The Major Historical Events Portrayed in the Show
There are two major historical events portrayed in Horn in the West. One is the Regulator Movements climactic end at the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771 and the other is the pivotal Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign. This section of the exhibit will dice deep into the history of those two key moments in American history.
The Battle of Alamance: May 16, 1771
The Battle of Alamance took place on May 16, 1771 on a field near Alamance Creek in Orange County (now Alamance county named after the battle). Tensions had been building up between the North Carolina Colonial Government under Royal Governor William Tryon and a band of Orange County Citizens called the Regulators. The Regulator Movement as it was called began in 1765 due to a raise in taxes to construct Tryon Palace in New Bern and extremely corrupt Political Officials like Edmund Fanning. Riots broke out in Hillsborough in 1769 but were quickly put down without bloodshed due to a Riot Act. Violence erupted again in 1771 when the Regulators who were not happy with how Tryon handled things rose up and formed an army at Alamance Creek. Tryon being a Major General in the British Army would not let there be a standing army against him in his colony, so he formed up the North Carolina Royal Militia to fight the Regulators. Roughly 1,000 regulators formed at Alamance with many not having a weapon including their leader Herman Husband (who was a Quaker). None of the Regulators had any formal military training ether. Tryon commanded over 2,000 Royal Militiaman with several generals and other officers. The Royal Militia was well trained with many of them seeing action during the French and Indian War. Tryon left New Bern and planned to help General Hugh Waddell who was surrounded by Regulators near Saulsbury.
On the night of May 15 Tryon sent a letter to the regulators ordering them to lay down their arms and surrender their leaders to which they refused. On the Morning of May 16. Tryon divided his militia into two lines with artillery on each outer flank and one piece between the two lines. In an attempt to prevent bloodshed Tryon had one if his Captains read the riot act to which the Regulators replied yelling “battle battle battle” and “fire and be dammed!” Some accounts say that the battle began because a messenger that was sent to Tryon to negotiate but was taken prisoner then shot by Tryon himself when he tried to leave. Though the accounts are not clear if this was the beginning of the battel or if it happened later in the battle. Due to his actions Tryon sent a messenger to the Regulators who in turn shot at him. This forced Tryon to order his men to open fire. The militia did not fire after the first or second order prompting Tryon to stand in front of them and proclaim that they “will fire on them or fire on me!” This prompted the artillery to open fire and the battle began. Early on the battle went well for the regulators. They used “Indian tactics” and were even able to shoot off Tryon’s hat and two were able to take one of the artillery pieces but had no way to fire it. Eventually Tryon gained the upper hand and defeated the regulators.
With the battle over roughly 27 Royal Militiamen laid dead and 61 were wounded. The regulators had 9 killed with an unknown number of wounded. One Regulator leader James Few was hanged on the battlefields and 6 others were tried in Hillsborough and also hanged. The Many of the Regulators who surrendered took an oath of loyalty to the King and would become Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War. Some Regulator leaders like Herman Husband escaped to other colonies or hid in the NC Backcountry. 7 of the officers under Tryon went on to be leading patriots serving as generals in ether the Continental Army or the NC Militia. One of note was Francis Nash who became a Patriot due to the guilt he had for his role in the Regulator’s defeat. Nash would die at the Battle of Germantown and is one of only 10 Continental Generals to die in battle. Tryon would be sent to New York where he would act as Governor until 1780. Edmund Fanning would follow Tryon to New York where during the Revolution he would form a Loyalist Provincial unit called the Kings American Regiment, a company of which fought at Kings Mountain in 1780 under the command of Captain Abraham De Peyster.
The Battle of Kings Mountain: October 7, 1780
In 1780 the British enacted a new strategy to end the American Revolutionary War known as the Southern Strategy. They succeeded in taking Charles Towne South Carolina after a siege and defeated the Continental Army twice. One brutal defeat was at the Waxhaws Massacre and the other at the Battle of Camden. With South Carolina firmly under British control, British commander Lord Charles Cornwallis began an invasion of North Carolina. As a part of his invasion he sent Major Patrick Ferguson with a contingent of Loyalist Provincials and Loyalist Militia into the North Carolina Backcountry to quell any signs of rebellion there. To do this Ferguson sent out a proclamation to the citizens of the Backcountry which threatened the destruction of their homes and lives. This enraged the Backcountry citizens who rose up against Ferguson. Several groups set out to find and ultimately kill Ferguson, One started in what is now Tennessee under the command of Isaac Shelby and John Sevier, another started in Virginia under the command of William Campbell, The Wilkes and Surry County Militias under the command of Benjamin Cleveland and Joseph Winston set out from what is now Elkin and Wilkesboro, and other groups came from South Carolina and Georgia..
On October 7 the Overmountain Men numbering almost 1000 men found Ferguson and his over 1000 Loyalist encamped atop a small rise known as Kings Mountain. They surrounded the mountain on all sides and attacked Ferguson and his Loyalist. Ferguson, wearing a red and white checkered shirt to hide his uniform, being the only British Officer there set his men up in the standard linear formations firing volleys against the Overmountain Men who were using “Indian tactics, ducking behind trees and rock outcroppings. Ferguson attempted three bayonet charges down the side of the mountain. Each time he perused the Overmountain Men down the mountain, only for them to follow him back up. Ferguson also had two camp followers with him at Kings Mountain named Virginia Paul and Virginia Sal who most believed were his mistresses. Virginia Sal was killed early in the battle, but Virginia Paul survived. Seeing she was in danger she rode down the side of the mountain telling the Overmountian Men exactly what he looked like. This made it easy for them to spot him and Ferguson fell with at least 7 to 8 rifle balls in him. With Ferguson’s death his second in command Captain Abraham De Peyster surrendered but the Overmountain Men commanders briefly lost control of their men who attacked the Loyalist inflicting even more casualties.
The Battle of Kings Mountain would be a major victory for the Patriot Case. The Loyalist lost 290 killed, 163 wounded, and 668 captured. Th Overmountain Men lost only 28 killed and 68 wounded. British Commander in Chief Sir Henry Clinton would call Kings Mountain “unhappily provided the first link in a chain of evils that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America.” The defeat at Kings Mountain would force Lord Cornwallis to abandon North Carolina and allow the Continental Army to reform. On December 3, 1780 Major General Nathanael Greene took command of the Southern Continental Army and led a successful campaign against Cornwallis. In January 1781 the British under Notorious Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton were defeated at the Battle of Cowpens which many historians consider the turning point of the Southern Campaign. In March 1781 Lord Cornwallis defeated Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse but lost 25% of his army forcing him into Virginia. There Lord Cornwallis would find himself in a sleepy tobacco village called Yorktown where in October 1781 he was surrounded by a combined American and French forge under the command of General George Washington and French General le Comte de Rochambeau. On October 19, 1781 Lord Cornwallis surrendered after a costly siege officially ending all major fighting of the American Revolution.