General Greene's Report on the Battle of Guilford Court House
Papers of the Continental Congress M247 roll 175 vol. 2 pg. 1
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland
Camp at the Iron Works, 10 Miles from Gilford [sic]
Court House, March 16th, 1781
On the 10th I wrote to his Excellency General Washington from the high rock ford on the Haw River, a copy of which I enclosed your Excellency, that I had affected a junction with a continental Regiment of 18 months Men, and two considerable Bodies of Militia belonging to Virginia and North Carolina. After this junction finding that our force was much more respectable than it had been, and that there was a much greater probability of its declining than increasing, and that there would be the greatest difficulty in subsisting it long in the field in this exhausted Country, 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 Gilford [sic]. The Enemy lay at the quaker meeting House on Deep River, 8 miles from our Camp. On the morning of the 15th our reconnoitering parties reported the Enemy advancing on the great Salisbury Road. The Army was drawn up in three lines. The front line was composed of the North Carolina Militia under the command of Generals Butler and Eaton; the second line of Virginia Militia commanded by Generals Stevens and Lawson forming two Brigades; the third line consisting of two Brigades, one of Virginia and one of Maryland continental Troops, commanded by General Huger and Col. Williams. Lieut Col. Washington with the Dragoons of the 1st and 3d Regiments, a detachment of Light Infantry composed of continental Troops, and a Regiment of Rifle-men under Colonel Lynch formed a Corps of observation for the security of our right flank. Lieut. Col. Lee with his Legion, a detachment of Light Infantry, and a corps of Rifle-men under Col. Campbell formed a Corps of observation for the security of our left flank.
The greater part of this Country is a Wilderness, with a few cleared fields interspersed here and there. The Army was drawn up upon a large Hill of ground surrounded by other Hills, the greater part of which was covered with Timber and thick under brush. The front line was posted, with two field pieces, just in the edge of the Woods and the back of a fence which ran parallel with the line, with an open field directly in their front. The second line was in the Woods about 300 yards in the rear of the first, and the continental Troops about 300 yards in the rear of the second with a double front, as the Hill drew to a point where they were posted, and on right and left were two old fields.
In this position we waited the approach of the Enemy, having previously sent off the Baggage to this place appointed to rendesvous [sic] at in case of a defeat. Lieut. Col. Lee with his Legion, his Infantry and part of his Rifle-men met the Enemy on their advance and had a very severe skirmish with Lieut. Col. Tarlton, in which the Enemy suffered greatly. Captain Armstrong charged the British Legion and cut down near thirty of their Dragoons; but as the Enemy reinforced their advanced party, Lieut. Col. Lee was obliged [to] retire and take his position in the line.
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 Lieut. Col. Webster's Brigage on the left. The whole moved through the old fields to attack the North Carolina Brigades who waited the attack untill [sic] the Enemy got within about one hundred and forty yards, when part of them began a fire, but a considerable part left the ground without firing at all; some fired once, and some fired twice and none more, except a part of a Battalion of General Eaton's Brigade. The General and field Officers did all they could to induce the Men to stand their ground, but neither the advantages of the position nor any other consideration could induce them to stay. They left the ground and many of them threw away their Arms. Genl. Stevens and General Lawson and the field Officers of those Brigades were more successful in their exertions. The Virginia Militia gave the Enemy a warm reception and kept up a heavy fire for a long time, but being beat back, the action became general almost every where. The Corps of observation under Washington and Lee were warmly engaged and did great execution In a word the conflict was long and severe and the Enemy only gained their point by superior discipline. They having broken the 2d Maryland Regiment and turned our left flank and got into the rear of the Virginia Brigade and appeared to be gaining our right, which would have encircled the whole of the Continental Troops, I thought it most adviseable [sic] to order a retreat. About this time Lieut. Col. Washington made a charge with the Horse upon a part of the Brigade of Guards, and the first Regiment of Marylanders commanded by Col. Gunby, and seconded by Lieut. Col. Howard followed the Horse with their Bayonets [near?] the whole of this party fell a sacrifice. General Huger was the last that was engaged and gave the Enemy a check. We retreated in good order to the reedy fork River [and] crossed at the ford about 3 miles from the field of Action, and there halted and drew up the Troops untill [sic] we collected m[ost?] of our Stragglers. We lost our Artillery and two Ammunition Waggons [sic], the greater part of the Horses being killed before the retreat began, and it being impossible to move the pieces along the great road. After collecting our Stragglers we retired to this Camp 10 Miles distant from Gilford [sic].
From the best information I can get the Enemy's loss is very great, not less in killed and wounded than six hundred Men, besides some few Prisoners that we brought off.
Inclosed [sic] I send your Excellency a return of our killed, wounded, and missing. Most of the latter have gone home, as is but too customary with Militia after an Action. I cannot learn learn that the Enemy have got any considerable number of Prisoners. Our Men are in good Spirits and in perfect readiness for another field Day. I only lament the loss of several valuable Officers who were killed and wounded in the Action. Among the latter is General Stevens shot through the Thigh and General Huger in the Hand, and among the former is Major Anderson of the Maryland line.
The firmness of the Officers and Soldiers during the whole Campaign has been almost unparalleled. Amidst inumeral [sic] difficulties they have discovered a degree of magnanimity and fortitude that will forever add a lustre [sic] to their military reputation.
I have the honor to be, with very great respect and esteem,
Most obedient and most humbe servant,
Saml. Huntington, Esqr. President of Congress