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1777- 1859


This should properly be called the beginning of the Revo-

lutionary War. The Regulators were contending for many of

the same principles that the colonies contended for in the Rev-

olution. The Governor was appointed by the English Crown,

and he in turn appointed all sheriffs, judges, clerks and other

officers, subject to the veto of the Crown. In this the people

were denied the right of self-government.

They were also taxed without representation ; and the tax

was heavy for the times, caused by the determination of Gov-

ernor Tryon to build for his use a very expensive mansion at

New Bern.

But the immediate cause of the organization of the Regu-

lators was that the sheriffs, clerks of court, registers of deeds,

surveyors, entry takers and other officers were defrauding the

people by demanding from two to five times as much as the legal

fees and the authorized taxes. The legal fee for recording a

deed was one dollar, but the clerks would often demand five dol-

lars. The sheriff and his deputies would go out to collect taxes,

and if the man did not have the money at hand to pay, his horse

was levied on and put up for sale with no one present but the

sheriff and his deputies. One of the deputies would bid it off

at his own figure, and thus take the man's horse from him. The

sheriff would some times sell the clothes from the backs of mem-

bers of the family.
The people sent petition after petition and personal repre-

sentatives to the Governor begging for relief. The Governor

would make fair promises, but gave no relief. This continued

from 1765 to 1771. Finally the patience of the Regulators was

exhausted and they began to handle the sheriffs pretty roughly ;

and they liberated some of their number who had been impris-

oned. Furthermore some of them refused to pay any more

taxes until they were reimbursed for the fraudulent taxes

already forced from them. They gathered in large numbers at

Hillsboro during court week to demand justice, and actually

frightened the judge so that he left town. They captured the

180 History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People

court clerk and severely whipped him, and demolished his fine

house and furniture which had been bought with ill-gotten

money. They were now going to extremes, but for six long

years they had sought relief in a legal way and had gotten none.

The State Assembly met in New Bern in 1770, and Hermon

Husband, a Regulator, was sent as a representative from this

district. The Governor had already had some trouble with

Husband, and did not want him present in the Assembly, so

had him arrested and imprisoned. A large body of the Regu-

lators organized to go to New Bern to release Husband. The

Governor became frightened and released him before the Regu-

lators arrived. The number of the Regulators was increasing

and they were organizing and making more insistent demands

for justice.

Near the first of March, 1771, the council of state declared

war against the Regulators. The Governor was asked to call out

the militia and to take command of the forces. Shortly there-

after he began his march toward Hillsboro. It was largely the

eastern counties against the western. The eastern counties, be-

ing near the seat of government, had not experienced the same

unjust and illegal abuses that the west had experienced, and

they were on the side of the Governor ; however, many indi-

viduals in the east were really in sympathy with the demands

of the Regulators.

When the Regulators heard that Governor Tryon was on his

way to Hillsboro at the head of an army, they began to collect

their forces and to prepare to meet him in battle. The armies

met May 16, 1771, near Alamance Creek, on the line between

the counties of Guilford and Alamance, and the battle ensued.

The Regulators present were about two thousand men ; but Dr.

Caruthers says not more than half of them had come prepared

for or expecting a battle. The Governor had 1,100 men, and

they were well equipped with arms and ammunition. The best

authorities say nine of the Regulators and twenty-seven of the

Governor's men were killed, and many more on both sides

wounded. The Regulators were not supplied with ammunition,

and man by man as he used up what ammunition he had, retired

from the field. In this way their lines were gradually weak-

ened, and when the Governor's forces attempted to surround

them, all fled.

Battle of the Regulators 181

Dr. Caldwellj accompanied by Alexander Martin, was with

the Regulators. The day before, and the morning of the battle,

Dr. Caldwell was trying to intervene and effect some kind of a

compromise to prevent the battle. For this purpose he visited

Governor Tryon's camp several times. Dr. Caruthers states

that "a large proportion of the men in his congregation were

Regulators," and that they were men of religious education

and trained in the principles of civil and religious freedom.

They were men of good character.
The names of only a few of the men from Buffalo have been

preserved for us, namely : Robert Thompson, who accompanied

his pastor to Tryon's camp on the morning of the battle and

was killed by Governor Tryon ; William Rankin and William

Roberson were two of the sixteen excluded from the privilege

of pardon in the proclamation of the Governor. This was the

William Rankin who married Jane Chambers and lived on the

Buffalo Creek. William Roberson lived on Hunting Creek. The

Gillespie brothers, John and Daniel, were there. It is unfortu-

nate that we do not have positive statements about others, but it

is a fact that most of the men of Buffalo Church were there.



The war of the Revolution lasted for five years. Indepen-

dence was declared July 4, 1776, and Lord Cornwallis surren-

dered October 19, 1781. However, the war really began w^ith

the Battle at Lexington, Mass., April 19, 1775, and the terms of

peace were not signed until September 3, 1783.

The people in the colonies were divided on the subject of

independence. King George had many loyal followers in every

colony. This is what added the civil warfare feature and made

the strife so bitter and bloody. The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians

in every colony were almost to a man for independence. They

had suffered much under British oppression in Ireland, and had

come to America that they might have both religious and civil

liberty, and they were ready to fight for their rights.

In North Carolina, as in other colonies, the majority of the

people were Whigs, and the state colonial government was in

their hands ; but there were Tories in every county, and in some

counties they were in the majority. They were numerous in

what was then southern Guilford, southern Orange and Chat-

ham, and in the southeastern part of the state. It was these

Tories that gave our people so much trouble.
After the battle of Moore's Creek, February 27, 1776, until

the fall of 1780 there were no major battles in North Carolina,

but there was a constant warfare between the Whigs and Tories.

It was a real civil war and a bitter and bloody contest. One

thing that made it so bad was that the men were not organized

into large armies with a responsible general, but in small de-

tached companies, often with reckless and murderous leaders.

Many took advantage of the situation to plunder and rob, and

some to reek vengeance on their personal enemies. Conditions

went from bad to worse year after year as the feeling between

the parties became more bitter.
Lord Cornwallis, having overrun South Carolina, started for

North Carolina in the fall of 1780. This gave the Tories new


Buffalo Men in the Revolutionary War 183

hope of success and emboldened them in their depradations, and

made conditions even worse. This whole section was in confu-

sion, and no man's life was safe. Each party was set on de-

stroying the other by any means, fair or foul.

After reading all the local and state histories of this period,

the writer is perfectly satisfied that every man in the Buffalo

congregation, who was of the right age, was in the service of his

country as a soldier at one time or other during the war. Some

were in the continental army, some in the militia, and some

were volunteers for special service.

No roster of the Guilford soldiers has been preserved, and

only a few of their names appear in the Colonial Records. It

is by the merest accident we find the names of some of these

men. George Donnell, son of Thomas, was a soldier and served

until the close of the war, but his name never appears on any

North Carolina record. It is found in the "Life of Rev. George

Donnell," by Dr. T. C. Anderson, written and published in

Tennessee. We would never have known that Robert Rankin

was in the war but for the fact that Dr. Caruthers asked him

to go over the Guilford battle field with him. Dr. Caruthers

states that Rankin was in the battle and pointed out to him the

tree by which he stood. The name of Captain Andrew Wilson,

a Buffalo member, never appears except in the petition of

John Denny for a pension. We would never have known posi-

tively that William Scott, Henry Ross, William Russell, Charles

Breden, Reese Porter, William Donnell, son of Thomas, George

Denny, William Donnell, son of Robert, and others were sol-

diers in the service but for the fact that Captain Robert Bell,

the captain of their company, was tried before the session of the

church and they were called as witnesses.

We do have the proof of the active service of a goodly num-

ber of the Buffalo members, and although the names of others

do not appear on any records we have been able to find, yet we

are satisfied they were in the service with their neighbors and

fellow churchmen. An accumulation of good circumstantial

evidence is always accepted as sufficient to establish a fact at

law. Let us examine the evidence.
Exhibit One. After the Declaration of Independence, July

4, 1776, "Dr. Caldwell often preached on the subject of the

existing difficulties between England and the American colonies.

184 History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People

Hardly a Sabbath passed in which he did not allude to the sub-

ject in some way or other ; and while he denounced in the strong-

est terms the corruptions and oppressions of the existing gov-

ernment, he exhorted his hearers with equal energy and zeal to

value their liberties above everything else, and to stand up man-

fully in their defense." (Life of Dr. Caldwell, page 183.) Dr.

Caldwell was greatly beloved, and his people had all confidence

in him. They followed his leadership in everything else, and

they would most certainly have followed his leadership in this

war and enlist in the service of their country.

Exhibit Two. Dr. Caruthers, who succeeded Dr. Caldwell

as pastor, was on these grounds only thirty-nine years after the

Guilford battle. He took great interest in the history of the

war, and wrote two volumes dealing with the history of that

period. He also wrote the Life of Dr. Caldwell, in which he

deals extensively with the Revolutionary War. In collecting

material for these three volumes he visited and talked with many

of the old soldiers. We have it from his own pen, on record in

Washington, that he was often in the home of Major John Don-

nell. He went over the Guilford battlefield with Robert Rankin,

a soldier in that battle, and had Ranl^in to point out to him the

location of different troops and the line of battle. He was a

great admirer of Col, Daniel Gillespie, and often consulted with

him. He visited Captain Andrew Wilson, who lived fourteen

years after Dr. Caruthers became his pastor. He states that he

collected much information from Col. William Ryan, a brave

soldier in that war. He visited and consulted with many more

of the old soldiers and the widows of soldiers in his congrega-

tion. He allowed no source of information to escape him. And

he assures us from his own personal investigations that so far

as he could find there was not a single Tory in Dr. Caldwell's

congregations. (Life of Dr. Caldwell, page 170.) He further

states, "The men of his (Caldwell's) congregation were all

thorough-going Whigs." (Page 209.) In speaking of the bat-

tle at Guilford Court House, he says, "All the men in both con-

gregations (Buffalo and Alamance) who were fit for duty were

either in the battle or employed in some way under the direction

of General Greene." (Page 232.) Again, in speaking of the

men of these congregations he says they were the best partisan

officers and the best soldiers that the cause of independence had

in this region if not in the state. (Page 170.)

Buffalo Men in the Revolutionary War 185

Dr. William H. Foote, in his "Sketches," says, "All the

active men in Dr. Caldwell's congregations were in some way

engaged with the army." (Page 279.)
Dr. T. C. Anderson in his Life of Rev. George Donnell says,

"All the male members of Alamance and Buffalo Churches, who

were able to bear arms were mustered into service and joined

the American Army." (Page 49.)

Further evidence is not necessary, but we have more.
Exhibit Three. There were seven commanding officers in

Buffalo congregation: Col. Alexander Martin, who lived at the

Court House; Major Thomas Blair, who lived on Reedy Fork;

Captain Robert Bell, who lived just north of the church ; Major

John Donnell, who lived northeast of the church ; Captain An-

drew Wilson, who lived east of the church ; Col. John Gillespie,

who lived southeast of the church, and Col. Daniel Gillespie,

who lived south of the church. These covered the entire bounds

of the congregation, and all were patriotic and faithful, and

some were enthusiastic and very active during the entire war.

There were also several minor officers in the congregation. No

Tory or neutral party could have lived in these bounds. The

feelings of the Whigs became too intense and bitter. Under the

high pressure of these officers and their loyal Whig neighbors

every man would have been compelled to enlist whether he

wanted to or not.

Furthermore it would have required the enlistment of every

man in Buffalo to make up the required quota of fifty men in

the companies of these officers. Col. John Paisley, Col. Arthur

Forbis, Captain John Forbis and Captain Robert Paisley had

charge of the men from Alamance Church ; the Quakers on the

west from religious convictions were not in the war ; and the

Germans on the east had their own officers and companies. The

companies of these Buffalo officers must have been made up of

Buffalo men.
Exhibit Four. In 1777 the state assembly passed an act for

the organization of its forces for the war. It made subject to

draft all the effective men from the age of sixteen to fifty,

inclusive. (Col. Rec, vol. 24, page 1.) This act would have

brought every man of the military age in the Buffalo congrega-

tion into the war service. The men were not required to enlist for

the duration of the war, but for special campaigns, and then they

186 History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People

were released from service for a period. Dates are given in con-

nection with the names of certain men to show they were of the

proper military age.
Exhibit Five. Another strong proof that all the men of the

Buffalo congregation were in active service is the large num-

ber of campaigns made by the army officers from this church.

By a careful study of history and the Colonial Records we find

they were in no less than fifteen campaigns and battles, and that

is not counting the large number of expeditions made against

the Tories, which was almost a constant warfare.
Exhibit Six. When General Greene was retreating before

Lord Cornwallis from Charlotte towards Virginia, he sent an

order to the Guilford officers to call out the militia en masse and

join him. Some of the Guilford soldiers were already with him,

and others joined him, and all retreated over the Dan River.

Lord Cornwallis gave up the chase at the Dan, and went to

Hillsboro. In about two weeks Cornwallis came back to Guil-

ford, and camped at different places in the bounds of Buffalo

church for a week, then moved his camp to Deep River, beyond

Guilford College. While he was camping in the bounds of

Buffalo his cavalry and detached parties of his soldiers were

constantly pillaging, plundering and robbing the homes of the

community. Hardly a house in all our bounds escaped their

depradations. "What the men and their horses could not con-

sume was destroyed ; corn cribs were pulled down and the

corn wasted, the hay and fodder were burned or scattered about,

the fences were destroyed, and it seemed to be an object with

them to do as much mischief and produce as much wretchedness

over the country as possible." (Life of Caldwell, page 215.)

They knew the people of this community were all Whigs, and

they were bent on destroying all their resources. ]\Iost of the

Guilford men were away from home in the army and in many

cases the British soldiers drove the women and children from

their homes, and otherwise mistreated them.

General Greene, having received reinforcements from Vir-

ginia, recrossed the Dan and received other reinforcements from

North Carolina. While Cornwallis was encamped on Deep River,

General Greene came on to Guilford Court House, in the very

bounds of Buffalo Church, and again called for all the North

Carolina men to join him. We can now understand why "All

Buffalo Men hi the Revolutio7iary War 187

the men in both these congregations who were fit for duty were

either in the battle, or employed in some way under the direc-

tion of General Greene." They were fighting mad and saw

a good chance with General Greene's reinforcements to drive

these pesky marauding British from their country. Dr.

Caruthers says, "A number of individuals in the Buffalo con-

gregation volunteered that morning and put themselves under

officers of known valor." Some of these volunteers were no

doubt men beyond the military age limit of fifty years, some

were boys under age limit of sixteen, and some were men who

had just served on other campaigns and were at home on fur-

lough. Some in the congregation were perhaps sick and could

not be present that day, but had been in other battles before

this and were in others after this, as was the ease of Col. William

Exhibit Seven. The British officers themselves bear testi-

mony that this was a staunch Whig section. AVhile Lord Corn-

wallis was encamped at Hillsboro he issued a proclamation, call-

ing on all loyal followers in the surrounding counties to come

and join the King's forces. He later complains, "I could not

get one hundred men in all the Regulators' country to stay

with us even as militia." Those who did join him were from

the Tory settlements in the southern parts of Orange and Guil-

ford. Col. Tarleton, in writing of the time of the Guilford bat-

tle, says, "They (the British) had no friends or partisans at

this period except those included within the extent of the royal

Exhibit Eight. When General Greene retreated across, the

Dan River many of the officers and men of Guilford were with

him. This section was left without protection. The Tories took

advantage of this and overran the congregation, plundering,

robbing and devastating to their hearts' content. For a few

weeks after the Guilford battle they continued to overrun the

country. No man, not even the aged, was safe in his own home.

The Whigs had to hide out and sleep in the thickets, or collect

in squads for protection. About this time Col. David Fanning,

the notorious Tory, established his headquarters on the Deep

River and began his campaign of rapine and murder. This

whole section was in fear and confusion. The homes had been

repeatedly robbed until the people had practically nothing left.

188 History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People

We can hardly imagine the horrible and distressing condition

of our people at this time. But they soon rallied and organized

new companies, and began other campaigns against the Tories.

The feeling and hatred was now so intense that when a man

was captured by either party he was usually put to death on the

spot. If the Whigs happened upon any one they did not know

personally the usual question was put to him, "Who are you

for ? " If he did not give a satisfactory answer he was immedi-

ately swung to a limb or severely thrashed and ordered to leave

the country. The people had suffered much and were still

suffering. Their patience was at an end. Their feelings were so

wrought up that no slacker or neutral party w^ould have been

allowed to remain in this red hot bed of Whigs. Any one who

will read all the local and state histories of the conditions here

at that time will be driven to the same conclusion.
Exhibit Nine. In 1777 the state assembly passed the Con-

fiscation Act, confiscating to the use of the state the lands and

properties of "such persons as are inimical to the United

States," or "who hath at any time during the present times

attached himself to or aided or abetted the enemies of the

United States shall and are hereby declared to be confiscated

to the use of this state." (Col. Eec, Vol. 24, page 124.) Under

this act a goodly number in the county had their lands confis-

cated, but not a man in Buffalo congregation fell in that class,

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