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They Were There:

March 2023
3min read

“In such moments all fears of death are over”

Major General Nathanael Greene,
Continental Army:

…I took the resolution of attacking the enemy without loss of time, and made the necessary disposition accordingly, being persuaded, that if we were successful, it would prove ruinous to the enemy, and, if otherwise, it would only prove a partial evil to us.

The army marched from the High-rock ford on the 12th, and on the 14th arrived at Guildford.…

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee,
Continental Army:

The country to a wide extent around, waste and rolling, was covered with lofty trees and thick shrubby underwood. Narrow tangled glades wound between the hills and … dripped their scant rills into a larger stream … that crossed the great Salisbury road, about two miles from the courthouse. The melancholy horror, the wild sterility, and the lonely aspect of the scene, seemed ready to overawe the rage, and to welcome the fears of men.

Major General Nathanael Greene,
Continental Army:

… On the morning of the 15th, our reconnoitering party reported the enemy advancing on the great Salisbury road.…

… Lieutenant-colonel [Henry| Lee … met the enemy on their advance, and had a severe skirmish with Lieutenant-colonel [Banastre] Tarleton, in which the enemy suffered greatly.…

The action commenced by a cannonade, which lasted about twenty minutes, when the enemy advanced in three columns; the Hessians on the right, the guards in the center, and Lieutenant-colonel James] Webster’s brigade on the left. The whole moved through the old fields to attack the North-Carolina brigades.…

Sergeant Roger Lamb,
British Army:

… After the brigade formed across the open ground, the colonel [Webster) rode on to the front, and gave the word, “ Charge . ” Instantly the movement was made, in excellent order, in a smart run, with arms charged: when arrived within forty yards of the enemy’s line, it was perceived that their whole force had their arms presented, and resting on a rail fence, the common partitions in America. They were taking aim with the nicest precision.… At this awful period a general pause took place; both parties surveyed each other for the moment with the most anxious suspense.… [Then] colonel Webster rode forward in the front of the 2ßd regiment, and said, with more than even his usual commanding voice … “ Come on, my brave Fuzileers . ” This operated like an inspiring voice, they rushed forward amidst the enemy’s fire; dreadful was the havoc on both sides.… At last the Americans gave way, and the brigade advanced, to the attack of their second line. Here the conflict became still more fierce. Before it was completely routed, where I stood … I observed an American officer attempting to fly. I immediately darted after him, but he perceiving my intention to capture him, fled with the utmost speed. I pursued, and was gaining on him, when, hearing a confused noise on my left, I observed several bodies of Americans drawn up within the distance of a few yards. Whoever has been in an engagement well knows that, in such moments all fears of death are over.… I had no time for deliberation. How to act I knew not. On the instant, however, I saw lord Cornwallis riding across the clear ground. His lordship was mounted on a dragoon’s horse (his own having been shot;) … his lordship was evidently unconscious of his danger. I immediately laid hold of the bridle of his horse, and … mentioned to him, that if his lordship had pursued the same direction, he would in a few moments have been surrounded by the enemy.… I continued to run along side of the horse, keeping the bridle in my hand, until his lordship gained the 23;d regiment.…

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee,
Continental Army:

… The throes and gestures of this strife … it is impossible to describe; the deadly and determined thrusts of the infantry, the rush and spurning of the chargers, and the murderous slashing of the fierce dragoons.… The guards fell in heaps around the guns they had taken; and their leader slain, were driven back into the open ground; many prostrated by the horse—many killed or captured by the pursuing infantry. The remnant fled for protection to their friends, but received the balls directed at their enemies; for Cornwallis, with furious decision, ordered his artillery to fire, sacrificing the fugitives to check the pursuit.…

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton,
British Army:

At this period the event of the action was doubtful, and victory alternately presided over each army.… At this crisis, the judicious use of the three pounders, the firm countenance of the British infantry, and the appearance of the cavalry, obliged the enemy to retreat.…

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee,
Continental Army:

In this battle, the victory of the British general was complete, but to himself disastrous; his glory was great, but his loss prodigious. Nearly one third of his troops were killed or wounded, while the loss of the Americans did not exceed one twelfth—facts which, as soon as they were ascertained, gave predominance to the republicans in North Carolina, and made Greene a conqueror, and Cornwallis a fugitive.

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