Within 5 years of the Battle of Alamance, the American Revolution had begun. While the earlier battle was merely an action taken against corrupt sheriffs and the governor, the American Revolution was a full rebellion against the British Crown.
Much of the early war focused in the Northern States, but by 1778, the war had turned south, and the battles came close to home. Alamance County, then the western half of Orange County, sent troops to the war, with some of the participants at the Battle of Alamance fighting in the war – some for the colonists, some for the British. Much of the action took place in South Carolina, however, by 1780, North Carolina had seen several major battles as British General Cornwallis pursued the General Nathaniel Greene’s American Army north.
In February 1781, Cornwallis put out a call for Loyalist troops. Colonel John Pyle, a former Regulator, responded to the call and gathered up 300-400 troops and requested an escort. Cornwallis sent General Banastre Tarleton to escort them. At the same time, American Brigadier General Andrew Pickens and Colonel Henry “Lightfoot” Lee were scouting the area with orders to harass the British. They discovered Pyle’s army and had planned to attack General Tarleton, who was only a few miles away.
In the waning hours of February 24, 2 of Pyle’s men encountered Colonel Lee’s troops, who wore similar uniforms to Tarleton’s dragoons. Taking advantage of the opportunity, they allowed the 2 men to walk them into the middle of the camp. After exchanging pleasantries, the sounds of battle commenced as militia in the back realized that the camp was filled with British loyalists. 10 minutes later, the battle was over and 93 British loyalists were dead. The Americans lost a horse.
On March 4, 1781, a second battle occurred, this time between a group of militia called the Botetourt Riflemen and Tarleton’s troops. Lee’s troops had crossed Alamance Creek and set up near Stinking Quarter Creek. Tarleton learned that Lee’s troops were in the area and led a force of around 700 mounted troops to engage them. Lee’s scouts discovered them and Lee ordered the riflemen to lay in wait behind a rail fence with Lee’s militiamen hiding in the thick of the woods. Tarleton’s troops rode into the ambush and within moments, between 21 and 25 British troops were killed. Tarleton quickly regrouped and began returning fire. Between 8 and 12 Americans were killed before Lee ordered his militia to retreat.
Less than two weeks later, Cornwallis and Tarleton would suffer a pyrrhic victory at Guilford Courthouse in neighboring Guilford County.
Later, Alamance County was the site of the Battle of Lindley’s mill, occurring on September 13. The bloodiest battle in Alamance County history was an attempt by Colonial militia, under the command of General John Butler, to free the captured Governor Thomas Burke. The British Loyalists, under the command of Colonel David Fanning, defeated the militia and escaped with the Governor. In a battle that had only 900 participants, nearly one-third were killed in the battle that ended the Revolutionary War in North Carolina. One month later, the Revolutionary War as a whole would be over, and a new country would be on the map.