After the Rivington Men revolted and attempted to assassinate Confederate President Robert E. Lee on the date of his inauguration on March 4, 1868, Lee issued a Proclamation Suspending Habeas Corpus in five North Carolina counties. These were Nash, which contained the town of Rivington, and the four surrounding it: Edgecombe, Halifax, Franklin and Warren. All civil jurisdiction was suspended and martial law imposed with Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forest commanding. The proclamation went effective on March 15, 1868. Governor Zebulon Vance was instrumental in its enforcement.

Forrest was charged with first establishing an efficient military police to maintain order in the areas not under direct control of the Rivington Men. He recalled to duty Company D of the 47th North Carolina infantry regiment to form the basis of this force in Nash County.

The order also forbade the sale of spirituous liquors for the duration of the proclamation with a punishment by regimental court martial of no more than one month hard labor for violators. This resulted in the closure of the Liberty Bell Saloon in Nashville, the county seat.