Historians have taught that the American Revolution began with the "Shot heard around the world" at the Old North Bridge, Concord, New Hampshire. Although, at Concord on April 19, 1775, the conflict blazed up into a conflagration, perhaps another shot fired four years earlier in central North Carolina, was the Spark that ignited our American Revolution.
Here is the story.
Following the unsuccessful English settlement at Roanoke Island in the late 1500’s, colonization of Virginia and South Carolina gained more prominence, and the North Carolina uplands were settled by a more rugged, more independent-minded type of individual.
In 1765 the new Royal Governor of the North Carolina Colony, Lord Tryon, imposed a policy of taxation to build his opulent palace in New Bern. Over time, colonial leaders from the west wrote letters to the Gov. and spoke with the royal administrators requesting moderation of the onerous taxing and highhanded policies of the Royal Court in Hillsborough.
Tryon took no effective steps to moderate the abusive methods of his tax collectors, and the discontent of the citizens culminated in 1771 with the seizure of the Court in Hillsborough by an aggrieved band of well-intentioned colonists, called Regulators, seeking redress from the inequities.
In response, Gov. Tryon formed an army and marched to the Piedmont to restore order. The Regulators moved west, to beyond the banks of the Alamance Creek. Accounts tell us, 'At dawn the following morning (May, 16), Tryon's forces crossed the Alamance,...., and marched silently, until within half a mile of the camp of the Regulators. Tryon demanded unconditional submission. Both parties advanced to within 300 yards of each other, when Tryon ordered the Regulators to disperse within an hour.’ ( William S. Powell).
Two accounts of Initiation of Battle are found.
Benj. Lossing wrote in 1851, ‘Robert Thompson, an amiable, but outspoken man, who had gone to Tryon's camp to negotiate, was detained as a prisoner. Indignant because of such perfidy, he told the governor some plain truths, and was about to leave for the Ranks of the Regulators, when the irritated Governor snatched a gun from the hands of a militiaman and shot Thompson dead.’ ‘Tryon perceived his folly in a moment, and sent out a flag of truce. The Regulators had seen Thompson fall, and, deeply exasperated, they paid no respect due to a flag, and immediately fired upon it.’
William S. Powell wrote ‘He had given the Regulators a choice: Return to their their homes or be fired upon. They had one hour to decide. After the hour was up, Tryon sent an officer to receive their reply. 'Fire and be damned!' was their answer. The governor then gave the order, but his men hesitated. Rising in his stirrups, he shouted, 'Fire! Fire on them or on me!' The militia obeyed, the Regulators responded in kind, and the Battle of Alamance was on.’
With superior military organization and cannon, Tryon 's forces won the field.
Lossing’s account of the after action summed, ‘The admitted excesses of the Regulators afford no excuse for the cruelty of Tryon after the Battle. With the implacable spirit of revenge, he spent his wrath upon his prisoners, and some of his acts were worthy only of a barbarian.’ ‘Moreover, although they were defeated in that early conflict that first battle of our war for independence they were not subdued, and many of the survivor were among the most determined opposers of Cornwallis a few years later’ [at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse 1781.]
‘The struggle for American liberty and independence began at the "Battle of Alamance." It kindled the flame that eventually spread with the rapidity of a wild forest fire, until the oppressed of the 13 colonies were aflame with righteous indignation and unitedly determined to throw off forever the YOKE of British oppression .... The "Battle of Alamance" was the first battle of the American Revolution.’ - 1905, Dr. William Fitch.
Although Lossing, Fitch and several other historians have asserted that the Battle of Alamance was the First Battle of Our Revolution, most other historians have observed that before the Battle, the Regulators were not requesting Self Governance, Representation in matters of taxation, or Independence; and consequently, have characterized the event as the Last Battle of the “War of Regulation”.
It appears entirely accurate to observe that before the Battle was joined, the objective of the Regulators was simply to obtain justice.
However, within the Event itself and with Governor Tryon's subsequent tyrannical retribution against the survivors, it was demonstrated that Justice and Fair Representation regarding Taxes, Law or any other matter, was NOT within the structure of a Monarchy. Consequently, may it not be deduced that this concurrent realization, in fact, struck the “spark” that ignited the idea of Independence, Liberty and Justice
To the crux of the analysis.
Does the fire that burns the forest begin with the Spark or the Conflagration?
In Law and Science the fire begins with the Spark, no matter how long it smolders, and, in this case, the Spark struck with the Battle of Alamance was not extinguished, but rather smoldered and spread throughout the Colonies, until the conflagration broke out in Concord 4 years later.
Do not these circumstances support the proposition that the Battle of Alamance was, in actuality, the beginning of our American Revolution?
Perhaps a pivotal event in World History occurred when Governor Lord Tryon grabbed the militiaman's
gun and shot Mr. Thompson Dead, for truly that was, “the shot heard around the world.”
By Bill Price II,
See Also:Related Categories: Revolution Era, Places, Colonial North Carolina