The American Revolution in North Carolina

New Garden Meeting House

March 15, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Col. Henry Lee (VA)
British Cdr:

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton



included in above

included in above


Original County: 

Guilford County
Present County:

Guilford County

This engagement was a series of skirmishes, one close to the meeting house, another near the crossroads early in the morning just prior to the battle of Guilford Court House.

As Major General Nathanael Greene passed earlier through this area on his way north to the Dan River in Virginia, he made a mental note to himself that this would be a good location to make a stand against Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis. He and his Continentals remained in Virginia for ten days, recuperating and reinforcing his army. On February 24th, he moved back into North Carolina and began maneuvering for a battle in which he could deal Lord Cornwallis a serious blow.

On the other side, Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis apparently seemed to think that Major General Nathanael Greene had an army of over 10,000 men - but, the British continued to pursue the Patriots even though Lord Cornwallis only had a little over 2,000 men.

Faced with more new desertions, Major General Greene created yet two more new light infantry units - known as the Corps of Observation - on March 10th. One corps was made up of Lt. Col. William Washington's cavalry from Virginia with Capt. Robert Kirkwood's Delaware Continentals. The second corps included Lt. Col. Henry Lee's Legion with Col. William Campbell's sixty (60) riflemen from Washington County, VA - and this group was ordered to remain on the left flank of Major General Greene's army.

On March 13th, Major General Greene spent most of the day teaching the various Militia units how to parade and how to fire volleys by platoon and battalion. During the training, a militiaman was shot in the head and a general was struck by a ricocheting bullet. The next day, Major General Greene marched his army to Guilford Court House and set up camp around mid-day. His army was as strong as it was going to get and he wanted to meet Lord Cornwallis here, as he had planned earlier.

He ordered Lt. Col. Washington's Corps to post themselves two miles in front of the main army on the road from Guilford Court House to Salisbury. He ordered Lt. Col. Lee to a similar position on the left - to guard the New Garden Road. During the evening of March 14th, Lt. Col. Lee dispatched Lt. James Heard to keep watch on the enemy encamped at the Deep River Meeting House a few miles away.

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis received news that Major General Greene was at Guilford Court House and he instantly decided to attack the next morning. Lt. Col. Lee learned from his forward observers exactly when Lord Cornwallis gave the command to advance towards Guilford Court House. He moved his men to intercept the advancing column.

Between midnight and four a.m., Lord Cornwallis sent his baggage to Bell's Mill on the Deep River. The baggage guard consisted of 450 men, detached from the North Carolina Volunteers, the British Legion, the Regiment von Bose, Webster's Brigade, and the Brigade of Guards. These were men who were serviceable but poor marchers - most were infirm due to recent wounds and other sundry ailments.

At 5:30 in the morning the British began their march. They skipped breakfast and would fight the entire day without a meal.

Major General Nathanael Greene sent his baggage train to Speedwell's Furnace (aka Troublesome Iron Works) where his army would rendezvous in case of a retreat. His army was deployed on a carefully-selected area west of Guilford Court House in the woods along both sides of the Salisbury Road.

Greene ordered Lt. Col. Henry Lee with his Legion and the 2nd Corps of Observation to move onto the Salisbury Road to delay the enemy. Lord Cornwallis ordered Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to precede his main army with a strong advance guard. Both of these two enemy forces would meet in the small Quaker communitity of New Garden, within shouting distance of Guilford Court House.

After marching seven miles, the British pickets detected Lt. Heard's troops at a sharp bend in the Salisbury Road - at the New Garden Meeting House. They fired - Lt. Heard and his men quickly withdrew. Lt. Col. Tarleton's cavalry followed, not knowing that Lt. Heard was leading them into an ambush. Lt. Col. Lee had placed his men along the road where there was a high rail fence on both sides. When Lt. Col. Tarleton's cavalry came into view, the Patriots charged. Lt. Col. Tarleton quickly realized that he was too far forward and immediately sounded retreat, leaving behind several of his dragoons to their demise.

Lt. Col. Henry Lee knew the countryside very well and devised a plan in which he could cut off Lt. Col. Tarleton from the main British lines. He rode hard to occupy the crossroads at the New Garden Meeting House and to intercept Lt. Col. Tarleton - but instead - he rode headfirst into the Guards Light Infanty under Lt. Col. John Goodricke. The Guards fired at close range - and Lt. Col. Lee was thrown from his horse. Another was quickly brought to him by one of his men.

His old horse kept running until it came to a farm, where the owner later sold the horse to Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton the next day.

Soon thereafter, Lt. Col. Tarleton and his British Legion arrived and Lt. Col. Lee ordered retreat. He then immediately counter-manded the retreat order when his own Legion Infantry arrived and quickly deployed and fired. Col. William Campbell's Virginia riflemen were right behind the infantry and they too opened fire upon the British. The riflemen hid behind Quaker houses for protective cover.

The fighting continued for about forty minutes and both sides had fairly heavy casualties. Lt. Col. Tarleton's right hand was shattered by a musket ball, causing him the loss of his middle and index fingers. As more British troops arrived they soon outnumbered the Patriots, so Lt. Col. Lee was forced to order a withdrawal. He left his dead and wounded strewn across the road and retreated to the crossroads of - Salisbury Road, Balinger Road, and the Oak Ridge Road.

Lt. Col. Henry Lee was able to reform his men in the woods at the crossroads, and he was eventually reinforced by the Delaware Continentals with Capt. Robert Kirkwood. This force continued to harass and to delay the British until around 11 o'clock, when they withdrew to join Major General Greene at the court house. The two skirmishes at the New Garden Meeting House and at the Crossroads had lasted almost four hours and the British troops had yet to face Major General Greene's main army - which was soon to come later that day at Guilford Court House.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Lt. Col. Henry Lee (VA) - Commanding Officer

Lee's Legion, with 75 cavalry and 82 infantry, in six (6) known companies led by:
- Capt. James Armstrong - 1st Mounted Troop
- Capt. Joseph Eggleston - 2nd Mounted Troop
- Capt. Michael Rudolph - 3rd Mounted Troop
- Capt. Allen McClane - 4th Dismounted Troop
- Capt. Henry Archer - 5th Dismounted Troop
- Capt. James Tate - 6th Dismounted Troop

Delaware Company, led by Capt. Robert Kirkwood, with 110 men

Washington County Militia (VA) led by Col. William Campbell, with 60 men

Augusta Militia (GA) led by Col. George Moffett, with 130 men in at least two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Thomas Smith
- Capt. David Gwin

Botetourt County Riflemen (VA) led my Maj. Thomas Rowland, with three (3) known companies, led by:
- Maj. George Waller
- Capt. George Hairston
- Capt. John Waller

NC Light Horse Regiment, led by Col. James Read with 170 men in six (6) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Asa Bryan (Johnston County)
- Capt. Samuel Crowell (Halifax County)
- Capt. John Denby (Franklin County)
- Capt. Joel Lewis (Wilkes County)
- Capt. Randolph (Edgecombe County)
- Capt. Robinson (Johnston County)

NC Light Dragoons detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Robertson

Surry County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment led by Col. Martin Armstrong, Lt. Col. Joseph Winston, Lt. Col. John "Jack" Martin, with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Adam Brinkley
- Capt. William Underwood

Guilford County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment led by Col. John Peasley, with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Smith Moore
- Capt. Peter O'Neal

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton - Commanding Officer

British Legion, led by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, with 364 men in the following known units:
- Capt. David Ogilvie
- Capt. David Kinlock
- Capt. Richard Hovenden
- Lt. Nathaniel Vernon - Capt. Jacob James's Troop
- Capt. Thomas Sanford
- Capt. Francis Gilbert
- Capt. Francis Stewart
- Capt. Thomas Miller
- Capt. Charles McDonald
- Lt. Donald McLeod - Capt. Rousselet's Company

Prince of Wales American Volunteers detachment led by Ensign Patrick Garrett, with 10 men

Hesse-Kassel Musketeer Regiment von Bose, led by Maj. Chris du Buy, with 313 men in five (5) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Alexander Wilmonsky
- Capt. Moritz von Stein
- Capt. Johan Eichenbrodt
- Capt. Herman Christian Rall
- Capt. Frederick von Scheer

III Feld Jäger Regiment Anspach-Beyreuth detachment of 97 men, led by Capt. Friedrich Wilhelm von Röder

Brigade of Guards, led by Lt. Col. John Goodricke, with 200 men in three (3) known companies, led by:
- Lt. Col. John Goodricke - 3rd Scots Guards
- Capt. William Maynard - Coldstream Guards
- Lt. Col. Francis Dundas - 1st Foot Guards

23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) detachment of 258 men in two (2) known companies. led by:
- Capt. Forbes Champagne
- Capt. Thomas Peter








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