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American Revolution: Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781)

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"I never saw such fighting since God made me. The Americans fought like demons"

-Lt. General Charles, Earl Cornwallis

The largest, most hotly-contested battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign was fought at the small North Carolina backcountry hamlet of Guilford Courthouse. The battle proved to be the highwater mark of British military operations in the Revolutionary War.

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The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 in Greensboro, the county seat of Guilford County, North Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War. A force of 1,900 British troops under the command of Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis defeated an American force of 4,000 troops, commanded by Major General Nathanael Greene.

Despite the relatively small numbers of troops involved, the battle is considered pivotal to the American victory in the Revolution. Before the battle, the British appeared to have had great success in conquering much of Georgia and South Carolina with the aid of strong Loyalist factions, and thought that North Carolina might be within their grasp. In the wake of the battle, Greene moved into South Carolina, while Cornwallis chose to march into Virginia and attempt to link up with roughly 3500 men under British Major General Phillips and American turncoat Benedict Arnold. These decisions allowed Greene to unravel British control of the South, while leading Cornwallis to Yorktown and eventual surrender to Major General George Washington and Lieutenant General Comte de Rochambeau.

The battle is commemorated at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.


In popular culture

In the 2000 historical epic movie The Patriot, the final battle was inspired by the battles of Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. The Americans used the same tactics in both battles. In the film, the name of the battle, as well as the winning side, was taken from the Cowpens battle. The sizes of the armies, as well as their being led by generals Greene and Cornwallis, come from the Guilford Courthouse battle. The scene where Cornwallis orders his artillery to "concentrate on the center," during which they killed both Continentals and his own troops, took place at Guilford Courthouse.