Monday, May 4, 2015



Fanning’s Bloody Sabbath as Traced by Alexander Gray

On March 10, 1782, Colonel David Fanning led a band of vengeful Loyalists on a path of slaughter and arson in northern Randolph County, North Carolina, his Bloody Sabbath house-calls. Most of our information about this episode has been from E. W. Caruthers’s 1854 Revolutionary Incidents and Fanning’s own Narrative, first published in 1861, thirty-six years after his death in Canada.[1]
Another reliable guide has been hiding in plain sight. John H. Wheeler, the editor of the 1861 Narrative, a decade earlier had treated Fanning briefly in his history of North Carolina.[2] In his “Introduction,” Wheeler acknowledged Caruthers’s work. Also, he had “met with a letter from Genl Alexander Gray to Dr. A. Henderson dated Randolph county N. Ca. March 30, 1847, which gives much information as to the adventures and exploits of Col’o Fanning.”[3] Although this letter is clearly of great interest, it has remained largely unnoticed by historians perhaps because its only known publication was in a local newspaper.[4]
Gray (1768-1864), “Brigadier General” in 1815, had been a store-keeper since 1792, and a frequent member of the State Assembly – the “most prominent citizen” of the county.[5] In Salisbury early in 1847, Gray and Col. James Wellborn (1767-1854), a state senator born in what became Randolph County, had conversed with Dr. Alexander M. Henderson (1807-1873). Henderson’s father, Pleasant Henderson, had pursued of Lord Cornwallis down the Deep River,[6] and the older men had such exciting Revolutionary stories that Henderson persuaded Gray to record what he knew of the infamous David Fanning (1755-1825). Back home, Gray consulted “several of the oldest men” he could find from the lower (more Tory) part of the county but obtained from them “very little more than a confirmation” of what he already knew. Gray knew plenty: facts had been “stated” to him face-to-face “by Colonels Collier, Clark, Dougan and other gentlemen of respectability, who were often in pursuit, and sometimes came in contact with Fanning and his party.”
[The bloody article runs on for 12 pages.]

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