In 1867, The Historical Magazine published “Extracts from the Journal of Lieutenant Thomas Anderson.” The original manuscript at that time belonged to the Maryland Historical Society. Unfortunately the original document cannot be found. Anderson’s journal has been quoted in numerous histories of the Revolutionary War in the South in 1780-1782, but the 1867 published version leaves out much information. It skips entries from June 21-July 19 and July 26-August 11, 1780, and March 20-August 26, 1781. The latter exclusion is surprising as the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill and Gen. Nathanael Greene’s siege of Ninety-Six are omitted. Nearly six months of entries after mid-September are skipped. We are fortunate a nineteenth century transcription of the journal resides in the Peter Force Collection of the Library of Congress, as Series 7E, Mss. 19,061, Item 4, Reel 1, and this document forms the basis of this article.
In April 1780, after consulting with the Continental Congress, George Washington decided to send the Maryland Division, which included the Delaware Regiment, to succor South Carolina. Shortages of provisions and transport plagued the march, and the division was still in Virginia when Charlestown surrendered on May 12. Major General Baron de Kalb continued the march and led until late July when Gen. Horatio Gates arrived to take command and lead his troops into the disastrous battle of Camden.
Anderson’s journal begins on May 6, 1780, and concludes with his arrival back in Delaware on April 7, 1782. Here we present the portion from May 1780 through March 1781. There are numerous histories of the war in the South that chronicle this period, such as John Buchanan, The Road to Charleston: Nathanael Greene and the America Revolution (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019), John S. Pancake, This Destructive War: The British Campaign in the Carolinas, 1780-1782 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992), John W. Gordon, South Carolina in the American Revolution: A Battlefield History (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003), and Dan L. Morrill, Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution (Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Nautical & Aviation Publishing, 1993).
Though somewhat outdated for the Delaware regiment overall, Christopher L. Ward’s The Delaware Continentals. 1776-1783 (Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1941) remains a useful source. Soldiers’ memoirs besides Anderson’s include William Seymour, “A Journal of the Southern Expedition, 1780-1783,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 7, (1883): 286-98, 377-94, and Joseph Brown Turner, ed., “The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line,” Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware 56 (Wilmington: The Historical Society of Delaware, 1910). The participants’ accounts sometimes greatly vary. Kirkwood for the action at Cowpens only notes “Defeated Tarlton,” for Hobkirk’s Hill only that the “enemy sallyed out and drove us back.” Anderson gives a great deal more detail.
In 1820 Anderson applied for a pension based on his military service. He stated he had enlisted as a private in the Delaware Regiment in January 1776, was later commissioned a second lieutenant, became a first lieutenant on May 1, 1781, and served until 1783, having been in twenty-nine battles and skirmishes. He lived with his family consisting of a sixty year old wife, a son who was a cripple, and a thirty year old daughter who kept house. His sole means of support came from boarding two young men. The inventory of his entire estate showed a total value of $23.50, including a picture of General Washington, valued at $.75. He was pensioned with $20.00 per month commencing April 11, 1818.
Another source shows he became sergeant major and regimental quartermaster for the Delawares, was commissioned ensign in September 1778, and became a second lieutenant a year later. He was promoted to first lieutenant on May 1, 1780, the rank he held to the end of the war. On April 4, 1821, he made out his will and died within the month.
Anderson recorded the miles he marched each day in a column running down the right side of each page. For readability, the transcription here places the milage at the end of each day’s entry.
Journal of Thomas Anderson’s 1st Delaware Regiment
May 6th Marched from Wilmington to Newark, 11 [miles]
7th Marched to the Head of Elk, 7 [miles]
8th Set sail from the Head of Elk in company with fifty sail of vessels, being the Second Maryland Brigade, destined for Petersburg, in Virginia, at which place the sloop I was in arrived on the 23d, sailing in all, 350 [miles]
30th Marched off from Petersburg, and encamped at Rockaway Meeting House, 15 [miles]
June 1st. Marched to Commissary Lamb’s, Brunswick Co., 15 [miles]
2d. Marched to Short’s Ordinary, 16 [miles]
3d. Marched to Stoney [Stony] Creek, 18 [miles]
4th. March to Taylor’s Ferry on the Roanoke―-crossed, and encamped on its banks, 8 [miles]
6th. Marched into Granville County, N. Carolina, 18 [miles]
22 Marched to Hillsborough, 15 [miles]
30 Marched from Hillsborough, crossed the Haw River, 15 [miles]
July 1st. Marched and encamped in the woods, 6 [miles]
2d. Marched to Chatham Court House, 18 [miles]
28 Marched to Cottons, 15 [miles]
29 Marched to Smiths Mill on Little River, 18 [miles]
Aug. 1st. Marched — crossed the P. D. [Pee Dee] at Massey’s Ferry, and encamped
on Ingram’s farm, Hanson County, 10 [miles]
2d. Marched to May’s Mill, 15 [miles]
3d. Marched to Thompson’s Creek, which is the Line between North and South Carolina, 15 [miles]
8th. Marched to Big Linches Creek, 16 [miles]
10th Marched and encamped in the woods, 7 [miles]
12th. Marched this day, and lay all night on our arms, 6 [miles]
13th. Marched to Rudgeley’s [Ridgeleys] Mill, 16 [miles]
15th Marched this night and met the enemy, 7 [miles]
16th About one o’clock in the morning met with the enemy at Sutton’s farm and drove back their advanceguard We then halted and formed the Line of battle, and lay on our arms until daylight, at which time the enemy advanced and charged our left wing, where the Militia was formed, who gave way, which give the enemy an opportunity of turning our left flank and got in our rear. The action soon became desperate and bloody for some time, but we were at last obliged to give way, with the loss of all our Artillery and baggage, and The loss of our Regiment in the action was Lieutenant Colonel Vaughan, Major Patten, Captains Learmonth and Rhodes, Lieutenants Purvis Duff Skilington and Roche, with seventy rank and file. Our marches on the retreat such that I can give no particulars, Untill we arrived at Salisbury in North Carolina on the twenty-first, but computed them at 123 [miles]
- Marched and crossed the Yadkin River at the old trading Ford, 7 [miles]
Marched from thence to Guilford Court House and lay a few days, 30 [miles]
Marched from thence to Hillsborough, where we came up with General Gates with the remains of our Army, 45 [miles]
Oct. 7th. This day there was three companies of Light Infantry chosen of Army, the first commanded by Captain Brewin [Bruen] of the Virginia Line; the second by Captain Kirkwood of the Delawares, in which I served as Lieutenant; the third by Captain Brooks of the Marylanders, and the whole by Col. Morgan. 1018 [miles]
18th. Marched to Colonel Lock’s, 5 [miles]
19th. Marched to Fifer’s Mill,15 [miles]
- Marched about two miles below Esqr. Alexanders, 23 [miles]
- Marched to Six Mile Creek and joined the Militia under the command of General Davidson. 16 [miles]
25 Moved our encampment in front of the Militia; this place is within fifteen miles of Charlotte, While we lay at this place, Colonel Morgan received his commission of Brigadier from Congress, 1 [miles]
Nov. 4. This day General Morgan’s Light Infantry, with Colonel Washington’s Cavalry marched down towards Rudgeley’s [Ridgely’s Mill], within thirteen miles of Camden to reconnoiter the enemy, and returned to camp on the 9th instant; marched 100 [miles]
22. This day the Maryland Division arrived here,
28 Received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at a moments warning; accordingly left our tents standing, with all our sick behind, and marched to Twelve Mile Creek — this creek is the line between North and South Carolina. From thence we marched to the Hanging Rock, where the infantry remained, whilst Colonel Washington with his Cavalry went down to Colonel Rudgely’s [Ridgely’s] and with the deception of A pine top took the garrison, consisting of one Colonel, one Major, three Captains, four Lieutenants, and one hundred rank and file.
17 Marched to Charlotte, 15 [miles]
22 Crossed the river and marched 5 [miles]
23 Marched 16 [miles]
24 Marched 13 [miles]
25 Marched 8 [miles]
Jany 14th Marched 10 [miles]
16 Marched to the Cowpens, 12 [miles]
17 Before day received information that Colonel Talton [Tarleton] was within five miles of us with a strong body of horse and infantry — whereon we got up and put ourselves in order of battle — by day light they hove in sight, halted and formed the line in full view. As we had no artillery to annoy them, and the General not thinking it prudent to advance from the ground we had formed on, we looked at each other for a considerable time. About sunrise they began the attack by the discharge of two pieces of cannon and three Huzzas advancing briskly on our Riflemen that was posted in front who fought well, disputing the ground that was between them and us — flying from one tree to another; at last being forced to give ground, they fell back in our rear. The enemy seeing us standing in such good order halted for some time to dress their Line, which outflanked ours considerably. They then advanced on boldly, under a very heavy fire, until they got within a few yards of us, but their Line was so much longer than ours, they turned our flanks, which caused us to fall back some distance. The enemy thinking that we were broke set up a great shout, charged us with their bayonett, but in no order. We let them come within ten or fifteen yards of us, then give them a full volley, and at the same time charged them home; they not expecting any such thing, put them in such confusion that we were in amongst them with the bayonet, which caused them to give ground, and at last to take to flight; but we followed them up so close that they never could get in order again until we killed and took the whole of the Infantry prisoners. At the same time we charged, Colonel Washington charged the horse, which soon give way. We followed them ten miles, but not being able to come up with them, returned back to the field of battle that night, and lay amongst the dead and wounded, very well pleased with our day’s work. Marched this day, 20 [miles]
Feby. 1st. The enemy, under the command of Earl Cornwallis, crossed the river below where General Davidson, with some of the North Carolina Militia was posted, killed the General and some of the men, which caused us to march for Salisbury for fear that they would get between us and our Army, which were on their way for Guilford. We arrived at Colonel Lock’s [Locke] before day — every step being up to our knees in mud — it raining on us all the way, 30 [miles]
4th. Marched this night 13 [miles]
Feby. 5th. Marched 16 [miles]
6thJoined our Army at Guilford Court House 18 [miles]
8th. Marched this night 5 [miles]
9th Colonel Lee fell upon the advance of the enemy’s horse — took one Captain and six Dragoons with their horses, and killed seventeen. This night I was sent off with the prisoners, with orders to join the Infantry the next day at the iron works, but before I got there they had moved — I followed after, and came up with them where they had halted to cook breakfast. The videt seeing me coming in, took my party for some of the enemy, fired on us, and rode in as fast as he could, which alarmed them very much, as they expected them the same road that I came. Marched this and the next morning 34 [miles]
17th. Finding the enemy had halted, we recrossed the Bannister River, our Army at this time being encamped at Halifax Court House, Virginia, and marched 6 [miles]
20th. Received intelligence that the enemy had marched for Hillsborough, in North Carolina, crossed the Dan River, and marched 9 [miles]
Feb. 21. Marched 5 [miles]
22 Marched to Dobbin’s Farm, where the enemy had encamped, 12 [miles]
23 Marched 12 [miles]
24 Marched 12 [miles]
March 6th. Marched to the south branch of Haw River, 36 [miles]
7th The enemy stole a march in the night, and was within one mile of our camp before they were discovered. I was on piquit in front about half mile. Our Infantry moved off and left me there for some time so that the enemy had got almost round me before that I was ordered to come off. We marched, and crossed the South Branch of Haw River at Whitesel’s Mills, leaving a party of Militia on the other side which was soon drove over. Marched this day, 21 [miles]
8th. Marched to Troublesome Creek, 12 [miles]
March 9th Marched, and encamped on the ground where the enemy lay — crossing Troublesome and Haw River 10 [miles]
10th The Infantry were ordered to join their respective Regiments, except two Companies, the one commanded by Captain Kirkwood, and the other by Lieutenant Huffman, for to join Colonel Washington, to act as a Legion with his Cavalry. Marched this day, 7 [miles]
11th. Colonel Lee’s Cavalry took thirty prisoners. Marched 7 [miles]
12th Marched towards Guilford Court-House, 5 [miles]
13th. Marched 7 [miles]
14th. Marched within three miles of Guilford Court House, 8 [miles]
15th Commenced the action of Guilford between the Armies commanded by Generals Green and Cornwallis, in which a number were killed on both sides. General Green drew off his Army with the loss of all his Artillery. Out of our two Companies, we had Lieutenant Huffman killed, and Ensign Vaughan wounded. Marched 16 [miles]
20th Marched, 7 [miles]
21st. Marched towards Deep River 21 [miles]
22d Marched near the Little Alamance River, 5 [miles]
23d Marched, 4 [miles]
24th. Marched 7 [miles]
26th Marched to Mr. Brooks’ Farm near Wilcocks Iron Works, 10 [miles]
27th Marched, 10 [miles]
28th Marched and crossed Deep River at Ramsey’s Mill on the Bridge that the enemy made — this day we expected a general action, but the enemy thought it best to decline it by a speedy march for Cross Creek, 14 [miles]
29th Marched 3 [miles]
30th. Marched towards the Gulph Mill on Deep River, 4 [miles]
31st Marched 14 [miles]
April 1st. Marched 3 [miles]
3d. Crossed Deep River, and marched up it 9 [miles]
7th Marched towards Buffalo Ford, and encamped at Brush Creek, 18 [miles]
8th Crossed Buffalo Ford and marched to the widow Spinks farm, 16 [miles]
9th Marched to Cotton’s farm, 15 [miles]
10th Marched and crossed Little River, 20 [miles]
11th Crossed P. D. [Pee Dee] River at Colston’s Ferry, 15 [miles]
13th Crossed Rocky River, 3 [miles]
14th Marched near May’s Mill, 18 [miles] [2187 miles]
Pension Application S39941, transcribed by Will Graves, revwarapps.org/S39941.pdf.
Petersburg was the rendezvous for infantry which came by ship, and the artillery and baggage, which came by land. A. E. Zucker, General De Kalb, Lafayette’s Mentor(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966), 198-99. De Kalb was bitter about the lack of support he received and wrote: “I meet with no support, no integrity, and no virtue in the State of Virginia.” Ibid., 200.
Kirkwood noted they encamped here. Joseph Brown Turner, ed., “The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line,” Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware56 (Wilmington: The Historical Society of Delaware, 1910), 9.
Kirkwood made no entry for July 3, but included on July 5 “Marched this day to Deep River which we crossed 14.” “Journal,”10. On July 9 De Kalb wrote from “Camp on Deep River” to Thomas Sim Lee, governor of Maryland on provisions: “The Scarcity of this last Article is very distressing and will in all Probability prevent my going nearer the Enemies Lines. Being obliged to send the greatest part of the Troops out for Supplies I hardly could obtain any thing this long time but by Military Authority … It will be next to impossible to keep the field if no Method is fastened upon to supply the Troops.” Maryland Historical Magazine, 49 (1954), 16-17. This accounted for the two week stays at this time.
On June 13, the Continental Congress appointed Horatio Gates commander of the Southern Department. He left to take up his command on June 29. In a letter a few days later to Benjamin Lincoln he lamented he succeeded “To the command of an Army without Strength — a Military Chest without Money, A Department apparently deficient in public Spirit, and a Climate that encreases Despondency instead of animating the Soldiers Arms.” Samuel White Patterson, Horatio Gates: Defender of American Liberties (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941), 301-303. When he arrived the army was at Wilcox’s Mills on the Deep River, in North Carolina.
Gates had startled everyone by ordering the army towards British held Camden, South Carolina. The troops were suffering from shortages of food and wracked by dystentery. Unripened corn and green peaches were much of their food on the march. Benson Bobrick, Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution(New York: Simon & Shuster, 1997), 401. Gates had written to Gov.r Thomas Jefferson about the “unpardonable neglect” of Virginia and North Carolina in supplying “your half-starved Fellow-Citizens … Flour, Rum, and Droves of Bullocks should without delay be forwarded to this Army.” Patterson, Gates, 306.
Francis, Lord Rawdon had moved out of Camden to block Gates’ advance. Gates tried an envelopment of Rawdon’s left, which Rawdon avoided, and retired back to Camden. Rawdon was reinforced by Cornwallis from Charlestown, which Gates was ignorant of. Cornwallis decided to attack as he thought delay would mean more men joining the Continental forces. Zucker, General De Kalb, 221.
The left wing of Gates’s army consisted of untrained North Carolina and Virginia Militia. Faced with experienced British regulars, nearly all fled in a panic, taking Gates with them. The 2nd Maryland brigade including the Delawares, and the 1st Maryland Brigade fought stoutly, but greatly outnumbered, were shot down or forced to surrender. Officers were able to gather about sixty Delawares and Marylanders, the only organized American group in the retreat. Otho Holland Williams estimated that 2,000 of the 3,000 Americans fled without firing a shot. W. J. Wood, Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781(Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1990), 185.In a pension application, North Carolina militiaman Garret Watts said “I was amongst the first that fled. The cause of that I cannot tell … It was instantanteous. There was no rally, no encouragement to fight.” John C. Dann, ed., The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 195.
On August 30, Christopher Richmond wrote from Hillsboro, North Carolina to Governor Lee, commenting on “the violent Heat of the Weather, the Want of Provisions, and other Obstacles … the uncommon, and most unheard of Cowardice, of the Militia which was with us; and composed at least two Thirds of our Army. The Maryland & Delaware Regimts. behaved like Men — how many of them are saved I cannot at present tell.” Maryland Historical Magazine, 49 (1956), 124. Kirkwood recorded the “very Desparate” action continued for half an hour. “Journal” 11.
British soldier John Robert Shaw remembered, “The whole of the militia … with the exception of only one North Carolina regiment, took to their heels the first fire.” Don N. Hagist,British Soldiers: American War(Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2012), 33. The British suffered 324 casualties while the Americans lost an estimated 250 killed and 800 wounded, who were captured. Howard H. Peckham, ed., The Toll of Independence: Engagements and Battle Casualties of the American Revolution(Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1974), 74.
Joseph Vaughan, John Patten, John Learmonth, John Rhodes, George Purvis, Henry Duff, Elijah Skillington, and Edward Roche or Roach were all taken prisoner. On October 12, Gen. Mordecai Gist wrote to Delaware Gov. Caesar Rodney that “I have the pleasure to inform you that the Officers and men of this Regiment, with the whole of the Regular Troops behav’d with the firmness and Intrepidity which would have ensured us a Compleat Victory, had not the scandalous conduct of the Militia, left us to oppose the Torrent of superior numbers … The loss of Men will render it necessary to reduce the Brigade and incorporate the whole into one Regiment, of which your Troops will form two Companies.” Delaware Archives: Military, Volume I(Wilmington: Public Archives Commission of Delaware, 1911), 622-23.
After the October 7 Battle of Kings Mountain, Cornwallis felt some apprehensions for his safety, and on October 14, left Charlotte, North Carolina, and fell back to Winnsboro, South Carolina, arriving there on October 29 after a ghastly march with rain nearly every day and food so short that for five days the army lived on Indian corn collected in the fields. Wickwire, Cornwallis, 221-22. He spent over two months encamped at Winnsboro, attempting to restore his army, but instead his problems increased. Unending transport problems forced him to strip the countryside of food from Winnsboro to Camden and below, alienating friends and hardening the resistance of foes. Wickwire, Cornwallis, 230-31; 237-39. By December 3, he was writing to Sir Henry Clinton that the loyalist militia of Ninety-Six “was so totally disheartened by the defeat of Ferguson that … we could with difficulty assemble one hundred and even those … would not have made the smallest resistance if they had been attacked.” Lyman C. Draper. King’s Mountain and its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain (New York City: Dauber & Pine Bookshops, 1929), 376.
Kirkwood recorded they were within fourteen miles of Charlotte, and the place was named New Providence. “Journal,” 12. Daniel Morgan had left the Continental Army in 1779, in part due to dissatisfaction that he had not been promoted to brigadier general. Gates wrote to the President of Congress on July 4, 1780, pleading that Morgan be promoted and assigned to him in the South where he would put Morgan “at the Head of a Select Corps from whom I expect the most brillant Success.” Don Higginbotham, DanielMorgan, Revolutionary Rifleman(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,1961), 104. Gates’s adjutant general wrote that the army was making ready to move against the enemy, and was only waiting for shoes expected this date. Otho Holland Williams to John Stull, October 26, 1780, Calendar of the General Otho Holland Williams Papers in the Maryland Historical Society(Baltimore: The Maryland Historical Records Survey Project, 1940), 25.
Since the debacle at Camden, Gates had strived to rebuild his force, but in late October was lamenting to Richard Peters, secretary of the Board of War, “I am tired of writing to Congress — to Governors and through them to you, upon the miserable detail of wants of deficiencies.” Despite lack of aid from the North, Gates accomplished “an astonishing feat” in rebuilding a force of nearly a thousand Continental soldiers, and a greater number of militia. Patterson, Gates, 316, 318.
Maj. Gen. William Smallwood reported to Greene that: “The enemy gaining intelligence of the advance of our troops, retreated, and whilst the covering party remained on that duty, lieutenant-colonel Washington with the continental and some militia horse, reduced colonel Rugley, major Cook and 112 tory officers and soldiers (in a logged Barn on Rugley’s plantation, strongly secured by abatis) to surrender at discretion, without firing a shot. The colonel’s address and stratagem, on the occasion, deserve applause; having no artillery, he mounted a pine log, and holding out the appearance of an attack with field pieces, carried his point, by sending a flag and demanding an immediate surrender.” The Maryland Gazette, January 11, 1781. About 110 Loyalists under Col. Henry Rugeley were taken without casualties at Rugeley’s Mills, Clermont, South Carolina. Peckham, Toll of Independence, 77-78.
Otho Holland Williams wrote, “A manly resignation marked the conduct of General Gates on the arrival of his successor, whom he received at headquarters with that liberal and gentlemanly air … General Greene observed a plain, candid, respectful manner … the officers who were present had an elegant lesson of propriety exhibited on a most delicate and interesting occasion.” Bobrick, Angel, 427.
 See Lawrence Babits, A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), for the best account of the battle. Washington led two charges against the British. In the second he had a personal encounter with Tarleton, who, unsupported by many of his dragoons, fled the field. Haller, William Washington, 90-92. Patriot losses were 12 killed and 60 wounded. Tarleton lost about 110 killed, 200 wounded, and 527 captured. Peckham, Toll of Independence, 79. The Americans also took two cannon, 2 regimental flags, 25 wagons, and 800 muskets, with 70 Negroes the British officers had used as servants. Higginbotham, DanielMorgan, 141.
Morgan had to retire as Cornwallis’s army was between his force and Greene. He crossed the main Catawba River at Sherrill’s Ford on January 23, and encamped on the north side, safe for the time being. Wood, Battles, 227.
Gen. William Lee Davidson and a small group of militia opposed Cornwallis’s crossing at Cowan’s Ford on the Catawba River. Four Americans were killed and three captured. Peckham, Toll of Independence, 80.
On this day began the “Retreat to the Dan” which ended on February 14, when Greene’s force crossed the Dan River in Virginia. Cornwallis was now 230 miles from his main bases. Cornwallis gambled everything on overtaking and destroying the Continental army, but he lost. Clyde R. Ferguson, “Carolina and Georgia Patriot and Loyalist Militia in Action, 1778-1783,” in Jeffrey J. Crow and Larry E. Tise, The Southern Experience in the American Revolution(Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1978), 187.
Kirkwood did not mention this action. On February 23, Henry Lee’s Legion and Andrew Pickens’ militia surprised 400 Loyalists under Col. John Pyle, killed 90, wounded others and dispersed the remainder. Peckham, Toll of Independence, 81.
“The difficulties and hardships which the troops endured in that ineffectual pursuit, were sustained with a heroism that was inspired by the idea of terminating the contest by one decisive blow.”Roger Lamb, An Original and Authentic Journal of Occurences During the Late American War, From Its Commencement to the Year 1783(Dublin: Wilkinson & Company, 1809; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1968), 346-47.
Lewis Morris, Jr. wrote to his father from Halifax Court House, Virginia, on February 19, proudly discussing the Greene’s retreat while “closely pressed by a much superior army … The retreat was performed without and loss — not even a broken wagon to show that we were hurried.” Quoted in Commager Morris, The Spirit of Seventy-Six, 1161.
Cornwallis had withdrawn to Hillsboro, where he expected the local Tories would rally to him, as he had chased Greene out of the state. Little support arrived and he left on February 27 as food ran short.
At Wetzell’s Mill, on Reedy Fork Creek in North Carolina, British forces attacked a body of infantry and Continental cavalry under Col. Otho Holland Williams, who fought a delaying action and retreated. Haller, William Washington, 103.The Americans lost 8 killed and 12 wounded, while the British had 30 casualties and numerous desertions. Peckham, Toll of Independence, 6.
The definitive account of the battle is Lawrence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard.Long, Obstinate and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009). Cornwallis marched from New Garden towards Guilford, a twelve mile hike, hoping to catch Greene off guard, but Henry Lee was two miles in front of Greene’s force and skirmished with them, “fighting and retreating for about half-an-hour, which disconcerted and retarded the enemy very considerably.” William Campbell to Rev. Cumming, September 1780, [sic], Robert Wilson Gibbes, Documentary History of the American Revolution Consisting of Letters and Papers … 1776-1782, (New-York: D. Appleton & Co., 1857), 139. Lamb called it “one of the most signal battles ever gained by British valour.” Lamb,An Original and Authentic Journal, 349. Francis Dundas wrote “I wish it had produced one substantial benefit to Great Britain, on the contrary, we feel at the moment the sad and fatal effects our loss that Day, nearly one half of our best Officers and Soldiers were either killed or wounded, and so completely worn out by the excessive Fatigues of the campaign, has totally destroyed this army.” Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 381-82.
Of some 4,444 American troops, losses were 78 killed, 183 wounded, and about a thousand missing. Peckham, Toll of Independence, 82. Cornwallis lost 532 out of his force of 1,900. Wood, Battles, 256. On April 10, 1781, Cornwallis wrote from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Gen. William Phillips that he “was obliged to fight a battle 200 miles from any communication against an enemy seven times my number.” Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, eds., The Spirit of Seventy-Six — The Story of the American Revolution as told by Participants. (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 1201. Cornwallis withdrew to Wilmington and then confounded both Greene and Sir Henry Clinton with the decision to march into Virginia, explaining to Clinton on April 23 that he thought Charlestown was safe from the rebels and “resolved to take advantage of General Greene’s having left the back part of Virginia open and march immediately into that province.” Bobrick, Angel, 432. John Vaughan had been appointed an ensign in the Delaware Line in October 1780.
Otho Holland Williams wrote this day from headquarters “near Speedwell Terrace in North Carolina” and stated the army had “been worsted in a general Action, But not defeated.” Otho Holland Williams to Catherine Greene, 19 March 1781, Collections of Rhode Island Historical Society 20, 4 (October 1927), 107.
“he was hanged on a tree by the roadside in full view of all who passed by.” William Seymour, “A Journal of the Southern Expedition, 1780-1783,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography7, (1883), 379.
Greene had fallen back about ten miles after the battle at Guilford. When he heard of Cornwallis’ retreat he started after him, but the weather was so bad and the “roads were so deep” Greene gave up the pursuit and returned to South Carolina. “the behavior of the southern militia was so uniformly bad during the whole war that their presence in action would never be regarded as adding much to the strength of the corps they happened to side with — on the contrary.” William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, With an Appendix of Original Documents(New Haven, Yale University Press, 1954), 268.