The Battle of Alamance

The Battle of Alamance in the colony of North Carolina was unknown to me until my husband and I started sharing our family history with each other. One of his ancestors, Samuel Flake, fought in this pre-American Revolution battle for independence from corrupt government practices.

Battle_of_Alamance_Postcard2

Depiction of the first casualty of the Battle of Alamance

As early as 1765, rural North Carolinian colonists united against unfair and corrupt practices of the local government officials, backed by the colonial governor. The colonists named themselves Regulators. Local sheriffs and court officials would collect inflated taxes or come back to collect a second time, often lining their own pockets with the excess. An imbalance of representation favoring government officials and the wealthier urban citizens prevented the petitions of the Regulators from being addressed. This led to armed rebellion, culminating in 1771 at the Battle of Alamance*.

The battle only lasted a day. While the Regulators had superior numbers, their army was untrained and many assembled to try to scare the British with sheer numbers. As the army attacked, the Regulators’ resistance crumbled and the members scattered.

Following the battle, most of the Regulators were pardoned in exchange for pledging allegiance to the king, although a few of the leaders were hung. In the years following the battle, most of the Regulators moved further west.

Recently, I discovered that my Swearingen ancestors — Samuel and his sons Samuel (my line), Thomas, and Van — were also Regulators that took part in the Battle of Alamance. They even lived in the same county as Samuel Flake. So far, I haven’t been able to tell if the Swearingens and the Flakes knew one another, but it’s fun to discover our families intertwined hundreds of years before we met.


*Some historians in the late 19th and early 20th century claimed that the Battle of Alamance was the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. Later historians disagree, saying that the Regulators weren’t looking to separate from England, just to make representation more equal.

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