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At length early on the morning of the 6th of March, Cornwallis put his army in motion, and passing the Almance, pushed forward under cover of a thick fog, with the view of surprising Williams, driving him back to the main army, and forcing Greene to a general engagement. Lieutenant Colonel Webster, who led the British van, came unexpectedly upon the left of Williams, composed of some militia which had lately joined the army under Colonel Clarke, and threw them into some confusion. Lee, however, advancing to their support with his usual celerity, kept the enemy in check, and gave time to Williams to commence his retreat, which he effectually covered until the troops had crossed the Reedy fork. During the execution of this gallant movement, Lee had an opportunity of showing the superiority of his cavalry over those of the enemy, Webster having several times vainly endeavoured to force his rear guard into action with the British horse. Seeing the rear of Williams's troops safely over, Lee managed the retreat of his legion in a masterly manner and soon joined his friends on the opposite shore of the river. As soon as Lee had crossed, Colonel Williams continued his retreat towards Weitzett's Mill, leaying Lee and his legion supported by Colonels Clarke and Preston in his rear, to retard the enemy's march. Lee immediately formed his troops in a position to receive the enemy, the advance of which, consisting of 1000 men under Webster, soon made their appearance. Webster having crossed the creek in safety, (though according to Lee's account, no less than thirty two rifles were levelled at him by some of the best marksmen in the world, with deliberate aim,) instantly formed his troops, and advanced upon Lee's infantry, who were drawn up in
one line, its front parallel with the creek; as they ascended the bank, Lee directed his infantry to retire to the rear of his cavalry, and a skirmish ensued, in which Lee's centre was dislodged, and the enemy came in front of his cavalry. At this moment the British horse crossed the creek and posted themselves on the right of Webster as if with a view to cut off the retreat of Lee. In this situation Captain Rudolph was ordered to place himself opposite the enemy's cavalry and await their charge, while Lee in a masterly manner drew off his infantry and riflemen into the road, who moved on unmolested to Williams's camp: this being effected, Rudolph also turned off his cavalry, and the retreat was conducted without further interruption. Thus closed the first day of Cornwallis's manœuvres, and thus did he fail in both his designs, of cutting off Williams, and of forcing Greene to a general action.
Colonel Williams continued to retire until he gained a distance of seven miles in advance of the enemy, while General Greene having been apprised of his intentions in the early part of the day, and of Cornwal lis's pursuit, retired across the Haw, to wait for further reinforcements. Cornwallis, in the mean time, finding his efforts to bring Greene to action unavailing, withdrew to the Quaker meeting house, within the forks of Deep river. General Greene, at length, received his long expected reinforcements, which consisted of a brigade of Virginia militia under General Lawson, two from North Carolina under Generals Butler and Eaton, and 400 regulars under Lieutenant Colonel Greene. This acceptable addition increased his force to about 4500 men of every description; of which about 1600 were regular soldiers. This rein
forcement made it necessary for him to change the or ganization of his light corps, which he accordingly called in, and on the 14th, the army moved to Guilford Court house, within eight miles of Cornwallis's encampment.
Lord Cornwallis being now assured that battle was at hand, sent off his baggage, on the same day, to Bell's Mill, a little lower down the river, which fortunately for him, escaped the vigilance of Lee's le gion, who were traversing the woods the whole night in search of it. Both Generals seemed now equally anxious for action, and early on the morning of the 15th, both moved from their respective positions, with the view of attacking each other in their camps. Lee's legion was ordered to move some distance in advance of the American army; and for the purpose of reconnoitering, Lee sent one of his troops ahead which met Tarleton's eavalry about two miles in advance. Tarleton charg-, ed upon them and they retired, but Lee coming up at the moment with the remainder of the legion, formed in close column and made a desperate charge, which compelled Tarleton to sound a retreat. The whole of the front section of the British cavalry were dismounted, many of them killed, and the rest made prisoners; while not one of Lee's dragoons was hurt. Lee continued to pursue Tarleton, until coming upon the advance guards of the main army, he was in his turn obliged to retire behind his infantry and riflemen, between whom and the guards, a sharp action commenced, and continued until the near approach of Cornwallis made it expedient to draw off the legion. These manœuvres of Lee gave time to General Greene to form in order of battle and wait the approach of the British army. His troops were drawn up, a little
more than a mile from Guilford Court house, on the skirts of a thick forest, opening upon a field through which the British advanced; the first line consisting of North Carolina militia, under Generals Butler and Eaton, the second of Virginia militia led by Stevens and Lawson, and the third, of the Maryland and Virginia regular troops under. Huger and Williams.Lieutenant Colonel Washington with his cavalry, Captain Kirkwood's Delaware company, and Colonel Lynch's Virginia riflemen, covered the right flank; and the left was guarded by Lee's legion and Colonel Clarke's Virginia riflemen. Captain Singleton was posted in the road, a little in front of the first line, with two small field pieces. The lines were so posted that no more than Singleton's company and the North Carolina militia, could be seen, the two other lines being covered by the thick wood.
Lord Cornwallis, whose force did not exceed 2500, drew up his troops in one line only on the right were the Hessian regiment under Major de Buy, the 71st British, and the first battalion of guards, the whole commanded by Major General Leslie ; on the left were the 23d and 33d regiments under Colonel Webster, supported by the grenadiers and second battalion of guards, commanded by Brigadier General O'Hara the German yagers, and light infantry of the guards remained near the artillery which moved along the road in the centre, under the orders of Lieutenant M'Cleod; and Tarleton with his cavalry was drawn up in the rear of these.
The action commenced about half past one in the afternoon, by Captain Singleton, who opened his two pieces upon the van of the British as soon as it appeared. His fire was quickly returned by the royal artil
lery; and General Leslie advanced upon the North Carolina militia. These stood but one fire of the enemy, and then as at the battle of Cambden, took to flight, with the exception of a few of Eaton's brigade, who stood by the militia under Clarke. Every possible attempt was made to rally them ; but, though not a man was hurt, they flew in wild and cowardly disorder, throwing away every thing that could impede their speed. Lee's legion and Clarke's militia were now left alone to stand the shock of Leslie's assault, who soon found himself so roughly handled that he was obliged to bring up his battalion of guards into line. At the same moment Lieutenant Colonel Webster moved upon the Virginia militia, and was received by them, with undaunted firmness aud gallantry. Victory for a time seemed to declare in their favour; for Washington had succeeded in turning Webster's flank by bringing Lynch's riflemen upon them with so galling a fire, that but for the prompt appearance of O'Hara with the grenadiers and second battalion of guards, the left wing of the enemy would have been thrown into complete confusion. This opportune assistance, however, enabled Webster by a judicious movement to change his front, and allow O'Hara to occupy his ground. Both now advanced a second time with fixed bayonets, and the Virginians were forced back upon the continentals. Lee and Clarke in the mean time gallantly sustained the action against Leslie, but were at length also compelled to give way.Every corps of the British army except the cavalry, had now been brought into the line of battle, when our little band of continental troops were called upon to withstand their united attack. The conflict was long and bloody, and victory alternately perched upon