TwHP Lessons

Guilford Courthouse:
A Pivotal Battle in the War for Independence

[Cover photo] General Greene Monument
(Guilford Courthouse National Military Park)

T

he morning of March 15, 1781, was clear and cold. A light frost had disappeared under the first rays of the sun, but the ground underfoot was soft and spongy from long winter rains and snows. In the damp woods of what had been an isolated farming community in the Piedmont on a major east-west road through North Carolina, some 4,400 American troops, in various uniforms and country clothes, waited for battle.

This backwoods county seat of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, was the site of a pivotal battle in the Revolutionary War’s decisive Southern Campaign. The engagement set the stage for the region’s liberation from enemy occupation and impelled British general Lord Charles Cornwallis to take the ill-fated road that led him to final defeat at Yorktown, Virginia, seven months later.

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, the nation’s first national park established at a Revolutionary War site, preserves the 220-acre heart of the 1781 battlefield. Among the 28 monuments raised on the battlefield is a memorial containing the graves of two of North Carolina’s signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Hooper and John Penn. Although Guilford Courthouse is 600 miles south of Philadelphia and Independence Hall, it is appropriate that this monument stands at the site of one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War. It was the sacrifices of American patriots on this and scores of other battlefields that gave substance to the bold statements of principle contained in the Declaration of Independence.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Guilford Courthouse & surrounding area
 1. Battle of Guildford [sic]

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse
 2. The Generals' Report on the Battle
 3. Other Judgments, Public and Private

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Cavalry Monument
 2. General Greene Monument

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Eyewitness Accounts
 2. Hold a Debate
 3. War and Public Opinion
 4. Monuments to War

Supplementary Resources

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Guilford Courthouse
National Military Park

Teaching with Museum Collections: The American Revolution, a Revolution of Possibilities: Politics, Economy, and Society

American Revolutionary War:
Guilford Courthouse


This lesson is based on the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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