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This is an image of troops and cavalries assembling at Guilford Courthouse.

The 1st Maryland Line stands their ground at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse

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Guilford Courthouse

North Carolina  |  Mar 15, 1781

On March 15, 1781, British General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s army of 2,100 men engaged a Continental army under Major General Nathanael Greene at Guilford Court House, near present-day Greensboro, North Carolina. 

Adopting a tactic utilized by Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens, Greene formed his roughly 4,500 men into three lines. The first line was held by North Carolina militia. In the second line Greene positioned militia from Virginia. Continental Regulars composed Greene’s third and most formidable line. The concept, known as a defense in depth, was for the first two lines to exhaust the enemy's advance and inflict as many casualties as possible in the hopes of delivering a decisive blow at the third line.

Forming his men on both sides of the Great Salisbury Road, Cornwallis sent his men forward at 1:30 p.m.  When the British got within 150 yards of Greene’s men, the Americans opened fire. The British pressed on, returning fire only when they got within range. On command, the British surged forward. The North Carolinians fired one more time and then retreated into the woods to their rear, abandoning their equipment as they fled.

Cornwallis then encountered stiff resistance from the Virginians, positioned about 400 yards behind the first line. North of the road, the 23rd Regiment of Foot, the 2nd Guards Battalion and the Guards Grenadiers engaged militia under Robert Lawson. Below the thoroughfare, the 2nd Battalion, 71st Regiment and elements from the 2nd Guards engaged Edward Stevens. The Virginians put up a stiff fight but with British infantry engaging their left, center and right, they were forced to retreat. Although Cornwallis had punched through two lines of American infantry, the British ranks had lost cohesion. A disjointed advance now approached some of Greene's best units. 

The first British unit to reach the third line was the 33rd Regiment. There, the regiment engaged Continentals from Virginia and Maryland and were driven back. The 2nd Guards, however, managed to turn the 2nd Maryland's right but were stopped in a counterattack by Lt. Colonel William Washington’s Light Dragoons and the 1st Maryland. With additional British infantry finally arriving on the scene from their fight on the second line, Greene prudently disengaged and withdrew. 

Guilford Courthouse was a pyrrhic victory for Cornwallis. Despite besting the American army, he had lost 25% of his men and was in no position to pursue Greene. Cornwallis decided to withdraw to his supply base at Wilmington to rest and refit. With his army still not in condition to engage Greene by the middle of April, Cornwallis decided to shift his operations to Virginia, a decision that would contribute to the independence of the United States.

All battles of the Southern Theater 1780 - 1783 Campaign

Rev War  |  Battle
Charleston
South Carolina  |  Mar 29 - May 12, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 5,764
American: 5,506
British: 258
Rev War  |  Battle
Lenud's Ferry
Berkeley, SC  |  May 6, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 41
American: 41
Rev War  |  Battle
Waxhaws
South Carolina  |  May 29, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 333
American: 316
British: 17
Rev War  |  Battle
Williamson's Plantation
South Carolina  |  Jul 12, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 96
American: 1
British: 95
Rev War  |  Battle
Rocky Mount
South Carolina  |  Jul 30, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 32
American: 12
British: 20
Rev War  |  Battle
Camden
South Carolina  |  Aug 16, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 2,224
American: 1,900
British: 324
Rev War  |  Battle
Musgrove's Mill
South Carolina  |  Aug 18, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 149
American: 16
British: 133
Rev War  |  Battle
Kings Mountain
South Carolina  |  Oct 7, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,211
American: 90
British: 1,121
Rev War  |  Battle
Blackstock's Plantation
Union, SC  |  Nov 20, 1780
Result: American Victory
American: 7
British: 192
Rev War  |  Battle
Rugeley's Mill
South Carolina  |  Dec 4, 1780
Result: American Victory
Rev War  |  Battle
Hammond's Store
South Carolina  |  Dec 30, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 150
British: 150
Rev War  |  Battle
Cowpens
South Carolina  |  Jan 17, 1781
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,017
American: 149
British: 868
Rev War  |  Battle
Guilford Courthouse
North Carolina  |  Mar 15, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,842
American: 1,310
British: 532
Rev War  |  Battle
Siege of Fort Watson
South Carolina  |  Apr 15 - 23, 1781
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 116
American: 2
British: 114
Rev War  |  Battle
Hobkirk's Hill
South Carolina  |  Apr 25, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 532
American: 271
British: 261
Rev War  |  Battle
Ninety Six
South Carolina  |  May 22 - Jun 19, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 232
American: 147
British: 85
Rev War  |  Battle
Parker's Ferry
Colleton, SC  |  Aug 30, 1781
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 209
American: 4
British: 205
Rev War  |  Battle
Eutaw Springs
South Carolina  |  Sep 8, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,461
American: 579
British: 882
Rev War  |  Battle
Dills Bluff
James Island, SC  |  Nov 14, 1782
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 15
American: 10
British: 5

Related Battles

Greensboro, NC | March 15, 1781
Result: British Victory
Commanders
Forces Engaged
6,600
American
4,400
British
1,924
Estimated Casualties
1,842
American
1,310
British
532