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Battle of Guilford Courthouse


On the 15 th  day of March 1781, the men of Guilford spent a restless night behind a split rail fence that separated the Hoskins and Mitchell farms. Nearly a thousand men, mostly militia from all over North Carolina, had joined the local men of Guilford. The bugler played reveille and then the cooks served breakfast. Shots could be heard near New Garden meeting house as they ate.

Major General Nathanael Greene and his second in command Light-Horse Harry

Lee rode up to give the men final instructions and a pep-talk. Most of the

Continental line were fighting for independence from British rule. Adam and his

neighbors would fight for their country and the safety of their families. His wife,

mother and children waited, sequestered in their spring house only a quarter mile

behind him. Directly in line of the British artillery and charging red coats.

It was noon before the red coats arrived. Lining up side-by-side four hundred

yards away from the split rail fence. Their line about that of the North Carolina

Militia in length and men. A second line of about a thousand more British foot

soldiers formed below Hoskins house, out of sight. Three six-pound cannons were

wheeled into line and pointed directly at the men of Guilford.

British and Hessian soldiers with bayonets, supported by artillery fire, made it

through the first line of the NC Militia. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. Adam

was captured by the British. Neighbors Thomas Wiley and William Paisley were

seriously wounded. The battle moved toward the spring house. The second line

five hundred yards behind the first surprised the British and for a moment held

them at bay. At the third and final line, the outnumbered British were

overwhelmed by Major General Greene’s best troops. General Cornwallis ordered

his artillery to fire into the melee of troops fighting hand to hand. The grape shot

killed and mangled as many British as Continental soldiers. The bombardment

halted the fighting enough that Greene retreated at about 4:00 p.m. toward the

west along the Reedy Fork Road. Technically, Cornwallis won the battle, but lost

the Revolutionary War at a place called Guilford Courthouse. The Mitchell family

all survived but their home was destroyed, and their corn fields littered with

hundreds of wounded and dead soldiers.

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