Ask any school kid when the American Revolution began and they will almost always answer, July 4th 1776. The smart kids know this is wrong.
From a political stand point the American Revolutionary Period began with the end of the French Indian War in 1763. This is when the Crown decided that the Colonials needed to pay a larger share of the cost of that war. This led to a number of Acts that imposed taxes and regulations that did not sit well with the Colonials.
From a military standpoint the American Revolutionary War, or The War For Independence began in 1775. In April of 1775 Colonial Militia fired on British Troops at Lexington in Massachusetts. This is often reported as the first shots of the American Revolution. Is this true?
From 1763 to 1768 minor clashes took place in the Colony of North Carolina. The issue was more than just unfair taxes. It was also with corrupt tax collectors and government officials. These officials often pocketed much of the tax money, and then declared that the people had never paid their taxes.
The people were being taxed on their crops when they were harvested, taxed when they were sold, and then taxed when they purchased items.
The colony was divided east from west. The eastern portion of the colony was considered the wealthy and “connected” people. They enjoyed freedom from many of the taxes that were being levied.
The western portion of the colony was the frontier. Life was hard as it was and the taxes made things even worse. To add insult
to the whole affair Governor William Tryon had a palace built that would rival many in England. Not surprisingly the colonists in the west were not happy.
In 1768, the western colonists formed a Regulator Association. The Regulators were not opposed to the Government of England, but they were opposed to the structure and fairness of the local government.
In 1771, Governor Tryon gathered a Militia of 1000 men, with plans of gathering more troops from loyalists in Regulator territory. He overestimated his support in the backcountry.
Although the Regulators were active in many counties in the west, the key territory was Orange County. Regulators who disrupted court, and beat many officials, running them out of town, had besieged the County seat, Hillsborough. Out of a population of about 8000 backwoodsmen, 6000 were supporters of the Regulators.
A standing militia of 254 men bringing the total size of his Army to 1254 joined Tryon’s force. He split his force into two units. The standing militia would approach Hillsborough via Salisbury. Tryon would take a direct route to Hillsborough.
Upon approaching Hillsborough the Standing Militia was confronted by a large group of Regulator’s numbering 2000. The Militia withdrew back toward New Bern. No shots were fired. The Regulator’s hoped that a large show of force would convince Tryon to withdraw as well.
Tryon located the Regulator force near Alamance Creek. Tryon ordered the Regulators to lay down their arms and sign an oath of allegiance. He gave them one hour to do so. The Regulators still were hopeful that their overwhelming numbers would convince Tryon to withdraw.
At the end of the hour Tryon ordered his force to fire on the Regulators. Tryon’s force hesitated. Standing up in his stirrups Tryon yelled “Either fire on them, or Fire on me”! The Battle of Alamance was on.
The battle was very short. The Regulator’s, though strong in numbers, lacked any leadership and were quickly driven from the field.
Nine of the Kings Militia was killed and 61 wounded. Many more Regulators were killed and 15 were captured, seven of these were later hung in Hillsborough. Tryon continued through Regulator territory and forced them to sign Loyalty Oaths.
The rebellion was crushed, but some important lessons were learned. Patriots employed the methods by which armed resistance could be used against the Crown just a few short years later in The American War for Independence.
As fate would have it, Governor Tryon was given the Governorship of New York and would face a whole new rebellion, a rebellion that he could not destroy.
Was Lexington the first shot of The American War for Independence? Historians argue that point. What do you think?
P.S. An interesting addition to this Story is Henry Husband. A Quaker, he led the call for the regulation of tax laws in the Carolina Colony. Later he was the leader of the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania.http://www.unctv.org/webcast/history/alamance.html