War at the Back Door

The 2011 re-enactment at House in the Horseshoe

Editor's Note – In the summer of 2012, Ansley Wegner, a historian with our Research Branch, wrote a series of blog posts highlighting various historical destinations around the state. This is the twelfth post in that series. You can see all Wegner's posts on this page

The website for North Carolina Historic Sites  “invites you to open doors into the past.” But near the Moore County town of Carthage at the House in the Horseshoe, you don’t even have to open the doors to be transported back to the reality of the Revolutionary War in North Carolina. 

Bullet holes are visible around the back door at the House in the Horseshoe.The house still has some mighty large bullet holes in it—especially visible around the back door.

Plan Your Visit to House in the Horseshoe

On July 29, 1781, the house’s owner Phillip Alston and a small band of patriot militia were besieged there by Tories (forces loyal to the king) under the command of David Fanning.  The attack occurred in the early morning hours and, trapped in his house, Alston ordered his men to barricade the doors and windows. Fanning posted his men along a split rail fence outside the home and, for several hours, the men exchanged fire with no side gaining a real advantage.

As her house was being riddled by bullets, Temperance Alston, Phillip’s wife, was level-headed enough to hide her children in the chimney, standing them on a table so that their bodies were behind the brickwork. Just as Fanning was considering retreating, his men found a small wagon in Alston’s barn and he ordered it loaded with hay and set afire with the purpose of pushing it into the house. 

In an effort to save the lives of everyone in the inside, Temperance cautiously stepped out and negotiated a surrender.

This year is the 33rd annual commemoration of the skirmish at the House in the Horseshoe, with a full scale reenactment each day: Saturday Aug. 4 at 4 p.m., and Sunday Aug. 5, at 2 p.m.  There will be also cannon demonstrations, presentations of period crafts and trades, colonial games, and traders selling 18th century replica wares. This is a fantastic opportunity to be up close to the action—but not so close that you have to put your kids in the chimney!

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