The American Revolution in North Carolina

House in the Horseshoe

July 29, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Col. Philip Alston
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. David Fanning





included in above

Original County: 

Cumberland County
Present County:

Moore County

The original House in the Horseshoe still survives to this day and is located in Moore County. It is a state historic site and a re-enactment of this skirmish happens every year on the first weekend of August. The house still contains the bullet holes from the battle.

The House in the Horseshoe was Col. Philip Alston's home located in a horseshoe bend of the Deep River in Moore County, North Carolina. It was in Cumberland County back in 1781. Col. Alston and his men had just completed an unsuccessful chase after Col. David Fanning and had returned to his home, where his men set up their camp.

Col. Fanning soon learned that Col. Alston had mortally wounded Kenneth Black, his friend, and he learned of the murder of Thomas Tayor. Fanning wanted vengeance and decided to attack Col. Alston at his home.

Col. David Fanning normally did not care if he had one man or a hundred, but this time he had about the same number of men as Col. Alston. The Loyalists crossed at Dickson's Ford and arrived at the Alston home on Sunday morning, July 29th. The Patriot sentinels were fast asleep and Col. Fanning captured two of them. Unfortunately for the Loyalists, the other two sentries awoke and fired upon them. The sentries ran onto the porch where most of the Patriot militia was sleeping and rousted them from their beds.

All of the Patriots went into the house and barricaded it for a fight. Col. Alston's family was also inside, the children were protected by standing them up on a small table inside the brick fireplace. Mrs. Alston lay in her bed on the second floor as bullets passed through the boards over her head.

The fight evolved into a siege and had been going on for about two hours when a British lieutenant named McKay asked Col. Fanning if he could take command of his troops. Lt. McKay's plan was to rush the house and break down the doors as the rest of the Loyalists laid down intense covering fire. Col. Fanning said go ahead.

Lt. McKay briefly explained the plan to a few other men, and he leapt up over a rail fence to proceed. Just then, Col. Alston's men fired, hitting Lt. McKay in the head and wounding most of the men who had jumped up to follow him.

Col. Fanning then bribed a "free Negro" to set fire to the house. Col. Alston suspected what was up, and the freeman was severely wounded when he made the attempt.

Col. Fanning began to think the cost was getting too high and was on the verge of calling off the siege when his men pulled out an oxcart from the nearby barn. It was filled with hay and set on fire. His plan was to roll it next to the house. Col. Alston realized that he was now out of options and decided to give himself up. However, he knew that he could not show himself to offer the terms because he'd be instantly shot.

Alston's wife, Temperance, asked her husband to leave the surrender to her. She raised a white flag and stepped onto the front porch.

Col. Fanning told her to meet him halfway. She did, then offered, "We will surrender, sir, on condition that no one shall be injured; otherwise we will make the best defense we can; and if need be, sell our lives as dearly as possible."

Col. Fanning already had many men wounded, and an assault would not be easy. He also knew that if he burned down the house with women and children inside then he would lose any support from the Loyalists in the area. He agreed and he also kept his word. All of Alston's men surrendered and they were paroled.

Afterwards, Fanning sent his men home to rest until the next time they were needed. On the way back to his base camp at Cox's Mill, he learned that a wagonload of salt had passed by Deep River earlier that morning. He took eight men and rode hard for sixteen miles and caught up with the wagons, which were on their way to Major General Nathanael Greene's army.

For a different version...

Lt. Elijah Fooshee (R3635) asserted that this engagement happened in the middle of September of 1780*, and he stated:

"The times were then very troublesome & Tories numerous in Randolph & other adjacent counties, & barracks were built & other preparations made for defense or attack. About the middle of September having made some progress in discipline & other preparations for efficient service, the troops took up the line of march against the Tories, horse thieves & robbers, & went into Randolph, Montgomery & Moore Counties, in the latter County we had an engagement with the Tories under the command of a Tory by the name of Captain Duck, at the house of a man by the name of Alston."

"Three or four rounds were fired by each side -- six of the Tories were killed & four of the Whigs were wounded. We were in the house some in each story of the house. One of the Tories (a Scotchman) during the battle got a bundle of flax & ran with it after setting it on fire to burn the house, but being discovered by our party was shot down & when examined had three balls in him. This declarant shot one ball at him & two others during the conflict.

"The Tories fled & were seen by us no more we then heard of a man being murdered by the Tories near the house of a Baptist preacher by the name of Davis in Chatham County."

*For the rest of the story, this same man, Elijah Fooshee, asserted that the battle of Lindley's Mill occurred in March of 1781 - it is fairly well known to have happened on September 13, 1781. So, he's about six months off again.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. Philip Alston - Commanding Officer

26-30 men, including the following known men:

- Capt. Jacob Duckworth (Chatham Co.)
- Capt. Israel Folsome (Cumberland Co.) (POW)
- Lt. Elijah Fooshee (Chatham Co.)
- Pvt. Stephen Collins (Cumberland Co.) (wounded)
- Pvt. William Cutts (Cumberland Co.) (POW)
- Pvt. Lowden Harwell (Chatham Co.)
- Pvt. William Smith (Cumberland Co.)
- Pvt. John Spears (Cumberland Co.)

Col. David Fanning - Commanding Officer

Fanning's Regiment of Loyalist Militia - 25-50 men, led by Capt. Ben Underwood

Lt. McKay - British Advisor




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