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The Revolutionary War in North Carolina (and 13 Places to Learn About It!)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on July 7, 2024.

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If you want to learn about the Revolutionary War in North Carolina, these places will help you understand state's importance in our fight for independence. 

North Carolina was a major player in the Revolutionary War, hosting numerous watershed battles and prominent Revolutionary leaders and figures.

Today, we remember it through towns and cities named after Revolutionary War heroes (and possible villains?) and preserved battle sites. In our lifelong efforts to explore and learn about history at its source, we visited those places and investigated their relevance to the Revolution, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath.

To help you do the same, we’ve created this guide to the Revolutionary War in NC and how to visit the most important sites from the mountains to the sea.

They range in scope from massive marches to battle to a limited skirmish that may or may not have avenged a murder.

And of course, the Revolutionary War wasn’t just a series of battles and actions between 1775 and 1783. It resulted from years of collective growing tensions between the British Crown (and Parliament) and colonists.

That’s why we’ve also included some honorable mentions—places and events that served a purpose before the war or lesser-known participants in the conflict. Even if you’re not a history nerd (like me), this guide will give you some great ideas for your next day out, no matter where you are in NC.

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Revolutionary War in NC Timeline (Sites Mentioned in this Guide)

For this timeline of the Revolutionary War in North Carolina, we’ve ordered sites by the date of their first involvement in the story.

Honorable Mention Revolutionary War Sites in NC

Penelope Barker House Edenton Tea Party NC
The Penelope Barker House.

These honorable mentions are worth your travels to learn more about the Revolutionary War in North Carolina. They hosted significant events before or during the war.

  • The Battle of Alamance (5803 N.C. 62 S, Burlington, NC): This pre-Revolutionary War battle in North Carolina took place on May 16, 1771. It was not, as many claimed, the first official battle of the American Revolution. However, the Battle of Alamance did show a rising anti-British sentiment to aspiring revolutionaries.
  • Battle of Ramsour’s Mill (402 Jeb Seagle Dr, Lincolnton, NC): Today, this important site in Lincoln County is mostly covered with public school buildings. However, markers commemorate the graves of those who fought in this pivotal 1780 battle. Ramsour’s Mill helped stifle Tory support in the area and the battle also inspired the Battle of Kings Mountain just over the border in South Carolina.
  • Penelope Barker House (505 S Broad St, Edenton, NC): The house was built after the Revolutionary War, but it commemorates the Edenton Tea Party of 1774. Penelope Barker and 50 other women signed a petition not to consume taxable British goods, which was sent to King George.
  • Brunswick Town (8884 St Phillips Rd SE, Winnabow, NC): This once-busy tax collection port near Wilmington was mostly abandoned by the time the British raided it in 1776. It was later known as Fort Anderson during the Civil War.
  • Wilmington: Port City played an interesting part during the Revolutionary War in North Carolina. It was the site of armed resistance against the British, in protest of the Stamp Act of 1765. The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge in 1776 (more below) interrupted a Loyalist march to Wilmington, which might have severely hurt the Patriots’ efforts. The British eventually occupied Wilmington in early 1781 but left in October, shortly after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

Tryon Palace

Address: 529 South Front Street, New Bern, NC
Revolutionary War Site Significance: NC’s first permanent capitol and the Colonial Government met here during the American Revolution.

Tryon Palace NC Revolutionary War Sites Image by NC Tripping

One of the most well-known historic homes in North Carolina is Tryon Palace in New Bern. Built between 1767 and 1770, the palace served as the first permanent capitol of the Colony of North Carolina.

It was named after Governor William Tryon, who only lived in the house for a year before moving (fleeing?) to accept the governorship of the New York colony.

When it was constructed, Tryon Palace was one of the most magnificent public buildings in the colonies. English architect John Hawks modeled the Palace after various influences, including London and Georgian.

After William Tryon left, Josiah Martin became the second royal governor of NC to live in the Palace. Four years later, in May 1775, during the onset of the Revolutionary War, he fled the capitol—or he was “politely” escorted out. Some reports vary.

Tryon Palace then became a Patriot headquarters, and after the war, the first few sessions of the NC General Assembly operated there.

Tryon Palace found itself in the national spotlight after the Revolutionary War when it welcomed George Washington for a visit. The new President spent two nights in New Bern in April 1791 while on his Southern Tour of the States.

The state capital moved shortly afterward to Raleigh, and Tryon Palace eventually fell victim to a fire in 1798 that destroyed most of the main house. However, in the 1930s, a movement was started to restore the palace, which was completed in 1959.

Today, Tryon Palace is a restored beacon of North Carolina history and remembrance.

Read More: The Most Interesting Historic Towns in North Carolina (Important Places for Your Next Adventure!)

Visiting Today

Tryon Palace Ticket Info

Tryon Palace Inside Image by NC Tripping

Tryon Palace is a sprawling estate with enough attractions to fill an entire day. In addition to the main Governor’s Palace home, there are multiple surrounding historic structures and gorgeous gardens to explore.

When visiting, your first stop will be the North Carolina History Center (529 S Front St, New Bern, NC). Here, you can purchase admission to the Palace and other exhibits.

The Center is a great source of information and also has some cool happenings and events to check out if you have some extra time!

The most popular admission option is the one-day pass with a Palace Tour. These tickets are $20 per adult and $10 per child and offer entry to the Palace’s 21-acre grounds, a guided tour of the Palace, and entry to all the galleries and exhibits.

Once you have purchased admission, you can take a trolley cart from the History Center to the Palace grounds. Guided tours of the Governor’s Palace, which occur every 30 minutes, are one of our favorite ways to learn about the history here.

You can tour the Palace’s interior, cellar, Kitchen Office, and original Stable Office, experience historic military encampment cooking, and browse historic artifacts.

We also love spending some time walking around the 16 acres of gardens, which truly come alive in spring and summer. Tryon Palace is one of those magical places that we love returning to, and it’s part of why we love New Bern so much!

Read More: Biltmore Estate in Asheville (Everything You Need To Know To Visit!)

Fort Johnston

Address: 203 E Bay St, Southport, NC
Revolutionary War Significance: Site of the first active violence against the British in North Carolina (1775)

Fort Johnston Southport NC Revolutionary War Sites

Fort Johnston is an important Revolution-era site in Southport, a coastal town in Brunswick County.

Fort Johnston was built by the British as a response to the threat of pirates and privateers along the Carolina coast.

Governor Gabriel Johnston, the second royal governor of NC, commissioned a project to design and build a defensive fort in the Cape Fear River. When the fort was completed in 1749, with ten cannons from South Carolina, it was named for the governor.

As mentioned, when the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, North Carolina’s governor, Josiah Martin, resided in New Bern at Tryon Palace. Patriots attacked the Palace in April 1775, causing the Governor to flee.

Martin made Fort Johnston his new headquarters and began planning how to retake control of North Carolina from the Patriots.

In July 1775, the Patriots attacked the fort, largely destroying the structure and forcing Governor Martin to flee on a British ship.

Over the next year, the British attempted to restore Governor Martin to his governorship in North Carolina but ultimately failed. North Carolina became a Patriot stronghold and a pivotal battleground between the two sides.

When he came to office, George Washington supported the rebuilding of Fort Johnston. From the end of the 1700s to 1810, major reconstruction and renovations were conducted to restore Fort Johnston.

It was used by various agencies over the years, including the US Signal Corps, the National Weather Service, and the US Army Corps of Engineers, but it was transferred to the City of Southport in 2006.

Read More: 4th of July Events in NC from the Mountains to the Sea

Visiting Today

Official Southport Museum and Visitor Center Website

Southport NC Visitor Center

Fort Johnston is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as Southport’s Visitor Center, with an accompanying historic museum inside.

One of the first things you will see upon entering is a timeline of historic events that have defined Southport’s history, including major events at Fort Johnston.

Of course, the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum contains much more than information only on the fort itself.

There are also displays remembering the contributions of African Americans to the community, movies and TV shows filmed in the area, dedications to local writers and artists, and more.

The museum and center are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Read More: 35+ Excellent Day Trips from Wilmington Within 2 Hours

Moores Creek National Battlefield

Address: 40 Patriots Hall Dr, Currie, NC
Revolutionary War Significance: Battle of Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776

Moores Creek National Battlefield Pender County Eastern North Carolina

As we mentioned above, the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge in February 1776 resulted from Governor Josiah Martin’s plan to reassert control over the area.

On January 10, 1776, Martin called for loyalists to take up arms and join his cause.

Those loyalists formed a camp at Cross Creek (Fayetteville today) and headed for the coast in February. These troops were hoping to unite with a Martin-assisted British army.

Moores Creek National Battlefield NC Revolutionary War Sites

Unfortunately for them, Patriot militia were waiting at Moores Creek Bridge in present-day Pender County. On February 27, the Loyalists headed toward the bridge, which had been partially dismantled by Colonel (and independent NC’s first governor) Richard Caswell’s forces.

Loyalists charged by crossing the creek but were overtaken by Patriot guns and artillery, leading to a retreat and subsequent chase. The resulting Patriot victory at Moores Creek Bridge was a huge blow to Loyalists and Martin.

Patriot control over North Carolina was all but cemented, and the idea of independence from Britain seemed closer to reality.

Read More: Amazing I-40 Exits in North Carolina (from Asheville to Wilmington)

Visiting Today

Official National Parks Service Website

Moores Creek National Battlefield Revolutionary War in NC Image by NC Tripping

You can learn all about the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge at the Moores Creek National Battlefield, managed by the National Parks Service.

Start your visit at the Visitor Center, which features exhibits commemorating the battle and a 10-minute film that will further introduce you to this pivotal Revolutionary War site.

A 0.7-mile trail takes you through the battlefield, past many statues and markers, and across a historic bridge along Moores Creek.

The trail is also part of our wonderful Mountains to Sea Trail, extending 1175 miles from Clingmans Dome to Jockeys Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Historic Halifax

Address: 25 St. David St., Halifax, NC
Revolutionary War Significance: Halifax Resolves

Halifax Resolves NC Revolutionary War Sites Image by NC Tripping

Halifax is a small town in northeast North Carolina and the county seat of Halifax County. The town sits along the Roanoke River and has long served as a key river port, county seat, crossroads, and social center.

It also played a crucial role in the Independence movement during the Revolutionary War.

On April 12, 1776, the town was the birthplace of the “Halifax Resolves,” the first official action by a colony to seek independence from England.

Following the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge (see above), the Fourth NC Provincial Congress met in Halifax in April to discuss independence. On April 12, an unsigned document declaring independence was submitted and adopted by all delegates who attended.

The Congress then appointed a “Council of Safety” to rule the then-colony of North Carolina. In July 1776, after the Declaration of Independence had been signed in Philadelphia, the Council formally declared North Carolina independent of British rule.

After the Revolution, Halifax and the Roanoke River Valley became a flourishing hub for high society, wealth, and power. However, the new railroads of the 1830s bypassed the town, causing a decline in political power.

Read More: Sylvan Heights Bird Park near Halifax (How to See 2,000 Exotic Bird Species and More!)

Visiting Today

Official NC State Historic Sites Website

Eagle Tavern Historic Halifax NC Revolutionary War Sites

Today, Historic Halifax is comprised of many historic buildings, with some dating back to the 1760s. The visitor center is a great starting place to browse a museum and view a short film, “Halifax: Hub of the Roanoke.”

After the visitor center, we recommend taking a self-guided walking tour of Historic Halifax.

The restored buildings include an 1838 Jail, the 1790 Eagle Tavern, and the Underground Railroad Trail. Some of them usually feature costumed historical interpreters and craft demonstrations.

Read More: Medoc Mountain State Park in Halifax County

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

Revolutionary War Significance: This is the route used by Patriots who marched from Virginia across many mountains in NC to the Battle of Kings Mountain in SC.

Overmountain Victory Trail Elkin NC Revolutionary War Sites

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (Overmountain Victory Trail for short) is a 330-mile-long historically recognized path that traces the route used by the Patriot militia during the Revolutionary War.

The lengthy Overmountain Victory Trail spans four states:

  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina

The trail led to the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, just over the South Carolina border. Although it might have been a smaller battle in scale, Kings Mountain resulted in a Patriot victory and was a huge blow to the British Southern Strategy.

The distance covered and the perseverance of those who traveled over mountains (hence the name) to reach this battle is why we love following the Overmountain Victory Trail and visiting stops along it.

Read More: 20 Amazing Day Trips in North Carolina

Visiting Today

Official National Parks Site Website

Overmountain Victory Trail Lake James State Park NC
Lake James State Park.

Speaking of following the Overmountain Victory Trail, the National Parks Service commemorates the Overmountain Victory Trail across the four states we mentioned.

Along the historic path, there are 300 miles of scenic roads, 87 miles of hiking trails, historic sites and museums, and wayside exhibits.

The Overmountain Victory Trail passes through more than 220 miles of Western NC, with markers scattered throughout mountain towns, the wonderful Pisgah National Forest, and more.

Some prominent Overmountain Victory Trail stops in North Carolina include:

Read More: Fun Day Trips from Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Hillsborough

Revolutionary War Significance: Briefly occupied by British General Cornwallis and attacked by David Fanning.

Hillsborough NC Riverwalk

Hillsborough is another town in North Carolina with an interesting Revolutionary War-era history.

By the time the Revolutionary War started, Hillsborough was already the oldest established town in North Carolina, essentially operated as the unofficial capital of the colony’s “backcountry.”

In February 1781, British General Cornwallis and his forces occupied Hillsborough. He had a 1,900-man army and was trying to enlist NC loyalists to join the war effort.

However, they had little success and left Hillsborough after six days.

A few months later, in June 1781, Hillsborough was serving as the capital. The newly-elected Patriot governor, Thomas Burke (the namesake of present-day Burke County), traveled to Hillsborough to govern.

The Loyalists, led by the notorious Colonel David Fanning, launched a surprise attack on Hillsborough, hoping to capture the governor and regain control of North Carolina.

On September 11, 1781, Fanning marched his army of 600 men to Hillsborough and attacked just after dawn.

Fanning’s plan was so successful that, by 9:00 a.m., the town had fallen and Governor Burke was taken prisoner.

Read More: Amazing Eno River State Park Trails (+ Bonus Hikes)

Visiting Today

Hillsborough Oldest Towns in North Carolina

Today, Hillsborough is a historic treasure trove, with historic homes, shops, structures, and more.

First, stop by the Alexander Dickinson House (pictured above), which now serves as the town’s Visitor Center.

The Orange County Historical Museum also features more information not just on the Revolutionary War but also on the town’s broad history.

Another key historic site to visit is the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church, which was the site of the 1788 NC Constitutional Convention.

Hillsborough also celebrates its history with the annual Revolutionary War Living History Day. The event is a day of commemoration for the town’s Revolutionary history and is a fun and educational event for tourists and locals alike.

Read More: 50 of the Best Day Trips from Durham

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Address: 2332 New Garden Rd, Greensboro, NC
Revolutionary War Significance: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781

Guilford Courthouse NC Revolutionary War Sites

Guilford Courthouse is the site of one of one of the Revolutionary War’s most pivotal battles. The events that occurred here were central to the eventual British defeat in Yorktown.

General Cornwallis had been able to implement his “Southern Strategy” in Georgia and South Carolina. However, North Carolina and Guilford Courthouse put up an impressive fight.

On March 15, 1781, Cornwallis’s army of 2,100 troops met Patriot General Nathanael Greene and his army of 4,500 men in battle at Guilford Courthouse. Even with fewer troops, the British were victorious at Guilford Courthouse, but not without heavy losses.

The colonial army was eventually forced to withdraw, but Cornwallis lost a quarter of his men in the battle. Throughout March and April, the British were so badly weakened that they were unable to pursue Greene and the rest of his army.

Cornwallis decided to leave North Carolina for the time being and shifted his focus to capturing Virginia, a decision that started the beginning of the end of the British campaign.

Read More: Awesome Things to Do in Greensboro (Truly Unique Places!)

Visiting Today

Official National Parks Service Website

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park Visitor Center

Today, the site is commemorated by the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, which is six miles from downtown Greensboro (named for General Greene).

The park has an impressive Visitor Center, a walking trail, and a paved trail that passes historic structures, monuments, and parts of the original battlefield.

The Visitor Center is a natural first stop when visiting. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and contains a wealth of knowledge and history about the Revolution’s Southern Campaign, artifacts from the battle, and more.

Beyond the Visitor Center, the park has 29 monuments honoring the battle and soldiers, local heroes and heroines, and the park’s founders.

The park is also home to the Hoskins Farmstead, an 18th-century farm that was home to Joseph and Hannah Hoskins.

The two fled their home in Pennsylvania when the Revolutionary War was primarily fought in the northern colonies. Sadly, the Hoskins family didn’t realize that their new home in North Carolina would soon become a pivotal part of the very war they fled.

Each March, a reenactment is held at Guilford Courthouse.

Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar

House in the Horseshoe (The Alston House)

Address: 288 Alston House Rd., Sanford, NC
Revolutionary War Significance: Skirmish between Loyalists and Colonists on July 29 or August 5, 1781

House in the Horseshoe NC Revolutionary Sites

Last but not least in this journey is House in the Horseshoe, also known as the Alston House. The home sits in a horseshoe bend in the Deep River near present-day Sanford.

It was built in 1772 by enslaved people for Philip Alston, an “interesting” character with a story beyond the Revolutionary War.

However, his contribution to this guide is House in the Horseshoe, a minor skirmish between Loyalists and Patriots. Stories and dates vary, but on July 29 or August 5, 1781, David Fanning (see above) returns to our guide when he and other British Loyalists attacked Alston and other colonists at the house.

Officially, Fanning and his Loyalists attacked Alston and other colonists seeking independence. However, it’s possible that Fanning was avenging the murder of George Glascock, which Alston was linked to (one of two he was associated with).

Regardless of the reasons behind the battle, House in the Horseshoe ended with Alston surrendering to Fanning and the Loyalists.

After the war, Alston temporarily rose to power as the first Clerk of Court in Moore County.

However, his poor reputation and those pesky murder indictments led to his eventual departure from House in the Horseshoe.

He was mysteriously shot and killed in 1791, shortly after fleeing jail, of course. It’s possible but not proved that the shooter was Dave, a formerly enslaved person who was charged with the murder of George Glascock instead of Alston.

In 1798, the home was sold to Benjamin Williams, a former colonel in the Revolutionary War.

Williams would also serve as the future Governor of NC from 1799 to 1802 and then again from 1807 to 1808. He was deeply involved in the formation of the state and also served as a member of the first board of trustees of the University of North Carolina.

Williams’ family lived at Alston House until 1853, after which it changed ownership multiple times. Finally, the Moore County Historical Association purchased the home in 1954 and transferred ownership to the state in 1955, after which it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Read More: The Best Day Trips from Raleigh (Fun Getaways!)

Visiting Today

Official NC Historic Sites Website

Alston House House in the Horseshoe NC Revolutionary War Sites

It’s a shame that Philip Alston had to leave his house because it’s in a beautiful spot.

House in the Horseshoe now operates as an educational site with exhibits, historic structures, and guided tours. Visitors can explore the site and see the historic house, a reconstructed storehouse, a small Williams family cemetery, and more.

The first building you’ll see when entering is also the Visitor Center and gift shop.

A guided tour is one of the best ways to truly explore this site’s history. Guided tours start at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Read More: Great I-95 Exits in North Carolina That Lead to Adventures

Which of These Revolutionary War Sites in North Carolina Have You Visited?

Some truly important historic moments occurred during the Revolutionary War in North Carolina. We’re lucky to have these places to visit, and perhaps more will emerge as historic preservation efforts continue.

If you’re familiar with any of these NC Revolutionary War sites, we’d love to hear about your experiences. Let us know here in the comments and share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

Find More History in NC

We’ve created many more guides to help you find history in the Tar Heel State, including these fantastic Revolutionary War sites in NC. Here are a few examples.

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