Guilford Courthouse National Military Park | BATTLEFIELD TOUR STOP 1

Where the Battle of Guilford Courthouse began

Where the Battle of Guilford Courthouse began


See the Guilford Courthouse Battlefield Tour home page for a tour map.


THE AMERICAN FIRST LINE

The first stop on the Guilford Courthouse Battlefield Tour is located next to the Visitor Center, so you don’t even need your car. Follow the signs that point to the left side of the building where a short trail leads to the tour stop. No sooner do you begin than the trail splits. The actual tour stop is straight ahead, but to the right is Monument Row, a path lined with monuments. I suggest making this side trip, as it is much more interesting than the actual tour stop, which is just an information panel that points out that the Battle of Guilford Courthouse began in this area (see photo above). The path through Monument Row loops around to the information panel, so you will not miss it.

As you walk down Monument Row, notice that some of the monuments have nothing to do with the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, but rather are monuments to North Carolinians who fought in the American Revolution at other places. The reason is that the battlefield was originally owned by the Guilford Battle Ground Company. Back in 1887, owner David Schenck had the idea of making the park a memorial to all North Carolinians who fought in the war, and he began placing monuments throughout the park. His idea was to mix battlefield preservation with fairground atmosphere. There were originally 32 monuments, including two archways over the entrance roads. Being too narrow for automobiles, the National Park Service had them removed in 1937. Stacks of bricks from the monuments are located at various places throughout the park. For an interesting account of how Guilford Courthouse National Military Park was created, be sure to read the Park History web page.

Monument Row at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Monument Row at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Located on Monument Row is a memorial to a boy name James Gilles, the bugle boy for Colonel Harry “Lighthorse” Lee. Gilles was not killed at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse; he was killed a month earlier when he accompanied a small group of soldiers to check out a report that the British were in the area. The group ran into a unit of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s Dragoons (horse mounted cavalry). After coming upon them and fleeing, the Dragoons caught up to Gilles, who was on the slowest horse, and killed him. When the Americans returned to camp, a larger force was sent out and a fight ensued. Eleven British soldiers were killed, and one was taken prisoner. The body of Gilles was recovered an buried at a local plantation house. Two other monuments to the boy are located near the town of Summerfield, a short distance northwest from the Guilford Courthouse battlefield.

Gillies Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Gillies Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

In 1903, a monument meant to reconcile the differences between the North and South caused by the Civil War was placed at the Guilford Courthouse battlefield. It reads “No North—Washington” on one side and “No South—Greene” on the other, referring to the fact that Greene was a northerner fighting in the south and Washington was a southerner fighting in the north and that they fought together for a common cause.

No North / No South Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

No North / No South Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

No South / Greene, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

No South / Greene, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

No North / Washington, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

No North / Washington, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

A triangular-shaped monument representing a pup-tent is dedicated to Captain James Morehead. While Morehead fought in the war, a monument to him is most likely due to the fact that he is a relative of Joseph Morehead, the second president of the Guilford Battle Ground Company.

Morehead Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Morehead Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Keren Turner, one of two women honored in the park, also benefits from being a relative of Morehead. Supposedly she came from Maryland to attend to her son who was wounded in the battle.

Turner Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Turner Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

There are also two graves along the trail, one for Major John Daves and one for General Jethro Sumner. Both were war vets, but neither fought at Guilford Courthouse and neither were originally buried here. They were reinterred at the battlefield in the early 1890s. There is no mention of how they died.

Sumner Grave, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Sumner Grave, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Inscription on Sumner Grave, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Inscription on Sumner Grave, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Daves grave at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (inscription unreadable due to weathering)

Daves grave at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (inscription unreadable due to weathering)

To the left of the graves is the information panel that tells the story of the American First Line (the official first stop on the Guilford Courthouse Battlefield Tour). Where you are standing is about 200 yards behind the American first line of soldiers and facing the area from which the British attack came. You are located at the center of the line, which stretched left and right well beyond the borders of the current park property. This is where the Americans first battled the British forces (British soldiers and trained Loyalists). The British knew the first line of Americans would be nothing more than untrained militia, so they went on the offensive and marched towards the line. Fifteen hundred militiamen fired first and killed a number of British soldiers, but the British returned fire and then charged with bayonets. The militiamen at the center of the line turned and ran, while the two flanks retreated in proper fashion and fell back to join the second line behind them. The left flank actually got lost, which caused the British to split their forces and send a group of soldiers after them, thus creating a sub-battle within the larger Guilford Courthouse conflict.


Next Stop: Fragmented Attack


Back to the Top


Last updated on January 24, 2022
Share this article