By Jeannette Holland Austin
After Daniel Morgan had a victory over Tarleton at Cowpens in January of 1781, Lord Cornwallis was determined to destroy the American Army. Meanwhile, General Nathaniel Greene was reluctant to take his ragged army into battle against the British. Thus, in order to keep Cornwallis out of the Carolinas, Greene fought a "fugitive war" where his army was on the move, waiting for the best opporunity to fight. During early February, the troops of General Greene fled across the Dan River into Virginia, leaving their bloody tracks in the snow. Cornwallis set up headquarters in Hillsborough and called for loyalists to join in, however, few did. Meanwhile, Greene recrossed the Dan River, this time with additional troops dispatched from Virginia, and went to the Guilford Court House where he arranged his troops in three lines, viz: 1,000 North Carolina Militia formed the first line, with cavalry units on their flanks led by William Washington and Light-Horse Harry Lee. The second line was infantry, and a third line about 500 yards back, was made up of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware units. When Cornwallis began his attack, the North Carolina Militia fired two volleys and half of the British Highlands fell to the ground. The Welch Fusiliers charged the line but could not see the Americans forty yards away. The Carolinians withdrew in an orderly fashion after firding, yet they panicked and ran. This left the legion of General Lee isolated to hold up against repeated attacks. The British broke through into the woods, pushing the second American line back. But the worst of the battle occurred when the British reached the American third line. "I never saw such fighting since God made me," Cornwallis wrote later. "The Americans fought like demons." Although General Greene had lost the field, the British victory cost Cornwallis one fourth of his troops!
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