You have to understand that, when a Texan hears the words “the war for independence”, the first thing that comes to mind is the Battle of San Jacinto, the Alamo and Goliad, Santa Anna, and all that. For a Texan, “history” begins in 1836. It takes a while for it to sink in, after moving to Virginia, that history does NOT start in 1836 and there was a bigger, much more important war well before that.
And so it’s understandable, when we recently took Mother down to see the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina, that she assumed that it was related to the Civil War. It took a little while of wandering through the exhibits in the Visitor Center, seeing the red uniforms and the references to Generals Washington and Cornwallis, that she said, “Oh, this is that other war.” She has a way of dramatically understating things. She was nonetheless quite impressed.
The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is impressive. There are two films in the Visitor’s Center, they have some fantastic exhibits, there is a walking tour and a driving tour to see the many monuments, tour narrations on CD and via smartphone, and there are paths throughout the park that were virtually thronged with people on a hot September afternoon. You could easily spend hours here.
When I first got to Henry County, Virginia, I wondered if there had ever been any British soldiers this far inland. We are, after all, around a five hour car ride away from the coast. What would that be on horseback through dense woods?
Guilford Courthouse pretty much answers that question. There were, at one time, quite a lot of them not far away at all. This battle was important to the American Revolution because, although the British won the battle, they lost so many men that it is seen as the turning point in the war.
One of the monuments there is to mark the spot where Brigadier General Edward Stevens was wounded during the battle while leading the Virginia Militia. There is remarkably little on the Internet specifically about this battle apart from the Wikipedia entry. Apparently, it wasn’t even named in the movie, “The Patriot”, even though it was a pivotal battle. I know that we shouldn’t use a Hollywood film to tell us about history but some things you just don’t expect them to get wrong or misrepresent. It’s a shame, really. A little more historical accuracy could have gone a long way.
A British “Red Coat” would seem pretty anachronistic at just about any event that I can think of in Texas, except for a 4th of July event. Here, Revolutionary War reenactors are a common sight at even small community festivals.
I love the connection to the colonial past that pervades life here on the East Coast. It’s truly humbling for it to be pointed out that the USA was not a given; that there was ever any doubt that we, as a nation, would even exist.
I’d love to learn more about this specific area’s involvement in the Revolution as well as the Revolution itself. I’ve tried various books but keep getting bogged down in high-minded minutiae about the founding fathers. My favorite history book, so far, has been “Lone Star: A History of Texas and The Texans” by T.R. Fehrenbach. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good book (or books) on Virginia and its involvement in the American Revolution?