Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Synopsis

On 15 March 1781, the armies of Nathanael Greene and Lord Charles Cornwallis fought one of the bloodiest and most intense engagements of the American Revolution at the Guilford Courthouse in piedmont North Carolina. Although victorious, Cornwallis declared the conquest of the Carolinas impossible. He made the fateful decision to march into Virginia, eventually leading his army to the Yorktown surrender and clearing the way for American independence.

In the first book-length examination of the Guilford Courthouse engagement, Lawrence Babits and Joshua Howard drawing from hundreds of previously underutilized pension documents, muster rolls, and personal accounts piece together what really happened on the wooded plateau in what is today Greensboro, North Carolina. They painstakingly identify where individuals stood on the battlefield, when they were there, and what they could have seen, thus producing a bottom-up story of the engagement. The authors explain or discount several myths surrounding this battle while giving proper place to long-forgotten heroic actions. They elucidate the actions of the Continentals, British regulars, North Carolina and Virginia militiamen, and the role of American cavalry. Their detailed and comprehensive narrative extends into individual combatants' lives before and after the Revolution.

Excerpt

Guilford Courthouse was the largest Revolutionary War battle in North Carolina. Although Lt. Gen. Charles, Second Earl Cornwallis succeeded tactically on 15 March 1781, his army was crippled. Forced to withdraw to Wilmington for reinforcements and resupply, Cornwallis made the fateful decision to stop chasing Nathanael Greene across the Carolinas, instead deciding to march into Virginia and destroy what he perceived as his opponent's supply base. Guilford, therefore, was one step, admittedly a very big step, in the British army's path to Yorktown.

Incredible as it seems, given its importance, there has been no in-depth scholarly monograph on the battle. Sad to say, this is true of most southern campaign engagements, although the situation is being rectified. Scholarly works on the southern campaign have devoted chapters to the battle, including John Buchanan's The Road to Guilford Courthouse, M. F. Treacy's Prelude to Yorktown, and John S. Pancake's The Destructive War. Two small works have been produced on the subject, John Hairr's Guilford Courthouse and Thomas Baker's Another Such Victory. Baker's account, perhaps the most . . .

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