Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Americans at Guilford Courthouse

In this post I briefly describe the American army that fought at the battle of Guilford Courthouse and I show a 15mm-version of this army that I put together.

The American army at Guilford Courthouse consisted of a variety of units including infantry, artillery, and cavalry, Continentals and militia, old soldiers and new recruits. The order of battle, described below, is based primarily on two sources. The first is an obscure (but enormously valuable) troop return that was completed 2 days before the battle. The second is a recent history that provides a wealth of information on the individual units. [1]

American Order of Battle

Commander: Major-General Nathanael Greene

Virginia Continental Brigade (Brigadier-General Isaac Huger commanding).

  • 1st Virginia Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel John Green)
  • 2nd Virginia Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Hawes)
  • Separate light infantry companies [2]
  • Total: 778 rank and file present and fit for duty [3]

Maryland Continental Brigade (Colonel Otho Williams commanding).

  • 1st Maryland Regiment (Colonel John Gunby) [4]
  • 2nd Maryland Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Ford) [4]
  • 1st Delaware Regiment (2 Companies) [5]
  • Total: 630 rank and file present and fit for duty [3]

Virginia Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General Edward Stevens commanding).

  • Militia from Augusta, Halifax, Lunenburg, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, and Rockbridge counties
  • Total: 508 rank and file present and fit for duty

Virginia Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General Robert Lawson commanding).

  • Militia from Amelia, Brunswick, Charlotte, Cumberland, Mecklenburg, and Powhatan counties
  • Total: 615 rank and file present and fit for duty

North Carolina Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General John Butler commanding).

  • Militia from Caswell, Chatham, Granville, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange, Randolph, Rockingham, and Rowan counties
  • Total: 324 rank and file present and fit for duty

North Carolina Militia Brigade (Brigadier-General Thomas Eaton commanding).

  • Militia from Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Martin, Nash, Northampton, and Warren counties
  • Total: 730 rank and file present and fit for duty

Rifle Regiments

  • Units from western Virginia and North Carolina (one corps was led by Colonel William Campbell, another by Colonel Charles Lynch)
  • Total: around 400 rank and file present and fit for duty

Light Dragoons and Partisan Corps

  • William Washington’s Light Dragoons: 102 rank and file present and fit for duty
  • Lee’s Legion: 82 infantry and 86 cavalry rank and file present and fit for duty
  • Several small units of state or militia light dragoons [6]

Miscellaneous Units

  • Continental Artillery (two 2-gun sections) [7]
  • North Carolina Continentals [8]


The American Army (click to enlarge).

Close Up

Here is the finished American army. One 15mm figure represents 20 actual combatants. The figures have been arranged into three lines, as they were during the historical battle, but this image is not meant to convey the details of their historical deployment (this will be covered in an upcoming post).

The first American line consisted of the two brigades of North Carolina militia [9, 10] and flank corps commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Washington (at left) and Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee (at right). The flank corps were comprised of light dragoons, light infantry, and riflemen.

The second line consisted of the two brigades of Virginia militia [10].

The third line consisted of the two brigades of Continentals. The Virginians are on the left, and the Marylanders are on the right [10, 11].

2nd Virginia Regiment

American Dragoons. These include some newly-painted Lee's Legion dragoons and a couple of older militia dragoons.



1. An electronic copy of the troop return is available in the George Washington Papers hosted by the Library of Congress. See here.

The recent history is: Lawrence E. Babits & Joshua B. Howard (2009). Long, obstinate, and bloody: The battle of Guilford Courthouse. UNC Press.

In general, I will be talking about the formations within the American army very loosely. The exact composition of these units falls outside the scope of the research that I’ve conducted, and the reader is advised to see Babits & Howard, ibid. for much more detail on this subject.

2. Two companies commanded by Captain Phillip Huffman and Captain Andrew Wallace.

3. Readers may note that my interpretation of the American order of battle differs slightly from that of Babits & Howard, ibid. For example, I count the Virginia and Delaware light infantry companies towards the troop totals for the Virginia and Maryland brigades, respectively, whereas Babits & Howard did not. To be clear, I agree with Babits' & Howard's interpretation of the role these light infantry companies played during the battle.

4. Lieutenant-Colonel John Eager Howard later summarized the situation of the Maryland line at this time. He wrote:

“The Maryland line consisted of 7 regiments about half full when we marched into [South] Carolina. After the actions of the 16th and 18th of August 1780 [i.e., Camden and Fishing Creek] what men we had left were formed into two regiments and the supernumerary officers sent home.--The Maryland troops with me at the Cowpens were picked out of the two regiments….

“There was a new regiment (Regiment Extraordinary) sent out from Maryland which had been raised by the state, and it was thought that the officers had been more favored than the officers of the old regiments. It joined us a few days before the action and there were such jealousies among the officers that Genl Greene sent all the new officers home, and made a new arrangement of the two regiments. This was at the time my light infantry [i.e., the troops at Cowpens] joined their regiments. The most of the new men were thrown into the second regiment which was very deficient of officers.”

5. The two companies were commanded by Captains Robert Kirkwood and Peter Jacquett. Kirkwood’s company, which greatly distinguished itself at Cowpens, was assigned to William Washington’s flank corps. Jacquett’s company is thought to have served with the 1st Maryland Regiment, but this hospital return, transcribed by Will Graves, seemingly shows that it was with the 2nd Maryland.

6. These units were attached to serve with either Lieutenant-Colonel William Washington, or Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee. Possibly their strength is partially accounted for in the listed troop totals for those units (I say partially, because some cavalrymen were added to those units after the March 13th return). In any case, the strength of these small units is difficult to assess. Some examples of pension applicants claiming service with these units: George Gresham (W2933), a Georgian horseman who fought under Lee, Philemon Holcombe (S4399), a Virginian horseman who fought under Washington, James Hilton (S30484), a North Carolinian horseman who fought under Lee.

7. The gun sections were commanded by Captain Anthony Singleton and Captain Ebenezer Finley. The artillery is notably absent on the March 13 troop return. Were these men treated as part of the infantry brigades? In my calculations I assumed they were not.

8. Babits and Howard, ibid., make a good case that some North Carolina Continentals served at the battle. They proposed that these men were assigned to protect and assist the American artillery.

9. Histories of the battle represent Eaton’s and Butler’s North Carolina brigades as equal in size, but the troop return shows that the former dwarfed the latter. I’m presuming that the imbalance was not as great during the actual battle (e.g., perhaps the men detached to guard the baggage were chiefly drawn from Eaton’s brigade).

10. The troop totals indicated in the pictures above do not exactly match the strength listed above. This is because 1) I added counted noncommissioned officers, musicians, and most commissioned officers when calculating how many figures I needed, 2) I took into consideration that some militia joined the battle after March 13, and 3) I took into consideration that Greene detached a large force of men (mostly, if not exclusively, North Carolina militiaman to judge from pension applications) to guard his baggage train before the battle. I don’t believe the number of men that joined after the date of this return or that were assigned to the baggage train is known; my additions and deductions are speculative.

11. The colors shown carried by the Virginia and Maryland regiments are ahistorical; I wrote about these in a previous post.


  1. Do you O'Kelley's series on the southern campaigns ('Nothing but Blood and Slaughter')? The level of detail (inc. OOBs) is staggering. They are a 'must have' for any student of the southern campaigns. I have yet to read Babits and Howard but i'll be interested to see how their OOB compares to O'Kelley. Cheers.

  2. I haven't read his books but I am familiar with them. My impression is that O'Kelley has very good coverage of the breadth of the southern campaign -- the numerous military actions large and small that took place during the Revolutionary War. It is admirable certainly to compile that much information in one series.

    Babits' and Howard's written work of course does not have as much breadth to it, but it certainly has great depth. I believe their book on Guilford Courthouse is the best written to date.