Friday, November 19, 2010

Revisiting the American Situation


When I graduated from high school the last thing on my mind was higher learning.  No, I yearned for adventure.  So, I joined the Air Force.  I had no idea that  learning would be a very important part of the adventure. Basic Training taught me more than just how to stand up, walk, and wear clothes properly.  It also taught me the importance of knowing what I was all about.

Nothing can teach you more about yourself, than learning about those that came before you.  Not just your family, but the people who inhabited the land you call home. Growing up I was surrounded by Clapps, Suttons, Ingles, Shepards, Williams, and Bennets.  A solid community of Scot/Irish and Lutheran Germans. 

My town is called the City of Roses.  The people there take their roses seriously.  They also take their pecan trees, walnuts, and huge magnolias just as seriously.  Religion is on every street corner. Politics is discussed in the barber shop, along with growing tomatoes, tobacco, and squash. 

The people were proud that Andrew Jackson had practiced law just outside of town; the fact that William Sidney Porter (O'Henry) lived just up the road; Meriwether Lewis had passed close by on his way to visit his mother, and the Last Capital of the Confederacy was just 15 miles away.  They were keenly aware that Alex Haley's (author of Roots) family had been slaves in the area and visited the Company Shops in Burlington.  They were proud of the young men who staged the sit in at the Woolworth's up the road.  The history of the town is contained in its cemeteries etched on the tombstones dating back to the late 1600's.   With all of this surrounding me, it is no wonder that History is my passion.

I do not study history just for the nostalgia of a bygone era.  History describes our present, and predicts our possible future.  We just need to pay attention.  When reading this article, think about the implications this has on us today, and what it may mean for our future.

The following story took place about 10 miles from my doorstep.  It involves some of the major players of the era, and the funny thing is..they had no idea it was coming. 

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 post photo
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
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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.
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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.

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