The 240th Anniversary of the House in the Horseshoe
August 7, 2021
The Sandhills SAR Chapter and the North Carolina SAR Society commemorated the 240th Anniversary of the House in the Horseshoe Battle at the Alston House in Sanford, North Carolina.
On July 29th, 1781, Militia Colonel Philip Alston and his patriot men returned to Alston’s home, that is along a horseshoe shaped bend in the Deep River, after a failed mission to capture loyalist militia commander, Colonel David Fanning.
After Colonel Fanning learned that two of his friends had been killed by Alston’s militia men, gathered a much larger force, and led them to Alston’s house to seek revenge. Alston’s militia men were warned of the approaching loyalist force and quickly took up defensive positions in and around the Alston house. Loyalist bullets flew through the walls of the Alston house and were effectively returned by Alston’s surrounded patriots. To protect his children, Alston’s wife Temperance placed them in the large deep fireplace on a small bench which saved their lives from the intense hail of bullets passing through the Alston House. The battle went on for a few hours with no obvious winners. Out of desperation to flush out the patriot forces, Fanning sent out a slave with a torch to set the house on fire. The slave was shot down by the defenders. Suffering so many casualties, Colonel Fanning was close to giving up on his attack. One of the loyalist militia, suggested that they prepare a cart full of hay, set it on fire, and roll it toward the Alston house.
Colonel Alston decided to surrender, knowing that everyone in the house would be killed, either by the fire or by loyalist long rifle shots, when trying to flee the burning house. He also knew that he would be immediately shot on his front porch if he walked out carrying a white flag. His wife, Temperance, knowing her children’s lives and their home were in danger, volunteered to go out on the porch with the white flag, praying that the loyalists would not shoot a woman. Temperance, carrying the white flag, walked out onto the front porch and further to meet Fanning and negotiated the terms of surrender. All the defenders in the House in the Horseshoe were allowed to surrender peacefully and then paroled.
The 2021 Ceremony
The 240th Anniversary Ceremony was planned and conducted, In-Person and Virtually, by the Sandhills Chapter Secretary and Committee Chairman, Compatriot Mike Fusselbaugh. Mr. Reid Wilson, Secretary of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources addressed the gathering and highlighted the importance of protecting our North Carolinian historic sites for the continued education of future generations. The Keynote Speaker for this patriotic event was NC Senator from the 25th NC District, Mr. Tom McInnis, who is an Alston Family descendant and a Sandhills SAR Chapter Compatriot. Senator McInnis gave a strong and rousing speech about the sacrifices that our Patriot Founding Fathers bravely gave to obtain our Freedom, establish an American Republic, and the need for our current generations to continue strive to pursue the principles of Liberty.
North Carolina Patriotic organizations Rendering Wreath Honors (in-person & virtually) included; the North Carolina SAR Society, representatives from 12 North Carolina SAR Chapters, 5 DAR Chapters, 2 Chapters of the Children of the Revolution and the Raleigh Chapter of the Sons of the Revolution.
Submitted by Bruce Fensley – Sandhills Chapter – President