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Thursday, May 10, 2018

How Rowan County Smashed Lord Cornwallis #northcarolinapioneers #ncgenealogy


How Rowan County Smashed Lord Cornwallis

Beattie's Ford and Cowan's FordAfter Cornwallis passed over the Catawba river on February 1, 1781, he stayed behind at Cowans Ford about three hours to bury the dead. Meanwhile, Colonel Tarleton had been dispatched to pursue the patriots retreating in the direction of Torrence Tavern. Early in the morning of that same day Colonel Webster moved with his brigade and artillery to Beatties Ford, about six miles above Cowans Ford. It was there that Colonel Webster proceeded to fire several shots across the river at a small patriot detachment on the banks to clear the way for his crossing. When that worked, Webster and his two British forces pressed forward, however, towards a large body of assembling North Carolina Militia. The Militia was without a commander, and the troops were already discouraged by the death of General Davidson. So, as the despised Colonel Tarleton approached, the patriots poured out its fire, killing seven of the British horsemen and wounding others. Tarleton had just been defeated at Cowpens, and this victory helped to change the mood of the North Carolinians. When Lord Cornwallis published his general orders on February 1, 1781, he was "highly displeased" that several houses were set on fire that day, and declared it a disgrace to the army. Further, the orders stated that he would punish with the utmost severely any person or persons found guilty of committing such a disgraceful outrage. The order, no doubt, has reference to the burning of the houses of John Brevard, who had " seven sons at one time in the rebel army," and of Adam Torrence, a staunch Whig, where the skirmish had taken place. Meanwhile, General Greene was apprised of the successful battle against Tarleton at Cowpens. As Cornwallis proceeded to pursue General Morgan, General Stevens was ordered to march with his Virginia militia (whose term of service was almost expired) by way of Charlotte to take charge of the british prisoners captured by Morgan and conduct them to Charlottesville, Virginia. But General Greene was anxious to confer with Morgan personally and so left his camp on the Pee Dee and started for the Catawba with but one aid and two or three mounted militia. Along the route he was informed of he was being pursued by Lord Cornwallis. Greene reached Sherrills Ford, a few miles before Island Ford and had his interview with Morgan. That night while the British army readied their troops to prepare to pursue Green and Morgan, Greene and Morgan had not waited for the dawn, and crossed the Yadkin river at the Trading Ford, six miles beyond Salisbury while Cornwallis still slept. When Cornwallis awoke on the morning of February 3rd, he prepared to strike a fatal blow on the banks of the Yadkin, but the Americans were beyond his reach particularly because of the copious rains in the mountains which had swollen the Yadkin to a mighty river. But the horses of Morgan had forded the stream at midnight and the infantry passed over in boats at dawn. These vessels were fastened on the eastern shore of the Yadkin, and Cornwallis was obliged to wait for the waters to subside before he could attempt to cross. A corps of American riflemen were on the Western side when the vanguard of the British army approached, but these escaped across the river after a slight skirmish. Nothing was lost but a few wagons belonging to Whig families, who, with their effects, were fleeing with the American army. The surgeon of the American army (Dr. Read), left this record of the cannonading scene:
"At a little distance from the river was a small cabin, in which General Greene had taken up his quarters. At this building the enemy directed their fire, and the balls rebounded from the rocks in the rear of it. But little of the roof was visible to the enemy. The General was preparing his orders for the army, and his dispatches to the Congress. In a short time the balls began to strike the roof, and clapboards were flying in all directions. But the General's pen never stopped, only when a new visitor arrived, or some officer for orders; and then the answer was given with calmness and precision, and Greene resumed his pen."
Source: Sketches of Western North Carolina, Historical and Biographical by Author: C. L. Hunter 

The original manuscript journal of Lord Cornwallis, now on file in the archives of the Historical Society of the State University at Chapel Hill, discloses, with great accuracy, the movements of the British army through Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Rowan counties. Also, Princeton University has an exact reprint of six rare pamphlets on the Clinton-Cornwallis controversy Virginia Campaign 1781), with very numerous important unpublished manuscript notes by Sir Henry Clinton, K.B., and the omitted and hitherto unpublished portions of the letters in their appendixes added from the original manuscripts ; with a supplement containing extracts from the journals of the House of Lords, a French translation of papers laid before the House, and a catalogue of the additional correspondence of Clinton and Cornwallis, in 1780-81, Compiled, collated, and edited, by Benjamin Franklin Stevens. 

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