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War of the Regulation


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The War of the Regulation was a North Carolina uprising, lasting from 1764 to 1771, against British colonial rule. While unsuccessful, it served as a catalyst to the American Revolutionary War.


1 Causes of the War
2 Leaders of the Regulators
3 Leaders of the Opposition
4 The War
5 Battle Aftermath

Causes of the War

In 1764, several thousand people from North Carolina, mainly from Orange, Anson, and Granville counties in the western region, were extremely dissatisfied with officials whom they considered to practice cruel, arbitrary, and overall tyrannical rule. The opposition to the Royal Governor’s party became known as the Regulators. The War of the Regulator is one of the first acts of the American Revolutionary War. Taxes, collected by local sheriffs supported by the courts, had sole control over their local regions. Many of the officers were deemed to be very greedy and often times would band together with other local sheriffs for their own personal gain. The entire system depending on the integrity of local officials, many of which were extortionate to the people under their control, was believed to be corrupt. At times, sheriffs would intentionally remove records of their tax collection in order to further tax citizens. The effort to eliminate this system of government, endorsed by the governor out of fear of losing support from the sheriff’s and their friends, in which small bands of appointed officials had full control, became known as the War of The Regulation. The most heavily affected areas were said to be that of Rowan, Anson, Orange, Granville, and Cumberland counties.

Leaders of the Regulators

Hermon Husband became the unofficial leader of the Regulators which, at the time, was quoted to be merely a mob. Hermon Husband was originally from Maryland, born into a Quaker family. One of the major flaws in Hermon Husband’s campaign was that he tried to invite good relations with the eastern regions of North Carolina, mostly unaffected by local sheriff’s. Hermon Husband retained very little control over the group of regulators, which generally went against his policies of winning over public sentiment by committing acts of minor violence at regular intervals. During the actual battle of the War, he ran away before it began.

The military leader of the Regulators was James Hunter, known as the General. He refused to take control of the Regulators after Hermon Husband’s departure.

Captain Benjamin Merrill had about 300 men under his control, and would have assumed control over military leadership after James Hunter, but was unable to serve in the battle of Alamance, the only real chance of the war.

Leaders of the Opposition

Governor Arthur Dobbs, who authored popular works at the time such as “Trade and Improvement of H’elend” and “Captain Middleton’s Defense” served as the Royal Governor of North Carolina until his death in 1765.

Lord William Tryon assumed the position following the death of Governor Dobbs. Governor Tryon had built an extremely lavish palace, which became one of the main points of resentment for the Regulators, who were already paying substantial taxes.

Governor Josiah Martin, succeeded Governor Tryon in office just after the end of any major rebellion. His policies eased the burden on former Regulators, and allowed them to be insinuated back into society.

Edmund Fanning was the direct opposition party to the Regulators. Graduating from Yale University, he was generally regarded by his friends as well disciplined and firm. Working for eastern officeholders, he was the most notorious member of the opposition, accused of stealing more money than anybody else. However, he eventually was found innocent of all charges in court.

The War

While small acts of violence had been taking place for some time, mainly out of resentment, the first organized conflict was in Mecklenburg Country in 1765. Settlers in the region, who were there illegally, forced away surveyors of the region assigned with designating land. Minor clashes followed for the next several years in almost every western county, but the real, and only true battle of the war was the Battle of Alamance. The battle which took place on May 16, 1771.

The Governor and his forces which numbered just over 1,000, with roughly 150 officers, arrived at Hillsboro on May 9. At the same time, General Waddell, supporting Governor Tryon, en route with his contingent of 236 men was met by a large contingent of Regulators. Realizing his force was numerically outnumbered, he fell back to Salisbury. On May 11, having received word of the retreat from a messenger, Tryon sent the force to support General Waddell. He intentionally chose a path that would lead his forces through the very heart of Regulator territory. It should be noted he made strict mention that nothing was to be looted or damaged. By May 14th, his troops had reached Alamance and set up a camp. Leaving about 70 men behind to guard the position, he moved the remainder of his force, slightly under 1,000 men, to find an enemy he was correct in believing was very nearby. About 10 miles away a force of 2,000 regulators without any clear leadership or supplies was gathered mainly as a display of force, and not a standing army. The general Regulator strategy was to scare the governor with a show of superior numbers in order to force the governor to give in to their demands. The first clash of the battle was on May 15 when a rogue band of regulators had captured two Governor’s soldiers. Many of the Regulators vowed to give up the cause if random acts of violence such as these continued. Governor Tryon had informed the Regulators that they were displaying open arms and rebellion and that action was to be taken if they did not disperse. The Regulators did not understand the severity of the crisis they were in, and ignored the warning. Despite hesitation from his own forces, Governor Tryon initiated the main battle of Alamance on May 16th with his own weapon. His shot killed Robert Thompson, the first death of the battle. Robert Thompson is the first unofficial casualty of war in the Revolutionary War according to some historians. The regulators army crumbled very quickly. Captain Merrill, fighting for the Regulators, was supposed to arrive on the battlefield but was delayed. With the help of his command and 300 men, the battle may have turned differently. The battle was over with fewer than 10 deaths for the governor’s forces, and 70 for the Regulators. Virtually everyone captured in the battle was fully pardoned in exchange for an allegiance to the crown. The following week was a simple rout through Regulator territory where most of the time was spent collecting abandoned weapons and supplies.

Battle Aftermath

Several trials were held after the war, resulting in the hanging of six Regulators. Most of the main leaders remained in hiding until 1772, when they were no longer considered outlaws. The rebellion failed, but was a catalyst to the American Revolutionary War. Most people were adopted back into society, and those that did not accept defeat moved further west.

Source Wikipedia