Charles James Fox, leader of the Whig Party said about the Battle of Guilford Courthouse: “Another such victory would ruin the British Army!”
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which originally took place on March 15 , 1781, is one of the premier reenactments in the Southern theater and certainly one of the most important in terms of its history and position in circumstances by which the Revolutionary War was ultimately won.
The Washington County Regiment of the NC Militia took its place among the participants again this year. Many of the members got there on Friday and set up in the rain. Talk about tough, but not unusual! Daytime events on Saturday was bracketed by rain- rain in the early morning hours, rain in the evening but midday was beautiful.
In a corner of the County Park to the south of the woods, the members encamped. The area wasn’t as bad as in times past. Bob McCroskey’s benches were only mired an inch in mud and straw compared to three plus and sinking last year. Those who attended either for the weekend or for the day included Bob McCroskey, Chad Bogart, Chris Taylor, Randy and Sterling Curde, Retha and Ken Reece, Gail and Richard Ellis, Tony DeVault, Bob Pendland, Jonathan Galyen, Earl and Jason Slagle, Jason Davis and his parents, Ronnie Lail , Mike Coon and Molly, the indentured. Travis Souther was there as well but because of a prior commitment months before he joined our group, he was fighting for the British this go around.
There were a nice selection of sutlers separating the Continentals and the British groups, one from as far away as New Jersey. I think the regimental favorite, though, was the bakery. The homemade pastries were delicious and they had a table of HUGE loaves of artisan bread that you had to see to believe!
At 1:30, the men of both sides assembled to take their places on the field. The revolutionaries fell into formation with the NC Militia taking the lead, then the Continental Army and army camp followers. Being a militia follower, I really didn’t know where to put myself and I really wanted to watch the troops march. If I followed the Militia, I was sandwiched between them and the soldiers (not a bad place to be, actually) but that seemed so wrong and I would be watching their rear , so I just slogged up the hill in front and to the side- kind of like Pied Piper style. I could hear the music from the pipers, piping the cadence and I could hear 15 men in perfect step, one heel click and one drag. I think the months of drill paid off. They did look truly fabulous in straight formation and marched like one man. I got up to the top of the hill before the men and turned around to watch them march. For a minute, the hair on the nape of my neck stood up. Faces I knew looked serious and determined and I realized that 232 years ago, the men marched just like this and the determined looks on the Militia and Continentals was a mirror image of what when on before. These men were not marching to their deaths, but the individuals who they represented did just that. It was a sobering and chilling thought as I heard the pipers cheerfully play “Yankee Doodle”. Just about that time, a group of Redcoats passed and frankly I had a hard time looking at them. Then I thought, these men too marched to their doom just like the other side. It was like looking at ghosts.
The gentleman who played General Nathaneal Greene explained the elements of the battle that were being portrayed n Saturday. He held over a hundred people watching spellbound as he detailed the geography and the tactics of the battle segment. Between three and four hundered men took to the field in a spectacular battle which lasted over thirty-five minutes. Our men acquitted themselves very well; they did some fine shooting and complicated movements (one row kneeling and shooting, the other standing behind, doing the same.)
Just like in a real battle, some died and just so in this case too. One of the militia (NOT OURS, thank goodness) was shot and hit the dirt. He dragged himself to a near by tree and then proceeded to do the performance of his life. He flopped around clutching various parts for five minutes and then in one final monumental shudder, lay still. I think there needs to be a practice in how to die in a more Oscar winning way. It was really exciting to see Lt. Col. William Washington’s Light Dragoons engage the enemy on horseback. the what the outcome of the battle was. Overall, it was a very impressive battle reconstruction, one of the best I’ve seen so far.
The troops dispersed back to their camps to discuss what happened and get out of the drizzle which by then was coming down. Overall, it was an excellent time and the Washington Co. Regiment did us all proud.