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Reading 3: Other Judgments, Public and Private
Such was the strange and untoward nature of this war, that victory now, as we have already seen in more than one other instance, was productive of all the consequences of defeat. The news of this victory in England, for a while, produced the usual effects upon the minds of the people in general. A very little time and reflection gave rise to other thoughts; and a series of victories caused for the first time, the beginning of a general despair. The fact was, that while the British army astonished both the old and new world, by the greatness of its exertions and the rapidity of its marches, it had never advanced any nearer even to the conquest of North Carolina. And such was the hard fate of the victors, who had gained so much glory at Guilford, as in the first place, to abandon a part of their wounded; and, in the second, to make a circuitous retreat of 200 miles, before they could find shelter or rest.
Quoted from the Annual Register for 1781 (London, 1782), 71-2.
When the casualty lists for Guilford Courthouse reached London, Charles James Fox, leader of the Parliamentary opposition to the war, exclaimed on the floor of the House of Commons: "Another such victory would ruin the British army!"
When General Greene’s report of the battle reached Philadelphia, it was published under this headline: GOOD NEWS FROM THE SOUTH.
Quoted from Thomas E. Baker, Another Such Victory (Philadelphia: Eastern National Park and Monument Association, 1981), 77-78.
Questions for Reading 3
1. How would you characterize British short-term and long-term reactions to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse? If there is a difference between the two reactions, which reaction is more important? Why?
2. How do you account for Charles James Fox’s statement that victory of the type won at Guilford Courthouse would ruin the British Army?
3. Why would the Philadelphia newspaper herald the battle as "good news"?