Today I’d like to highlight one of my personal favorites. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. Guilford Courthouse is the site of one the most critical battles of the American Revolution. Situated near downtown Greensboro, the park is a beautiful haven in a modern city. Guilford Courthouse will appeal to the nature lover and history buff alike.
The historical importance of this battlefield cannot be understated. Once Charleston S.C. fell to the British, in the first step of their southern campaign, the North Carolina wilderness was left wide open for invasion. General Cornwallis was hoping to find a large loyalist population waiting in the state. After a few battles along the border of North and South Carolina, Cornwallis hedged his bets on invading the Old North State. In order to lighten the load on his army, Cornwallis burned or discarded all unnecessary (and some necessary) equipment to chase General Nathanael Greene through North Carolina. Greene’s plan was to make Cornwallis chase his army until enough British soldiers were starving, sick, or dead to even the odds. The culmination of this “country dance” was the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.
The two armies met in what is now downtown Greensboro in the largest conflict of the southern campaign. The hard fought battle was nearly a draw but General Greene decided not to risk the last remaining southern army on an already battered British force. Greene withdrew from the field, preserving his army but giving Cornwallis a technical victory (in 18th century warfare, whoever held the field at the end of the day was considered victorious despite the losses they took).
In all, the American forces sustained 365 men killed, wounded, captured, or missing out of roughly 4,400 men who participated. The British would suffer 532 killed, wounded, or captured out of a force of 1,900 men. This was a devastating loss of man power for a British Army which was already starving and on its last leg. The losses were so great that one British member of parliament, Charles James Fox, proclaimed that, “another such victory would ruin the British Army”. In the end, Cornwallis retreated to Wilmington North Carolina to await resupply and would eventually be defeated at Yorktown, effectively ending the American Revolution.
The US Congress established Guilford Courthouse as a national military park in 1917. 125 acres were donated to the park by David Schenck. Although this is widely viewed as not encompassing the entire battlefield, as Schenck originally claimed, it does cover a large portion of it. Unfortunately most of the battlefield sites that are outside the current park boundaries have been developed by private entities and it is unlikely the battlefield will ever be restored to its original size. Despite this, Guilford Courthouse has been developed into a beautiful park for all to enjoy. Running through the park is a path used for biking and jogging. The path takes a scenic route which allows visitors to stop and view points of interest along the way. The park also boasts two museums dedicated to telling the story of the battle, numerous statues, and even cannons. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Hooper and John Penn, are buried in the park. A monument was erected to honor Hooper, Penn, and Joseph Hewes who was the third North Carolinian to sign (his remains have never been located). Every year, on March 15th, the park hosts a reenactment of the battle which draws large crowds.
The official park website can be accessed at http://www.nps.gov/guco/index.htm
This really is one of the best historical sites North Carolina has to offer. I hope that you have the opportunity to visit. Do some planning, get out there, and enjoy this amazing park!
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