Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas

It was mom more than Lauris or Mikus who was excited about the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC. The next morning after an exciting day at the Greensboro Science Center we drove back up to the same area to visit this historic site of a Revolutionary War battle considered by some to be a turning point of the war in the South.

Nathanael Greene's statue
On March 15th, 1781, the deciding battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign was fought at the small North Carolina town (really just an intersection) of Guilford Courthouse. Major General Nathanael Greene and his army of almost 4,500 American militia and Continentals were defeated by a smaller British army of about 1,900 soldiers led by Lord Charles Cornwallis. After 2 1/2 hours of fighting Cornwallis triumphed, pushing through all three of his opponent’s lines, but at the cost of 25% of his army; Greene's retreat lost the battle but may have won the war. Weakened in his campaign Cornwallis abandoned the South to head north for reinforcements, under the belief that possession of Virginia was the key to the war. Seven months later in Yorktown Lord Cornwallis would surrender to the combined American and French forces under General George Washington.

Maj. Joseph Winston's grave - fought under Lee and Campbell on the left front
The 220 acre Park is managed by the National Park Service. Established in 1917, it is partially the legacy of local resident David Schenck. At one point owned by his Guilford Battle Ground Company organization, the park was partially landscaped with memorials that often did not correspond to actual battle points but instead convenient locations. Today joggers, hikers and bicyclists outnumber visitors touring the battlefield, but the fact remains; the Park Service has created an easy-to-understand and educational memorial to this decisive battle.

One of the GBGC monuments - "who slew in this engagement eleven of the enemy"
We started our visit in the Visitor Center, obtaining Junior Ranger activity booklets and stamping our National Park passports. To better present the battleground to the public, a 2.25 self-guiding auto/bicycle tour has been devised, with 8 stopping points emphasizing various events/places of the battle, the first of which was just beyond the Visitor Center. This was where the first engagement against the Redcoats took place, and the next three stops presented information on the retreating troops and the second line. Then we learned about the preservation of the battlefield, and finally the last points told of the third line and the retreat, as well as contain monuments to General Greene and other important persons. Growing tired from several short hikes and weary under the hot sun, we headed back to the Visitor Center (completed Junior Ranger booklet in hand) for Lauris’s badge and a pit stop before trading in the heat for Greensboro Science Center.

The Turner monument honors the mother who rode all the way from Maryland to nurse her injured son
After such a successful morning at Guilford Courthouse we decided to stop at Kings Mountain National Military Park on our way back to Greenville the following day. Only a year before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse the English had changed their strategy in the War. They turned their attention towards the South, hoping to reestablish the southern royal colonies, after which they would then turn north to connect with troops at Chesapeake Bay and finally claim the eastern seaboard. Instead they encountered a fiercely divided South, not the loyalist colonies they had hoped for; plundering, burning and looting convinced many mountain settlers who had been to that point unconcerned about the war to saddle up and fight. Gen. Lord Cornwallis ordered Maj. Patrick Ferguson (who was reputed to be the best marksman in the British Army) to gather the loyalists into a militia, and eventually to lead an attack into western North Carolina. Patriot forces gave pursuit, and on October of 1780 they clashed at Kings Mountain.

Named for an early settler, Kings Mountain is a rocky spur of the same Blue Ridge Mountains that we had been touring this Labor Day weekend. Ferguson chose the small plateau on the spur to lay in wait for the Patriots, but the guerrilla tactics of the frontiersmen defeated the open-field trained Loyalists. Ferguson was shot and killed, and Cornwallis lost the entire left flank – possibly a deciding factor in the Guilford Courthouse battle? Once again, the Visitor Center is a wealth of information, and the 1.5 mile self-guiding Battlefield Trail (foot travel only) explores the ridge and slopes of the former battlegrounds.

A monument in the Guilford Courthouse NMP
Not even 30 miles east of Kings Mountain is yet another Revolutionary War site – Cowpens National Battlefield. However, this piece of the puzzle that is Revolutionary war history in the Carolinas would have to wait, as we were en route home to Greenville after a week on the road...

To read about another Revolutionary War site in the Carolinas, check out my post on Ninety Six National Historic Site.


  1. Thanks for the nice comment you left on my blog and glad I could share my travels. Wow you lived in France? I lover Germany but living in France would be amazing too! Hope I can stay here longer than expected as well!

    -Brittany Ruth

  2. This sounds like a great trip! I love these historical spots where life continues to go on around it, but the markers remind us of the past and all the people who fought for us to be able to take a jog in a beautiful park. There's a park like that near where I live. The Battle of Westport was fought in Kansas City during the Civil War. The history is so fascinating. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for your nice comment! I'm excited to follow along on your adventures:)

  3. Hi, More great education for your children. We love to visit military parks.. My hubby is a Confederate War buff --and loves Robert E. Lee.... We try to visit places where he was during his military career...


  4. I love all of the history that dots the East Coast. I've promised Gregory that one day we'll drive up and down it visiting Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields :)


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