Patrick Mullins and the Battle of Alamance


North Carolina

"Hold, doctor! Go away yourself, or Tryon's men will kill you in three minutes!"

On May 16, 1771, Patrick Mullins spoke these words as he interrupted a final plea for peace by Rev. David Caldwell. Caldwell was speaking to armed Piedmont farmers who had gathered near Alamance Creek, a community in the north central part of North Carolina, to confront the Royal Governor William Tryon and his troops. Rev. Caldwell left the field, and minutes later the Battle of Alamance began.

In the 1760s, local sheriffs and other officials of inland North Carolina were exploiting the Piedmont farmers by collecting and pocketing excessive taxes. A resistance movement arose, called the Regulator movement. The movement became progressively more menacing. In 1771, the Royal Governor of North Carolina, William Tryon, decided to confront the Regulators to end their threatened insurrection. He gathered an armed force of 2,000-3,000 loyalist North Carolina colonists and marched to the Piedmont.

Eyewitness accounts documented Patrick Mullins's role in an 1842 biography of Rev. David Caldwell. In the early morning of May 16, Patrick Mullins was serving as the scout for the 1,000 gathered Regulators. He spotted Tryon's men on the march, and rode breathlessly into the Regulator camp with the news that Tryon was advancing fast. As the Regulators prepared their defensive positions, Patrick was observed to reprimand a group of young Regulators who were wrestling and not paying attention to the serious business at hand.

With the quote above, Patrick ended the last attempt to prevent shooting. Amazingly, Patrick was 67 during the Battle of Alamance. He is called "Patrick Mullins, an old Scotchman..." in the Caldwell biography.

The Battle of Alamance lasted about two-and-a-half hours. As the battle raged, Governor Tryon sent a flagman forward to negotiate an end to the fighting. Patrick, who had served in the British Army as a youth in Scotland, understood the flagman's mission and shouted to his fellow Regulators: "It's a flag, don't shoot!" His entreaty was in vain: the flagman was shot dead.

As the morning wore on, the Regulators ran out of ammunition and fled the field. Dozens of men were killed on both sides. Although this 1771 insurrection was quelled, the Battle of Alamance is sometimes called the first battle of the Revolution. Patrick Mullins survived and lived to fight in the Revolution: a 1782 pay voucher of his survives. It is a rare thing to have two quotes from an ancestor in battle 240 years ago!

Patrick survived the Battle of Alamance and the Revolutionary War and was still alive in 1790, when he appeared in the U.S. Census in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

The Mullins family has proven our lineage to Patrick Mullins for membership in the Society of Colonial Wars, and the lineage to Patrick's son, Rev. Thomas Mullins, for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution and the Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy.