The Battle of Alamance was the final battle of the War of the Regulation, a rebellion in colonial North Carolina over issues of taxation and local control. Some historians in the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries considered the battle to be the opening salvo of the American Revolution and locals agreed with this assessment. Named for nearby Great Alamance Creek, the battle took place in what was, then, Orange County and has since become Alamance County in the central Piedmont about 6 miles (9.7 km) south of present-day Burlington, North Carolina.
From North Carolina History:
On a field in [the] Piedmont [of] North Carolina, Regulators clashed with North Carolina militia on May 16, 1771. Many probably had predicted the day when public disagreements, political protests and riots would one day escalate into an armed conflict. For a couple decades, tensions had been mounting. Piedmont farmers believed that they were being overtaxed and had been paying excessive fees to local sheriffs, and the colonial government. Piedmont farmers started demanding changes to the law and, publicly humiliating, intimidating and sometimes, flogging officials whom they deemed to be corrupt…Judge Richard Henderson and Sheriff Edmund Fanning are two examples.
After the Johnston [Riot] Act was passed, Rowan Regulators deemed it “riotous,” writes historian William Powell and, “swore that they would pay no more taxes.” Similar sentiment spread throughout the backcountry, so, in 1771, Governor Tryon flexed his executive muscle and ordered a special court in Hillsborough. Predicting that disgruntled Regulators would protest this action, Tryon sent out militia to the courthouse to quell any rebellious activity or interference with court sessions.
As the militia marched westward, approximately 2,000 Regulators assembled and, converged and met the militiamen camping beside Great Alamance Creek. On May 16, the Regulators relayed to Governor Tryon that they wanted to discuss their differences with government officials. Tryon scoffed at the suggestion and returned a message stating that a prerequisite for such an audience necessitated that the Regulators disarm. The royal governor gave the Regulators one hour to surrender. Their reply: “Fire and be damned.” No doubt believing the other side to be condemned to eternal fire, Tryon and the militia answered with cannon fire.
The Battle of Alamance lasted for two hours. The Regulators fired weapons behind trees and large rocks [but] their effort lacked organization. Sometimes when a Regulator would run out of ammunition, he left the field of battle. As to be expected, the militia was more organized in its attack, and maneuvers, and Tryon defeated the Regulators.
From the North Carolina Geneology Project:
The War of the Regulation which culminated in the Battle of Alamance is one of the most controversial events in the history of North Carolina.
A great many of the people of North Carolina in the years just before the American Revolution were restless and dissatisfied with the state of affairs in their province. Their grievances were serious and affected their daily lives. Royal governors sent from outside the province were not able to maintain peace and quiet but, instead, frequently gave the people further cause for discontent. The outstanding group opposing the ruling class represented by the governor and his friends were known as Regulators.
It was a movement based upon the social and economic differences between the tidewater section and the back country of North Carolina. In the East, the people were almost entirely of English descent. It was here that an aristocratic form of society prevailed, based upon large plantations and slave labor. This area had taken on many of the forms and luxuries of older societies. The people looked to Virginia, and the mother country, for its social, intellectual and political standards. In the West, Scotch-Irish and German ancestries were predominant. Here, plantations were small and slaves were few in number. For the most part, the West was still in the pioneer stage. The forms and ideals of society were democratic. Philadelphia was the principal center for the interchange of ideas, as well as of produce. With slight intercourse between them, the two sections felt but little sympathetic interest in each other.
From Rainbow Rob’s Blog:
[…] North Carolina’s Governor Tryon built himself a mansion of grandiose proportions from those unfair taxes levied on struggling farmers. At this point emerged the Regulators. A group formed to protest these abuses, initially to print petitions, distribute pamphlets, advertise their demands for fair hearing and tax.
What started as a war of words swiftly moved to confrontation in the North Carolina courthouse of Hillsborough when a mob took over the building and removed the judge. Governor Tryon immediately passed a law making membership in the Regulators an act of treason.
One man from the Regulators, attempting to negotiate peace, crossed to Tryon who took a gun from one of his militiamen and shot the man dead. An order to ‘Fire and be damned’ was given and the Battle of Alamance ensued. The Regulators, though not outnumbered, were without sufficient arms and ammunition and, the outcome was swift. Governor Tryon took 13 prisoners and six were later executed in nearby Hillsborough.
North Carolina Historic Sites: Alamance Battleground
[Historical records of the casualties are disputed. The numbers of dead range from nine to 27 and the wounded range from 61 to 300. Historians of the time claim that this was, indeed, the beginning of the American Revolution. Modern historians disagree with this.
Alamance is my home county. ~Vic]
Saw this neat ride parked outside our local Wallyworld. I’d love to have one. ~Vic
In a combined operation with the ironclad ram CSS Albemarle, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke, attacked the Federal garrison at Plymouth, North Carolina, on April 17. On April 19, the ram appeared in the river, sinking the USS Southfield, damaging the USS Miami and driving off the other Union Navy ships (USS Ceres & USS Whitehead) supporting the Plymouth garrison. Confederate forces captured Fort Comfort, driving defenders into Fort Williams. On April 20, the garrison surrendered.
Construction of the ironclad began in January 1863 and continued on during the next year. Word of the gunboat reached the Union naval officers stationed in the region, raising an alarm. They appealed to the War Department for an overland expedition to destroy the ship, to be christened Albemarle after the body of water into which the Roanoke emptied but, the Union Army never felt it could spare the troops needed to carry out such a mission. It was a decision that would prove to be very short-sighted.
In April 1864, the newly commissioned Confederate States Steamer Albemarle, under the command of Captain James W. Cooke, got underway down-river toward Plymouth, North Carolina. Its mission was to clear the river of all Union vessels so that General Robert F. Hoke‘s troops could storm the forts located there.
[…] two paddle steamers, USS Miami and USS Southfield, lashed together with spars and chains, approached from up-river, attempting to pass on either side of Albemarle in order to trap her between them.
Captain Cooke turned heavily to starboard, getting outboard of [the] Southfield but, running dangerously close to the southern shore. Turning back sharply into the river, he rammed the Union side-wheeler, driving her under. Albemarle’s ram became trapped in Southfield’s hull from the force of the blow and her bow was pulled under as well. As [the] Southfield sank, she rolled over before settling on the riverbed. This action released the death grip that held the new Confederate ram.
Miami fired a shell into Albemarle at point-blank range while she was trapped by the wreck of Southfield but, the shell rebounded off Albemarle’s sloping iron armor and exploded on [the] Miami, killing her commanding officer, Captain Charles W. Flusser. Miami’s crew attempted to board Albemarle to capture her but, were soon driven back by heavy musket fire. [The] Miami then steered clear of the ironclad and escaped into Albemarle Sound.
With the river now clear of Union ships, and with the assistance of Albemarle’s rifled cannon, General Hoke attacked and took Plymouth and, the nearby forts.
From The History Channel:
Confederate forces attack Plymouth, North Carolina, in an attempt to recapture ports lost to the Union two years before. The four-day battle ended with the fall of Plymouth but, the Yankees kept the city bottled up with a flotilla on nearby Albemarle Sound.
In 1862, the Union captured Plymouth and several other points along the North Carolina coast. In doing so, they deprived the Confederacy of several ports for blockade-runners and the agricultural products from several fertile counties. In the spring of 1864, the Confederates mounted a campaign to reverse these defeats. General George Pickett led a division to the area and launched a failed attack on New Bern in February. Now, General Robert Hoke assumed command and moved his army against Plymouth, fifty miles north of New Bern. He planned an attack using the C.S.S. Albemarle, an ironclad that was still being built on the Roanoke River inland from Plymouth.
With 7,000 men, Hoke attacked the 2,800-man Union garrison at Plymouth on April 17. His troops began to capture some of the outer defenses but, he needed the Albemarle to bomb the city from the river. The ironclad moved from its makeshift shipyard on April 17 but, it was still under construction. With workers aboard, Captain James Cooke moved down the Roanoke. The Albemarle‘s rudder broke and the engine stalled, so it took two days to reach Plymouth. When it arrived, the Rebel ship took on two Yankee ships, sinking one and forcing the other to retreat. With the ironclad on the scene, Hoke’s men captured Plymouth on April 20.
The Rebel victory was limited by the fact that the Albemarle was still pinned in the Roanoke River.
From Son of the South:
S. C. Major Anderson had long urged his government, but in vain, to strengthen the military works in Charleston Harbor. The burden of the few replies was: “Be prudent; be kind; do nothing to excite the South Carolinians. It will not do to send you reinforcements, for that might bring on hostilities.” At length he was satisfied that the people were about to attempt to seize Fort Sumter.
[..] he resolved to take position in Sumter before it should be too late. He was commander of all the defenses of the harbor, and, in the absence of orders to the contrary, he might occupy any one he chose.
Governor Pickens sent a message to Anderson demanding his immediate withdrawal from [the fort]. The demand was politely refused and, the Major was denounced in the State convention, in the legislature, in public and private assemblies, as a “traitor to the South,” […]. The Confederates in Charleston and Washington were filled with rage.
[Secretary of War] Floyd declared the “solemn pledges of the government” had been violated by Anderson and he demanded of the President [Buchanan] permission to withdraw the garrison from Charleston Harbor. The President refused; a disruption of the cabinet followed. Floyd fled; and Anderson received (Dec. 31) from Secretary of War [Joseph] Holt —a Kentuckian like himself— an assurance of his approval of what he had done.
Governor Pickens, nettled by Anderson’s refusal to give up Sumter, treated him as a public enemy within the domain of South Carolina. Armed South Carolinians had been sent to take possession of Fort Moultrie, where they found the works dismantled.
On February 7, […] seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America and established their temporary capital at Montgomery, Alabama. A February peace conference met in Washington, D.C. but, failed to resolve the crisis. The remaining eight slave states declined pleas to join the Confederacy.
The seceding states seized numerous Federal properties within their boundaries, including buildings, arsenals and fortifications. President James Buchanan protested but, took no military action in response. Buchanan was concerned that an overt action could cause the remaining slave states to leave the Union and, while he acknowledged there was no constitutional authority for a state to secede, he could find no constitutional authority for him to act to prevent it.
South Carolina authorities considered Anderson’s move to be a breach of faith. Governor [Francis W.] Pickens believed that President Buchanan had made implicit promises to him to keep Sumter unoccupied and suffered political embarrassment as a result of his trust in those promises. Buchanan, a former U.S. Secretary of State and diplomat, had used carefully crafted ambiguous language to Pickens, promising that he would not “immediately” occupy it. From Major Anderson’s standpoint, he was merely moving his existing garrison troops from one of the locations under his command to another.
Governor Pickens […] ordered that all remaining Federal positions except Fort Sumter were to be seized.
President Buchanan was surprised and dismayed at Anderson’s move to Sumter, unaware of the authorization Anderson had received. Nevertheless, he refused Pickens’s demand to evacuate Charleston harbor. Since the garrison’s supplies were limited, Buchanan authorized a relief expedition of supplies, small arms, and 200 soldiers. […] an unarmed civilian merchant ship, Star of the West [was sent], which might be perceived as less provocative to the Confederates. As Star of the West approached the harbor entrance on January 9, 1861, it was fired upon by a battery on Morris Island, […] staffed by cadets from The Citadel […].
In a letter delivered January 31, 1861, Governor Pickens demanded of President Buchanan that he surrender Fort Sumter because, “I regard that possession is not consistent with the dignity or safety of the State of South Carolina.”
On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president. He was almost immediately confronted with the surprise information that Major Anderson was reporting that only six weeks of rations remained at Fort Sumter. A crisis similar to the one at Fort Sumter had emerged at Pensacola, Florida, where Confederates threatened another U.S. fortification — Fort Pickens. Lincoln and his new cabinet struggled with the decisions of whether to reinforce the forts, and how. They were also concerned about whether to take actions that might start open hostilities and which side would be perceived as the aggressor as a result. Similar discussions and concerns were occurring in the Confederacy.
After the formation of the Confederate States of America in early February, there was some debate among the secessionists whether the capture of the fort was rightly a matter for South Carolina or for the newly declared national government in Montgomery, Alabama. South Carolina Governor Pickens was among the states’ rights advocates who thought that all property in Charleston Harbor had reverted to South Carolina upon that state’s secession as an independent commonwealth.
The South sent delegations to Washington, D.C. and, offered to pay for the Federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with the Confederate agents because he did not consider the Confederacy a legitimate nation and making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government.
On April 6, Lincoln notified Governor Pickens that “an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only and, that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms or ammunition will be made without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the fort.”
Lincoln’s notification had been made to the Governor of South Carolina, not the new Confederate Government, which Lincoln did not recognize. Pickens consulted with [P. G. T.] Beauregard, the local Confederate commander. Soon, President Davis ordered Beauregard to repeat the demand for Sumter’s surrender and, if it did not, to reduce the fort before the relief expedition arrived.
Beauregard dispatched aides […] to Fort Sumter on April 11 to issue the ultimatum. Anderson refused, although he reportedly commented, “I shall await the first shot and, if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days.”
At 1 a.m. on April 12, the aides brought Anderson a message from Beauregard: “If you will state the time which you will evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree in the meantime that you will not use your guns against us unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you.”
Maj. Anderson replied that he would evacuate Sumter by noon, April 15, unless he received new orders from his government or additional supplies.
Aide Col. Chesnut considered this reply to be too conditional and [replied] to Anderson: Sir, by authority of Brigadier General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.”
Anderson escorted the officers back to their boat, shook hands with each one, and said “If we never meet in this world again, God grant that we may meet in the next.”
Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate. There were no deaths on either side as a direct result of this engagement, although a gun explosion during the surrender ceremonies on April 14 caused two Union deaths.
From Son of the South:
The fort had been evacuated, not surrendered. Anderson bore away the flag of Sumter, which was used as his winding-sheet, and was buried with him.
More reading on The Bombardment of Fort Sumter from Harper’s Weekly, April 27, 1861.
I’ve posted for Veterans Day on November 11 and POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in September. Today is the national acknowledgement of the final pull-out of US troops in South Vietnam, ending our direct involvement.
From National Day Calendar:
[…] Veterans of this time period are gaining the respect that was not so freely given upon their return. Involving five U.S. presidents, crossing nearly two decades and 500,000 U.S.military personnel, it left an indelible mark on the American psyche. Returning Veterans did not always receive respectful welcomes upon their arrive on American soil. There were 58,000 killed, never to return. National Vietnam War Veterans Day recognizes the military service of these men and women who answered the call to service their country when she needed them. They didn’t make the decisions to go to war.
U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., introduced legislation in 2017 to honor Vietnam Veterans with a day on the anniversary of the withdrawal of military units from South Vietnam. President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Day Act on March 28, 2017, calling for U.S. flags to be flown on March 29 for those who served.
From The History Channel:
[…] in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam and, the Vietcong signed a peace agreement in Paris, ending the direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war and, the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means. The South Vietnamese government was to remain in place until new elections were held and North Vietnamese forces in the South were not to advance further nor be reinforced.
Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops [left] South Vietnam as Hanoi [freed] the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam. […] before the last American troops departed on March 29, the communists violated the cease-fire and, by early 1974, full-scale war had resumed. At the end of 1974, South Vietnamese authorities reported that 80,000 of their soldiers and civilians had been killed in fighting during the year […].
On April 30, 1975, the last few Americans still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon fell to communist forces.
I live with a Vietnam Seabee Veteran. He was in-country at Camp Haskins, Red Beach, Da Nang harbor during Khe Sanh, Tet and the Battle of Hue. Thankfully, he was not directly affected but, he was nearly blown out of a guard tower when the USMC Da Nang Air Base was attacked in January 1968. He keeps a wad of shrapnel and an empty grenade in the office as a reminder of what nearly got him. He’s told me stories of returning home and being flipped off by civilians. He was never spit on, like some stories I’ve heard but, he certainly wasn’t welcomed back. ~Vic