The citizens living during the late 18th century in North Carolina were met with many challenges and many achievements. The eventful year of 1776 desires a closer look and the details are filled with blood, pride and a determination of survival in a troubled world. The atmosphere among the majority of settlers held resentment to the crown and longed for a chance to allow more freedom to change the current status. Individual households, churches and other gathering “hot spots” inspired either loyalty to the King or the opportunity to live without a monarchy. By year end, North Carolina begins a new chapter of statehood and freedom on the horizon.
January 10-Royal Governor Josiah Martin, pictured above, appealed to the Loyalists to end the rebellion which was now raging across Carolina. Martin called upon the people to be “faithful subjects” and defend the Crown. Those who refused were labeled “Rebels and Traitors”. The Governor was planning an attack by February and was trying to raise 9,000 men in order to create an army of Highland Scots, Regulators and Tories. He expected Lord Cornwallis to arrive with 7 regiments and Sir Peter Parker’s fleet of 54 ships. He also expected Sir Henry Clinton from Boston to bring his 2,000 experienced British troops. Martin expected everyone to arrive in Brunswick no later that February 15th.
February 18-A Scottish heroine, Flora MacDonald, pictured above, was challenging her fellow countrymen to fight the Patriots. It is said that Flora mounted a white horse and addressed the men in Gaelic to encourage them to cross the Cape Fear and end the Patriot’s rebellion. As the army marched away, Flora returned to her estate in Anson County. Within 9 days, her husband would be taken prisoner along with many fellow Highlanders.
February 27-The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, pictured above, takes place on this date. The Patriots removed many of the boards from the center of the bridge prior to battle. They also smeared the remaining portions of the bridge with soap and bear’s grease. The Patriot’s then hid on the eastern bank waiting on the 1,600 Highlander Scots to arrive. The Scots arrived at the bridge just before dawn armed with swords and daggers. An explosion of gunfire from the Patriots rained down on the Scots leaving 50 wounded, killed or drowned. After this battle, the Loyalist army scattered and the British left Carolina headed for Charleston.
April 12-Delegates to North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress adopted the Halifax Resolves. The delegates were all for independence and urged the Continental Congress to declare independence for all colonies and to form alliances. The document also stated that North Carolina held the right to form it’s own constitution and laws.
May 5-British General Henry Clinton, pictured above, finally arrives with his troops to North Carolina. With Lord Cornwallis, Clinton conducted several raids throughout North Carolina. General Clinton offered amnesty to all rebels who would lay down their arms with the exception of Cornelius Harnett and Robert Howe of Wilmington. Clinton’s offer was ignored and he followed Lord Cornwallis back to Charleston.
May 21-The Fourth Methodist Conference meeting located in Baltimore appointed 3 preachers to serve the Carolina circuit. The circuit riders brought the word of God and the message of John Wesley at a time when independence was felt throughout the area. Edward Dromgoole, reared in the Catholic Church in Ireland, brought the “flow of tears” during his sermons. Francis Poythress was a serious man who often mispronounced common words; “this he attributed to the loss of his teeth.” Isham Tatum traveled for a few years, then married and ceased his travels.
June 22-Four men, believed to be army deserters, entered into the Moravian community of Salem. They entered the tavern, pictured above, and ordered brandy and liquor. They began loading their guns and arguing about the bill. They struck a man in the head with a gun barrel and threatened to kill everyone in the room. Several men entered the tavern and chased the criminals to the Single Brother’s House. “They kicked open the door, smashed windows, broke furniture and wounded 5 people with tomahawks”. The 4 men were eventually caught and a trial began. The prisoners were sent to the Salisbury jail escorted by Captain Henry Smith.
July-During the month of July, the battle between the Patriots and the British had shifted southward to South Carolina, but other battles were fought. Indian uprisings during the month of July were keeping the settlers on constant alarm. General Griffith Rutherford led 2,400 men to Swannanoa Gap and crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains. 36 Indian villages were burned to the ground along the route. Majority of the Cherokee fled, but some stayed and fought it out. An excerpt from a soldier’s journal stated that he found the body of an Indian woman. “She had painted and armed herself as if she were a warrior.”
August 2-The Declaration of Independence was actually signed on this date. The July 4th date portrayed only two signatures, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. 3 men represented North Carolina as they signed the document. Joseph Hewes, John Penn and William Hooper
September-Neighbor against neighbor was beginning to terrorize many communities. The Loyalist refused to accept paper currency and were destroying neighbor’s property such as crops and livestock. The Patriots often would seek Tories who refused to pledge allegiance to the Revolution. Once found the Tories would be “tarred and feathered”, escorted out of the community or at times, hanged until death.
November 12-The Fifth Provincial Congress Convened in Halifax to draft a new state constitution. The delegates decided to vote by “voice” rather than by town or county. The hero of Moore’s Creek Bridge Battle, Richard Caswell, was unanimously chosen president of the convention.
December 18-North Carolina’s state constitution is complete allowing North Carolina to be named as a state.
The words portrayed here can only give a small glimpse into the past. The fact remains that each and every family member living in 1776 witnessed and endured the year’s events. Many planted their crops only to watch them burn by British soldiers, or Indian raids or even by their own Loyalist neighbors. There were many family members who perished due to the events of 76, but just as many, if not more, proclaimed in it’s glory. North Carolina gained the reputation of standing on her own as a new state with a people united together for independence and freedom.