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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

March 15th, 1781- The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Conflict: American Revolution

Combatants: Americans vs. British

Location: North Carolina

Outcome: Tactical British victory - American Strategic victory

Following the stunning and expected victory over the British at Cowpens, American General Nathaniel Greene and Daniel Morgan retreated into southern Virginia to avoid the pursuit of General Charles Cornwallis. But when the British general turned his troops back at the Dan River, Greene, now reinforced with militia and raw Continental troops, followed Cornwallis.

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse by H. Charles McBarron

On March 14th of 1781, Greene halted his army at Guilford Courthouse and arranged defensive lines. Cornwallis brought 1900 British soldiers to bear on the Americans the following day. Although outnumbered two-to-one, the British lines were filled with seasoned and professional soldiers, nearly two-thirds of Greene's army were militia or new recruits.

The veteran British charged and drove the American militia from the field. Greene seized the moment to withdraw from the battle and preserve the remainder of his forces. The British had won the field but at the cost of 93 dead and over 400 wounded. The Americans had taken around 250 casualties all told. Cornwallis found himself compelled to abandon Georgia and the Carolinas to the Americans and retreated into Virginia.

Points of Interest:

  • Greene helped to assemble a militia company in 1774 but was forced to serve in the ranks as a private due to a game leg.

  • Despite the failure of his Southern Campaign and defeat at Yorktown, Cornwallis avoided most of the blame in both the press and public eye. He was appointed to many important positions throughout the rest of his life and was serving as governor-general of India when he died in 1805.

Major General Nathaniel Greene by an unknown artist
First Marquis of Cornwallis by an unknown artist



Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, & Bongard, David L. (1992). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: Castle Books (HarperCollins).

Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.

Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Leckie, Robert (1992). George Washington's War. New York: HarperCollins.

McDowell, Bart (1967). The Revolutionary War. Washington D.C., National Geographic Society.

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