Benjamin Merrill

This information is contributed by Bobby R Merrill

The British were taxing them pretty badly, so the home folks got fed up and organized the "Regulators". Benjamin Merrill was a Captain in the "Regulators" and was involved in the Battle of Alamance. As I understand the story, he had about 300-400 men in his command. Captain Merrill and his command were enroute to the battle, but happened across a British Regiment, and captured them. I don't think he ever made it to the battle. In any event Governor Tryon was there, in command of his troops. The Americans sent a representative to talk to the British, but Tryon himself killed the man, and told his troops to start firing on the Americans. They were reluctant to do so, and he then told them "to either fire on me, or fire on them".

So the battle commenced - which the Americans (who were not trained troops, but rather citizens in the militia), lost the battle and disbanded. Tryon then issued a proclamation that those that would lay down their arms, and swear alligence to the British Crown, would be forgiven - except Captain Benjamin Merrill and I believe 5 or 6 others. The governor declared them "outlaws", and stated that when they were caught, they would be hanged, drawn and quartered, which they all were.

When the Chief Justice passed sentence, he concluded in the following manner: "I must now close my afficing Duty, by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law; which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place whence you came, you be drawn from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your bowels be taken out and burnt before our face, that your head be cut off, your Body divided in Four Quarters, and this be at his majestys Disposal; and the Lord have Mercy on your Soul".

Captain Benjamin Merrill was hanged by the British on 19 June 1771 at Hillsboro, N.C. by then Governor Tryon. [there were a total of 6 men hanged that day.]

As far as I know, nobody knows their place of burial, but probably a mass grave somewhere around Hillsboro where the atrocities took place. At least thats what some folks THINK - which doesn't prove anything. For information purposes, there is a statue around there somewhere commemorating the event. My next door neighbor used to live there, and has told me about it, but it is of a minute man figure. From what I've heard, it is in bad disrepair.

Anyway, if you get around a bunch of Merrill genealogists, they figure that ALAMANCE was the FIRST Battle of the American Revolution. However, there MAY have been many, many such occurrences, that happened in several places. Who knows?

I am kinda doubly connected with Capt. Benjamin since his daughter Penelope Merrill married her first cousin (yep, another Benjamin Merrill).

Capt. Benjamin's brother, William Merrill III was carried off by the Tories, and was probably murdered inasmuch as he was never heard from again.

While William III's wife, Mary Cornell Merrill, had her tongue split by the British. William Merrill III had 3 sons (Benjamin, Daniel and John) who all fought in the American Revolution.

Historic Marker honoring the 6 men who were hanged.

For further information see "Captain Benjamin Merrill and the Merrill Family of North Carolina", written by William Ernest Merrill, M.S. It was reprinted in 1986 and 1994 by Selby Publishing, 3405 Zartman Road, Kokomo, IN. 46902. Size...about 121 pages. This is a short passage from the book:" On the morning of the 15th of May they (the Regulators) sent a message to Tryon once more asking him to regard their rights. He promised them an answer by noon the next day. Early the next morning Tryon marched his army within half mile of where the Regulators were encamped, and drew his men up in line of battle. He then sent a paper which was read to the Regulators declaring they must lay down their arms, go home, and obey the King. The Regulators refused to do these things. Both parties advanced. As they drew near to each other, Robert Thompson, who had been sent by the Regulators to intreat with the Governor, turned to join the ranks of the Patriots, the irritated Tryon snatched a gun from the hands of a militiaman, and shot Thompson dead."

The book goes on and tells about his widow, his farm, childen, etc. Even though this is about the Merrill family, the book would be extremely informative of our ancestors and what really was happening to cause them to enter into conflict for their liberty. Until you have lived in this type of situation, you cannnot begin to understand....William Ernest Merrill, M.S., has given us a glimpse into that world.

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