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Monday, March 7, 2011

Why Did Corwallis Fare So Badly At Guilford Courthouse?

Why did Cornwallis fare so badly at Guilford Courthouse?
For the answer you must look to the facts:

His professional soldiers were for the first time, outnumbered. Granted the force were not for the most part well trained, or as well equipped, but they were to be reckoned with in any event. This army of Cornwallis was tired, and hungry, and wanted to go home.

For an in depth look, one must get perspective into the life and times of those people that lived in the colonial south. In North Carolina there were for the most part people who were either farmers, or people who lived in coastal communities that fished, or supported the sea trade with England.

Further inland, you were a farmer, or you were probably a shop keeper in towns like Greensboro, or Hillsboro; or you belonged to a religious sect like the Quakers, or Moravian s.

Moravian Woman, carries baked goods from the bakery at Old Salem.

The Moravian s settled in Forsyth County around the villages of Salem, and Bathabara. The Quakers, were more numerous, and were prevalent in and around Greensboro;and newly formed Randolph County at the time of the Battle.

Salem Square Old Salem

Both sects, were considered to be neutral in the War, but if you look deeper, the fact is they settled here so that they might be able to worship in peace. That peaceful living arrangement might come to an end if the Crown were successful in restoring order in the colonies.

One example of this might be that of William Millikan, who was a Quaker that lived in Northern Randolph County. There were several Quaker settlements in Northern Randolph County, notably Centre Friends near the Guilford /Randolph Border, Springfield Friends west just south of what would be High Point,  Providence Friends to the Southeast in Randolph County.
William Millikan, would not take part in any warfare with the British, but he just happened to be elected as an officer of the newly formed government of Randolph County. He was the County's first tax collector. Those tax funds, in the short term were going to help supply the militia.

Because of this,William Millikan was a target for elimination, and after the Battle of Guilford Court House, his farm was raided by Tory David Fanning, who was an officer in the British Army.More about David Fanning later, but I wanted to mention this because such a relationship must have figured into the problems of  Cornwallis in this part of North Carolina.

So there were basically  three groups that played into the War at the time of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The Patriots (Whigs) who lived here, the Loyalists,(Tory s), and The  Quakers who were opposed to War as a matter of religious principal. If you lived here you were in one of the three camps, and you had to make a choice on where you stood.

What were his problems you might ask? It is a fairly simple case to be made here. The problems Cornwallis had were that the was on a long sustained drive into a land that he was unfamiliar with, and that being the case could not count on resupply from England. Even getting to the coast was no simple task, as there were few roads leading to Wilmington, or any other coastal town in order to be resupplied.

To move food and the other necessary items for a Two Thousand Man force through a hostile country with few roads would mean that you would have to have a sizable force to maintain the coming and going of supply wagons, that had to traverse rough terrain.

Old Mill of Guilford, where Cornwallis came to grind corn meal for the troops before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

To add to this crippling problem, was that his men, were weary from such a long absence from their homes. The war had been going on for many years, and they had been forced to live in the open, exposed to the elements in an untamed land for much of that time.

From reading the dairy of Cornwallis, he was counting on the support of Loyalists that lived in the colonies. While he did receive assistance from the loyalist population, it was more or less in the form of armed raiding parties. Very little in the way of food, and other material assistance, and it was re-supply that Cornwallis needed most.

So then Cornwallis on the move, with little supplies , found it necessary to forage to feed the army. To forage it meant that he could not move as fast as he would have liked. It meant he would have to procure needed rations from the populace.
Plaque at the Old Mill of Guilford, marking it's part in history.

  Cornwallis sent out raiding "foraging parties", to the various farms, and plantations scattered about. The drawback is that no one farm would have enough grain, and food stuffs to feed such a large force. That being the case, it was a constant struggle finding food.  There is plenty of evidence that Cornwallis had to do this, often encamping for two to three days time while gathering provisions.

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