Battle of Alamance


The Battle of Alamance ended the so-called War of the Regulation, a rebellion in colonial North Carolina over issues of taxation and local control. Some historians consider it the opening salvo of the American Revolution, but since it was against local government, and not against the king or crown, that opinion doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Named for nearby Great Alamance Creek, the battle took place in the central Piedmont about eight miles south of present-day Burlington.


In the spring of 1771, Governor William Tryon left his lavish palace in New Bern, marching militia troops west to quell a rebellion that had been brewing in western counties for many years. Up to that point, the "war" had included only minor, scattered acts of violence. The Regulators, with approximately 2000 men to Tryon's 1000, hoped to gain concessions from the governor by intimidating him with a show of superior force. On May 16, 1771, the Regulators, led by men such as Maryland native Hermon Husband, rejected Tryon's command to disperse peacefully. Tryon marched his troops south from their campsite on Alamance Creek, confronting the Regulators in formation along the road. It is said that Tryon himself fired the first, fatal shot of the battle. The Regulators lacked leadership, organization, and adequate munitions. Many, including Husband, fled the field. Delays prevented approximately 300 reinforcements under Captain Benjamin Merrill from arriving in time to help the rebel cause.


The Regulators lost and their rebellion failed. Losses for Tryon included nine dead and 61 wounded; although the Regulators are said to have fallen in much greater numbers, with historians averaging the estimated deaths at 100, there were somewhere between 10 and 15 or so killed. Tryon took 13 prisoners, one of them (James Few) being executed at the camp, and six executed later in nearby Hillsborough. Many Regulators traveled on to frontier areas beyond North Carolina. The governor pardoned others and allowed them to stay on condition they pledge an oath of allegiance to the royal government.


The battle took place in what was then Orange County. During the American Revolution a decade later, the same section of Orange County (subdivided into Alamance County in 1849) hosted several minor skirmishes, including the infamous Pyle's Hacking Match in 1781.


Battle of Alamance memorial

Visitors to Alamance Battleground State Historic Site may view the field of battle, memorialized in 1880 with a granite monument and marked today with exhibits, period cannon, and colored flags representing troop positions. The visitor's center offers exhibits, artifacts, and a presentation on the battle. Visitors may also tour the onsite Allen House, a restored frontier farmstead of the period.