Sunday, March 13, 2016

GUILFORD COURTHOUSE

"I never saw such fighting since God made me. The Americans fought like demons" 
Lord Cornwallis

GUILFORD COURTHOUSE NATIONAL BATTLEGROUND PARK

"We fight, get beat, rise and  fight again" - Nathaniel Greene


In the Piedmont backwoods of North Carolina in the newly formed county of Guilford stood a courthouse along the New Garden Road.  On March 15, 1781, two hundred thirty-five years ago, a battle took place that helped secure victory in the American Revolutionary War.  The Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion, spent the afternoon walking these hallowed grounds, learning some history and getting a 5 mile hike in as well.




Arriving an hour before the scheduled reenactment of the battle and securing the last available parking place at the visitor's center, we heard in the distance the fife and drum of a British detachment, marching through the park toward the battlefield.  As indicated by their soft brim hat, this detachment bore the uniform of the Coldstream Guards, part of the King's Own.  Of course these soldiers are a bit older and more portly than those who fought here 235 years ago, but were a splendid display nonetheless.

Having chased General Greene across the rolling hills of North Carolina to the Dan River of Virginia, General Cornwallis was eager to finally accept battle that was offered to him by Nathaniel Greene. 



His army arrived in the early dawn at the New Garden's Friends settlement now occupied by Guilford College.  There they encountered the cavalry of Colonel William Washington and engaged in a running battle with his forces for four miles across newly plowed fields.  As the fields gave way to wooded hilly terrain, Cornwallis found the Patriot Army arrayed on each side of the Great Salisbury Road (New Garden Road).

The Park is primarily on the south side of the old New Garden Road. 


It is in the margin of the right of way of New Garden Road, that our tour guide began his story of the battle.  The monument honors the death of Captain James Tate, one of Washington's cavalry officers who was mortally wounded and left to die at this spot at the beginning of the battle.




Nearby is the oldest monument in the park commemorating the service of a North Carolina militiaman,  Captain Arthur Forbis, who died in wooded first line of battle.  History disputes the steadfastness of the North Carolina militia.  This monument seeks to set the record straight. 


General Greene arrayed the militia on both sides of the New Garden Road and asked them to fire two volleys into the oncoming British Army. 

By most accounts, the militia did their job inflicting serious damage to the front lines of the British troops.  Forbis is said to have picked off a British officer with his long rifle. 

As the North Carolina militia disappeared from the field of battle, the British troops followed them into the thick hardwood Piedmont forest.  There they were met by Virginia militia whose fire succeeded in breaking up the British formation forcing the battle into many individual skirmishes. 



Standing in this area of the park is the monument of General Greene.  Nearby is a statue marking the graves of two of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence.

"America must raise an empire of permanent duration, supported by the grand pillars of Truth, Freedom and Religion, encouraged by the smiles of Justice and defended by her own patriotic sons" - Nathaniel Green


Historians have fought for decades over the location of the third line of battle.  For nearly a half century the line was marked by two obelisks on mirrored hills separated by a green lawn.

In the later part of the 20th century, historians changed their mind and now believe the third line is in actually in the woods further to the east.  The green lawn has been planted with trees...go figure. 













What we do know is that three regiments of Continental soldiers from Maryland and Delaware aided by the cavalry of Col. William Washington fought the British to a standstill in the fields surrounding Guilford Courthouse. 



The battle was concluded when General Cornwallis fearing defeat loosed cannon grapeshot into the battle forcing the Patriot army from the field.
Though the British Army retained the field they paid for the ground with the blood of nearly 25 per cent of their force.  It was deemed a turning point in the Southern Campaign.
The park is a wonderful gem located in the heart of the Piedmont Triad.  Many greenways intersect at the park and there are ample wooded walking trails crisscrossing the battlefield. 




As you walk these grounds, never forget that this is place where brave men fighting for their country gave their lives. 

Throughout the year there are many opportunities to visit the park when reenactors are present. 
Annually the park hosts a recreation of the battle which we witnessed.  While small in scale the "battle" consisted of over 300 soldiers, cannon, cavalry and a wonderful history lesson.  Put it on your bucket list! 




Access to the park is off New Garden Road in Greensboro.   Parking is adequate on normal days but on event days it is limited.  Rate this a 9;





Trails are well marked and easily navigated. Rate this a 9;  Scenery is not spectacular but very interesting...seasonal foliage is nice too...rate that 8;  Add the battle reenactment and the hike is a 10....seldom do you get to interact among over 300 Revolutionary War soldiers.






"Cornwallis, as well as most of his men, was fully convinced they met a force of 7000 men.  British intelligence was of course wrong; however, the Americans still outnumbered their enemy two to one. Facing such odds, having little to eat in nearly twenty-four hours, and having marched roughly ten miles fighting numerous running skirmishes prior to engaging Greene's first line, it is a wonder they did not collapse at Guilford.  Yet, they didn't.  Instead Cornwallis persevered with the kind of courage and tenacity that did them great honor."  excerpt from the book Long, Obstinate and Bloody - The Battle of Guilford Courthouse  by Lawrence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard                                        


On Sunday morning, March 13, 2016, the Crown Troops who fought so bravely at the battle of Guilford Courthouse were honored with a monument, the first new monument in the park in over 50 years.  It is erected not 20 yards from the Alfred Forbis monument at the edge of the first line of battle