War of Regulation (1766-1771)

War of Regulation 1766-1771

Copyright © Hugh W. Barnes and Teresa Fortenberry

 All Rights Reserved
Publisher: Barnes-Oxford Genealogy Research Foundation, Inc.

Governor Tryon & the Regulators
Governor Tryon & the Regulators

Planning for this article began over two years ago with the discovery that three Barnes grandfather and my 4th great grand Uncle Edward Teague were Regulators. Teague, immigrant and 5th great grandfather Brinsley Barnes along with his two sons Deaf John and James “Handsome Jim” signed Regulator Advertisement No. 9 complaining to Governor Tryon concerning taxes. Teresa’s ancestors Isaac Falconbery Junr and Henry Falconbery signed a similar petition in Anson County.

The cause of the War is debated today, but many including William S. Powell former Director of the NC State Archives, who was described as “the dean of North Carolina history” considered the War a prelude to the American Revolution. Powell is the author of a comprehensive history of the War. Teresa and I had hoped to provide a detailed review of the War and its causes in a short 10-15 pages article. After reviewing the sources listed in the bibliography as well as many others in The Colonial Records of North Carolina,  we have determined this is not possible. For a brief but reasonably accurate overview Kumamoto, Robert Kumamoto in his The Historical Origins of Terrorism in America, 1644-1880 does the best job in his short  25-page review. Professor Marjoleine Kars of the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus gives a more accurate view in her full-length book, Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina.  Dr. Kars is a recognized figure on the American Revolution and it is her contention that the War of Regulation was a prelude to the Revolution.

A focal point of the War was the issuing of advertisements by the Regulator complaining to Governor Tryon. There were twelve in all. The fact that is this article exists and that twelve original documents dating between 1765 and 1771 are due to the dedication of Mr. Vann Evans, Correspondence Unit Supervisor at the NC State Archives of North Carolina, NC Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources. Transcriptions of the twelve documents known as Regulator Advertisements have appeared on the website of Documenting the South a branch of the University of North Carolina. The Foundation began searching for the originals in early 2017. DocSouth advised that they had disappeared but were found in 1920 in the British West Indies. A team from State Archives retrieved them. They were returned and transcribed, but the originals carried a British copyright that remains in effect until 2039. The originals once again disappeared only to surface but retrieved by Mr. Evans at the Foundations request. We have obtained limited copyright use permission from the UK Copyright office, and they are available for your review.

Regarding Regulator Petitions, Mr. Evans points out that the ”originals as was often the case are copies made in a clerk’s hand. Researchers often hope to find a person’s original signature, and there is none because the document is in a clerk’s hand. Some of the petitions were used to indict Regulators in the district courts, and the version that’s survived is a copy made by Tryon’s clerk. “
In our efforts to research the War, we have found that many sources on the Internet come and go. We hope to be a central repository with ongoing information about the War. While some sites link to other sites for information, our experience is that many pieces of valuable information about the War are disappearing. For this in some cases rather than a link, we will capture files and list the URL of the source and when we retrieved it. In others, we have captured and store the information in the Cloud should the links disappear./
In the timeline that follows, we list The Stamp Act of 1765 as the beginning of the War. The need for new revenue by the British Empire caused by the acquisition of India in 1757 and Canada in 1763 was driving forces in King George’s pressing his Colonial governors to seek new revenue sources. This argument is rarely made in other articles about the War.

Teresa Fortenberry has provided a timeline of the War providing a short outlines its primary events. link

The War was generally limited to Piedmont North Carolina. The counties in existence at the time included Orange, Rowan, Granville, Cumberland, Anson, and Mecklenburg. There was an occasional uprising in the East.

North Carolina 775
North Carolina 1775 (Double click to enlarge)





Captain Benjamin Merrill of the Rowan militia was found guilty of treason and was hanged on orders of Governor William Tryon 19 June 1771 at Hillsboro in Orange County, N.C. A descendant of Merrill noted that earlier men of Orange Co NC met at Maddock’s Mill, near Hillsborough, 4 Apr 1767 and formed the Regulators, to regulate public grievances and abuse of power. The reason for this gathering was to countermand the continued abuses of Governor Tryon’s officials, who required $15 for a marriage license when the legal rate was $1as well as other fees and taxes. The previous request to Tryon had been ineffective. A full list of causes appears below.

Causes of the War:
According to Kumamoto among the demands of the Regulators was a long-standing demand for government accountability. Also, they sought:
* Increased availability of currency.
* An end to exorbitant fees charged by clerks and lawyers.
* Secret ballots.
* Abolition of poll taxes.
* Payment of taxes with farm produce.
* Establishment of taxes in proportions to profits.
* Freedom to celebrate marriages according to the denominational ceremony and custom.

Some modern-day historian contends that the War was not a prelude to the American Revolution, but it must be recognized as the timeline illustrates, the War began as a need for increased revenues by the British government. It is widely recognized that is the same cause of the Revolution. Tryon raised fees for deeds just as did Sugar Act and Stamp Act. It is our position that the War was, in fact, a prelude to the Revolution.  Within the Piedmont, an overwhelming majority of the population took the side of the Regulators. At the end of the Battle of Alamance, Governor Tryon required all Regulators to sign an oath of allegiance. 6,400 which consisted of 75%




all free male in the Piedmont signed the oath which has never been found.

Leading Regulators Throughout the War and Tryon’s Office’s at The Battle of Alamance
Copyright © 2018 Teresa Fortenberry – All Rights Reserved

The Regulators: A few key men
Herman Husband:  Pamphleteer and a “voice” of the Regulators, Husband, often wrote letters to North Carolina officials pleading for recognition of the ill-treatment of the farmers by the men occupying an office in the counties and state of North Carolina. Like many, he signed Regulator Advertisement Petition number 9 dated May 1768. Available elsewhere. Born about 1724 in or near Cecil County, Maryland.

Capt. Benjamin Merrill: Was at the last engagement of the Regulators, The Battle of Alamance in 1771. Here he was among those captured by the forces commanded by Gov. William Tryon and one of the men hanged for treason. He was born about 1731 in New Jersey. For a detailed account of Merrill.

Regulators Hanging
Regulators Hanging

  Enoch Pugh has been confused with Enoch Pugh as being one of the Regulators hanged in Hillsborough, North Carolina after the Battle of Alamance in 1771. James Pugh did not die until 1810. It is also stated that as Enoch Pugh (not James) was giving his final statement, Edmund Fanning kicked the bucket out from under him. Enoch, Thomas, James, and John Pugh all signed Regulator Advertisement Petition number 9. Born about 1735 in Pennsylvania.


Rednap Howell: Sometimes cited as the “Poet of the Regulators” for the prose he created to describe a current event, matching it to a local, known song. These were often politically motivated, aimed at making fun of the Crown’s officeholders in the state or county level in North Carolina. Rednap Howell also signed Regulator Advertisement Petition number 9. Unknown birth, died 1787 in New Jersey.

James Few: Was hanged immediately after the Battle of Alamance by Gov. William Tryon without the benefit of a trial. Born 1746 in Maryland. He was executed after the Battle of Alamance.

William Butler: In April 1768, William Butler and Herman Husband were arrested, accused of being leaders of a group of rioters who came to the aid of a farmer whose horse was confiscated for payment of taxes. Butler was born about 1740 in Virginia.  (Brother, John Butler, was sheriff of Orange County, North Carolina during the time of the War of the Regulation. Though John did not “side” with the Regulators, he did sign petitions of clemency for the Regulators after the Battle of Alamance.

James Hunter: James Hunter was a signer of the Regulator Advertisement Petition number 9. In May 1771, just before the Battle of Alamance, James Hunter’s home and fields were destroyed by Gov. Tryon’s troops. Hunter signed the Regulator Advertisement Petition number 9. He was known as “General of the Regulators” and his statute is at Alamance Battle Ground.

Robert Messer: One of seven Regulators hanged by Gov. William Tryon’s militia after the Battle of Alamance. Born 1731 in North Carolina, Robert Messer was one of the captains for the Regulators.

Regulators who have been identified as having been at the Battle of Alamance.
• Herman Husband
• James Hunter
• Rednap Howell)
• James Hunter
James Few 
• William Butler
• Charles Harrington – died from wounds received at the battle
* Reverend David Caldwell attempted to negotiate with Tryon to resolve the Battle. (https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/caldwell-david
The following were pardons by Tryon:
Samuel Jones
• Joshua Teague
• Samuel Waggoner
• Simon Dunn Jr.
• Abraham Cresson
• James Wilkerson Sr.
• Edward Smith
• John Bumpass
• William Rankin
• William Robeson
• John Winkler
John Wilcox 
* Forest Mercer
* James Emersonlater signed the Revolutionary War Patriots’ Muster Roll as James Emison (Emmerson) 

Hermon (or Harmon) Cox – his powder horn is now on display at Alamance Battleground
William Brown
• James Copeland
Robert Thompson. Killed attempting to negotiate peace.
Six men were found guilty of treason and hanged:
* Benjamin Merrill
• Robert Matear
* Robert Messer and two other unnamed individuals.
* Enoch Pugh
• James Stewart

A compiled list of know Regulators from various sources. Some duplication exists, but this represents the largest list of known Regulators.  There are over 600 of the 6,400 that history indicates existed during the period.

You can search our website or any of those in the links below. The method is different for Mac and PC and the results are displayed somewhat differently depending on the browser you are using. To review how to do this click on https://www.wikihow.com/Search-for-a-Word-on-a-Webpage

* List of Regulators Compiled by Jerry Cross, Researcher for the Historic Sites Section, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.  It was at one time available on the Texas A&M website and at the Alamance Battleground site. It has been removed.  We retrieved it. Review this list.

* List of Regulators Compiled by Mark Chilton from Wandering through the NC Piedmont, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, Who were the Regulators?  Spelling has been correct to make searching easier and the names are in alphabetical order.

* List copied: September 7, 2018. Most of this list is obtained from Regulator Advertisement No. 9 and have been alphabetized. The original spellings have usually been changed.

* An American Family History, The Regulators, Copied: September 7, 2018

Tryon’s Colonial Militia Leadership at the Battle of Alamance according to his journal, the following men served under his command:
* Major-generals: John Ashe  and Thomas Lloyd
* Lieutenant-generals: John Rutherford, Lewis Henry deRosset, John Sampson, Robert Palmer,                       Benjamin Heron, and Samuel Strudwick

* Majors of brigade: Abner Nash and Robert Howe
* Colonels: Alexander OsborneEdmund Fanning, Robert Harris, James Sampson,                                           Samuel SpencerJames Moore, and Maurice Moore
* Lieutenant-colonels: John Frohock, Moses Alexander, Alexander Lillington, John Gray, Samuel Benton
* Majors: William Bullock, Walter Lindsay, Thomas Lloyd,  Martin Fifer, and John Hinton

Oher North Carolina leaders supporting Tryon many of who became Patriot during the Revolution.

Alexander Lillington  and James Moore were both American patriots at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge
Richard Caswell was a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, one of the principal authors of the 1776 constitution of North Carolina, and the first governor of the newly independent state.  Francis Nash,  whose guilt for extortion precipitated the War of the Regulation, fought and died as an American patriot in the Revolution.  Griffith Rutherford served as a brigadier general in the Continental Army.

Royal Governor William Tryon, Edmund Fanning, William HooperAlexander Martin
Battle of Alamance Tryon’s men’s:
aides-de-camp, Captain Philemon Hawkins II, Captain Montgomery, Patrick Muller – Tryon’s aide-de-camp at Battle of Alamance was killed.

The War is difficult to explain in a short text.  The Rowan County, NC Public Library has produced a seven-minute YouTube video which doe a good job.

A major focus of the War was the publishing of Advertisement or petitions complaining to Governor Tryon about various issues.  There were twelve important one.  The originals and their transcription appear below.

Regulator Advertisement – Transcriptions & Originals

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