At Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, you can walk the fields where American and British soldiers fought one of the most decisive battles of the Revolutionary War. Special events, including encampments and tactical demonstrations, are scheduled for next weekend in commemoration of the 229th anniversary of that battle.
The parks are in Greensboro, about 95 miles from Charlotte. Plan on a two-hour drive, one way.
Take Interstate 85 North to the Greensboro area; take Exit 120B; follow I-73 North. At I-73 Exit 3, follow Joseph M. Bryan Boulevard east (toward downtown) to New Garden Road. Turn left on New Garden Road, cross Battleground Avenue (U.S. 220) and follow signs.
To see and do
Weathered cannon, bronze and granite monuments, battlefield tours, ranger talks and museum exhibits present the story of the battle that all but ended British efforts to regain control of the Southern colonies.
Although troops commanded by Lord Cornwallis held the field at the end of the bloody engagement, Guilford Courthouse was a hollow victory for the British. Cornwallis lost more than a fourth of his fighting force during the two-hour encounter, causing him to retreat to the relative safety of Wilmington. His American adversary, Nathanael Greene, was left free to move into South Carolina and gradually wrest back territory the British had gained the year before.
The city of Greensboro was later named in honor of the general whose "defeat" at Guilford Courthouse actually helped win American independence.
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought the morning of March 15, 1781. In the months before, successes the British had initially experienced in South Carolina and Georgia in 1780 were offset by unexpected reversals. Backcountry militia dealt a deadly blow to a regiment of British loyalists at Kings Mountain in October, 1780. The following January, the feared Banastre Tarleton and his dragoons were humiliated by American militia and regulars under Daniel Morgan at Cowpens.
American Gen. Greene then led Cornwallis on a chase to Virginia - drawing British troops further from their supply bases while the American army more than doubled in size. When Greene finally chose to stand and fight, more than 4,400 regulars and militia opposed some 2,000 British.
Nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker," Greene employed tactics similar to those used so successfully by Morgan at Cowpens. N.C. militia formed his first line, Virginia sharpshooters formed the second, and veteran Maryland and Virginia regulars the third. The British broke through the first two lines, and the two armies became thoroughly enmeshed. When Patriot cavalry threatened to give the advantage to the Americans, Cornwallis ordered his artillery to fire into the fray, killing friend and foe alike. Many British soldiers were felled by the "friendly fire," but the tactic also forced the Americans to retreat, ending the battle.
Tannenbaum Historic Park borders the battlefield. It includes the restored farmstead of Joseph Hoskins. The farm served as a staging area for the British before the battle. In addition to the house, kitchen and barn, the site also includes the Colonial Heritage Center, with exhibits depicting life before, during and after the battle.