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.