Revolution comes to North Carolina

He’d stopped drumming his fingers; they rested on the letter before him.

“I do trust ye’re right, Sassenach,” he said.

“About what? What will happen? You know I am,” I said, a little surprised. “Bree and Roger told you, too. Why?”

He rubbed a hand slowly through his hair.

“I’ve never fought for the sake of principle,” he said, reflecting, and shook his head. “Only necessity. I wonder, would it be any better?”

A Breath of Snow and Ashes, chapter 53

Culloden
Photo courtesy of Starz

In only a few days, we’ll witness Jamie Fraser’s experience of the bloody Battle of Culloden during the Outlander season three premiere on Starz. But fans of the book series know that this won’t be the last war Jamie and his family must confront.

When the Frasers arrive in North Carolina, the beginnings of an uprising are stirring in the colonies, and the last completed book ends in 1779 in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Although they have returned home to Fraser’s Ridge, it seems unlikely that they have had their last brush with the fight for independence.

In fact, the Revolution did come to North Carolina with major skirmishes such as the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. It remains to be seen whether the Fraser clan will engage in any of those frays in Diana Gabaldon’s ninth Outlander novel, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. While we eagerly await the Frasers’ upcoming adventures, why not take the opportunity to brush up on your Revolutionary War history?

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The Battle of Charlotte is reenacted at Historic Latta Plantation on Sept. 2, 2017.

You can see this history come to life by attending local Revolutionary War reenactments! Historic Latta Plantation, a circa-1800 plantation established by a Scots-Irish immigrant in Huntersville, hosted reenactments Sept. 2-3, 2017. So, of course, the Finding Fraser’s Ridge resident history nerd made her way there to watch the Battle of Charlotte and the Battle of the Bees.

This isn’t just guys in costume pointing fake guns and yelling, “Bang, bang!” We’re talking real firearms and real gunpowder (but no bullets). When rounds of musket fire pierce the air, the battlefield becomes covered in a wafting cloud of smoke. The reenactors, who wear historically accurate garb right down to the buckles on their boots, are passionate about not only preserving Revolutionary War history but also bringing that history to life. Bravo to the members of the North Carolina Historical Reenactment Society who made these reenactments so realistic!

Both the Battle of Charlotte and the Battle of the Bees were fought in Mecklenburg County in 1780. Maybe we’ll hear of them in Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone.

On Sept. 26, 1780, the British Army under the command of General Cornwallis arrived in Charlotte. But they didn’t exactly receive a welcoming party. Col. William R. Davie of the American Army had staged his men at Charlotte’s courthouse, which was located at what is now the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets. When the British advanced, they were met with gunfire. The Redcoats tried again. More patriot volleys. By the third advance, the Patriots were nearly surrounded, so the Americans fired again and withdrew, racing to cross Mallard Creek to rejoin the rest of the American Army.

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The Battle of the Bees is reenacted at Historic Latta Plantation on Sept. 2, 2017.

A week later, on Oct. 3, 1780, a British commander in Charlotte sent approximately 300 Redcoats on a foraging expedition to gather supplies. A boy who spotted the soldiers on the move sped to McIntyre’s Farm to alert the family there. After learning that the British were heading in that direction, about 14 armed settlers – militia and mostly farmers – concealed themselves in the woods by the McIntyre Farm. Sure enough, the Redcoats arrived at the farm and began to plunder, taking corn, oats and livestock. In the process, some of the soldiers overturned a beehive, causing a ruckus and laughter among their comrades. That’s when the Patriots opened fire from their hiding place in the woods. The Redcoats scrambled to respond. The Patriots constantly moved positions in the woods, leading the British to retreat back to Charlotte because they believed they were under attack by a much larger force. Today, you can visit the McIntyre Historic Site at 4125 McIntyre Avenue in Charlotte!

(Side note: Before I read Diana Gabaldon’s explanation of book nine’s title, I wondered whether the name might be a reference to the Battle of the Bees. But Diana explains that talking to bees is a Celtic custom. “You always tell the bees when someone is born, dies, comes or goes—because if you don’t keep them informed, they’ll fly away,” she writes.)

Want to watch a Revolutionary War reenactment? Check out the North Carolina Historical Reenactment Society’s schedule of events to find an upcoming battle!

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Sources and further reading:

McIntyre Site Report, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission .

The Battle of Charlotte,” Dandelion Press: Newsletter of the Mecklenburg Historical Association Docents, November/December 2016.

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