The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)


July 28, 2013

Gunfire and Cannon Blasts to Mark House in Horseshoe Re-enactment August 3 and 4

Sunday, July 28, 2013 — SANFORD -- A reenactment of the "fiery" July 29, 1781, Revolutionary War confrontation between Patriots and Loyalists happens on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 at the House in the Horseshoe State Historic Site near Sanford. This program was named one of the 2013 Top 20 Events in the southeastern United States for August by the Southeast Tourism Society.


One of America's most authentic Revolutionary War battle reenactments depicts a raid and attack by the feared Tory leader Col. David Fanning on what was then Whig Col. Philip Alston's home.  The free 34th annual reenactment will take place at 4 p.m., Saturday and 2 p.m., Sunday. Donations are welcome.


Played out on the banks of North Carolina's Deep River, this attack was made in retaliation for several atrocities committed by Alston and his men, including the beating death of Kenneth Black, a noted Loyalist. To force the colonials to surrender, Tory forces attempted to set the house on fire by rolling a cart filled with burning straw against it. Both sides suffered casualties but hostilities ended after Mrs. Alston negotiated surrender terms on behalf of Col. Alston and his band of militiamen.


The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Militia demonstrations and periodic firings of a replica 18th century cannon are scheduled throughout the program. There will also be presentations of period crafts such as blacksmithing and weaving. Children can play colonial games while the parents enjoy handmade pottery on display. Also sutlers (traders) will sell replica 18th century goods.


More than 232 years after the battle, one can still see bullet holes scarring the walls of the house. Attendees will see the reenactment staged with accurate troop numbers at the actual battle site.


Perched on a hill above the Deep River in North Carolina's piedmont, the House in the Horseshoe was erected around 1772, becoming one of the first big homes in the state's upland frontier. During the American Revolution, groups of citizen-soldiers known as Whigs or Revolutionists fought a guerilla war in North Carolina's backcountry against Tories or colonists loyal to Britain. At the time, the House in the Horseshoe was Whig Colonel Philip Alston's home.


Though Philip Alston distinguished himself as a colonel in the Whig militia, his later career was marked by corruption. Twice indicted for murder, he was suspended from the state legislature, sold his home and plantation and left the state after escaping from jail in Wilmington. Alston was murdered in his sleep in Georgia in 1791.


In 1798, Gov. Benjamin Williams bought the 2,500 acre plantation from Thomas Perkins. Besides serving four terms as North Carolina governor, Williams had been a captain in the Continental Army with George Washington, colonel of the Whig militia, a member of the first University of North Carolina board of trustees and served in the national Congress at Philadelphia.


The House in the Horseshoe's mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the battle at House in the Horseshoe, the Revolutionary War in the North Carolina backcountry and the life of Gov. Benjamin Williams. For more information on the reenactment or the site, visit or call (910) 947-2051.  


To get to the House in the Horseshoe from N.C. 24/27 in Carthage, turn north onto State Road 1006. Follow this road for 10 miles to Alston House Road. Turn left, and the site is at the end of the road.  


From U.S. 1 in Sanford, take N.C. 42 west for 13 miles to Carbonton. Turn left on State Road 2307, go 4-1/2 miles and turn right onto Alston House Road.


From U.S. 421, take the Goldston exit at the brown House in the Horseshoe sign. Go west on the Goldston-Pittsboro Road to Main Street.Go left on Main St., then right on Colonial St.  Go 3/10 of a mile and turn left on the Goldston-Carbonton Rd. and go five miles to the stop sign. Go straight at the stop sign for 4-1/2 miles. Turn right on Alston House Road, which ends at the site.


Administered by the Division of State Historic Sites, the House in the Horseshoe is within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

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