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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.