Illustration from book "Tarleton, Campaigns in the Southern Provinces of North America, 1780-81," 1787. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Scene from inside the Visitor Center looking out at cutouts of soldiers involved in the fighting, 2022, America's Best History.
Battle of Guilford Courthouse
Ever since the early days of the British and General Cornwallis' strategy of taking the American Revolution south, it had been a back and forth war between the patriots and loyalists of the region. By 1781, the patriots were beginning to win more often that had first occurred, however, Guilford Courthouse, March 15, 1781, the penultimate major battle of the war, would not be one of them. However, its impact was almost the opposite, and would lead to victory and the surrender of the British at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 after the attrition and will of the British had waned in North America and now focused on the French on the high seas.
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Battle of Guilford Courthouse Then
The Continental Army commanded by General Nathaneal Greene had chosen the location for this fight and had more troops on hand. He formed them into three lines. General Cornwallis and the British formed east of those lines on the Hoskins Farmstead, then steadily moved forward. He was prepared to moved forward into North Carolina after his setbacks at Cowpens and Kings Mountain and take the fight to his tired from seven years of war enemy.
The first line of American troops fired into the lines of British soldiers, but eventually yielded to the rear, allowing the second line of Greene's soldiers to engage. However, some of Greene's troops from Carolina fled, and the battle, despite some success by the Continental cavalry and regular infantry, was no match for Cornwallis and his experienced troops. Greene ordered an orderly withdraw and Cornwallis did not pursue. The battle had taken two and one half hours.
What was found out later to Greene's surprise was that the British had suffered many more casualties than originally thought and he was in no shape to pursue. The war continued onward for seven months; Cornwallis with his goal to capture Virginia while Greene took his troops south to recapture South Carolina. When Washington headed south with his troops, the tide turned, and Yorktown in October allowed the Americans to claim victory and the surrender of British forces in the Americas.
Image above: Painting of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse," from Soldiers of the American Revolution by H. Charles McBarron, original date of painting unknown as well as painter. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Photo of the statue of Continental Army General Nathaneal Greene on the battlefield, 2022, America's Best History.
Battle of Guilford Courthouse Now
Compared to many of the other North and South Carolina American Revolution parks, Guilford Courthouse is small, as is the regular parking lot. Additional parking is available at the Old Battleground Road Parking Lot at Stop 8. However, the Visitor Center, where you should start, has a wonderful collection of exhibits and film that will help orient you to the three wave battle. Outside, waysides along the trails of the driving or walking tour help orient yourself to what you've seen in the film.
Minute Walk in History
Let's go for a walk around an American Revolution battlefield that saw less experienced Continental Army and patriot troops, more in number, lose to Cornwallis and his British regulars in a North Carolina battle as Cornwallis attempted his movement into Virginia. And despite an American defeat here on March 15, 1781, it would be the attrition in the British Army plus Washington heading south to help that would lead to victory at Yorktown seven months later.
T-Shirts and Souvenirs
Battle of Guilford Courthouse T-Shirts and Souvenirs. Great for fans of North Carolina history and the defeat of the Continental Army just before their ultimate victory at Yorktown.
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
Things You Should Not Miss
1. Definitely don't miss the film in the Visitor Center, as well as the exhibits that give you a flavor of the combatants and the battle. Park rangers and volunteers are also on hand to point you to taking the battle walk through the center of the line or the driving tour around the perimeter. It's a no picnic park, which is a little odd. They direct you to the County Park next door.
2. Although the park map suggests you take the auto tour, I wish we had walked the Historic New Garden Road directly through the center of the park. They say you'll miss some features, but the walk seems to take you past many of those your car will take you to.
3. Visit Hoskins Farmstead site. It's separated from the main part of the park by a small stretch and is the location where Cornwallis formed his battle line.
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