From Hillsborough Town the First of May

DESCRIPTION: "From Hillsborough town the first of May Marched those murdering traitors. They went to oppose the honest men That were called Regulators." Hamilton leads the regulators to raid the town
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: political rescue
Apr 30, or May 1, 1768 - Arrest of Regulator leaders Harmon Husband and William Butler
May 3, 1768 - Rescue of the arrested leaders
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 278, "From Hillsborough Town the First of May" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Annie Sutton Cameron, _Hillsborough and the Regulators_, Orange County Historical Museum, 1964, p. 18, "From Hillsborough Town the First of May" (1 text)

cf. "When Fanning First to Orange Came" (subject)
cf. "Said Frohock to Fanning" (subject)
cf. "Who Would Have Tho't Harmon" (subject)
NOTES [805 words]: One of four "regulator" songs in Brown. The Regulators were a group of protesters against high taxes and fees, found mostly in North Carolina though some also were active in South Carolina. For more on the Regulators, see the notes to "When Fanning First to Orange Came."
It is interesting that the name Hillsborough is used. According to Cameron, p. 8, the town had been "Childsburg" until 1766; one would expect conservatives like the Regulators to use the old name. It was a small town that gained its significance because several major roads crossed there. So although it wasn't large, it was the most important town of the "back country" and was the courthouse town for the area.
The notes in Brown relate this song to the 1768 raid on Hillsborough: The authorities seized assorted items for back taxes, Regulators went to retake the items, Husband and Harmon were arrested, and Ninian Bell Hamilton led a raid to rescue the leaders. This is almost certainly the true setting -- but we note that Husband and Harmon aren't mentioned in the extent text of the song; the only people named are Hamilton and Edmund Fanning. Fanning was the sticky-fingered official who seems to have been most hated by the Regulators, as described in "When Fanning First to Orange Came."
Haywood, pp. 88-89, describes the situation in this song: "On the 8th of April [1768] rioters, to the number of about one hundred, came into Hillsborough to take from the Sheriff a horse which had been levied on for the non-payment of taxes; not content with this, they bound the Sheriff with ropes, maltreated other inhabitants, and amused themselves by firing shots through the house of Edmund Fanning, who was then absent from town. Immediately after this disorder, Lieutenant-Colonel John Gray, of the Orange county militia, perpared to raise troops to protect the town from future attacks." (One of those he called, according to Haywood, p. 89, was Francis Nash, who seems to be mentioned in "Who Would Have Tho't Harmon").
Cameron, p. 18, gives us background on Hamilton and the raid: "The Regulators, however, returned to Hillsborough in force, some 700 strong, led by the old Scotsman, Ninian Bell Hamiton, and Fanning was forced to let his prisoners go free on bail."
Edmund Fanning, the arch-enemy of the Regulators, promptly returned to town and prepared to arrest the ringleaders at night (Haywood, pp. 89-90). Major Thomas Lloyd issued a warrant for the arrest of Hermon Husband, and Captain Thomas Hart set out to arrest him (Haywood, pp. 91-92, who date the arrest to May 1). Another, less significant figure, William Butler, was also arrested at this time; he and two others would eventually be convicted of riot for their treatment of the Sheriff, though they were later pardoned (Haywood, p. 97).
In September, North Carolina Governor Tryon would lead an army to Hillsborough to attempt to deal with the Regulators (Haywood, p. 95). This quieted things for a while, but in 1771, Tryon and the Regulators fought an actual battle at Alamances, resulting in the dispersal of the Regulators; for this, see again "When Fanning First to Orange Came."
Hermon Husband was elected to the colonial assembly for Orange County in 1770, when Governor Tryon dissolved the old Assembly in part in an attempt to avoid negotiating with the Regulators (Haywood, pp. 106-107; Cameron, p. 20). But the Assembly promptly expelled him on December 20 (Haywood, pp. 107-108, reprints the resolution against him). He then was charged with libel so that he could again be arrested (Haywood, p. 108). He was released on February 8, 1771 when the Grand Jury failed to find a True Bill. But the whole affair made the Regulators even more angry and helped create the conditions that led to the Battle of Alamances.
Powell-War, p. 8, says that "Hermon Husband came nearer to providing this spark of leadership [that is, being a figure about whom the Regulators could organize] than any other man though his role seems to have been less as a leader than as a driver or agitator. He was a native of Maryland, originally a member of the Church of England but afterwards a Quaker, and a disciple of Benjamin Franklin from whom he received pamphlets of a patriotic character which he reprinted and circulated among the people.... By means of public sentiment he sought to effect reform. When it became evident that the Regulator movement was running into violence he held aloof from it, only exerting himself to restrain excesses and to make peace."
Haywood, pp. 137-138, says that after leaving the Regulators behind, he fled to Pennsylvania, and afterward was implicated in the Whiskey Rebellion; he was sentenced to death but reprieved.
For Husband and "Harmon," and another fight in Hillsborough (in September 1770 rather than May), see also "Who Would Have Tho't Harmon." - RBW
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File: BrII278

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