Chapter 6 "Good Seed Sown In Good Ground"

Chapter 6


The next four years passed quickly. Josiah Martin, became Governor. Unlike Tryon, he toured the western counties and made friends among the former Regulators, but his differences with the General Assembly grew wider. Gradually North Carolina divided into two camps-the Tories or Loyalists, who supported. Martin, and the Whigs or Patriots, who opposed him. In the Spring of 1775 the Revolutionary War broke out in. Massachusetts.

A LONE courier rode into the village of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County on May 19, 1775, bringing news of the Battle of Lexington, which had occurred a month earlier in far-off Massachusetts. Like wildfire the word spread-war! Early the next day a large group of Mecklenburg citizens gathered in the village to discuss this startling but not unexpected report. The majority of them were in sympathy with the New England Patriots, and someone suggested that they let the Continental Congress in Philadelphia know of this feeling. The result was an important set of resolutions which they called the Mecklenburg Declaration, and which stated:

"That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be a sovereign and self-governing association, under the control of no power, other than that of our God and the general government of the Congress; to the maintenance of which independence we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor."

As Alamance had been the birthplace of the Revolution, Mecklenburg thus became the birthplace of Independence. It was not until six weeks later that the Continental Congress signed Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.



Among those at the Mecklenburg Convention were a few Regulators. The scars of the Battle of Alamance were still fresh in their minds, and when the Declaration was passed to them they did not sign it. They wanted no part in Revolution,

The Whig Party moved to Hillsboro in August of the same year and opened a session of its Provincial Congress. Hardly had the session settled down to business, however, when a report came that James Hunter and other Regulators were threatening to march on Hillsboro to interupt the Congress. Trouble for the Whigs was also brewing to the south in the Highland Scotch settlements of the Cape Fear Valley.

When February, 1776, came, the Tories gathered their forces at Cross Creek, now the city of Fayetteville. Among the troops were several hundred former Regulators. Governor Martin lost no time in reminding the Regulators that they had sworn allegiance to King George, an oath which made them Tories. General Donald McDonald took command of the army and Colonel Donald McLeod, a veteran of the recent Battle of Bunker Hill, was placed in command of the Regulators. On February twentieth, this army of three or four thousand men marched for Wilmington.

Eighteen miles from Wilmington at Moore's Creek bridge, a Patriot army learned of the Loyalist or Tories' approach and planned a reception for them. Under cover of darkness on the morning of February 27, the Loyalists walked unsuspectingly into a well-planned trap. A furious and bloody battle took place and many Britishers were killed. Many Loyalist prisoners and a tremendous amount of equipment fell into the hands of the Patriots. The Battle was a terrible defeat for the British, and there was little further action in North Carolina until the closing year of the war.


One of the important battles of the war in this State occurred in February, 1781, two miles west of the present town of Graham on the old road to Alamance.



Patriot troops, commanded by General "Lighthorse" Harry Lee, surprised a strong Tory force under the command of Colonel Pyle on the old Alamance road during the Revolutionary War, and in the ensuing battle ninety of the British soldiers were killed. The stone marker above identifies the site of this battle.

Lord Cornwallis, the British commander, marched into the village of Hillsboro in early February, and learned that the Patriot army which he had pursued northward from South Carolina had retreated across the Dan River into Virginia. Grateful for a few days' rest, the British set up camp in the Orange County seat. On February 18, Cornwallis ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton to take a troop of men west of Haw River to seek recruits for the army.


Across the Dan, General Greene, the Patriot Commander, learned of Tarleton's mission, and at once ordered two of his men, Colonel "Light Horse" Harry Lee and Brigadier Andrew Pickens, to stop the British force. The Patriots crossed the Dan that same night and pushed on through straggly forest and over unploughed meadows toward the Haw River, where they hoped to cut off Tarleton's advance. Early next morning they arrived at the Salisbury Road, eight miles west of Hillsboro. Tarleton, they learned, had already passed this spot, and so the Patriots turned westward to follow him.

Lee had marched for a short distance when he met two young farmers on horseback. Cornwallis had dispatched reinforcements that morning to Tarleton, and these youths were scouts who had been set ahead of the reinforcements to locate Tarleton's camp. The scouts immeditely mistook Lee's men for Tarleton's troop, since both Patriots and Loyalists dressed in civilian clothes. Lee realized the advantage of this mistake. He thanked the scouts and told them to rejoin the reinforcements with "Colonel Tarleton's



compliments," and to request that the British troops move off the road to let "Tarleton's" cavalry pass.

As soon as the scouts had departed, Lee divided his men into several troops, placing one under the command of a Captain Eggleston and another under Captain Joseph Graham,* and he

himself took command of the third. Eggleston's troops circled through the woods, and Graham's men followed a short distance behind those under Lee and Pickens.

Lee came in sight of the British a short time later. They had drawn up along the right side of the road in review formation, sitting stiffly in their saddles with their rifles or muskets slung over their shoulders, and their eyes straight ahead. At the far end of the line sat their commander, Colonel Pyle, unaware that the advancing troops were not Tarleton's men.

Riding slowly past the Tories, his own troops close behind him, Lee nodded approvingly and smiled at his enemies. He reined his horse up in front of Colonel Pyle and returned the latter's salute. Pyle stretched out his hand in welcome.

Some of the British at the far end of the formation now spotted Eggleston's men in the woods behind them. Without command they began to fire. Lee instantly dropped Colonel Pyle's hand and drew his own sword. Eggleston swooped out of the woods with his men who began a hand-to-hand battle with the Tories, slashing at them with their swords and firing their muskets.

"Stop! Stop!" screamed Colonel Pyle, "You are killing your own men!"

His cry ended abruptly as a Patriot sword knocked him from his horse. The clash of swords and blast of rifles rose to a crescendo amid the screams of the wounded and dying Loyalists, still ignorant of what was happening. As each Patriot wheeled his horse to face a new opponent, he called out, "Whose man are you?" "The King's! The King's!" screamed the British, and the Patriot sword cut them down.

Finally the confusion and panic subsided. Ninety of Pyle's men including Pyle himself lay dead. A ghastly scene surrounded

* Captain Graham was the father of Governor William A. Graham, for whom the town of Graham was later named.



the Patriots. Lee had intended to surround Pyle's men and force them to surrender, but the British themselves had begun the battle which cost many of them their lives.

As soon as he could reassemble his troops, Lee sent for one of the Tory prisoners for questioning. A middle-aged man was brought forward, bleeding profusely from a head wound. He stared at Lee, still believing him to be Tarleton. "God bless your soul!" he exclaimed, "Mr. Tarleton, you've just killed as good a parcel of subjects as His Majesty ever had!" The mistake angered Lee, "You damned rascal!" he shouted. "We are Americans, not British. I am Lee of the American Legion!"

Meanwhile, several of the wounded Britishers had reached the O'Neal Plantation, some two miles away,* where Colonel

Tarleton was camped. Without reinforcements Tarleton realized that he had no chance against the Patriots, and so he ordered camp broken at once and fled toward Hillsboro again. The Patriots arrived next morning to find his camp deserted.

On February 26 Cornwallis marched westward toward Haw River. He planned to gather volunteers in the Loyalists settlements and then attack the Patriot Army which was encamped at Guilford Court House. The British reached Guilford on March 15, and the battle commenced shortly after noon. Although General Greene's men outnumbered those of Cornwallis, Greene was forced to retreat to a better position, and the victory was won by the British. Cornwallis did not pursue Greene but decided instead to return to Hillsboro.


The snows of February were deep and heavy. Travel was difficult, and by the time the British reached Cane Creek in southwestern Orange, they were forced to halt. Near the Cane Creek meeting house stood Simon Dixon's grist mill, and adjoining it, the stone house in which the miller and his wife lived. Cornwallis decided to establish a camp here and ordered his men to move the Dixons to a neighboring home so he might use their house as his headquarters.

Dixon, himself, was not a Tory, but he moved quietly and left the house to the British. The British tried to run the grist mill,

* O'Neal's Plantation was on the site of the Burlington Cemetery.



but there was not a miller among them; and it was said that Simon Dixon had jammed the mill wheel so that it would not operate. Another interesting story is told about Lord Cornwallis and Mrs. Dixon, Shortly after the family moved from the house, the General heard a loud argument outside of his door, and opened it to find two sentries talking with the miller's wife. "What is the trouble?" asked Cornwallis. The old lady boldly informed him that she had left her favorite pipe in the house and that she had returned to get it. Gallantly, Cornwallis escorted her inside and helped her search until she located the pipe, and then showed her out once again. Another legend said that some of Cornwallis' men, believing that Simon Dixon possessed a money box, tortured him with red hot iron tongs to make him reveal its location.

For several days the Loyalists camped at the mill. Seventy beef cows were seized from local farmers and slaughtered in a nearby field, and benches were dragged from the Cane Creek church on which to cut up the meat. Rails from Simon Dixon's fences were used by the British as fire wood. Behind them the Tories left much desolation and the hatred of people who might have been their friends.

Cornwallis, himself, it is said, named the settlement "Snow Camp," which has remained its name until the present day.*


On the road from Hillsboro to Lindley's Mill at Cane Creek lay a farm known as Kirk's Old Field. Its owner, "Old Kirk," was an English hatter, frequently suspected of aiding the Patriots. On the night of September 13, 1781, a small band of Patriots stopped at Kirk's place en route westward, and asked permission to spend the night. They could, said Kirk, and so they established their camp and placed a sentry at the end of the lane leading to the farm.

The night passed quietly and uneventfully. Early next morning, however, the Patriots were aroused by the sound of a shot. Quickly they mounted and rode toward the road and the place where they had left the sentry. Hardly had they discovered the dead body of the sentry when a group of Loyalists rushed from

* Another story claims that Snow Camp was named by a party of hunters who stopped there to camp during the winter of 1748.



the thicket bordering the road and fired upon them. The battle was soon ended, but several of the Patriots were killed or wounded.


On the same morning a band of six hundred Loyalist soldiers entered the sleeping village of Hillsboro at day light. Thomas Burke of Orange County had recently been elected Governor by a Whig Assembly, and he was the first man to be taken prisoner by the British. Several other military and civil officials were aroused from their beds and also placed under arrest. Colonel David Fanning*

These markers commemorate the Battle of Lindley's Mill which occurred near the present Sutphin's Mill in the southeastern part of Alamance County in 1781. Under the command of General Butler and Colonel Alexander Mebane, a Patriot Army prevented the British Tories from marching through Alamance and forced them to retreat toward Hillsboro.

and Hector McNeill then led the men on a wild raid of plundering, taking everything of value in the town.

Colonel Alexander Mebane of Hawfields watched this action from concealment. It was impossible for him to reach his horse, and so he set out on foot for his home to warn the people. Like the

* No relation to Co'onel Edmund Fanning who was involved with the Regulators.



famous Paul Revere, Colonel Mebane spread the word, "The British are coming!"

Hawfields was Whig territory, and General John Butler, who lived in this section, quickly raised three hundred of his Patriot militia to greet the British. Next morning the Tories crossed Cane Creek and headed through a hollow which would lead them across Hawfields to Tory country. On the brow of the hill, above the hollow, General Butler and his men awaited.

As rifle fire broke out ahead of them, the rear-guard of the Loyalists, who were escorting the Governor, halted. Colonel McNeill commanded the front ranks to retreat; the Whigs held a better position, and advance would mean certain death. One of his men, a Scotchman named McDougal, accused him of cowardice, however, and McNeill reversed the order and advanced. He was instantly shot down. Seeing McNeill fall, some of the men called out that he was dead. McDougal cried out that the Colonel was only wounded and urged the men forward.

Meanwhile the other Loyalist commander, Colonel Fanning, crossed the creek some distance below the battle secene and attacked the Patriots from the rear of the hill. This attack took the Patriots by surprise, and General Butler ordered a retreat. Major Robert Mebane, the second in command, immediately countermanded the order, and facing a portion of his men to the rear, he attacked Fanning with such force that the latter was forced to withdraw at once. As the ammunition grew shorter, Mebane passed along the line, carrying powder in his hat.

Finally the battle came to a draw. The Tories, convinced that they could not get through the Whig lines, headed southeast for Wilmington, leaving their dead on the battlefield. Near the end of the battle a Tory marksman shot Major John Nalls of the Patriots, and mistaking three Whigs on horseback some distance away, the Tory rode toward them shouting that he had killed Major Nalls. A Patriot bullet suddenly ended his boast.

Another of the Patriot officers, Colonel Lutteral, was wounded by the Tories, but he managed to stay in his saddle until his horse reached a farm house a half-mile from the battle scene. As he lay dying in an upstairs room of this home, the brave officer



dipped his finger in his own blood and wrote his name across the wall. For many years this grim mark remained there.

The Battle of Lindley's Mill closed the war in North Carolina, and a month later at Yorktown Lord Cornwallis surrendered the tattered remains of a once-proud British Army.

The words of James Pugh had come true. The blood shed at Alamance had been the seed of the American Revolution, a seed from which the people of the entire nation reaped the blessing of independence.



The T'own of Haw River was founded by Adam Trollinger, a German immigrant who erected a grist mill at this point on the River about 1745. The monument shown above marks the burial place of three generations of the Trollinger family in the Haw River cemetery.


Chapter 5

Chapter 11

Chapter 16

Chapter 21

Chapter 1

Chapter 7

Chapter 12

Chapter 17


Chapter 2

Chapter 8

Chapter 13

Chapter 18

Book Index

Chapter 3

Chapter 9

Chapter 14

Chapter 19

Chapter 4

Chapter 10

Chapter 15

Chapter 20