the Letter, it’s hard to imagine that Maurice Moore’s compatriots didn’t know he was Atticus. Also, given the evidence of so many published accounts stating the details and condemning Tryon’s actions, it caused me to wonder just what did happen after the Battle of Alamance. What impact, if any, did it have on the political class? Were they emboldened? Did the Assembly take any legislative steps at all to address the issues that contributed to the rise of the Movement? And what impact did the aftermath of the Battle of Alamance have on the general population in the years that led up to the Revolution? With more than 6,000 men taking an oath of allegiance to England in 1771, which was imposed by the political class, how did North Carolina move from Regulators to Revolution in the following four years? Most of the published history of the Regulators’ Movement ends with the hangings after the battle, so I turned to the State and Colonial Records that are transcribed and made available online by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and found some interesting details. We are so lucky to have them. THANK YOU!
Governor Tryon’s replacement was Josiah Martin who arrived in North Carolina in August 1771. He was born in Long Island, NY and entered the British Army at the age of nineteen; by the time he was twenty he was serving on the New York Governor’s Council from 1759-64. He resigned his rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1769. North Carolina was his first governorship. His communications to the Secretary of State for the American colonies depict him eager and willing to do the best job he could for his King and country. He was a personal friend to Tryon, and a new member of the “royal governor’s club”, he understood what had transpired, but resisted laying responsibility at Tryon’s feet. His first encounter with the Lower House of the General Assembly was during the November 10 – December 23, 1771 session. James Picket and a Mr. Robertson represented Anson County. This was the second session of the present assembly, the first session had concluded on January 1771. Therefore, the members of this Lower House were sitting as representatives in the Assembly during the year leading up to and after the Battle of Alamance; the Assembly had not convened since. The Lower House was the elected representation; the men were the political movers and shakers in their respective counties and boroughs. They held the purse strings through their authority to levy taxes to fund the costs of running the province. The county sheriff collected the taxes. Most of this session dealt with paying the bills related to the campaign against the Regulators which cost the taxpayers six thousand pounds.
Interestingly, one of the first orders of business was a Bill proposed by Maurice Moore to indemnify those who had participated in “defence of the Government” and pardon “the misguided offenders”. The Bill was amended to exclude from pardon Hermon Husband, Rednap Howell and William Butler. The Lower House approved the Bill and notified Governor Martin, who told them he did not have the authority to issue a pardon, but would send the Bill on to England for George the Third to respond. Knowing what we now know about the “Atticus Letter”, was this Maurice Moore doing some CYA in anticipation that the law might not be on their side if law suits were filed against those in government? As far as I can tell, indemnification was never approved. The Board of Trade responded that the language in the Bill was too broad and needed to be narrowed and specific.
Then something that appeared to be routine business ended up being a shot across the new governor’s bow. The Lower House proposed a Bill that discontinued a poll tax of one shilling and a duty of four pence per gallon of rum, wine and other spirits that had been levied first in 1749 and renewed in 1754. The reason given was because the tax had served its purpose and was no longer needed. The Bill passed both chambers and was sent to the Council for their approval. When it came to Governor Martin for his approval, he denied the Bill because he wanted the revenue tied to the sinking of proclamation money which had been ordered discontinued under the Currency Act. Martin believed the process of moving from paper money to hard currency was too slow. The Assembly defied Martin’s order and did not include the one shilling poll tax on the list to the sheriffs and did not include the four pence tax on the list to the port collectors. Martin found out after the fact. He was told a discussion had taken place in the Lower House where the decision had been made, but when he referred back to the House journals, the official record, he found no mention of it. The Lower House had defied Martin and intentionally did not record their discussion in the official record. So Martin wrote to the Treasurers insisting they direct the sheriffs to collect the tax. The Treasurer of the Northern District complied, but the Treasurer of the Southern District said it was not his duty to give lists of taxes to the sheriffs and refused. In Martin’s letter to the Secretary of State for the American Colonies he included an interesting example of how Governor Tryon had used this method to go around the Assembly. Martin explained, in 1768, both Houses of the Assembly discontinued a poll tax of three shilling dedicated to the sinking of paper money. Governor Tryon worked around the Assembly by directing the sheriffs to collect the tax. Because some did and some didn’t, the tax was not universally collected. Martin supposed it was this lack of consistency in the collection of the tax that contributed to the unrest that led to the Regulators’ Movement. Perhaps it was the other way around and the collecting of taxes not approved by the Assembly was viewed as unconstitutional.
Next, Martin sent a message to the Lower House that he had received orders from the Crown’s representative to appoint commissioners to meet with South Carolina and continue the running of the border between the two provinces from the Salisbury Road, the stopping point at which the boundary had been run in 1763, to the Cherokee Lands (western border). The Speaker of the Lower House responded that the House refused the expense and gave reasons why. First, they told Martin the province had already paid thousands of pounds for a plan which ended up being drawn by the Governor of South Carolina and it had been put before the House for approval, but they had rejected it. They had asked Tryon to communicate to the King their concerns, but Tryon had left before that could happen, so they appealed to Martin to communicate their concerns. They had no interest in paying thousands of pounds for a boundary line that would deprive the province of many “useful inhabitants”, take from the province a great tract of valuable land now under North Carolina patents, cut off all communication and commerce between the province and the western Indians because it would leave then with a tract of impassable mountains between them, and ultimately cost them money they didn’t have to spend only to see the land go to South Carolina based on the old plan.
Governor Martin was exasperated by their refusal to fund a direct order from the King and dissolved the Assembly.
The following month, February 1772, Governor Martin wrote to the Board of Trade, as a matter of routine business, and informed them there were four legislative acts that had been passed by Tryon’s government in January 1771 that were still under consideration awaiting authorization from England.
First was the Johnson Riot Act. Martin advised that the legislation had been created in order to suppress the Regulators’ Movement and while there were some useful regulations in the law, there was one particular clause that his Crown lawyer advised he could not pass. It said that if any person was indicted for a crime under the Act, the Justices of the Court could post the indictment at the court house and each church, give the offender sixty day to surrender and stand trial. If the offender did not surrender, he would be deemed guilty and could be lawful killed and his lands and chattel confiscated for the use of government. The lawyer advised the clause was “unfit for any part of the British Empire” and recommended the Act be repealed. In May 1772, the Board of Trade wrote back and told Martin ... ”said clause appears to us to be irreconcilable with the principles of the Constitution, full of danger in its operation, and unfit for any part of the British Empire, but ...” let it stand until it expires.
Now, isn’t that an interesting development? The Johnston Riot Act issued by Tryon’s government was unconstitutional. The Act had never been transmitted to England for review and approval. Maybe Maurice Moore had a good reason for submitting the Bill to indemnify those who participated in the campaign against the Regulators.
Second was an Act for the establishment of Queen’s College in Mecklenburg. Third was an Act authorizing the Presbyterian ministers to solemnize the Rites of Matrimony according to The Church of Scotland. Both of these Acts were a quid pro quo to the Scots-Irish and Highlander Presbyterian ministers who had used their sermons to rally the militias that assisted Tryon with the suppression of the Regulators’ Movement. The fourth Act was a suspension of taxes for four years to a group of Highlanders who had settled in Cumberland County three years earlier. Perhaps, another quid pro quo that Tryon gave to Highlanders who provided the militia that assisted him at the Battle of Alamance. In April 1772 the Board of Trade disallowed these three Acts.
The next election for the Lower House of the Assembly took place in May 1772 and the new Assembly convened on January 25, 1773. Charles Robinson and James Picket represented Anson. Governor Martin opened this session with the traditional Governor’s Address before both Houses of the Assembly and touched on four points. First, George the Third proposed “an Act of Pardon and Oblivion”. He did not include the indemnification. Second, the public funds were in such disarray that he recommended the example of Virginia be adopted. Third, the establishment of permanent courts of law with a focus concerning the appointment of sheriffs needed their attention to “prevent for the future the evils that have originated in their mismanagement or corruption.” Martin told them he had toured the western counties during the summer and found some of the abuses still prevailed, for example the practice of making an arrest based on nothing more than accusations and holding the person in jail without bail or proof. This was one of the issues listed in both the 1768 Anson Regulators’ Protest Paper and the 1769 Anson Regulators’ Petition. Martin recommended they look to Great Britain as the example for this legislation. Fourth, he asked for the refurnishing of Fort Johnston of the necessary supplies to provide for the necessary defense.
The deliberations between the upper and lower houses of the Assembly are recorded in the minutes for both chambers and they include two incidents directly related to the Regulators’ Movement. Remember, the Lower House holds the purse strings for the province.
First, Governor Martin sent a request to the Lower House and told them that he had been approached the previous March by “many Judicious Gentlemen well wishers to this Country” with concerns that continued attempts by attorneys for Edmund Fanning to recover cost for the loss of his property (destroyed by angry Regulators in Orange County) were keeping alive “the dissentions that have recently thrown this Province into Civil commotions.” Martin informed the Lower House that because he desired peace and tranquility, he had advised Fanning’s attorneys that if Fanning dropped his lawsuits, the Legislature would pay Fanning’s losses in the amount of £1500 proclamation money. Fanning dropped his lawsuits. The Lower House responded that just the opposite would be the effect; paying reparations to Fanning would be “productive of discontent to the Inhabitants of this Province in general.” They denied the Governor’s request. As you can imagine, Martin’s response expressed his displeasure and then asserted his authority. The Lower House responded by expressing their appreciation for Martin’s good intentions and they surely felt uneasy about the denial, especially since Martin had already told Fanning to expect reparations. But it was not consistent with the justice they owed to the province to pay Fanning’s private losses from the public treasure. And … when the insurrection was quelled, the offenders were held to justice by the court … and Fanning’s continued attempts only affected a small part of the province. And, if the Legislature was to grant such a request, it might start the discontent all over again by injuring the public faith. And besides, they could not justify an appropriation of the public money for private purpose without the consent of the public.
The second incident involved payments to individuals who had filed claims related to sundry items either provided for or perhaps confiscated by Tryon’s military during the expedition against the Regulators. The minutes do not provide us with the details of the claims, only the name of the individual, the item(s) and amounts. Most of the claims were denied. But three claims were approved and among those three was a payment to William Few for a field of wheat, barley and oats for thirty-seven pounds ten shillings. William Few was a family member, perhaps brother, of James Few who was captured at the Battle of Alamance and hung the next day without trial and left to swing from a tree on the road to Hillsborough as a warning to others. After which, Tryon’s army turned their horses loose in his fields to forage and destroyed them as punishment.
So it does seem there was some “setting straight” going on in the Lower House concerning Edmund Fanning and his role, as well as, the hanging of James Few.
Most of the session of this Assembly was directed at the legislation to establish the Superior and Inferior Courts. It seems that it was the practice to establish these courts and applicable laws on a time limited/term basis and when the time limits expired, the Assembly recreated the legislation for the next term. A committee was established to determine which laws were set to expire and in their communication to Governor Martin there are a couple of additional indications that they recognized they needed to make changes. One was to the role of the sheriffs in collecting taxes because the current system did “not answered the intention of the Laws, but is a general grievance to this Colony.” The second one was to the method for selecting jurymen. They wanted the County Court to select juries, the reason being that when a sheriff makes the selection the juror tends to feel he is obligated to follow the will of the sheriff and not the law. This became a minor sticking point in a much larger battle. The Lower House continued the practice of “foreign attachments”. This meant that someone who owned property, such as land, in the province but never lived in North Carolina could have their property attached as a debtor to settle the debt. Governor Martin had orders from the Board of Trade to change the language to remove foreign attachments. The Lower House refused and cited it had always been the practice to attach and every other colony used attachments.
Towards the end of the session, Governor Martin presented the Lower House with a bill for the running of the SC/NC border over the summer months. You’ll remember that in the previous Assembly, the Lower House had refused to fund the project. But Governor Martin had orders from the King to get it done, so he had it done after he dissolved the previous Assembly. Martin stated to them that he had addressed their previous concerns. Assured them it was not the old plan that they had rejected, but a new plan. Once again they refused to provide the funds.
Governor Martin responded by setting the following Tuesday to reconvene the Assembly in order to give “a farther opportunity to reconsider the state of the Colony, and to proceed to the dispatch of public business”. When Tuesday came, the Clerk of the House informed Martin that there were not enough representatives left in town to make a quorum. Martin responded that according to English law only fifteen were needed to make a quorum and sent the message back to the Lower House. The Speaker of the House, John Harvey, replied that fifteen was not consistent with their duty to their constituents, a majority was required for a quorum. Martin responded by asking the Speaker if he expected a sufficient number of representatives to return in order to make a quorum. The Speaker replied ... no, actually those that are here are on their way home.
Governor Martin dissolved the Assembly on March 9, 1773 and set May 1, 1773 as the election date for a new Assembly. He’s now been governor for the province for a little less that two years and he’s dissolved the Assembly twice. The tension between Martin and the Lower House was mounting right along with the power struggle. Martin wrote to England and told the Secretary of State what transpired and why he dissolved the Assembly. The Secretary wrote back and told him to stand his ground; the King had instructed that fifteen was a quorum.
But before the election in May, a man by the name of Josiah Quincy traveled through North Carolina on his way back to Massachusetts from South Carolina. He visited with several of the important men of the province. Quincy was a member of the Sons of Liberty in Boston and had joined with John Adams in the defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. The journal of his trip and his impression of North Carolina are transcribed.
March 30th (1773). Dined with about twenty at Mr William Hooper's; find him apparently in the Whig interest; has taken their side in the House—is caressed by the Whigs, and is now passing his election through the influence of that party. Spent the night at Mr Harnett's,—the Samuel Adams of North Carolina (except in point of fortune). Robert Howe, Esq., Harnett and myself made the social triumvirate of the evening. The plan of continental correspondence highly relished, much wished for, and resolved upon as proper to be pursued.Then on May 10, 1773, the Tea Act which gave a monopoly on the sale of tea to the East India Company went into effect. The Company had a surplus of tea and was on the verge of bankruptcy, so the Act was intended to secure the shareholder’s investments. The British Prime Minister, now Lord North, thought the colonists would agree to pay the tax because he had reduced the tea to half price. He miscalculated. In Philadelphia and New York, the tea ships were turned back to Britain. In Charleston the cargo was left in the basement of the Exchange to rot. In Maryland the colonists set the ship and cargo on fire. In Boston the Governor held the ships in port, but the colonists would not allow the ships to unload. The harbor filled up with tea cargo ships and the town filled up with British crews looking for work and finding trouble. On December 16, 1773, colonists disguised as Indians snuck onboard the ships and threw 342 chests of tea overboard, the Boston Tea Party. When word reached the Privy Council in London, they scolded Benjamin Franklin and, in due course, punished Massachusetts, Boston in particular.
Back in North Carolina, the new Assembly convened on December 4, 1773. Governor Martin gave his Address which was intended to give direction by defining the agenda for the legislative session. Once again he instructed that the Superior and Inferior Courts needed to be established and made permanent. He reported to the Assembly that the King had set the perimeters for the Law of Attachments, the jurisdiction of the Superior and Inferior Courts, and instructed that they pass the Act of Pardon and Oblivion with the excepted persons. Martin then told them that since they had failed to establish the courts in the last session, the province had been without a mode of justice over the last year and the goals had filled up with criminals. Therefore, he had used his authority to appoint Courts of Oyer and Terminer to alleviate the problem and he requested that the Assembly provide for the cost that had been acquired including the salary for the Judges.
James Picket and William Robeson represented Anson County. What a session it was! The first order of business was a reading of the letters and resolutions that had been received from the provinces of Massachusetts Bay, Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware. Samuel Johnston, Robert Howe and Cornelius Harnett were appointed to a committee to draft the responses. Before the House adjourned, Robert Howe reported back from the committee. I’ve excerpted two most significant resolves:
Resolved that a Standing Committee of Correspondence and Enquiry be appointed, to consist of nine persons to wit, Mr. Speaker (John Harvey), Mr. Robert Howe, Mr. Cornelius Harnett, Mr. William Hooper, Mr. Richard Caswell, Mr. Edward Vail, Mr. John Ashe, Mr. Joseph Hewes, and Mr. Saml Johnston, and five of them to be a Committee whose business it shall be to obtain the most early and authentic intelligence of all such Acts and resolutions of the British Parliament, or proceedings of Administration as may relate to or effect the British Colonies in America and to keep up and maintain a correspondence and communication with our Sister Colonies respecting these important considerations and the result of such, their proceedings from time to time, to lay before this House.The second resolve referred to The Gaspee Affair.
Resolved that it be an instruction to the said Committee that they do without delay inform themselves particularly of the principles and Authority on which was Constituted a Court of Enquiry said to have been lately held in Rhode Island with powers to transmit persons accused of offences committed in America to places beyond the seas to be tried.
This was the session, December 1773, where North Carolina set up their Committee of Correspondence to maintain communication with the other colonies. In the North Carolina Assembly there were those who identified with the Whigs and those who identified with the Tories. Those were the political parties of the British Parliament. Those in the North Carolina Assembly who leaned toward resistance adopted the name Whig, while those who leaned toward compliance adopted the name Tory, but their taking of those names did not necessarily mean that those two political parties in the British Parliament were aligned the same way with Americans.
The Lower House established a committee to respond to the Governor’s speech. They acknowledged the expediency of framing laws for the establishment of the courts but stated it would be in such manner ”as may be judged best adapted to the situation and circumstances of their constituents.” They told Martin that his recommendation concerning foreign attachments was not adequate, and therefore, would not be adopted. Then they reminded him that the authority delegated to him from the King concerning the commissions of Oyer and Terminer ”cannot be legally carried into execution without the aid of the Legislature of this Province; and the House cannot, consistent with the Justice due to their Constituents, make provision for defraying the expence attending a measure which they do not approve.”
So in other words, no they were not going to pay the cost of the courts and judges as Martin requested, they did not agree with the Crown’s instructions concerning foreign attachments, and the courts would be established according to what was best for America, not England.
The Lower House proceeded and did as they said they would do and when the Bill to establish the Superior and Inferior Courts arrived in the Governor’s Council with the foreign attachment clause, a stand off began. The Council would not accept the Bill. The foreign attachment clause was in the Superior Court Bill and some members of the Council proposed they just pass the Inferior Court part. The Lower House did not agree and insisted the two be joined in one Bill and adjourned on December 21, 1773. Governor Martin told the Lower House representatives to go ask their constituents if including the foreign attachment clause in the Superior Courts Bill was more important to them than not having a functioning Inferior Court system. He then set March 1, 1774 as the date for the Assembly to reconvene.
On March 2, 1774, the General Assembly convened and Governor Martin gave his address to the joint session. He acknowledged that he had read in the Lower House journals of the last session that the members had called on the London agent for the Province to the Crown to petition George the Third concerning their objection about the elimination of the foreign attachment clause in the Superior Court legislation. Martin told them that since they were awaiting a response from the Crown, he requested they lay that issue aside and move ahead with the establishment of a permanent court system. To emphasis the necessity, he cited “a flagrant and alarming instance in the barbarous and inhuman murder lately perpetrated at Cross Creek in the County of Cumberland. That is perhaps only a shocking prelude to scenes still more flagitious and tragical, if the hands of Justice continue longer disarmed by the suspension of the executive power of the Law” as an example of not having a system of justice in the province. He also spoke of “hostilities committed by the Indian Nation on the back part of the Southern Colonies” and requested they create the legislation to re-establish the militias for defense.
In the Lower House, Charles Robinson and James Picket represented Anson County. The stand off concerning the foreign attachment clause persisted. The previous incident concerning the Lower House’s discontinuance of the poll tax of one shilling and a duty of four pence per gallon on rum, wine and sprits that Martin had instructed the sheriffs to collect despite the legislation, also, arose again. This time the Lower House included the discontinuance in the court legislation Bill because the original intent of the tax and duty was to pay the salary of the Chief Justice. Their argument was they had established another system for paying the salary and no longer needed the tax.
When the Lower House presented the Bill for the establishment of the Superior Courts, it contained the foreign attachment clause and the legislation to discontinue the poll tax and duty. The Council responded with a proposal for temporary relief … that the Lower House create three separate Bills, one for the establishment of the Courts which would terminate in one year, and a second one in which “the attachment Law be drawn up as shall be most agreeable to your House” and a third for the repeal of the fee Bill with the last two subject to the suspension clause.
So the Lower House put the Council's proposal to a vote of the membership. Did they agree to separate bills for the court system and the foreign attachment law? No. Did they agree to separate out the fee bill? No. The Lower House drafted their preferred language for the foreign attachment clause and negotiated it with the Upper House and representatives of the Governor’s Council, who signed off on it.
Then the Lower House passed a resolution stating that they had the authority to levy taxation, as well as, discontinue that taxation and resolved that the collectors of taxes and duties would discontinue the collection of the one pound poll tax and four pence duty, and then resolved to indemnify the collectors from prosecution.
During this session the Act of Pardon and Oblivion was passed for the old Regulators, but the Act of Indemnification for those who acted on behalf of the government in putting down the insurrection was rejected on basis it needed to be clarified and more specific. England said it was too general. The Lower House responded it was based on a previous Act of Parliament and North Carolina asked no less than was granted in England to Englishmen, especially with a six thousand pounds debt to the province because of the campaign against the Regulators.
The General Assembly adjourned on March 25, 1774 with a date to reconvene on May 25, 1774 and sent their representatives to the Governor’s Mansion with the Bills they had passed for his signature. Martin signed all the Bills except one, I bet you can guess which one that was ... the Bill establishing the Superior Court with the foreign attachment clause. That same day, Martin required the members of the Governor’s Council who had signed off on the Bill to put their reasons in writing. Lewis De Rosset gave the most complete and compelling argument, but John Rutherford, John Sampson and Samuel Cornell all basically said the same thing ... they had tried every way possible to get the Lower House to separate out the foreign attachment clause to no avail and they believe it was best for the province to pass the Bill so that the Courts of Justice would be established because they had now gone a year without them.
This time, Martin found out about the resolution disallowing the collection of the poll tax and duty when he read the House journals. He was irate, to put it mildly.
Whereas the Assembly of this Province having by their resolves of the 24th of this Instant March assumed to themselves a power unconstitutional, repugnant to the Laws, and derogatory to the honour and good faith of this Province, by attempting to abrogate an Act of the General Assembly upon which the public credit essentially depends, It becomes necessary for His Majesty's service to dissolve the said Assembly of this Province. I do therefore with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council and by virtue of the powers and Authorities in me vested by His Majesty, dissolve the said Assembly—And it is hereby dissolved accordingly. Given under my hand &c., dated 30th March 1774.Governor Martin dissolved the Assembly. It was the last General Assembly to convene in North Carolina.
Following the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, the Boston Port Act was passed on March 31, 1774, and on May 13th British General Gage replaced the Massachusetts governor with himself and occupied Boston with additional British troops. On May 20th the Massachusetts Government Act and the Administration of Justice Act took effect. On June 2nd the Quartering Act was reinforced and on June 22nd, the Quebec Act was passed, which extended the boundaries of French Quebec beyond the Proclamation Line of 1763 and allowed for Catholics to practice their faith without restrictions, the objective of which was to intimidate the Americans, and it reinforced their suspicion about the intent of the western boundary line.
On July 17, 1774 in Virginia, a meeting took place between George Mason, Patrick Henry and George Washington at Mount Vernon. They drew up the Fairfax Resolves of Virginia which were adopted by the county convention the following day.
On July 21, 1774, a meeting was held in Wilmington, North Carolina by a group of freeholders. They took the lead and prepared a circular letter to the other counties condemning the oppressive acts taken against the Massachusetts Bay colony for having exerted itself in defense of the constitutional rights of America. They called for all counties of North Carolina to send representatives to a general meeting at the Johnston County Court House on August 20th. They stood in alliance with Maryland, Virginia, the Northern Provinces and South Carolina. They agreed that Philadelphia was the place to hold the First Continental Congress in September. They said they considered the cause of Boston as the common cause of America and would send all the supply of provisions possible to assist by every means possible and encouraged Bostonians to stand firm.
In Anson, a meeting was held at the Court House on August 15, 1774, Thomas Wade was selected Chairman. Their language wasn’t as nuanced as Wilmington. It was more straightforward. Here’s an example:
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Meeting, that the late arbitrary and cruel Acts of the British Parliament, and other unconstitutional and oppressive measures of the British Ministry, against the Town and Port of Boston, and province of Massachusetts Bay, are no other than the most alarming prelude to that yoke of slavery already manufactured by the said Ministry, and by them intended to be laid on all the Inhabitants of British America, and their Posterity for ever.Samuel Spencer and William Thomas were appointed representatives to the August meeting at the Johnston County Court House and empowered to “consult on the great and important Subject of American Freedom”... “to the preservation of the Rights and Liberties of this Colony and those of America in general”.
Thomas Dockery, Thomas Wade, Samuel Spencer, William Thomas, Charles Robinson, Charles Medlock, William Pickett and James Auld were appointed to a Committee of Correspondence and empowered to call meetings of the freeholders when they thought necessary.
The Anson committee gave instructions to their representatives ... “the speediest, most constitutional and effectual way to obtain redress of the grievances above mentioned will be for the several American Colonies on this Continent to stop all trade and commerce with Great Britain, and every part of America that shall continue any trade or commerce with the same (except in some necessary articles such as salt) until the above said Acts be repealed”.
On August 25, 1774, the First Provincial Congress of North Carolina opened at New Bern. The list of resolutions they produced was long. They began with confirmation of their loyalty to George the Third and the rights of succession of the House of Hanover. They stated that the imposing of taxes by the British Parliament without their consent was illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of their rights as Englishmen. They called the forcing of tea from the East India Company dishonorable to America. They praised the colonists of Massachusetts Bay for having distinguished themselves as standing up for the rights of America and stated their cause was the cause of every honest American. They condemned the actions taken in Boston and Massachusetts Bay as a breach of the charter granted by King William and Queen Mary, a violation of their rights as confirmed and sanctified by the Magna Charta. Then, they listed what they were not going to do and applied specific dates, including no imports of East India goods, except medicines, beginning January 1775, no export of tobacco, pitch, tar or turpentine to Great Britain beginning October 1775, no import of slaves or purchase of imported slaves beginning November 1775, no use of East India Tea by anyone beginning September 1775 and anyone that violated any of those items would be considered an enemy. They would not do business with any other colony who did not take the same position of embargo and vendors would not be allowed to take advantage of the increase of prices because of the embargo. They agreed to send representatives to the General (First Continental) Congress in September for the purpose of securing the rights of Americans, repairing the violations of those rights and guarding from future violations. They agreed as a colony to provide support for the Town of Boston as each is able to contribute. They agreed to the establishment of a Committee of Safety, as well as, a Committee of Correspondence in each county to ensure the resolutions of both the Continental Congress and the Provincial Congress were enforced. They selected Joseph Hewes, William Hooper and Richard Caswell to represent them in Philadelphia in September and committed that each county raise twenty pounds Proclamation Money to pay their expenses. They then laid out their specific instructions to their representatives and closed with … “That therefore until we obtain an explicit declaration and acknowledgment of our rights, we agree to stop all imports, from Great Britain after the first day of January 1775, and that we will not export any of our commodities to Great Britain after the first day of October 1775.”
On September 1, 1774, Governor Martin wrote to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the American colonies. It’s a long letter that detailed all the problems he had with members of the Lower House, the jest of which was; this was all just political theatre, he was being stonewalled by a “cable” of members who are using the legislative process to prevent the court system from being constituted under English laws. It’s a puppet show. He would like to change the number of representatives per county and township in order to change the balance in the Lower House because most of his problems came from the representatives of the southern counties. The bigger problem was that when the province was brought under royal supervision, there was not an effort change from the old constitution under the Lords’ Proprietors to rule under English Law.
The First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774. Twelve of the thirteen colonies sent representatives, absent was the Georgia colony (but a couple of individuals from Georgia did attend). Hewes, Hooper, Caswell were in attendance representing North Carolina. On September 9, the Suffolk Resolves of Massachusetts were unanimously passed by the leaders of Suffolk County and Paul Revere carried a copy to the Congress in Philadelphia where they were endorsed. The main outcome of the First Continental Congress was a Declaration of Rights and Grievances, a petition to George the Third, and an agreement to form a Continental Association which would ensure the enforcement of the boycotts. They set a date for their next meeting on May 10, 1775 if the Parliament had not agreed to their demands.
From London, Benjamin Franklin wrote to John Harvey in North Carolina on December 24, 1774 and informed him that the petition to the King that was produced at the First Continental Congress had been given to him by Lord Dartmouth who had informed Franklin that “his Majesty had been pleased to receive it very graciously, and say it was a matter of so great Importance that he should as soon as they met, lay it before his two Houses of Parliament.”
Sure he was!
There still were a few members of Parliament who wanted to find some resolution to the problem and were sympathetic to the Americans cause. Lord Chatham recommended removing British troops from Boston, but that was shot down. Then he proposed that if American would formally recognize Parliament’s supremacy and enact their own revenue plan, the British would not enforce the tax programs and would recognize the Continental Congress. But this plan was quickly killed. Lord North proposed that if the colonies taxed themselves to pay for their own defense and salaries for royal judges and other officials, then Parliament would not impose taxes on them. This was a favored proposal by the House of Commons but needed the House of Lords and the King’s approval.
Instead, on February 9, 1775 Parliament declared the American colonies in a state of rebellion and on March 30, 1775, Parliament passed, and George the Third approved, the New England Restraining Act which targeted the northeastern colonies as the troublemakers. It said, effective July 1, 1775, New England trade was to be limited to Britain and the British West Indies; trade with other nations was prohibited, and effective July 20, 1775, New England ships were barred from the North Atlantic fisheries. This last measure very much pleased the British Canadians, but threatened great harm to the New England economy.
In April 1775, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina were added to the Restraining Act as a punishment for joining the Continental Association. North Carolina was not included in the expansion because Lord North did not know if North Carolina had joined the Continental Association.
When the Second Provincial Congress convened in North Carolina on April 3, 1775, Hewes, Hooper and Caswell presented the oath of the new Continental Association for approval by the representatives. All those at the meeting signed the oath, except Thomas MacKnight, a delegate from Currituck County. He withdrew himself as a representative. Upon which the other members issued the following resolve:
Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Convention that from the Disingenuous and equivical behaviour of the said Thomas Macknight, it is manifest his intentions are inimical to the Cause of American Liberty, and we do hold him up as a proper object of Contempt to this Continent, and recommend that every person break off all connection, and have no further Commercial Intercourse or Dealings with him.They also ordered the resolution to be printed in the newspapers of the neighboring provinces.
When the Second Provincial Congress of North Carolina adjourned on April 7, 1775, General Gage was undertaking a British troop build-up in Boston and had given orders to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Paul Revere made his famous ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were coming to arrest them. Hancock and Adams escaped. Jonas Parker with seventy-five Minutemen were waiting and met the British upon their arrival.
On April 19, 1775, the British fired on the Minutemen ... ”The shot that was heard around the world”, at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
The Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia, as had been planned. On that same day, the Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold defeated a small garrison and captured Fort Ticonderoga, and Fort Crown Point the following day. Seven days later, Arnold and fifty men raided Fort Saint-Jean and seized the British’s largest military vessel on Lake Champlain. They took the armaments and cannons to Boston.
The first shots of the War had been fired by the time the Second Continental Congress came into session and the sentiment had begun to shift from reconciliation to independence, especially in Boston which was under occupation by the British military. The advocates for independence marshaled a resolution recommending that any colony that lacked a proper revolutionary government should form one.
On May 15, 1775, the Congress adopted John Adams’ preamble to this resolution which called for the colonies to throw off the authority of the Crown government and their oath of allegiance to Britain. The Virginia Convention gave instructions to their delegates to propose a resolution calling for a declaration of independence.
Coincidentally, on May 20, 1775, the freeholders in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina met and issued the Mecklenburg Resolves calling for independence from England.
On June 13, 1775, the colonial leaders in Boston heard of a plan by General Gage to occupy the hills surrounding the city and lay siege to Boston. They took those cannons they had captured from that British ship on Lake Champlain with 1,200 colonial troops and fortified the area at the surprise of the British. On June 17th the colonial forces repulsed two assaults by the British, but fell on the third one and retreated to Cambridge. The British attained a victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill, but their losses were significant, 800 wounded, 226 killed, including a large number of their officers. The colonial forces had few losses, but more importantly they demonstrated they were willing to stand and fight the British army.
The Second Continental Congress stayed in session throughout the War and took on the role of our national government. Delegates communicated back to their Provincial Congress the instructions and recommendations and periodically reported back in person. On June 14, 1775 the Congress created the Continental Army and named George Washington Commander in Chief on June 15th, he took command on July 3, 1775.
On July 13, 1775, the Committee of Safety in Wilmington wrote to Samuel Johnston and told him the Committee of Intelligence had incepted a letter from Legge to Martin that indicated a plan to use the Regulators, Indians and Negroes against them. They asked that the Provincial Congress be convened without delay because the time had come to raise the militia and put them on a payroll for the defense of the province. Only the Provincial Congress had the authority to do that. They also told him they had “a number of enterprising young fellows that would attempt to take the fort, but are much afraid of having their conduct disavowed by the Conventien.” In other words, they wanted orders to attack Fort Johnston. When Governor Martin heard of the talk about the attack on Fort Johnston, he fled to the safety of the British sloop-of-war Cruizer, anchored on the Cape Fear River, leaving Captain Collett at the fort. Because Martin had dismantled the guns at the fort and remounted them on the Cape Fear River to protect the Cruizer, Captain Collett could not protect the fort and abandoned it. On the night of July 18th, Colonel Robert Howe and his militia, with John Ashe and Cornelius Harnett, marched to the abandoned fort and burned it in full view of Governor Martin aboard the Cruizer. When Martin eventually received a response from Legge, he was told that the King approved his plan but would not restore his rank, instead the command had been given to Lieutenant Colonel MacLeane and the King expected Martin to give his full support.
Highlanders began arriving by shiploads and Governor Martin required an oath of allegiance to Great Britain before he would issue their land grants. On July 10, 1775, the Presbyterian ministers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sent a circular letter to the Presbyterian inhabitants of North Carolina explaining to them that what they have been told about the ministers in Pennsylvania was not true. That it is totally in keeping with the principles of their faith to demand their rights as Englishmen.
Listen not to them who abuse our General (Continental) Congress, or our poor distressed brethren at Boston, who are contending for American liberty, and now bear the burden and heat of the day; but above all listen not to their bloody Counsels who would excite you to draw your sword to enslave your fellow subjects in North Carolina and make your Province a field of blood. We conclude with hearty prayers for your temporal and everlasting welfare, and for a speedy and honorable decision of our contests with Great Britain on constitutional principles: and beg leave to subscribe ourselves, with great respect, your friends and brethren in the Lord Jesus ChristThe Third Provincial Congress of North Carolina opened on August 20, 1775 at Hillsborough and adjourned on September 10th. Representing Anson County were Thomas Wade, Samuel Spencer, William Thomas, David Love and William Picket. There were several items on their agenda with most of the meeting dedicated to the formation of the military structure: Minutemen, Militia and Continentals or Regulars. The province was divided into six military districts. Anson County fell in the Salisbury District and the Field Officers appointed were: Thomas Wade, Colonel; Adlai Osburn, Lieut. Colonel; Joseph Hardin, Major. They put the province on a war footing and appointed Richard Caswell Treasurer of the Southern district and one of the Signers of the Public Bills of Credit, so he resigned his position as one of the three representatives to the Continental Congress and was replaced by John Penn. They implemented the resolution of the Continental Congress to defy the Navigation Act and declared their ports open to any country of Europe except Great Britain, Ireland and the British West Indies, duty free! The Articles of Confederacy from the Continental Congress were presented and sent to a committee. Persons suspected of suspicious behavior were sent to a committee for examination. Governor Martin’s recent proclamation of condemnation of the Provincial Congress as an illegal bunch of traitors was presented and unanimously resolved:
That the said Paper is a false Scandalous, Scurrilous, malicious, and sedicious Libel, tending to disunite the good people of this province, and to stir up Tumults and Insurrections, dangerous to the peace of His Majesty's Government, and the safety of the Inhabitants, and highly injurious to the Characters of several Gentlemen of acknowledged Virtue and Loyalty; and further that the said paper be burnt by the common Hangman.A committee was established to prepare an address to the inhabitants of the province to explain the situation and called on them to unite behind a new government, pointing out that the Governor had abandoned his duties without any threat or violence towards him and was onboard a sloop-of-war on the Cape Fear River. Likewise, a committee was appointed to meet with the Highlanders “to explain to them the nature of our unhappy controversy with Great Britain, and to advise and urge them to unite with the other inhabitants of America in defence of those rights which they derive from God and the Constitution.”
In his letter to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, dated October 16, 1775, Martin confirmed that the committee appointed by the Provincial Congress had succeeded in persuading many of the settlers in the western counties to the American’s side and those who had voiced their support for him now claimed neutrality. He wasn’t sure, but he thought the same had happened among the Cherokees. He was surprised to learn that the Highlanders had also declared neutrality, but he felt like they were just lying dormant and would rally to the Crown’s side. He suggested that two battalions of Highlanders be raised in Britain and sent to North Carolina so they could use their influence to rally their countrymen to the King’s Standard. He voiced his frustration that he had not heard from General Gage about his request for arms and ammunition, lamented that the colony was slipping away, and what a shame it was to loose such resources. If he could just get some support, he was certain he could restore royal authority.
In October 1775, the British recalled General Thomas Gage from his command as a result of the huge loss of men he had incurred at the Battle of Bunker Hill and put Major General William Howe in charge. On October 27, 1775 William Legge wrote the Governor Martin:
The advantages that may attend the sending immediately a Force to the assistance of the Friends of Legal Government in the Four Southern Provinces of Virginia North and South Carolina, and Georgia, are so apparent, and have been so fully stated, by yourself and the Governors of the other 3 Provinces, that the King has thought fit to order, that a Body of His Majesty's Forces, consisting of seven Regiments should prepare to embark at Cork about the 1st of December, in order to proceed with two companies of Artillery and a proper number of Battalion Guns, Howitzers, etc to Cape Fear River.The provincial governor of Georgia, James Wright, had lived in the colonies for a long time. His father had been the chief magistrate of South Carolina when he began his law practice in Charleston. Eventually, he became the London agent for South Carolina, and then he became the lieutenant governor of Georgia, followed by the governorship in 1760. The governor of South Carolina, Lord William Campbell, was a Scot. He was married to a native South Carolinian, Sarah Izard. She was the daughter of Ralph Izard, a family name that those familiar with the Rudd clan at St. James Goose Creek will recognize as prominent in early South Carolina history. Campbell had been governor of Nova Scotia prior to his successful petition to be reassigned to South Carolina in 1775 because of his wife’s family. He replaced the acting governor, William Bull, who was a Loyalist, and often acted as governor in the absence of a royal appointee. In Virginia, John Murray was governor. Murray was a Scot who had participated in the Jacobite campaign of 1745 to restore the English Crown to the House of Stuart. He was only fifteen years old at the time and served with his father, William. He joined the British Army at age twenty, served in the British Parliament and became governor of Virginia at about age forty in 1771.
You will see by the enclosed copy of a Letter to Major General Howe, that this separate corps is to be commanded by one of the several officers with him, and it will also fully instruct you as to the whole plan and conduct of the expedition, and I have only to add, that any corps of Provincials that may be formed upon this occasion, must be raised by your authority, and commanded by you as Provincial Colonel.
In his letter of November 7, 1775, Legge laid out the strategy to Martin. He told him to gather his force of Loyalists to be ready for British troop arrival at Cape Fear. Once the troops were landed and the Crown’s authority was returned, the command would take forces to Charles Town, South Carolina and do the same there.
In his November 12, 1775 letter to Legge, we find the details of Governor Martin’s strategy to raise the Highlanders. He said, about three weeks ago, Captain Alexander McLeod, a gentleman from the Highlands of Scotland and a former officer of the Marines who had been in the province for about a year, as well as, his father-in-law, Mr. Allan McDonald, had sought him out and told him they each had raised a company of Highlanders. And Major (Donald) McDonald who was sent by General Gage from Boston under orders to raise a battalion of Highlanders under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Allan McLeane (mentioned above as appointed by the King) had offered to these Highlanders a position of rank and title under his command which they had agreed to if the King decided not to grant Martin’s request to raise the Highlanders under his own command. Martin also expressed his concern that taking those men away from the province would undermine the solidarity of the Highlanders that were under their influence.
According to Malcolm Fowler, author of ”They Passed this Way; a Personal Narrative of Harnett County History”, after Gabriel Johnston, a Scot and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, became governor of North Carolina in 1734, he established his residence and the seat of government on the Cape Fear River, over the protests of the Albemarle planters. (I think that was likely because the colony was populated down from the Virginia side and up from the South Carolina side and that location shifted the seat of political influence.) He began to write back to his friends in Scotland about the opportunities in North Carolina and encouraged them to emigrate. As governor, he also offered incentives including ten years of free poll taxes and grants of money to get them started in their new life. In 1736, a group of Highlanders came to have a look and not finding the area around Wilmington and lower Bladen very appealing, they moved up the Cape Fear River just above present-day Fayetteville where they found the hills and streams that reminded them of their Highlands. Some of them remained and others returned to Scotland and spread the word of this appealing new home in the new world where they would be far from England’s yoke. In September 1739, the first shipload arrived and headed up the Cape Fear. Gradually, the settlement grew into thousands as more and more Highlanders arrived over the decades.
Now, some English-American colonial history, I’ll try not to confuse, but it does get complicated!
The era known as the ”Restoration” began in 1660 when the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were restored to a monarchy with the return of the House of Stuart by Charles II. The colony of Carolina was established by eight noblemen who had helped Charles II regain the English Crown by rewarding them with the land grant and a lot of freedom to do with it as they pleased. They (or their heirs) had sold their interest back to the Crown by 1727, except for a strip along the VA/NC border that became known as the Granville District. The colony split between North Carolina and South Carolina. As the eastern coastal tidewater portion of North Carolina was being populated, the migration from South Carolina flowed into the southern end of the eastern portion and began to spread towards the Pee Dee River area within the following twenty years. (That’s when our Burlingham Rudd, the father, migrated to the lower Pee Dee River region.)
Prior to the reign of Charles II, England had just come out of the Commonwealth period of Cromwell which was the result of a religious war between Cromwell’s Puritans and Charles I’s Royalists. That ended with Charles I being charged with treason and his ultimate execution for a secret deal to use the Scots against Cromwell. Prior to that period, England had a long bloody history of the throne being back and forth between Anglican or Catholic, depending on who succeeded. When Charles II became King, many were concerned that he was secretly a Catholic and he had married a Catholic. But he died in 1685 leaving no legitimate heirs. The Crown passed to his brother, James II of England and VII of Scotland who was a Catholic convert. He had two daughters, Mary and Anne, by his first wife and both were raised Protestant at the command of Charles II. His first wife died, he remarried a Catholic and had a son. Now there was a Catholic heir to the throne and this gave impetuous for the ”Glorious Revolution”. James II&VII was deposed by his nephew, William of Orange, who was also his son-in-law, the husband of Mary, his daughter.
During the ”Glorious Revolution”, the Scot Presbyterians supported William, but the Scot Highlander Catholics supported James II&VII. The period of joint rule by two heirs began in 1689 with William and Mary. James fled to the protection of Louis XIV of France with his son and wife. When James II&VII died in 1701, Louis XIV officially recognized his son as James III of England and VIII of Scotland, who became known as “The Old Pretender” (to the throne). During the reign of William and Mary the Declaration of Rights was signed into law which laid out the succession that brought Anne to the throne as Queen in 1702. And in 1701, before William died he had signed the Acts of Settlement which ensured the Protestant succession to the throne. Anne had eighteen pregnancies, but left no heir when she died in 1714. The Acts of Settlement directed that succession go to Sophia, House of Hanover (Germany), grand-daughter of James I (VI of Scotland and I of England) who was a Protestant. But Sophia died seven weeks before Anne, so the English throne passed to Sophia’s eldest son, George Lewis, who was 52nd in the line of succession to the throne. This marked the beginning of the Hanoverian Dynasty with George I.
The year following his coronation, 1715, the Jacobites (exiled Highland Scots loyal to the House of Stuart and James III&VIII) landed in Scotland and made an unsuccessful attempt to take the throne from the Hanoverians. Some of the captured leaders were exiled as prisoners-of-war to Charleston, South Carolina. George I militarized the Highlands and when George II became King, he continued the militarization. In 1745 there was another unsuccessful Jacobite uprising instigated by the son of James III&VIII, Charles Stuart, also known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender”. This time the Jacobite forces were brutally defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 by the English forces under William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland who was the youngest son of George II. His defeat of the Jacobites earned him the nickname of ”Butcher Cumberland” for his scorched earth policy in the aftermath of the battle. Those Highlanders who survived submitted to the Blood Oath. Many of them eventually fled to North Carolina where Gabriel Johnston was the Royal Governor. In 1754, Cumberland County was set off from Bladen County and given the name honoring the man who was responsible for the butchery of thousands of Highland Scotsmen following the Battle of Culloden in 1746 … no doubt as a reminder to the Highlanders living at Cape Fear.
So, there was an old settlement of Highlanders at Cape Fear by the time of the American Revolution, some of them were former Jacobites, some were descendants of Jacobites, others had come over the years to join them. Those who had been in America for a generation or more, no longer felt the loyalty to England. For some, it was their fathers or grandfathers who had taken the Blood Oath and bore the brand on their wrist, not them. This is what Governor Martin discovered when he attempted to persuade them to the Loyalist side. This is why the strategy of importing new Highlanders into Cape Fear was developed and why Governor Martin required the oath of allegiance to Great Britain before he allowed their land grants. And in a very twisted logic, this is why Flora McDonald and her family had such influence over those Highlanders at Cape Fear who had ties to the defeat at Culloden and had taken the ”Blood Oath”. It was a powerful bond.
“I, _____, do swear and as I shall answer to God at the great day of judgment, I have not, nor shall I have in my possession any gun, pistol or arm whatsoever, and will never use plaid, tartan or any part of Highland garb. That I will defend His Majesty the King and support him in any measure he may take. And should I break this, my solemn oath, may I be cursed in all my undertakings, family and property; may I never see my wife, children, father, mother or other relations; may I be killed in battle as a coward and lie without Christian burial in a strange land, far from the graves of my forefathers and kindred. May all this come across me if I break my oath.”Likewise, the oath of allegiance to Great Britain that the old Regulators had taken after the Battle of Alamance bound some of them as Loyalists.
Governor Martin issued a Proclamation on January 10, 1776 calling for all loyal to the King to rally to the cause of restoring royal authority and issued commissions to Highlanders and Regulators as officers. On February 5th, Donald MacDonald, a British officer sent by General Gage, issued his Manifesto as a general call for loyalists to rally. That was followed by a Manifesto by Thomas Rutherford, Colonel for the Cumberland County Loyalists, to meet at Cross Creek by February 16th.
On February 12th, John Penn, one of the North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress, wrote to Thomas Person and told him he read in the newspaper that the British were on their way to North Carolina, that Major General Clinton had left from Boston about three weeks ago (January 20th) and stopped in New York to consult with Governor Tryon about what strategy to pursue when he arrived at Cape Fear. By February 10th, the New Bern Committee of Safety had received word that men were on the move from Cumberland, Anson, Bladen and Guilford to Cross Creek in response to Donald MacDonald’s call for Loyalists to repair to the King’s Royal Standard and ordered Richard Caswell to raise the Minutemen and join forces with the other Patriot militias. There were three officers deployed to stop the Loyalists before they arrived at Wilmington, Colonel Richard Caswell, Colonel Alexander Lillington and Colonel James Moore (the father of Maurice Moore) who was the lead commander. The various Committees of Safety around the province began arresting and disarming Highlanders and old Regulators as a deterrent and calling out their militias for the march to Wilmington. Research now shows that about twenty-three of the thirty-five counties sent as many men as they could spare. The Anson County regiment of militia detachment was led by Major David Love with two known companies led by Captain Thomas Harris and Captain Thomas Wade; a third company led by Captain Thomas Childs arrived after the battle and most likely assisted with the capture of prisoners.
On February 23rd, Colonel William Purviance reported on activity around Wilmington and that he had taken some Tories into custody. His reconnaissance said that there were about 200 old Regulators and about 900 Highlanders on the move toward Wilmington.
Colonel Caswell led the New Bern District and Colonel Lillington led the Wilmington District, all the other District Militias were instructed to join Colonel Moore with the 1st NC Regiment of the Continental Line who had positioned his troops along Rockfish Creek, south of Cross Creek. This position at Rockfish Creek blocked the most direct route for the Loyalists forces from Cross Creek to Wilmington so they were forced to detour by crossing the Cape Fear River at Campbelton and using Negro Head Point Road for their march to Wilmington. When Colonel Moore learned of their route, he sent messages to Colonel Caswell to block their way at Corbett’s Ferry over the Black River, to Colonel Alexander Martin and Colonel James Thackston to take their troops to Cross Creek and prevent a retreat, and to Colonel Lillington to fortify Moore’s Creek Bridge. Colonel Moore took his troops to Elizabeth Town hoping to meet the Loyalists at Corbett’s Ferry, but they constructed a bridge above the ferry and crossed, continuing towards Moore’s Creek. On February 25th, Colonel Lillington and 150 Minutemen built earthworks on the east bank of the creek. The next day February 26th, Colonel Caswell and his 850 Militiamen arrive and brought two pieces of artillery, Old Mother Covington, a 2 ½ pound cannon, and her Daughter, a ½ pound swivel gun, and camped on the west side of the creek.
When the Loyalists arrived about six miles from the bridge, General McDonald, the British commander, sent a messenger under a flag of truce to the Patriots offering terms of surrender. The Patriots refused and sent that message back. His messenger told General MacDonald that the Patriots were camped with their backs to the creek. That night Colonel Caswell moved his troops to the east side of the creek where Colonel Lillington was camped. Together they made up about 1000 troops. Colonel Caswell ordered his tents left up and campfires burning on the west side to fool the enemy. They removed the planks from the bridge and greased the girders.
General McDonald wanted to move on to the coast, but he fell ill that night and Lieutenant Colonel McLeod took command of the Loyalists troops. He decided to attack and began his march to the bridge at about 1 a.m. on February 27, 1776. When he arrived he found Colonel Caswell’s camp empty and saw some men on the other side of the bridge. The men called out and asked if he was a friend. He replied “to the King”. The men fell back to the earthworks. Lieutenant Colonel McLeane approached the bridge and called out in Gaelic. There was no reply and he realized they were Patriots. Lieutenant Colonel McLeane told Lieutenant Colonel McLeod and he rallied the Loyalists troops and moved toward the bridge. In spite of discovering that the planks had been removed, and only about half of the Loyalists forces were armed, Lieutenant Colonel McLeod and Captain John Campbell led the charge down the girders of the bridge with the battle cry “King George and Broadswords” to the beat of drums and Scottish war pipes. They were met with cannon and musket fire from the Patriots. The battle was over within minutes. Over thirty Loyalists were killed including Lieutenant Colonel McLeod, some fell on the road, some on the bridge and some drowned in the creek. About twenty Loyalists were wounded. Most of the fleeing Loyalists were captured, about 850, including General Donald McDonald. Colonel Moore with his troops arrived after the battle but his forces assisted with rounding up the fleeing Loyalists, some three to a horse. The Loyalist officers were taken to Halifax and placed in the goal, which now was bulging with prisoners-of-war. The remaining Loyalists were paroled upon their taking an oath not to raise arms against the Patriot cause ever again.
The Battle of Widow Moore’s Creek Bridge was the first battle of the American Revolution in North Carolina. The charge of the Highlanders is thought to have been the last broadsword battle ever fought.
Major General Clinton arrived at the coast of North Carolina on March 12, 1776 to find no Loyalists troops waiting and remained there expecting Lord Cornwallis and Sir Peter Parker to arrive not knowing they had been delayed by stormy seas. The situation had now changed in North Carolina. The Committees of Safety had continued to seek out old Regulators and Highlanders, pressing them to choose to take the oath of allegiance to the American cause, claim neutrality or be disarmed.
Fourth Provincial Congress convened on April 4, 1776. Representing Anson County were Daniel Love, Samuel Spencer, John Crawford, James Picket, and John Childs. At this meeting the Halifax Resolves were passed granting authority for North Carolina delegates to the Second Continental Congress, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper and John Penn, to cast their votes for independence. It’s noteworthy that the resolution also maintained the independent rights of North Carolina. Both the date of the Mecklenburg Resolves and the date of the Halifax Resolves are emblazoned on the North Carolina State Flag in commemoration of the bold steps taken by North Carolina in being the first of the American colonies to call for independence from Great Britain.
Resolved, That the delegates for this Colony in the Continental Congress be impowered to concur with the delegates of the other Colonies in declaring Independency, and forming foreign alliances, reserving to this Colony the sole and exclusive right of forming a Constitution and laws for this Colony, and of appointing delegates from time to time (under the direction of a general representation thereof), to meet the delegates of the other Colonies for such purposes as shall be hereafter pointed out. The Congress taking the same into consideration, unanimously concurred therewith.The Provincial Congress established a committee of inquiry including: Allen Jones, John Ashe, Miles Harvey, Thomas Benbury, Nathaniel Rochester, Griffith Rutherford, Arthur Council, Whitmill Hill, Thomas Burke, Thomas Person, John Rand, Thomas Jones and Cornelius Harnett, to investigate the extent of the involvement of those incarcerated at the Halifax gaol and reported back to the Congress on April 20, 1776. They singled out one particular as a traitor to the cause because he had taken the Association oath:
Your Committee are of Opinion that Farquard Campbell disregarding the sacred Obligations he had voluntarily entered into to support the Liberty of America against all usurpations has Traitorously and insidiously endeavoured to excite the Inhabitants of this Colony to take arms and levy war in order to assist the avowed Enemies thereof. That when a prisoner on his parole of honor he gave intelligence of the force and intention of the American Army under Colo Caswell to the Enemy and advised them in what manner they might elude them—and that he is a Freeholder and lives in Cumberland County.Among the list, you can find here, are these men from Anson County, who they charged with participation at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on the side of the British: Alexander MacDonald (son of Kingsborough), Samuel Snead, Lewis Lowrey, Nathaniel Stead, Murdoch McLeod, John Smith, Norman McLeod, John McLeod, Rory McKinnen, Allen Macdonald (of Kingsborough), Alexander McRaw, Hugh McDonald.
Both Colonel James Moore and Colonel Richard Caswell wrote after-battle accounts to Cornelius Harnett. And on March 21, 1776, Governor Martin wrote a very long explanation to his new boss, George Germain, Viscount Sackville, who had replaced William Legge, in which he pretty much said ... he moved ahead with plans estimating that the British would arrive mid-February based on the instructions he had received from William Legge unaware that the plans for deployment from Great Britain had been delayed. Then Martin described a very interesting picture that referenced an Address from Inhabitants of Anson County proclaiming their loyalty to Great Britain. Martin said the delay caused loyalists support to decline. If the British had arrived according to his plans, then the loyalists of the backcountry would have rallied to the side of restoring the Crown’s authority. There is no date on the Anson County document, or a list of signatures, but it was signed by 227 inhabitants. We can see by the list of names of officers that the committee identified, most of those from Anson have Scottish surnames, but one surname in particular ... Lowrey (Lowery) ... is a surname of one of the Rudd family neighbors. But so were many of the men representing Anson County in the Provincial Congress. No doubt there were family, friends and neighbors in Anson on both sides, just as there was throughout the colonies. Martin had been given the impression from the North Carolina loyalists, as well as, the prediction of Highlander support by Lieutenant Colonel MacLeane that 10,000 men could be successfully raised. The first report he received indicated about 5,000, the next report indicated about 3,500. Most of the Highlanders came from Cross Creek, the main settlement on the Cape Fear River, and numbered about 1,400 when the march began. But as they moved towards Wilmington, many abandoned the march and returned home which reduced the numbers. Martin explained that by the time the Loyalists forces had reached Moore’s Creek Bridge, they numbered about one hundred “country” people (likely old Regulators) and 600 Highlanders because along the way there were defections ”as danger and difficulty increased upon them”.
Sir Peter Parker’s fleet began arriving at Cape Fear on April 18th and Lord Cornwallis arrived on May 3rd. On May 5, 1776, Major General Clinton issued a proclamation which offered a pardon to any “insurgent” who laid down their arms and took a loyalty oath to Great Britain … expect for Cornelius Harnett and Robert Howe. Then the British set about raiding the property of Patriots and Governor Martin ordered the “Crown’s share” of supplies for the British fleet. In late-May, Clinton sent recognizance to Charleston Harbor and by May 31st, realizing that the Patriots had done a really good job of disarming Loyalists, Clinton decided to move ahead with the plan to take Charleston and lifted anchor with Lord Cornwallis and Sir Peter Parker. Governor Martin went with them.
At Sullivan’s Island, Colonel Moultrie’s work gangs, among them Charleston’s African slaves, began construction on a fort that was to be 500 feet square with double walls, sixteen feet apart and filled with sand to absorb the cannon shots. The walls were made of twenty feet high palmetto logs that rose ten feet above a wooden platform where the artillery was mounted consisting of a assortment of thirty-one cannons along the front and rear walls, but only the front, seaward side was completed. When Major General Lee saw the fort he called it a “slaughter pen” and told Colonel Moultrie to abandon it. John Rutledge told Colonel Moultrie to obey the orders of Major General Lee in everything, except in leaving Fort Sullivan.
The British fleet of nine Man-of-War ships, Bristol, Experiment, Actaeon, Active, Solebay, Syren, Sphinx, Friendship, and the bomb-vessel Thunder, and their accompanying support vessels, eleven ships total arrived off the coast of Charleston Harbor by June 10th. They carried a total of 300 heavy cannons. General Clinton’s plan was to take Sullivan’s Island, then use it as a base to take Charleston Harbor. The warships would obliterate the unfinished fort. Lord Cornwallis was to land his army on Long Island (Isle of Palms) and cross Breach Inlet to Sullivan’s Island. Then they would take the harbor.
By the morning of June 28th the warships had maneuvered into position. At 9 a. m., Sir Peter Parker fired a signal gun and in about an hour the warships began to advance. Cornwallis discovered that the low tide at Breach Inlet was six to seven feet deep instead of the estimated two the three feet and the army could not wade the Inlet, so he resorted to “Plan B” … use boats to cross.
and commanded the gundeck.
At 11:30 a. m. the bomb-vessel, Thunder, started throwing mortar bombs towards the fort. Colonel Moultrie’s men returned fire at the closest ship, Active. Colonel Moultrie only had about thirty rounds of powder for the cannons when the fight started, so he told his troops to take good aim and not waste their shots. He sent Lieutenant Byrd to inform Lee and bring back more ammunition. Then the British ships started firing broadsides at the fort, and the three frigates attempted to use the fire cover to sail past the fort to the weak side. But their pilots were unfamiliar with the sandbars and they ran aground. Inside the fort the cannons were firing furiously, the British mortar bombs were hitting the palmetto trees outside the fort and most of them were smothered before they could explode. The spongy palmettos also stopped most of the cannon balls from penetrating into the fort. Most of the American casualties came from direct hits to the cannon embrasures or those few bombs that made it over the walls. The 400 troops that Colonel Moultrie had stationed on the end of Sullivan’s Island as advanced guard stopped Clinton’s troops from crossing the Inlet. During the battle, a cannon ball from a British ship successfully took down the battle flag over the fort and Sergeant William Jasper, in the words of Captain Horry, “leapt over the ramparts and deliberately walked the whole length of the fort, until he came to the colors and the extremity of the left, when he cut off the same from the mast, and called to me for a sponge staff, and with a thick cord tied on the colors and stuck the staff on the rampart in the sand. The sergeant fortunately received no hurt, though exposed for the considerable time, to the enemy’s fire.”
About 4 p. m., Major General Lee visited the fort and more powder was brought. Lee described the men as "determined and cool to the last degree, their behavior would in fact have done honors to the oldest troops." With the additional ammunition, the Americans fired at the British ships until after sunset. At about 9 p. m., Parker had had enough. He had been able to get two of the three frigates afloat and retreated. The next morning the British set the one frigate still grounded, Actaeon, on fire and the Americans sailed out to her and fired her guns at the departing Bristol. After they returned to shore, the Actaeon exploded and sent up an inferno of fire and smoke that Moultrie described as ”a grand pillar of smoke, which soon expanded itself at the top, and to appearance, formed the figure of a palmetto tree.”
The British used 32,000 pounds of powder, the Americans used 5,000 pounds. The British causality count was about 78 dead, 127 wounded. General Lee’s report to General George Washington said the American’s loss was ”ten killed on the spot, and twenty-two wounded; seven of whom lost their legs or arms”.
The cool courage they displayed astonished and enraptured me; for I do assure you my dear General, I never experienced a hotter fire—twelve full hours it was continued without intermission. The noble fellows who were mortally wounded conjured their brethren never to abandon the standard of liberty. Those who lost their limbs deserted not their posts. Upon the whole, they acted like Romans in the third century.And this about the detachments of troops under his command.
The manifest intention of the enemy was to land, at the same time the ships began to fire, their whole regulars on the east end of the Island. Twice they attempted it, and twice they were repulsed by a Colonel Thompson of the South Carolina Rangers, in conjunction with a body of North Carolina Regulars. Upon the whole, the South and North Carolina troops, and the Virginia Rifle Battalion we have here, are admirable soldiers.In late July, Clinton, Cornwallis and Parker left South Carolina and returned to New York. Governor Martin hired a sloop to accompany General Clinton’s armada on its limp back to New York.
On July 4, 1776, the final draft of our Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress. The attempts of the British to invade, as well as their defeat, at Moore’s Creek Bridge in North Carolina and Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina were strong encouragements for signing of the pact ...
"We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." ~Benjamin Franklin, in the Continental Congress just before signing the Declaration of Independence, 1776