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March 15 1781 Battle of Guilford Courthouse

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Battle of Guilford Courthouse

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina, on March 15, 1781, proved pivotal to the American victory in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83). Although British troops under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) scored a tactical victory at Guilford Courthouse over American forces under Major General Nathanael Greene (1742-86), the British suffered significant troop losses during the battle. Afterward, Cornwallis abandoned his campaign for the Carolinas and instead took his army into Virginia, where in October of that year he surrendered to General George Washington (1732-99) following the Battle of Yorktown, the last major land battle of the war.

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Battle of Guilford Courthouse: March 15, 1781

At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, some 1,900 British soldiers under Cornwallis went on the offensive against Greene’s 4,400 to 4,500 Continental troops and militia. The battle raged for around two hours before Greene ordered his troops to retreat, giving the British a tactical victory but enabling Greene’s army to remain mostly intact. More than 25 percent of Cornwallis’s men were killed, wounded or captured during the battle. One British statesman, Charles James Fox (1749-1806), said of this result: “Another such victory would ruin the British army.”

Battle of Guilford Courthouse: Aftermath

Cornwallis did not pursue Greene’s army. Instead, the British commander abandoned his campaign for the Carolinas and eventually led his troops into Virginia. There, on October 19, 1781, following a three-week siege by American and French forces at Yorktown, Cornwallis was forced to surrender to General Washington and French commander Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807). The Battle of Yorktown was the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War, which officially ended with the 1783 Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain formally recognized the independence of the United States.

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