Battle of Guilford

 

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Guilford Battle Map

THE BATTLE OF GUILFORD

G. British advancing; 1. First position of British ; B. Front line of Americans—North Carolinians; C. Second line of Americans; A. American right wing; E. Maryland and Virginia Continentals; 2. Second position of British; D. Fight between Hessians and Americans; 3. Third position of British.

Guilford, BATTLE OF. Resting his troops a while, in Virginia, after his race with Cornwallis, GENERAL NATHANAEL GREENE recrossed the Dan into North Carolina; and as he moved cautiously forward to foil the efforts of Cornwallis to embody the Tories of that State, he found himself, March 1, 1781, at the head of about 5,000 troops in good spirits. Feeling strong enough to cope with Cornwallis, he sought an engagement with him; and on the 15th they met near Guilford Courthouse, where they fiercely contended for the mastery. The battlefield was about 5 miles from the (present) village of Greensboro, in Guilford county, North Carolina, Greene had encamped within 8 miles of the earl, on the evening of the 14th, and on the morning of the 15th he moved against his enemy. The latter was prepared to receive him. Greene had disposed his army in three positions—the first at the edge of woods on a great hill; the second in the forest, 300 yards in the rear; and the third a little more than one-fourth of a mile in the rear of the second. The first line was composed of North Carolina militia, mostly raw recruits, nearly 1,100 in number, commanded by Generals Butler and Eaton. These had two cannon, with Washington's cavalry on the right wing, and Lee's legion, with Campbell's militia, on the left wing. The whole were commanded by Greene in person.

Guilford Battlefield

THE BATTLEFIELD OF GUILFORD.

The British appeared in front of the Americans at a little past noon in full force, the right commanded by General Leslie, and the left by Colonel Webster. Under cover of a severe cannonade the British advanced, delivering a volley of musketry as they approached, and then, with a shout, rushed forward with fixed bayonets. The American militia fled after the firing of one or two volleys, when the victors pressed on and attacked the second line, composed of Virginia militia under Generals Stevens and Lawson. After a stout resistance they, too, fell back upon the third line. Up to this time the battle had been carried on, on the part of the British, by their right, under Leslie. Now Webster, with the left, pressed forward with the right division in the face of a terrible storm of grape-shot and musketry. Nearly the whole of the two armies were now in conflict. The battle lasted almost two hours, when Greene, ignorant of the heavy losses sustained by the British, ordered a retreat, leaving his cannon behind and Cornwallis master of the field. It was one of the most sanguinary battles of the war. The Americans lost about 400 killed and wounded, besides 1,000 who deserted to their homes. The British loss was about 600. Among the fatally wounded was Colonel Webster. That battle ended British domination in North Carolina. The army of Cornwallis was too much shattered for him to maintain the advantage he had gained. After issuing a proclamation boasting of his victory, calling upon the Tories to rally to his standard, and offering pardon to the "rebels" who should submit, he moved with his whole army towards Wilmington, near the seaboard. The news of the battle produced a profound sensation in England. "Another such victory," said Charles J. Fox, in the House of Commons, "will ruin the British army;" and he moved, June 12, 1781, to recommend the ministers to conclude a peace with the Americans at once. William Pitt (son of the great Chatham) spoke of the war against the Americans with great severity.

 

 

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