Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 20: Abilities, Fortitude, and Integrity: Greene and His Lieutenants in the South (August 1780 to April 1781) - The Life of George Washington
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER 20: “Abilities, Fortitude, and Integrity”: Greene and His Lieutenants in the South (August 1780 to April 1781) - John Marshall, The Life of George Washington 
The Life of George Washington. Special Edition for Schools, ed. Robert Faulkner and Paul Carrese (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
About Liberty Fund:
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
“Abilities, Fortitude, and Integrity”: Greene and His Lieutenants in the South (August 1780 to April 1781)
Transactions in South Carolina and Georgia.—Defeat of Ferguson.—Lord Cornwallis enters North Carolina.—Retreats out of that state.—Major Wemys defeated.—Tarleton repulsed.—Greene appointed to command the Southern army.—Arrives in camp.—Detaches Morgan over the Catawba.—Battle of the Cowpens.—Greene retreats into Virginia.—Lord Cornwallis retires to Hillsborough.—Greene recrosses the Dan.—Loyalists under Colonel Pyle cut to pieces.—Battle of Guilford.—Lord Cornwallis retires to Ramsay’s mills.—To Wilmington.—Greene advances to Ramsay’s mills.—Determines to enter South Carolina.—Lord Cornwallis resolves to enter Virginia.
Aug. 1780In the South, Lord Cornwallis found it necessary to suspend the new career of conquest on which he had intended to enter. In addition to the difficulty of obtaining food, a temper so hostile to British interests had appeared in South Carolina as to require great part of his force to subdue the spirit of insurrection against his authority. General Marion1 had entered the north-eastern parts of that state with only sixteen men, and was rousing the well-affected inhabitants to arms, when the defeat of the 16th of August chilled the growing spirit of resistance. With the force he had collected, he rescued about one hundred and fifty continental troops who had been captured at Camden, and were on their way to Charleston. He made repeated excursions from the swamps in which he concealed himself, and skirmished successfully with the militia who had joined the royal standard, and the small parties of regulars who supported them.
The interval between the victory of the 16th of August and the invasion of North Carolina, was employed in quelling what was termed the spirit of revolt in South Carolina. The efforts of the people to recover their independence were considered as new acts of rebellion. Several of the most active militiamen who had taken protections as British subjects, and entered into the British militia, having been made prisoners in the battle of Camden, were executed as traitors; and orders were given to officers commanding at different posts to proceed in the same manner against persons of a similar description.
While pursuing these measures to break the spirit of insurrection, Lord Cornwallis was indefatigable in urging his preparations for the expedition into North Carolina. Major Ferguson, who had been employed in the district of Ninety-Six, to train the most loyal inhabitants, and to attach them to his own corps, was directed to enter the western parts of North Carolina for the purpose of embodying the royalists in that quarter.
On the 8th of September, Lord Cornwallis moved from Camden and reached Charlotte in North Carolina late in that month. At this place he expected to be joined by Ferguson; but that officer was arrested by an event as important as it was unexpected.
Colonel Clarke, a refugee from Georgia, had invested Augusta, but was compelled by the approach of Colonel Cruger from Ninety-Six to abandon the enterprise, and save himself by a rapid retreat. To favor the design of intercepting Clarke, Ferguson remained longer in the country than had been intended; and this delay gave an opportunity to several volunteer corps to unite. The hardy mountaineers inhabiting the extreme western parts of Virginia and North Carolina, assembled on horseback with their rifles under Colonels Campbell, M’Dowell, Cleveland, Shelby, and Sevier, and moved with their accustomed velocity towards Ferguson, who pressed his march for Charlotte. His messengers announcing his danger to Lord Cornwallis were intercepted, and no movement was made to favor his retreat.
Colonel Campbell of Virginia was chosen to command the American parties. At the Cowpens, they were joined by Colonels Williams, Tracy, and Branan, of South Carolina. About nine hundred men were selected, by whom the pursuit was continued through the night, and through a heavy rain. The next day about three in the afternoon, they came within view of Ferguson, encamped on the summit of King’s Mountain—a ridge five or six hundred yards long and sixty or seventy wide.
Oct. 7The Americans, who had arranged themselves into three columns, the right commanded by Colonel Sevier and Major Winston, the centre by Colonels Campbell and Shelby, and the left by Colonels Cleveland and Williams, attacked the front and flanks of the British line. Ferguson made several impetuous charges with the bayonet; but before any one of them could completely disperse the corps against which it was directed, the destructive fire of the others called off his attention, and the broken corps was rallied, and brought again to the attack. Before the fate of the day was absolutely decided, Ferguson received a mortal wound, and instantly expired. The courage of his party fell with him, and quarter was immediately demanded.
In this sharp action, one hundred and fifty of Ferguson’s party were killed on the spot, and about the same number were wounded. Eight hundred and ten, of whom one hundred were British, were made prisoners; and fifteen hundred stand of excellent arms were taken.
The Americans, as is usual with riflemen, fought under the cover of trees, and their loss was inconsiderable. As cruelty begets cruelty, the example set by the British was followed, and ten of the most active of the royalists were hung on the spot. The victorious mountaineers returned to their homes.
Lord Cornwallis, fearing for the posts in his rear, retreated to Wynnsborough, where he waited for reinforcements from New York.
Sir Henry Clinton had determined to send a large detachment to the South, and had ordered the officer commanding it to enter the Chesapeake, and to take possession of the lower parts of Virginia, after which he was to obey the orders he should receive from Lord Cornwallis. This detachment, amounting to near three thousand men, commanded by General Leslie, sailed on the 6th of October, and, entering James river, took possession of the country on its south side as high as Suffolk, and began to fortify Portsmouth. At this place he received orders from Lord Cornwallis to repair to Charleston by water.
While his lordship waited at Wynnsborough for this reinforcement, the light corps of his army were employed in suppressing the parties that were rising throughout the country. Marion having become so formidable as to endanger the communication between Camden and Charleston, Tarleton was detached against him, and Marion took refuge in the swamps. From the unavailing pursuit of him, Tarleton was called to a different quarter, where an enemy, supposed to be entirely vanquished, had reappeared in considerable force.
Sumter had again assembled a respectable body of mounted militia, and was advancing on the British posts. Major Wemyss who marched against him with a regiment of infantry, and about forty dragoons, reached his camp several hours before day, and instantly attacked it. At the first fire Wemyss was disabled by two dangerous wounds. The assailants fell into confusion, and were repulsed with the loss of their commanding officer and twenty men. Sumter was joined by Clarke and Branan, and threatened Ninety-Six. Tarleton was recalled and ordered to proceed against him.
Nov. 1780So rapid was the movement of that officer, that he had nearly gained the rear of his enemy before notice of his return was received. In the night, Sumter was apprised of the approaching danger by a deserter, and began his retreat. Tarleton overtook his rear guard at the ford of the Ennoree, and cut it to pieces. Fearing that Sumter might save himself by crossing the Tyger, he pressed forward with about two hundred and eightyNov. 20 cavalry and mounted infantry, and, in the afternoon, came within view of the Americans, who were arranged in order of battle on the banks of the Tyger. Their right flank was secured by the river, and their left by a barn of logs, in which a considerable number of men were placed.
Tarleton rushed to the charge with his usual impetuosity. After several ineffectual attempts to dislodge the Americans, he retired with great precipitation, leaving ninety-two dead and one hundred wounded. Sumter crossed the Tyger; and, having been severely wounded, his troops dispersed. His loss was only three killed and four wounded.
The shattered remains of the army defeated near Camden, had been slowly collected at Hillsborough. It amounted, with its reinforcements, to about fourteen hundred continental troops. To these were added the militia of the country.
While Lord Cornwallis remained at Charlotte, Gates detached Smallwood to the ford of the Yadkin, with orders to take command of all the troops in that quarter. As Lord Cornwallis retreated, Gates advanced to Charlotte, Smallwood moved down the Catawba, and Morgan, now a brigadier, was pushed forward some distance in his front.2 This was the arrangement of the troops when their General was removed.
On the 5th of November, Congress passed a resolution requiring the commander-in-chief to order a court of enquiry on the conduct of General Gates, and to appoint some other officer to command the southern army, until the enquiry should be made.
Washington selected Greene for that important service.3 In a letter to Congress recommending him to their support, he said General Greene was “an officer in whose abilities, fortitude, and integrity, from a long and intimate experience of them, he had the most entire confidence.” About the same time the legion of Lee was ordered into South Carolina.
Greene reached Charlotte on the 2d of December; and was soon afterwards gratified with the intelligence of a small success obtained by the address of Colonel Washington.
Smallwood, having received information that a body of royal militia had entered the country in which he foraged, ordered Morgan and Washington against them. The militia retreated; but Washington, being able to move with more celerity than the infantry, resolved to make an attempt on another party, which was stationed at Rugely’s farm within thirteen miles of Camden. He found them posted in a logged barn, unassailable by cavalry, on which he resorted to the following stratagem. Having painted the trunk of a pine, and mounted it on a carriage so as to resemble a field-piece, he paraded it in front, and demanded a surrender. The whole party, consisting of one hundred and twelve men, with Colonel Rugely at their head, became prisoners of war.
To narrow the limits of the British army, and to encourage the inhabitants, Greene directed Morgan to take a position near the confluence of the Pacolet with the Broad river. His party consisted of rather more than three hundred chosen continental infantry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard, of Maryland, of Washington’s light dragoons amounting to eighty men, and of two companies of Virginia militia, commanded by Captains Triplet and Taite, which were composed almost entirely of old continental soldiers. He was also to be joined on Broad river by seven or eight hundred volunteers, and by militia commanded by General Davidson and by Colonels Clarke and Few. The activity of his troops, and the enterprising temper of their commander rendered him extremely formidable to the parties of the royal militia who were embodying in that part of the country.
Lord Cornwallis detached Tarleton with some infantry and artillery added to his legion, so as to amount in the whole to a thousand men, for the purpose of affording protection to Ninety-Six. His lordship, having completed his preparations to enter North Carolina by the upper route, advanced northward between theJan. 1781 Catawba and Broad rivers. Leslie, who had halted at Camden, was ordered to move up the banks of the former; and Tarleton was ordered to strike at Morgan. Should that officer escape Tarleton, the hope was entertained that he might be intercepted by the main army which would be between him and Greene.
These combined movements were communicated to Morgan on the 14th of January. He retired across the Pacolet, the fords of which he was desirous of defending. Tarleton having effected a passage of that river about six miles below him, he made a precipitate retreat; and his pursuers occupied the camp he had abandoned. Believing that he should be overtaken on his retreat, while his men were fatigued and discouraged, and thinking it more advisable to exhibit the appearance of fighting from choice, he determined to risk a battle at the Cowpens.
At three in the morning of the 17th, Tarleton recommenced the pursuit. He found his enemy prepared to receive him.
On an eminence in an open wood, Morgan drew up his continental troops, and Triplet’s corps, deemed equal to continentals, amounting to between four and five hundred men, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard. In their rear, on the descent of the hill, Lieutenant-Colonel Washington was posted with his cavalry, and a small body of mounted Georgia militia, commanded by Major Call. On these two corps rested his hopes of victory, and with them he remained in person. The front line was composed of militia under the command of Colonel Pickens. Major M’Dowell with a battalion of North Carolina volunteers, and Major Cunningham, with a battalion of Georgia volunteers, were advanced about one hundred and fifty yards in front of this line, with orders to give a single fire, and then to fall back into the interval left for them in the centre of the first line. The militia were ordered to keep up a retreating fire by regiments until they should pass the continental troops, on whose right they were to form. His whole force amounted to eight hundred men.
Soon after this disposition was made, the British van appeared in sight. Their line of battle was instantly formed, and they rushed forward, shouting as they advanced.
After a well-directed fire, M’Dowell and Cunningham fell back on Pickens, who, after a short but warm conflict, retreated into the rear of the second line. The British pressed forward with great eagerness; and, though received by the continental troops with firmness, continued to advance. Tarleton ordered up his reserve. Perceiving that his enemy extended beyond him both on the right and left, and that his right flank especially was on the point of being turned, Howard ordered the company on his right to change its front, so as to face the British on that flank. This order being misunderstood, the company fell back; and the rest of the line, supposing a change of ground to have been directed, began to retire in perfect order. At this moment, General Morgan rode up, and directed the infantry to retreat over the summit of the hill and join the cavalry. This judicious but hazardous movement was made in good order, and extricated the flanks from immediate danger. Believing the fate of the day to be decided, the British pressed forward with increased ardor, and in some disorder; and when the Americans halted, were within thirty yards of them. The orders given by Howard to face the enemy were executed as soon as they were received; and the whole line poured in a fire as deadly as it was unexpected. Some confusion appearing in the ranks of the enemy, Howard seized the critical moment, and ordered a charge with the bayonet. These orders were instantly obeyed, and the British line was broken.
At the same moment, the corps of cavalry on the British right was routed by Washington. The militia of Pickens were closely pursued by the cavalry, who had passed the flank of the continental infantry, and were cutting down the scattered militia in its rear. Washington directed his dragoons to charge them with drawn swords. A sharp conflict ensued, but it was not of long duration. The British were driven from the ground with slaughter, and were closely pursued. Both Howard and Washington pressed their advantage until the artillery and great part of the infantry had surrendered.
In this engagement, upwards of one hundred British, including ten commissioned officers, were killed. Twenty-nine commissioned officers and five hundred privates were taken. Eight hundred muskets, with a number of baggage-wagons and dragoon horses, fell into the hands of the conquerors. The victory cost the Americans less than eighty men in killed and wounded.
Tarleton retreated to the head quarters of Lord Cornwallis, then about twenty-five miles distant, at Turkey creek, on the east side of Broad river. This camp was as near as the Cowpens to the ford at which Morgan was to cross the Catawba. Comprehending the full danger of being intercepted, he4 abandoned the baggage, left his wounded under the protection of a flag, detached the militia as an escort to his prisoners, and brought up the rear in person with his regulars. Passing Broad river in the evening, he hastened to the Catawba, which he passed at Sherald’s ford on the 23d, and encamped on its eastern bank.
Lord Cornwallis, having formed a junction with Leslie, reached Ramsay’s mills on the 25th, where, to accelerate his future movements, he destroyed his baggage; and, after collecting a small supply of provisions, resumed his line of march. He reached Sherald’s ford on the evening of the 29th; and, in the night, an immense flood of rain rendered the river impassable. While Morgan remained on the Catawba, General Greene arrived and took command of the detachment. He had left the other division to be commanded by General Huger.
In his camp on the Pedee, he had been joined by Lee’s legion, which he detached the next day to join Marion for the purpose of attempting to carry a British fort at Georgetown. The fort was surprised, but the success was only partial.
Greene directed the Virginia militia under Stevens, whose terms of service were about to expire, to escort the prisoners taken at the Cowpens to Charlottesville in Virginia, while he directed his whole attention to the effecting of a junction with Huger.
On the 1st of February, Lord Cornwallis forced a passage over the Catawba, at a ford which was defended by General Davidson, with three hundred North Carolina militia. Davidson was killed, and his troops dispersed. They were followed by Tarleton, who, hearing that the militia were assembling at a town about ten miles from the ford, hastened to the place of rendezvous, and, killing some, dispersed the residue.
Greene retreated along the Salisbury road, and, on the evening of the 3d, crossed the Yadkin at the trading ford. His rear, which was impeded by the baggage of the whigs,5 was overtaken by the van of the British army about midnight, and a skirmish ensued in which some loss was sustained.
The boats being now collected on the northern side of the Yadkin, and the river unfordable, the pursuit was suspended; and General Greene continued his march to Guilford Court-house, where he joined General Huger on the 9th. The infantry of the American army, including six hundred militia, amounted to about two thousand effectives, and the cavalry to between two and three hundred.
Lord Cornwallis marched up the Yadkin, which he crossed on the morning of the 8th, and encamped the next day twenty-five miles above Greene, at Salem, with an army estimated at from twenty-five hundred to three thousand men, including three hundred cavalry. His object was to place himself between Greene and Virginia, so as to force that officer to a general action before he should be joined by the reinforcements preparing for him in that state.
Greene was indefatigable in his exertions to cross the Dan, without exposing himself to the hazard of a battle.6 To effect this object, his cavalry, with the flower of his infantry, amounting together to rather more than seven hundred men, were formed into a light corps for the purpose of impeding the advance of the enemy until the baggage, with the military stores, should be secured. Morgan being rendered incapable of duty by illness, the command of this corps was given to Colonel Otho H. Williams.
Lord Cornwallis had been informed that it would be impossible to obtain boats for the transportation of the American troops across the Dan before he could overtake them. He had, therefore, supposed that, by retaining his position above them, so as to prevent their gaining the shallow fords, he would secure his object. Dix’s ferry, on the direct road, was equidistant from the two armies. Considerably below were two other ferries, Boyd’s and Irwin’s, contiguous to each other; and by taking the road leading to them, the distance between the two armies was so much ground gained. At the suggestion of Lieutenant-Colonel Carrington, quartermaster-general for the southern department, Greene resolved to direct his march to these lower ferries, and to dispatch a light party to Dix’s, in order to bring the boats at that and the intermediate ferries down the river to meet him.
Feb. 10, 1781The next morning both armies resumed their march. Williams took a road between them; and such were the boldness and activity of his corps, that Lord Cornwallis found it necessary to move with caution; yet he marched near thirty miles each day. On the third day he attempted to surprise the Americans, by detaching from his rear while his front moved slowly; but Lieutenant-Colonel Lee charged his advanced cavalry with such impetuosity as to cut a troop nearly to pieces. A captain and several privates were made prisoners. So rapid were the movements of both armies that, in the last twenty-four hours, the Americans marched forty miles; and the rear had scarcely touched the northern bank when the British van appeared on the opposite shore.
Having driven Greene out of North Carolina, Lord Cornwallis turned his attention to the re-establishment of regal authority in that state. At Hillsborough, then its capital, he erected the royal standard, and issued a proclamation inviting the inhabitants to repair to it, and to assist him in restoring the ancient government. It was understood that seven independent companies were formed in a single day.
Soon after entering Virginia, Greene was joined by six hundred militia drawn from the neighboring counties, who were commanded by General Stevens. Alarmed at the progress made by the British general in embodying those who were attached to the royal cause, he determined, on receiving this small reinforcement, to re-enter North Carolina, and, avoiding a general action, to discourage this spirit of disaffection by showing himself in the field. The legion of Lee had repassed the Dan on the 18th, the light infantry on the 21st, and they were followed by the residue of the army on the 23d.
A large body of royalists had begun to embody themselves on the branches of the Haw river; and Colonel Tarleton was detached from Hillsborough to conduct them to the British army. Greene ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, with his legion cavalry, and General Pickens, with between three and four hundred militia, to move against both parties.
Lee, whose cavalry was in front, came up with the loyalists in a long lane, and was supposed to be a British officer. Perceiving their mistake, he purposed to avail himself of it by making propositions to their colonel which might enable him to proceed in his design of surprising Tarleton. As he was about to make his communications, some of the militia who followed close in his rear were recognised by some of the insurgents, and a firing began. The alarm being thus given, Lee changed his plan, and turning on the loyalists, cut them to pieces while they were making protestations of loyalty. More than one hundred, among whom was Colonel Pyle, their leader, fell under the swords of his cavalry. This terrible but unavoidable carnage broke the spirits of the tories in that quarter of the country.
The hope of surprising Tarleton being thus disappointed, the attack on him was postponed, and Pickens and Lee took a position between him and a body of militia which was advancing under Colonel Preston from the western parts of Virginia. Tarleton had meditated an attempt on this corps; but at midnight, when his troops were paraded for the purpose, he received an express, directing his immediate return to the army.
On the 27th, Lord Cornwallis, to approach more nearly the great body of the loyalists, crossed the Haw and encamped on Allimance creek. As the British army retired, General Greene advanced, still carefully avoiding a general action; but, by the activity of his light troops, intimidating the disaffected.
On the 6th of March, Lord Cornwallis moved out in full force in the hope of surprising the light infantry under cover of a thick fog. A sharp skirmish ensued, but the advance of the British army obliged Williams to retire. The further designs of his lordship were disappointed by the junction of General Greene with his light infantry on the north-eastern bank of the Haw.
At length his reinforcements were received, and Greene, in hisMarch 14 turn, sought a battle. He dissolved the corps of light infantry, and encamped within eight miles of his enemy, at Guilford Court-house. His army, including officers, amounted to four thousand five hundred men, of whom not quite two thousand were continental troops. Of the four regiments composing the continental infantry, only one, the first Maryland, was veteran. The other three consisted of new levies, among whom a few old continental soldiers were interspersed. The officers were veteran.
Early in the morning of the 15th, the fire of his reconnoitring parties announced the approach of the enemy on the great Salisbury road, and his army was immediately arranged in order of battle. It was drawn up in three lines on a large hill, chiefly covered with trees and underwood.
The first line was composed of the North Carolina militia, who were posted on the edge of the wood, behind a strong rail fence, with an open field in front.
The Virginia militia formed the second line. They were drawn up in the wood, on either side of the great road, about three hundred yards in rear of the first.
The third line was placed about three hundred yards in rear of the second, and was composed of continental troops.
Washington’s dragoons, Kirkwood’s company of light infantry, and Lynch’s militia riflemen, formed a corps of observation for the security of the right flank, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Washington. The legion, and a body of militia riflemen, commanded by Colonels Campbell and Preston, formed a corps of observation for the security of the left flank, which was placed under Lieutenant-Colonel Lee. The artillery was in the front line, in the great road leading through the centre.
Lord Cornwallis, though sensible that the numbers of his adversary were augmented by troops who could not be kept long in the field, deemed it so important to maintain the appearance of superiority, that he resolved to hazard a general engagement. Early on the morning of the 15th, he moved from his ground, determined to attack the adverse army wherever it should be found. About four miles from Guilford Court-house, his advance, under Tarleton, fell in with Lee, and a sharp skirmish ensued, which terminated on his appearance in force. On coming within view of the American army, his disposition for the attack was made, and the British troops advanced to the charge with the cool intrepidity which discipline inspires.
The North Carolina militia broke instantly; and, throwing away their arms, fled through the woods, seeking their respective homes.
The second line received the charge with more firmness; and maintained their ground for some time. Lord Cornwallis, observing the corps on his flanks, brought up the whole of his reserved infantry into the line.
The British continuing to advance, and it being well understood that the militia could not stand the bayonet, the brigade of Stevens, who had maintained their ground, were ordered to retreat, and the enemy advanced boldly on the third line.
The several divisions of the British army had been separated from each other by extending themselves in order to engage the distinct corps which threatened their flanks; and by advancing in regiments at different times, as the different parts of the second line had given way. The thickness of the wood increased the difficulty of restoring order. They pressed forward with great eagerness, but with considerable irregularity.
Greene entertained the most sanguine hopes of victory. His continental troops were fresh, in perfect order, and about to engage an enemy broken into distinct parts. This fair prospect was blasted by the misconduct of a single corps. The fifth regiment of Maryland7 was posted at some distance from the first, its left forming almost a right angle with the line, so as to present a front to any corps which might attack on that flank. The second battalion of guards,8 following close on the brigade of Stevens, rushed on the fifth regiment of Maryland which broke in the utmost confusion. By pursuing them the guards were thrown into the rear of the first regiment of Maryland, then engaged with Webster,9 but concealed from their view by the unevenness of the ground, and by a skirt of wood.
About this time Webster had retired across a ravine into an adjoining wood. This critical respite enabled the corps that had been engaged with him to face the guards, who were called off from the pursuit of the fifth Maryland regiment, and brought against them by Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart. A very animated fire took place, during which the Americans gained ground.
In this critical moment, Lieutenant-Colonel Washington made a furious charge on the guards and broke their ranks. Almost at the same instant, the infantry10 rushed upon them with the bayonet, and following the horse through them were masters of the whole battalion. After passing through the guards, Howard, who then commanded the regiment, Colonel Gunby having been separated from it by his horse being killed under him and by the rapidity of its advance, perceived several British columns with some pieces of artillery. Believing his regiment to be the sole infantry remaining in the field, he retreated in good order, bringing off some prisoners, and was followed by the cavalry.
Greene observing the flight of the fifth Maryland regiment, and being unwilling to risk his remaining three regiments, only one of which could be relied on, had ordered Colonel Greene of Virginia to take a position in the rear, for the purpose of covering the retreat of the two regiments which still remained in the field. About the time that Howard withdrew from the action, the remaining Virginia regiment commanded by Colonel Hawes, and Kirkwood’s company, were also ordered to retire. The retreat was conducted in good order, and General Greene brought up the rear in person.
Though the action was over on the right and centre, Campbell’s riflemen still continued it on the extreme left.
After the first battalion of guards and the regiment of Bose had routed Lawson’s brigade, they were attacked by Campbell’s riflemen and the legion infantry, and the action was maintained with great obstinacy until the battle was decided on the right. Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton was ordered to charge the Americans, and they retired from the field.
Two regiments of infantry and a corps of cavalry pursued the right and centre of the Americans for a short distance, but were ordered to return. Lord Cornwallis found himself too much weakened in the action to hazard its renewal, or to continue the pursuit. General Greene halted about three miles from the field of battle for the purpose of collecting stragglers, and then retired twelve miles to the iron works on Troublesome creek.
The loss of the continental troops in killed, wounded, and missing, was fourteen officers, and three hundred and twelve non-commissioned officers and privates. Major Anderson of Maryland was killed; and General Huger was wounded.
The loss of the militia was stated at four Captains and seventeen privates killed. One Brigadier-General, one Major, three Captains, eight subalterns, and sixty privates, were wounded.
Official accounts state the loss of the British army at five hundred and thirty-two men, among whom were several officers of distinguished merit. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart was killed, and Lieutenant-Colonel Webster mortally wounded. The loss, compared with the numbers brought into the field, was very considerable. Lord Cornwallis stated his rank and file at fourteen hundred and forty-five.
No battle in the course of the war reflects more honor on the courage of the British troops than that of Guilford. On no other occasion have they fought with such inferiority of numbers or disadvantage of ground. General Greene’s army, estimating his first line at nothing, consisted of three thousand two hundred men, posted on ground chosen by himself; and his disposition was skilfully made.
The American General prepared for another engagement, but Lord Cornwallis found it necessary to retreat to a place of greater security, where provisions might be obtained.
When the expedition into North Carolina was meditated, Major Craig took possession of Wilmington on Cape Fear river. Lord Cornwallis now looked to a communication with this post, for aids which had become indispensable to his farther operations. On the 18th of March, he broke up his encampment and proceeded by slow and easy march, to Wilmington, where he arrived on the 7th of April.
General Greene resolved to follow him, but was so delayed by the necessity of waiting for a supply of ammunition, and by the difficulty of subsisting his troops, that he did not reach Ramsay’s mills till the 28th of March.
At this place he gave over the pursuit; and formed the bold and happy resolution to carry the war into South Carolina.
This unexpected movement gave a new aspect to affairs, and produced some irresolution in the British General respecting his future operations. He finally determined to advance into Virginia.
[1. ]Francis Marion (c. 1732–95) of South Carolina, in 1780 Lieutenant Colonel and then Brigadier General of the South Carolina militia (with rank of Colonel in the Continental army). Called the “Swamp Fox,” he formed Marion’s Brigade in late 1780, combining cavalry and infantry for a partisan (guerrilla) warfare that achieved a success and fame equal to that of his Continental counterpart, Light-Horse Harry Lee.
[2. ]Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) of New Jersey (Pennsylvania?) and Virginia, from 1777 Colonel of the Eleventh Virginia regiment of riflemen and sharpshooters, dubbed by Washington “the Corps of Rangers”; in late 1780 named Brigadier General in the Continental army and given command of an elite corps of infantry and light dragoons (mounted light infantry).
[3. ]Nathanael Greene (1742–86) of Rhode Island, Major General in the Continental army, Quartermaster General, 1778 to 1780.
[5. ]Supporters of the American Revolution were called Whigs and opponents Tories, echoing the names of rival parties in British politics originating in the seventeenth century; Marshall refers here to militiamen supporting the revolutionary cause.
[6. ]The Dan River crisscrosses the North Carolina-Virginia border just west of the Roanoke River. This part of the Southern campaign of 1780–81 is called by some later historians “The Race to the Dan.”
[7. ]Marshall refers to this unit as “the second regiment of Maryland,” perhaps following the records of a commander in the battle, Light-Horse Harry Lee’s Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States, 2 volumes (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1812; republished in 1827 and 1869). It is now clear, however, that the corps in question was Ford’s Fifth Maryland Regiment; Marshall’s references here and in the sequel have been corrected.
[8. ]The Second Battalion of Guards of the British army, commanded at Guilford Courthouse by Lieutenant Colonel (ultimately Major General) Charles O’Hara.
[9. ]James Webster (c. 1743–81), Lieutenant Colonel in the British army; by 1779 he was in effect serving as one of Cornwallis’ brigadier generals.
[10. ]The seasoned continental troops of the First Maryland Regiment, commanded by Colonel John Gunby, with Lieutenant Colonel John Howard as his second.