March 15, 1781: Battle of Guilford Courthouse

The Virginia Brigade would first see combat at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781. While “Colonel Green…with his regiment of Virginia, was drawn off without having tasted of battle, and ordered to a given point in the rear for security…” Hawes’s battalion was heavily engaged on the American right of the third line. Lieutenant Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee noted that they were “…composed of new soldiers, among whom were mingled a few who had served from the beginning of the war; but all the officers were experienced and approved.”

When Cornwallis sent Webster’s Brigade to break Greene’s third line, they “…rushed into close fire; but so firmly was he received by this body of veterans, supported by Hawe’s regiment of Virginia…that with equal rapidity he was compelled to recoil from the shock.” As the battle concluded, “General [Issac] Huger, who had, throughout the action, given his chief attention to the regiment of Hawes’s, the only one of the two, constituting his brigade, ever engaged, and which, with Kirkwood’s company, was still contending with lieutenant colonel Webster, now drew it off by order of the general;”

Lee commended the untested brigade and credited its officers in that “…the two regiments of Virginia were comprised of raw troops; but their officers were veteran, and the soldier is soon made fit for battle by experienced commanders.”

Excerpt from “…the soldier is soon made fit for battle by experienced commanders.”: The Collapse, Reformation, and Battle History of the Virginia Brigade of the Southern Army, 1780-81 by Todd Post

3 thoughts on “March 15, 1781: Battle of Guilford Courthouse

  1. Guilford Courthouse has been on my mind, too. My most recent blog post on the subject can be found here:

    Here’s something that I found striking, and I’m interested in your opinion on it. Lewis Griffin, of the 2nd VA noted in his pension application that “the uniform was blue turned up red and was called in camp The Regiment of “Hell-fired-blues” of the Virginia line.” (Will Graves’ transcription).

    This description implies that the 1st VA was somehow differently uniformed — my guess is that they wore plain blue jackets. I’m sure though that you know more about this than I do, and I wonder what your thoughts are on the uniforms of the two Virginia regiments at this time.

    Thanks and very best,


  2. While the information is not definitive, I believe your hunch is right.

    You may note that this is merely an excerpt from and article in progress “…the soldier is soon made fit for battle by experienced commanders.”: The Collapse, Reformation, and Battle History of the Virginia Brigade of the Southern Army, 1780-81 that I’m working on. It will have much greater detail on how the Virginia Brigade of 1780-1 was clothed and equipped.

    The article is roughly 80% complete and over 11 pages, but I’ve hit a little bit of writer’s block. I need to it out with finding a few more primary sources for their battle history. Lee’s memoirs are a great source for the Carolina Campaign, but relying on it too much leads to a biased and incomplete picture. As with the Cooch’s Bridge article, I like to provide a multitude of sources from both sides of the field. I also need to edit it heavily, as my first drafts tend to be heavier than they need to be.

    The quick answer though is that it is likely the 1st and 2d Virginia Regiments were initially clothed differently, but Larry Babits indicates in his article Supplying the Southern Army, March 1780-September 1781 (Military Collector and Historian XLVII, 1995) that Greene had stored regimental clothing by the early summer of 1781 and had his entire army in hunting shirts and overalls until November when new regimental coats were issued.

  3. Thanks for responding and sharing your research on the Virginia regiments. I wish you the best with your article, and I hope to see it in print when it’s complete.

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