The Trail of Liberty & Independence

The American Revolutionary War in North Carolina

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If we visited the homes of our ancestor’s in the wake of the American Revolutionary War, we would hear the words, liberty and independence quite often. The settlers living in North Carolina were all seeking one important common denominator, and that was prosperity.  In order to achieve this, one must be free of obstacles that would hamper his progress. The taxes placed upon our ancestor’s were harsh, but the mistreated and abused suffered much more due to the fact that monies were not largely available within their homes. These conditions worsened as the “talk” of war and revenge became more popular among the settlements.

Communities within Rowan County, NC were especially hostile towards England. They were primarily german and scottish descent that separated themselves from his Majesty by religious beliefs. Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton stated after the war, “the area was more hostile to England more than any other in America.”  Two loyalist attorneys living in Salisbury during the summer of 1775 were arrested by the citizens and sent to Charleston, SC. John Dunn was very vocal with his beliefs and  Benjamin Booth was simply arrested due to his friendship to Dunn. They were both imprisoned for 1 year and lucky to escape with their lives from the North Carolina Patriots in Rowan County. read more

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The normal teachings of this period discusses the forefathers and their actions that proclaimed separation from England, but in truth, it was widely known to many settlers and pioneers of North Carolina that religious beliefs would not allow a king to overpower their livelihood and progress. Families would worship one king and that was Jesus Christ. This was the ultimate division between the colony of North Carolina and England. This allowed Christians to stand up and fight the first battle of the Revolution in Alamance, NC in 1771. The actions of the Battle of Alamance soon spread quickly and it did not take long before more citizens armed themselves to protect their religion, their families and way of life. Majority of these armed citizens were immigrants of whom  arrived to North Carolina a few years earlier. They endured hardships in their homelands, traveled across the ocean to new hopes and dreams. They were determined to make their stance known to England and they shouted this very loudly.

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They began organizing, first in homes of neighbors and churches such as Pilgrims Reformed Church of Abbotts Creek and Bethany Lutheran Church of present day Davidson County, NC. Later, they began to build forts within their communities knowing that the enemy would surely come for them all. The men would leave their families to join the new Continental Army of George Washington for a year of service. By the year of 1775, settlers in North Carolina were no longer anticipating a war for liberty, they were fighting it.  Autumn of 1775, houses were burned, several hangings had occurred and many new farmers were bankrupt. This was due to England’s tactics to keep the citizens inline and behave properly. This, of course, did not work and only enhanced others to join the fight on behalf of their friends and neighbor’s losses. The Moravians tried their best to stay out of the war at first, but later documents prove that provisions were issued to patriots and their families in order to continue the war efforts to independence.

Penelope Barker organized the NC Tea Party, 10 months after the Boston Tea Party in 1774. She encouraged other women to refuse the tea imported into Carolina due to the tax England imposed upon it. Philip Alston was attacked at his home along the Deep River and a battle ensued upon his land in 1781. Many Quakers of eastern North Carolina were beginning to grow in numbers and popularity among the communities. Their beliefs detailed that no one should be forced to an act or swearing an oath to anyone. Due to these reasons, the Quakers began to refuse the payment of taxes and encouraged even more unity in the fight for freedom from England.

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The settlers of North Carolina had the advantage at the beginning of the war. They had their neighbors and friends to rely on, they had the surrounding lands which they knew very well to navigate and warn other communities. But, soon they realized that their numbers were few compared to the British Troops and their military skills were designed for hunting game for their families and lacked the skills of warfare. Because of this, many patriots felt discouraged and worried that the fight would not be victorious against the British. Many left and returned to their homes. In order to encourage the men, money was allotted to them for their service. Land was also promised to the men in order to entice them to continue to fight and look forward to retiring in later years on new lands.

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England did not want unity among the colonies and so, they too, offered compensation to any one that would remain loyal to the King. England desperately wanted to create tensions among the settlements thinking that many would be afraid to stand up against England knowing that the percentages of the colonies losing the war was almost guaranteed.

British recurments

To understand the battlefront of this war, you would need to research each battle and it’s impact to the overall conclusion. read more The battles that shaped the war in North Carolina were Battle of Guilford Courthouse and Battle of Kings Mountain. To those who were fighting in the war, they left their families and loved ones behind. The families were left to carry on their daily duties of everyday life which were now filled with worries and uncertainity about the future. Many farms were robbed of livestock, food, clothing and much more from both sides of the war. Soldiers were weary, hungry and sick and a huge amount of these would rob items they needed from families along the frontier. The women of the home became the head of the house and would conduct and oversee the chores on the farm. Planting, harvesting and securing the home were just a small list that the farm demanded in order to succeed. The women also were required to clothe and rear their children as well as feed them and nurse them when sickness would visit. Life in the 18th century was hard in itself on the Carolina frontier, but during the American Revolutionary War, life was much harder within the family home. Many witnessed the loss of their possessions, their home and in some cases, the death of a loved one.

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To read more about life during the American Revolution, see the following links

Life in Mecklenburg County

The Hornet’s Nest Symbol

Soldiers of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse

North Carolina Patriots In Their Own Words

POWs of the American Revolution

The people of the Carolina frontier experienced a new beginning with the ending of the American Revolutionary War. They each had a chance to  create a democracy where kings could never dwell. They participated in political events which were widely attended and were very popular. Voting was crucial in each community and many veterans of the war became active political leaders in their area. Politics became the new social affair equivalent to church socials, barn raisings and dances or balls. July 4th celebrations would grow larger year after year. Peace reigned over the frontier once again.

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Voices of The American Revolutionary War

Thunder & Liberty

The majority of us can recite the beginnings of our country. We can name men associated with the Son’s of Liberty, we can produce the names of our founding fathers and the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Many among us, can trace their ancestor to militia, or the Continental Army by application for pension or by a random discovered document. Numerous books have been written on the battles, the skirmishes and brutal tactics used during the war. Re-enactments are organized at many battle sights. So, we understand a great portion of why the war occurred and how, but do we really understand what it was like to live during the war?

revolutionary war battle of charlotte

The Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townsend Act of 1767 both contributed to the onset of the Revolutionary War. These acts taxed the colonists and separated them from Great Britain. A majority of these citizens immigrated from other countries several years earlier in hopes of freedom and new opportunities. These immigrants each took the oath of allegiance to Great Britain and acknowledged the laws and freedom of the new land. But, as the years continued and their own personal families grew, Great Britain continued to create separations among the colonists and imposed new taxes on imports which many families could not afford. The colonists felt the pressure of Great Britain much more in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other northern colonies. This brings us to the fact why so many families migrated southward down the Great Wagon Road to an unsettled area such as North Carolina. The majority of these pioneers migrated on the trail between the years of 1753 through 1770, just prior to the Revolutionary War.

Grace Lower Stone Church Rockwell NC

Grace Lower Stone Church, Rockwell, NC

Governor Tryon of North Carolina (1765-1771) expected the taxes to be paid by the new settlers and if payment was not received, horses, tools and even cooking pots were taken to cover the amount due. To the new settlers who just arrived from northern colonies, this was disheartening. The taxes prevented them from improving their properties and they felt mistreated. The settlers would hear the news from Boston and other areas.  Soon, tensions arose in many North Carolina settlements. Before the Boston Tea Party occurred, The Battle of Alamance took place on May 22, 1771 in an open field in the piedmont region of North Carolina. After the battle, that lasted approx. 2 hours, the surrounding settlements heard the news of James Few. Few was hanged the next day, May 23, 1771 without conviction in a military court. 14 regulators (participants of the battle) were tried and 12 of these were convicted. Of these 12, 6 men were hanged. Governor Tryon felt that the settlers would look upon this action as the government forgiving the regulators for their participation in the skirmish. However; this was not the case. This area of North Carolina was gaining new settlers on a daily basis and the growth rate was much higher versus the eastern sections of the state. The Governor was trying to control the area with the taxes that were now law, but hostilities grew with the numbers of new settlers.

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Traveling ministers, such as George Whitefield were creating tent revivals all through the piedmont area of North Carolina. These revivals were very popular among the settlers and at times, hundreds would attend. The mission of these revivals were to bring religion to the new settlement and to also quieten any disgruntled feelings against the government. For the most part, the settlers were divided in half after the Battle of Alamance. Many did not seek confrontation and wanted to remain loyal to Great Britain. Through the following years, several skirmishes would occur and overtime, men would gather and organize their communities with armed watchmen and guards. The settlements would begin to look at neighbors who remained loyal to the king much differently as time went by. News from other areas also influenced the settlers and meetings were held in churches, homes, taverns, etc. to discuss the situation.

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Our history books tells us that on May 20, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration was allegedly produced. Also, the Declaration of Independence, shown above, was submitted to newspapers all through the land. This enabled the settlers of many communities to read the words and fully understand that the colonies have now separated from Great Britain. Word was swirling through North Carolina, that British ships were in route to North Carolina’s coast line and this encouraged numerous settlers to now take up arms and defend their homes. Due to the need of armed men in the North Carolina area, many volunteers were given land for a 2 year service. This land bounty was located in Tennessee and was granted after their military service was completed. Majority of the military records for North Carolina were destroyed by fire, but the National Archives has numerous records for North Carolina Revolutionary War Veterans.

The pioneers who endured the hardships of traveling down The Great Wagon Road were seeking means for a better life. They were aware of the changes that Great Britain was imposing upon them and with these changes came tensions that fueled the onset of war. In North Carolina, the settlers were determined individuals who were strong in character and moral values. They valued their families, their religion and their morals to strive for their personal best. The new laws of Great Britain brought turmoil that endangered their freedom and their livelihood. The Revolutionary War represented new independence to create a free country that was open to all religions, beliefs and equality. This is what ultimately led each patriot to bear arms and fight for liberty. Each family was affected by the war, many members were killed while others were left with memories and scars. Their stories were passed down through the generations in hopes that the acts made by our patriot fathers would never be forgotten.

alamance battle

Site of Battle of Alamance, NC

Several links are listed below. These are research tips to locate ancestors who were associated with the American Revolutionary War.

Rosters of the Continental Line North Carolina

North Carolina Digital Archives

North Carolina Oath of Allegiance 1778

Patriot Service Link

Colonial Records of North Carolina

Military Indexes for Revolutionary War All States

Edenton Women Who Refused to Purchase Britain’s Tea

Military Land Grants

North Carolina Patriots 

On a personal note, I’ve researched details of battles, skirmishes and dates associated with the American Revolutionary War. I have documents linking my ancestors to a battle, years of service, etc. But, through the years, I have found that I was fascinated by the information I was able to locate on the families, how the war impacted their daily lives and routines. These small details describe the way of life during 1771 through 1781. Wishing you all great success on your personal research. Thank You All So Much For Your Support of Piedmont Trails.

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Life In 18th Century North Carolina

Prior to the Revolutionary War

Life in the 18th century was very much different from life as we all know it today. The pioneers who migrated from Pennsylvania down The Great Wagon Road were optimistic and filled with hope. They brought with them important items that pertained to their well-being, their faith and their sentimental values.  While they endured the hard trip, many would face great hardships and losses in the near future. This segment will focus on the settler’s lives and living on the Carolina frontier.

yadkin

The Yadkin River is pictured above with Pilot Mountain in the foreground. West of the Yadkin River was not very popular during the mid 18th century. So, for many of our ancestors, the Yadkin River was the line between settlements and wilderness. Once the land was chosen by the head of the family, namely, the father, the family began unloading their belongings. Trees would fall in order for a new home to shelter the family and the livestock. Farming would begin almost immediately. 90% of our ancestors were farmers and they farmed in all seasons if weather permitted. The man of the house was expected to provide food and shelter for his family. In order to accomplish this, farming was essential to the way of life for everyone.

The piedmont area of North Carolina was once the hunting and grazing lands of the Cherokee. The land was fertile and plentiful. The pioneers would select huge land tracts and begin improvements. The family unit was vital to the survival of the early settlers.  Everyone in the family had a job to do on a daily basis. It was up to the father of the house to oversee these chores and to make sure they were completed to his fashion.

lady

The wife, or the lady of the house would be responsible for the family garden and herbs. She would also be required to prepare the meals and tend to the smaller children. Clothing would be made by her, also milking the cows and washing the garments as well. The mother would also be required to educate her daughters with the knowledge they would need for their future families. Any possessions she had prior to marriage would belong to her husband until his death. Once the husband died, the wife would inherit 1/3 of his property and could legally own it until she remarried or died.

children

The children would all wear dresses until they reached the age of 5, give or take a year or two. These little ones were allowed to freely play at their leisure and either the mother or an older sister would tend to their needs daily.  As the children grew older, their responsibilities and their daily routines would change. The boys would go with their father to learn about farming, livestock, hunting and more while the girls would be with their mother to learn of sewing, cooking, gardening, etc.

A sample of a daily chore list:

Baby Elizabeth-age 1 plays with her corn husk doll

George-age 3 follows his older sister, Mary and tries to help

Adam-age 6 gathers wood and cleans the chicken house

Mary-age 10 finishes her sampler, milks the cow, gathers eggs, helps to feed livestock and helps tend to Baby Elizabeth

Christina-age 13 sews linens, pulls weeds in the garden, prepares beans for drying, attends fire at smokehouse.

John-age 15 tending wheat field, attends to livestock, checks on hogs in woods and hunts in the afternoon

Henry-age 17 is harvesting corn from the upper field

Michael-age 19 is with his father clearing new land for a larger corn crop next season

Elizabeth-age 41 is washing clothes, cleaning the home and preparing venison that John brought home the day before

Michael-age 43 is clearing land with his son and begins preparing for a trip to the mill in the morning with a portion of his corn crop-a full day trip

As you can see, one day in the 18th century required a huge amount of work, dedication and responsibility.  The weather played a vital role in the farmer’s life.  The fields could only yield what the weather would allow. Farmers based their success on the success of their crops. Wheat and corn were planted in huge tracts.

hayfield

Wheat allowed flour to be made and corn allowed cornmeal to be made. The family garden consisted of white beans, chard, pumpkins, scarlet runner beans, cucumbers, squash, peppers, carrots, peas, cabbage and lettuce. Herbs were also planted such as horehound, sage, nasturtium, hyssop and winter savory. Many settlers used limewater as a natural pesticide on their plants. Wooden traps were created to entice slugs and snails. They would also carry water to their gardens during dry and hot summers.

corn (2)

Usually, the settler would clear three fields keeping two active and the third one fallowed or unused. This method would allow the field to rest in between planting. Some farmers, however, believed that planting turnips in a fallowed field would restore nutrients back into the land. The turnips allowed food for the livestock or they were traded or sold. The livestock would be butchered in early winter to endure the family through the harsh colder days of winter. These settlers, for the most part, were already adapting to the winters of Carolina much better versus the Pennsylvania’s winters.

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To the 18th century farmer, there were many obstacles that stood in his way of progress. Sickness could overwhelm the family such as a smallpox outbreak. From the Moravaian diaries, we find that such an epidemic occurred in the piedmont area of Carolina in the spring of 1759. The incubation period was usually 2 weeks and then the person would have a high fever with blisters appearing if they survived the fever. Smallpox was capable of destroying entire communities. Fire was also a huge threat. Lightening strikes were very common and a family could lose all of their possessions in a matter of minutes.

The farmer depended on his neighbors for help with harvesting, building and any large project that he himself, with his family, could not handle alone. Neighboring events would also provide entertainment with music, dancing and the partake of distilled spirits. Local news would be shared with neighbors and friends as well in order to keep up with the latest events.

Bible

One of the most important items belonging to the first settlers appears to be their family Bible. Many churches were organized during the mid 18th century, telling us that faith and religion were vital to the pioneers. On the Carolina Frontier, they all were able to freely worship and practice their religion beliefs. Through hard work and being faithful to their religion, the first settlers believed they would all prevail and succeed on the frontier.

Tracing our family heritage not only contains names and dates, it also provides a link to a life that once was filled with details, chores, happiness and heartfelt losses. Thank you so much for your support of Piedmont Trails and join us again on the next blog when we begin to hear shouts of liberty from Carolina patriots and the onset of the Revolutionary War.

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