How to Use
Reading 2: The Generals' Report on the Battle
Cornwallis to Lord George Germain, March 17, 1781:
Compiled from Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vol. XVII (Goldsboro, N.C., 1899), 1002-1007.
Nathanael Greene reports to Governor Abner Nash of North Carolina Camp near the Iron Works, March 18th, 9 a.m., 1781:
Time will not permit me to be very particular, and therefore I shall only Confirm the account of there having been an action on the 15th. The battle was fought near Guilford Court House. It was long and severe. We gave up the ground and were obliged to leave our artillery, all the horses being killed. We retreated in good order....The Enemy loss is very great, much more than ours. We ought to have had a victory, and had your Militia stood by their officers it was certain. However the enemy have gained no advantage, except the ground and field pieces. Their operating force is diminished in such a manner, that I am not without hope of turning their victory into defeat, if the Militia donít leave me....
Quoted from Richard K. Showman and Dennis M. Conrad, eds., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, vol. VII (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 448.
On March 16, Greeneís adjutant, Col. O. H. Williams compiled a list of casualties to send to Samuel Huntington, President of Congress:
NOTE: Most of the missing Americans were militiamen who simply went home after the battle. For this reason, most authorities figure total American casualties as 264 killed and wounded.
Compiled from Banastre Tarleton, The Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London, 1787), 317-20.
Questions for Reading 2
1. Does Lord Cornwallis sound like a victorious general? Does he claim the victory?
2. Does Greene sound like a victorious general? Does he claim the victory?
3. Based on the total casualty figures for both armies, what would be your assessment of the winner and loser of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse? Explain your answer. Now compute and compare the percentages of killed and wounded British and American soldiers. How would you assess the outcome of the battle based on these figures? Do you think numerical analysis is the best way to answer this question? Can you suggest other grounds on which to assess the outcome of the battle?