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General Greene having effected a junction on the tenth of March, 1781, with a regiment of continental troops, and two large bodies of militia from Virginia and North Carolina, was resolved to attack the British troops under lord Cornwallis. They accordingly marched on the twelfth, and on the fourteenth arrived at Guilford. Lord Cornwallis was apprized of the designs of the American gene. ral ; as they approached nearer to each other, a few skirmishes between the advanced parties took place. On the fifteenth, lord Cornwallis proceeded with his whole force, to attack the Americans on their march, or in their encampment. About four miles from Guilford, the advanced guard of the British army, commanded by colonel Tarleton, were met by lieutenant-colonel Lee's division, with whom he had a severe skirmish, and was obliged to make a precipitate retreat. The country in which the action happened is a perfect wilderness, excepting some few fields interspersed.
The American army was posted on a rising ground, about a mile and a half from Guilford court-house; it was drawn up in three lines, the front, composed of the North Carolina militia, under the command of the generals Butler, and Eaton; the second line of Virginia militia, commanded by the generals Stephens, and Lawson, forming two brigades; the third line consisting of two brigades, one of Maryland, and the other of Virginia continental troops; and a regiment of rifle men, under the command of colonel Lynch, formed a corps of observation, for the security of the right flank ; lieutenant colonel Lee with his legion, a detachment of light infantry, and a corps of riflemen, under colonel Campbell, formed a corps of observation for the security of their left Alank. The attack on the American army, was made in the following order, by the directions of lord Cornwallis. On the right the regiment of Bose, and the seventy-first regiment, led by major general Leslie, and supported by the first battalion of guards ; on the left, the twenty-third and thirty-third regiments, led by lieutenant colonel Webster, and supported by the grenadiers, and second battalion of guards, commanded by brigadier-general O'Hara. The yagers and light infantry, remained in a wood on the left of the ordnance, ready to act as circumstances might require.
About two o'clock P. M. the attack began by à cannonade, which lasted about twenty minutes, when the action became general. The American forces under colonel's Washington, and Lee, were warmly engaged, and did great execution. Colonel Tarleton's orders, were to keep the cavalry compact, and not to charge without positive orders, except it was to protect any of the divisions from the most imminent danger of being defeated. The woods were so thick, that the British could not make a free use of the bayonet. The second battalion of guards, were the first that gained the clear ground, near Guilford court-house, where was a corps of continenta} infantry, superior in number; these were formed in the open field on the left of the road. Desirous of signalizing themselves, they immediately attacked, and soon defeated them, taking two six pounders ; but, as they pursued the Americans with too much ardour to a wood, they were thrown into confusion by a heavy fire, and were instantly driven into the field, by colonel Washington's dragoons, who recovered the two six-pounders. The American cavalry were afterwards repulsed, and the two six-pounders again fell into the hands of the British.
The British having broken the second Maryland regiment, and turned the left flank of the Americans, got into the rear of the Virginia brigade, and were endeavouring to gain their right, which would have inclosed the whole of the continental troops; a retreat was immediately ordered by general Greene, which was conducted with good order to' Reedy-Fork River, and they crossed the ford about three miles from the field of action, where they halted. After the stragglers were collected, they retreated to the Iron works about ten miles from Guilford, and encamped. The Americans lost their artillery and ammunitionwaggons.
The action lasted one hour and a half, in which short space, according to the account of lord Cornwallis, there were of the British five hundred and thirty-two killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. General Greene, in his account to Congress gives an acount of no more than three hundred and twenty-nine killed, wounded, and missing: but he gave no account of the militia, which was more than one hundred. Lieutenant-colonel Stewart was killed
in the action, and lieutenant-colonel Webster ; the captains Schutz, Maynard, and Goodriche, died of the wounds they received, and the brigadier-generals O'Hara, and Howard, and colonel Tarleton were wounded. The principal officer among the Americans killed, was major Anderson, of the Maryland line, and the generals Stephens and Huger, were wounded.
Notwithstanding generalGreene's defeat, he endeavoured to make some further attempts against the king's forces in South Carolina. Lord Rawdon, an experienced and very gallant officer, was posted at Camden, with about eight hundred British troops and provincials. Greene appeared before that place, on the 19th of April, with a large body of continental troops, and militia. Despairing of success, should he attempt to storm the town, he therefore took such a position, as he imagined, would be likely to induce the enemy to make a sally from their works; when he thought he might attack them with advantage. Greene therefore posted the Americans on an eminence, which was covered with wood, flanked on the left by an impassible swamp.
On the morning of the twenty-fifth, lord Rawdon marched out of Camden, and attacked Greene in his camp, who was compelled to give way, after making a vigorous resistance: he had been in hopes of defeating the British, as he had chosen so advantageous a situation, and had a commanding superiority in point of number. The bravery of colonel Washington, was very conspicuous in this action; he made two hundred of the English prisoners, besides ten or twelve officers, before he perceived the Americans were retreating. The British had about one hundred killed and wounded, upwards of one hundred of the Americans were taken prisoners; and according to general Greene's account, there were one hundred and twenty-six Americans killed and wounded. The British, it was said, continued the pursuit three miles,
After this action, the Americans retreated to Rugely mills, twelve. miles from Camden. Lord Rawdon soon after left that place, having first burned the jail, mills, and some private houses.
Greene's next expedition was an attack upon Ninety Six, which he attempted to storm, but was repulsed with
great bravery; he then retired with his army behind the Saluda river, a strong situation, about sixteen miles from Ninety Six. About this time, major-general Phillips, and brigadier-general Arnold, made some predatory excursions into Virginia, and did considerable damage, by destroying the American stores and magazines; but the royal cause was not much benefited by such a waste of property.
Lord Cornwallis after his victory over general Greene, at Guilford, proceeded as aforesaid, to Wilmington; and on the twentieth of May, arrived at Petersburg, in Virginia. On the sixteenth of June, 1781, about six miles from Williamsburg, lieutenant-colonel Simcoe, with about three hundred and fifty of the queen's rangers, and eighty yagers mounted, were attacked by a much superior body of Americans, whom they repulsed with great gallantry, and success, making four officers, and twenty private men prison, ers. The loss of the Americans in this action, is said to have been more than one hundred and twenty. Of the British only forty.
On the sixth of July, an action took place near the Green Springs, in Virginia, between a reconnoitering party of Americans, under general Wayne, and a large party of the British army, under lord Cornwallis, in which the Americans had one hundred and twenty seven killed and wounded ; and the loss of the royal troops is said to have been much greater.
In a variety of skirmishes about this time, the marquis de la Fayette distinguished himself. On the ninth of September, general Greene defeated colonel Stuart, near the Eutaw Springs, in South Carolina : it was an obstinate engagement, and lasted two hours.
Lord Cornwallis now began to be sensible that his situation in Virginia, was very critical; the reinforcements and supplies being expected from Sir Henry Clinton (and without which he could not ensure himself success in his operations) had not arrived. General Washington's military movements were such as impressed on the mind of the
British general, a fear that his designs were upon New · York; he, therefore, thought it too hazardous to send any large body of troops to the assistance of his lordship.
General Washington having thus, for a considerable time, kept Sir Ilenry Clinton in continual alarm, sud
denly quitted his camp at the White Plains, crossed the Delaware, and marched towards Virginia, with the design of attacking lord Cornwallis. Sir Henry Clinton, about the same time, was informed that the count de Grasse, with a large French fleet, was expected every moment in the Chesapeake, in order that he might co-operate with general Washington. He immediately sent both by land and water, intelligence to lord Cornwallis ; and also sent liim assurances, that he would either reinforce him, or make the most effectual diversion in his power.
On the twenty-eighth of August, Sir Samuel Hood, with a squadron from the West Indies, joined the squadron under admiral Greaves, before New York. They immediately proceeded to the Chesapeake, where they arrived on the fifth of September, with nineteen ships of the line, when they found ihe count de Grasse anchored in the bay, with twenty-four ships of the line. The French admiral had previously landed a large body of troops, who immediately marched to join the American army under general Washington. On the same day the two fleets came to an engagement: on board the British fleet ninety were kil. led, and two hundred and forty-six wounded. Some of the ships were much damaged, and the Terrible, a 74 gunship, was so shattered, that it was found most expedient to set her on fire. The two feets continued in sight of each other for five days.
At length the French feet anchored within the Capes, so as to block up the passage. Admiral Greaves then held a council of war, in which it was resolved, that the fleet should proceed to New York, and the ships be put in the best state for service. Before the news of this action had reached New York, a council of war was held there, in which it was resolved that five thousand men should be embarked in the king's ships, and proceed to the assistance of lord Cornwallis; but this resolution was rescinded, when it was known that the French were absolute masters of the Chesapeake. In another council it was resolved, that, as lord Cornwallis had provisions to last him to the end of October, it was most adviseable to wait for the arrival of admiral Digby, who was expected with three ships of the line.