The Battle of Green Spring took place near Green Spring Plantation in James City County, Virginia during the American Revolutionary War. On July 6, 1781 United States Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, leading the advance forces of the Marquis de Lafayette, was ambushed near the plantation by the British army of Earl Charles Cornwallis in the last major land battle of the Virginia campaign prior to the Siege of Yorktown.
Following a month of marching and countermarching in central Virginia by Cornwallis and Lafayette, Cornwallis in late June moved to Williamsburg, where he received orders to move to Portsmouth and send some of his army to New York City. Lafayette followed Cornwallis fairly closely, emboldened by the arrival of reinforcements to consider making attacks on the British force. On July 4, Cornwallis departed Williamsburg for Jamestown, planning to cross the James River en route to Portsmouth. Lafayette believed he could stage an attack on Cornwallis's rear guard during the crossing.
Cornwallis anticipated Lafayette's idea, and laid an elaborate trap. General Wayne's forces were very nearly caught in the trap, and only a bold bayonet charge against the numerically overwhelming British enabled his forces to retreat. Cornwallis did not follow the victory with pursuit, instead following his plan to cross the river. The action reinforced the perception among contemporaries that justified the moniker "Mad" to describe Wayne, although opinion on the merits of his actions was divided. The battlefield has been partially preserved, and reenactments are sometimes staged.
|Battle of Green Spring|
|Part of the American Revolutionary War|
A French map depicting the battle
|United States||Great Britain|
|Commanders and leaders|
Marquis de Lafayette|
|Casualties and losses|
28 killed |
|75 killed and wounded|
In May 1781, Earl Charles Cornwallis arrived in Petersburg, Virginia after a lengthy campaign through North and South Carolina. In addition to his 1,400 men, he assumed command of another 3,600 that had been under the command of the turncoat Benedict Arnold, and was soon thereafter further reinforced by about 2,000 more sent from New York. These forces were opposed by a much smaller Continental Army force led by the Marquis de Lafayette, then located at Richmond. Following orders originally given to Arnold's predecessor in command, William Phillips (who died a week before Cornwallis's arrival), Cornwallis worked to eliminate Virginia's ability to support the revolutionary cause, giving chase to Lafayette's army, which numbered barely 3,000 and included a large number of inexperienced militia.
Lafayette successfully avoided engaging Cornwallis, who used his numerical advantage to detach forces for raids against economic, military, and political targets in central Virginia. After about one month of this activity, Cornwallis turned back to the east, marching for Williamsburg. Lafayette, whose force grew to number about 4,000 with the arrival of Continental Army reinforcements under General Anthony Wayne and additional experienced militiamen under William Campbell, followed Cornwallis. Buoyed by the increase in his troop strength, Lafayette also became more aggressive in his tactics, sending out detachments of his force to counteract those that Cornwallis sent on forage and raiding expeditions. One such foray led to a clash at Spencer's Ordinary, a crossroads not far from Williamsburg, in late June.
When Cornwallis arrived at Williamsburg, he received orders from General Sir Henry Clinton to go to Portsmouth and prepare a detachment of troops to return to New York City. Pursuant to these orders, Cornwallis began moving south on the Virginia Peninsula on July 4, planning to cross the wide James River at the Jamestown ferry. Lafayette followed, with advance units and most of his Continentals reaching Norrell's Mill, about 8 miles (13 km) from the ferry on July 5.
Lafayette saw an opportunity to attack the British force as it made the difficult crossing of the James. Cornwallis also recognized the possibility, and decided to lay a trap, hoping to capture a portion of Lafayette's army. He only sent his baggage train and John Graves Simcoe's Queen's Rangers across the river, and concealed his main force near the crossing. Cornwallis also sent men to "desert" to the Americans with information that most of the British force had crossed, leaving only a rear guard on the north side of the river.
The position where Cornwallis hid his army was well-chosen. To the left, impassable swampy terrain sloped down toward the river. To the right, there was more marshy ground and a few ponds. The access from the rest of the mainland toward the ferry was via a 400-yard (370 m) causeway from the Green Spring Plantation that was surrounded by marshlands that an advancing army would have to negotiate. The earl arranged his army in two lines, with the 76th and 80th regiments along with part of the 43rd and Banastre Tarleton's British Legion on the left, and the Brigade of Guards, and Hessian auxiliaries on the right. Both wings also included light infantry companies. Cornwallis left a small company of German jägers and a few men from the Legion to give the appearance of a rear guard picket, and gave them specific orders to resist the American advance as much as possible.
Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne led Lafayette's advance company, about 500 men, out early on July 6 from Norrell's Tavern. When Wayne reached Green Spring, he surveyed the terrain and noted the presence of the British guards. When Lafayette came up with his main force, the two men decided to go ahead with the attack, but Lafayette ordered more troops forward from Norrell's Tavern around 1 pm. Some minor skirmishing took place while they awaited these troops. Wayne's 500 soldiers included 200 Virginia riflemen under Majors John Willis and Richard Call backed by additional light infantry led by John Francis Mercer, William Galvan, and McPherson. Colonel Walter Stewart's Pennsylvania Continental battalion formed the reserve. Lafayette sent forward two Pennsylvania Continental battalions under Colonels Richard Butler and Richard Humpton, and Major John P. Wyllys' light infantry battalion. Beginning to suspect something was amiss, Lafayette held back the light infantry battalions of Colonels Francis Barber and Joseph Vose. The three-battalion reinforcement increased the size of the force Wayne ordered into the swamps around 3:00 pm to between eight and nine hundred men. Wayne's force now consisted of two companies of riflemen, one of dragoons, and most of the Pennsylvania Line, and included three pieces of field artillery. As they moved out, Lafayette rode out toward a spit of land on the riverbank from which he might observe the action.
Wayne's advance force and the British pickets then began an extended skirmish lasting nearly two hours. The British forces slowly retreated, suffering significant casualties under the persistent American advance. Wayne's riflemen performed particularly well, picking off several of the British commanding officers. However, the tables turned around 5 pm when the Americans reached an "abandoned" gun that Cornwallis had left in the road. Their seizure of the gun was the signal for the British counterattack, which began with a barrage of canister and grape shot, and was followed by an infantry charge.
Lafayette, from his vantage point on the river, had spotted the main British force and realized that Wayne was entering a trap. However, he was not able to reach Wayne in time to recall him. He immediately began moving additional troops forward in an attempt to prevent the trap from closing on Wayne. In the meantime, the British charge had thrown the Americans into some confusion, and Wayne was concerned that a retreat would turn into a disorderly rout. Wayne reformed his line, ordered his artillery to fire a blast of grape shot, and then had the line charge the numerically overwhelming British with bayonets fixed.
Wayne's audacious charge worked; it successfully halted the British advance long enough for Lafayette's covering force to approach. Lafayette rode forward to assist in managing the American retreat, which began to crumble after Cornwallis personally led a countercharge. During the retreat, two of the American guns had to be abandoned because their horses were shot, and Lafayette was also unhorsed. As the sun was beginning to set, Cornwallis chose not to pursue the Americans, who retreated to Green Spring.
British reports of casualties in the battle listed 5 officers and 70 enlisted men killed or wounded. American casualties were reported to number about 140, including 28 killed. Cornwallis, satisfied with the victory, did not to pursue the retreating Americans, and instead crossed the James as planned and moved on to Portsmouth. There his arrangements to embark troops were countermanded by new orders from Clinton that instead ordered him to use his force to establish a fortified naval station. This Cornwallis chose to do at Yorktown, where he was compelled to surrender after a brief siege in October 1781.
Lafayette, in his dispatches and reports throughout the later stages of the Virginia campaign, painted Cornwallis's movements to Williamsburg and Portsmouth as a retreat. These reports bolstered Lafayette's reputation, and the battle, although a tactical setback, did not harm that reputation. General Wayne wrote of his decision to charge the full British force that it was "one of those prudent, tho' daring manoeuvers which seldom fail of producing the desired effect; the result in this Instance fully Justified it." Lafayette publicly lauded Wayne's performance, but recorded privately that Wayne made tactical mistakes and the battle read well "in a gazette". Militia general Peter Muhlenberg blamed the loss on "the impetuosity of our brother Brigadier." Wayne biographer Paul Nelson opines that Americans of the day could "hardly decide after the battle whether to admire Wayne for his brave and impetuous character or to condemn him as a foolhardy adventurer."
Madness — Mad Anthony, by God, I never knew such a piece of work heard of — about eight hundred troops opposed to five or six thousand veterans on their own ground.— unknown writer, New Jersey Gazette
Portions of the Green Spring Plantation were purchased in 1966 by the National Park Service, and are now part of the Colonial National Historical Park. These holdings were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and are, as of June 2010, open only by special arrangement.
Events from the year 1781 in Great Britain.4th Continental Artillery Regiment
The 4th Continental Artillery Regiment, also known as Proctor's Continental Artillery Regiment, was an American military unit during the American Revolutionary War. The regiment became part of the Continental Army on 10 June 1777 as Colonel Thomas Proctor's Continental Artillery Regiment. It was made up of eight artillery companies from eastern Pennsylvania. At the time of the regiment's formation, two companies were already in existence, one from as early as October 1775. One company served at Trenton in December 1776 where it performed well in action. In February 1777, Pennsylvania expanded its two-company battalion into an eight-company regiment. After officially joining the Continental Army, the regiment saw much fighting in the Philadelphia campaign in late 1777. Elements of Proctor's Regiment fought at Monmouth in June 1778 and joined the Sullivan Expedition in summer 1779.
On 10 August 1779 the unit was renamed the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment. The regiment was reorganized with a 10-company establishment on 1 January 1781 with the addition of several companies. It was transferred to the Southern Department in February 1781 where it fought at Yorktown in October. Elements of the regiment were also deployed in the southern theater in 1781 and 1782. In January 1783, the regiment was reduced to four companies. That year, the 4th Artillery was transferred to the Middle Department in April, furloughed in June, and disbanded in November.5th Pennsylvania Regiment
The 5th Pennsylvania Regiment, first known as the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion, was raised December 9, 1775, at Chester, Pennsylvania, for service with the Continental Army. The regiment would see action at Brandywine, Paoli, Germantown, Monmouth, Springfield, Green Spring, and Yorktown. The regiment was disbanded on January 1, 1783.6th Pennsylvania Regiment
The 6th Pennsylvania Regiment, first known as the 5th Pennsylvania Battalion, was a unit of the United States of America (U.S.) Army, raised December 9, 1775, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for service with the Continental Army. The regiment would see action during the New York Campaign, Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Germantown, Battle of Monmouth, and Green Spring. The regiment was disbanded on January 1, 1783.Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne (January 1, 1745 – December 15, 1796) was a United States Army officer and statesman. He adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him promotion to brigadier general and the nickname Mad Anthony. He served as the Senior Officer of the Army and led the Legion of the United States.
Wayne was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and he worked as a tanner and surveyor after attending the College of Philadelphia. He won election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and helped raise a Pennsylvania militia unit in 1775. During the Revolutionary War, he served in the Invasion of Quebec, the Philadelphia campaign, and the Yorktown campaign. His reputation suffered due to his defeat in the Battle of Paoli, but he won wide praise for his leadership in the 1779 Battle of Stony Point.
After the war, Wayne settled in Georgia on land that had been granted to him for his military service. He briefly represented Georgia in the United States House of Representatives, then returned to the Army to accept command of the Northwest Indian War. His forces defeated several Indian tribes at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and the subsequent Treaty of Greenville ended the war.
Wayne died in 1796 while on active duty. Various places and things have been named after him, including the cities of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, Waynesboro, Virginia, and Waynesboro, Georgia, as well as Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.Banastre Tarleton
Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 15 January 1833) was a British soldier and politician. Tarleton was eventually ranked as a general years after his service in the colonies during the American Revolutionary War, and afterwards did not lead troops into battle.Tarleton's cavalrymen were called 'Tarleton's Raiders'. His green uniform was the standard uniform of the British Legion, a provincial unit organised in New York, in 1778. After returning to Great Britain in 1781 at the age of 27, Tarleton was elected a Member of Parliament for Liverpool and returned to office in the early 19th century. As such, Tarleton became a prominent Whig politician despite his young man's reputation as a roué. Given the importance of the slave trade to the British shipping industry in Liverpool, Tarleton strongly supported slavery as an economic means.Edward Butler (soldier)
Edward Butler (March 20, 1762 – May 6, 1803) was an officer in the United States Army who served as acting Adjutant General and acting Inspector General of the U.S. Army from 1793 to 1794 and from 1796 to 1797.Francis Dundas
General Francis Dundas (c.1759 – 15 January 1824) was a British general and acting governor of the Cape Colony between 1798 and 1803.
Francis Dundas was the second son of Robert Dundas of Arniston and Jean Grant, and the nephew of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville and War Secretary.Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (French: [maʁki də la fajɛt]; 6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), known in the United States simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown. After returning to France, he was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830.
Lafayette was born into a wealthy land-owning family in Chavaniac in the province of Auvergne in south central France. He followed the family's martial tradition and was commissioned an officer at age 13. He became convinced that the American cause was noble in its revolutionary war, and he traveled to the New World seeking glory in it. He was made a major general at age 19, but he was initially not given American troops to command. He was wounded during the Battle of Brandywine but still managed to organize an orderly retreat, and he served with distinction in the Battle of Rhode Island. In the middle of the war, he sailed for home to lobby for an increase in French support. He returned to America in 1780 and was given senior positions in the Continental Army. In 1781, troops under his command in Virginia blocked forces led by Cornwallis until other American and French forces could position themselves for the decisive Siege of Yorktown.
Lafayette returned to France and was appointed to the Assembly of Notables in 1787, convened in response to the fiscal crisis. He was elected a member of the Estates General of 1789, where representatives met from the three traditional orders of French society: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. After forming the National Constituent Assembly, he helped to write the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen with Thomas Jefferson's assistance. This document was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and invoked natural law to establish basic principles of the democratic nation-state. He also advocated the end of slavery, in keeping with the philosophy of natural liberty. After the storming of the Bastille, he was appointed commander-in-chief of France's National Guard and tried to steer a middle course through the years of revolution. In August 1792, radical factions ordered his arrest, and he fled into the Austrian Netherlands. He was captured by Austrian troops and spent more than five years in prison.
Lafayette returned to France after Napoleon Bonaparte secured his release in 1797, though he refused to participate in Napoleon's government. After the Bourbon Restoration of 1814, he became a liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies, a position that he held for most of the remainder of his life. In 1824, President James Monroe invited him to the United States as the nation's guest, and he visited all 24 states in the union and met a rapturous reception. During France's July Revolution of 1830, he declined an offer to become the French dictator. Instead, he supported Louis-Philippe as king, but turned against him when the monarch became autocratic. He died on 20 May 1834 and is buried in Picpus Cemetery in Paris, under soil from Bunker Hill. He is sometimes known as "The Hero of the Two Worlds" for his accomplishments in the service of both France and the United States.Green Spring Plantation
Green Spring Plantation in James City County about five miles (8 km) west of Williamsburg, was the 17th century plantation of one of the more popular governors of Colonial Virginia in North America, Sir William Berkeley, and his wife, Frances Culpeper Berkeley.
Sir William Berkeley, who served several terms, is perhaps the best-known of Virginia's colonial governors. Contrary to popular belief the well-known Berkeley Plantation in nearby Charles City County was not named in his honor.
Today, a section of the land that formed the core of Green Spring Plantation is part of the Colonial National Historical Park.Hessian (soldier)
Hessians (US: or UK: ) were German soldiers who served as auxiliaries to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War and the Irish Rebellion of 1798.The Hessians were contracted by Great Britain and others as mercenaries in several 18th century European wars, but are most widely associated with the American Revolution, where around 30,000 German soldiers fought for the British during the war, forming a quarter of the troops sent to British America. The term Hessians is used by Americans to refer to all German troops fighting on the British side, a form of synecdoche as 65% of the German troops came from the German states of Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau, while the remainder were leased from other small German states. The Hessians were led by Wilhelm von Knyphausen, entering British service as entire units, fighting under their own German flags, commanded by their usual officers, and wearing their existing uniforms.
The use of German troops to suppress a rebellion in the British colonies angered the American patriots, and one of the 27 colonial grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence was "transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries".Jamestown, Virginia
The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the east bank of the James (Powhatan) River about 2.5 mi (4 km) southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg. It was established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 4, 1607 O.S.;(May 14, 1607 N.S.), and was considered permanent after brief abandonment in 1610. It followed several failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island. Jamestown served as the capital of the colony of Virginia for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
The settlement was located within the country of Tsenacommacah, which belonged to the Powhatan Confederacy, and specifically in that of the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined. Relations soured fairly early on, however, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within three years. Mortality was very high at Jamestown itself due to disease and starvation, with over 80 percent of the colonists perishing in 1609–10 in what became known as the "Starving Time".The Virginia Company brought eight Polish and German colonists in 1608 in the Second Supply, some of whom built a small glass factory—although the Germans and a few others soon defected to the Powhatans with weapons and supplies from the settlement. The Second Supply also brought the first two European women to the settlement. In 1619, the first documented Africans came to Jamestown—about 50 men, women, and children aboard a Portuguese slave ship that had been captured in the West Indies and brought to the Jamestown region. They most likely worked in the tobacco fields as indentured servants. The modern conception of slavery in the United States was formalized in 1640 (the John Punch hearing) and was fully entrenched in Virginia by 1660.The London Company's second settlement in Bermuda claims to be the site of the oldest town in the English New World, as St. George's, Bermuda was officially established in 1612 as New London, whereas James Fort in Virginia was not converted into James Towne until 1619, and further did not survive to the present day. In 1676, Jamestown was deliberately burned during Bacon's Rebellion, though it was quickly rebuilt. In 1699, the capital was relocated from Jamestown to what is today Williamsburg, Virginia, after which Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, existing today only as an archaeological site.
Today, Jamestown is one of three locations composing the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown, with two primary heritage sites. Historic Jamestowne is the archaeological site on Jamestown Island and is a cooperative effort by Jamestown National Historic Site (part of Colonial National Historical Park) and Preservation Virginia. Jamestown Settlement, a living history interpretive site, is operated by the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, a state agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia.Jean-Joseph Sourbader de Gimat
Jean-Joseph Sourbader de Gimat was a volunteer French officer who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Born into a military family, he entered the French royal army in 1761. By 1776 he was a first lieutenant but went to America with Gilbert Motier, marquis de La Fayette with the promise of becoming a major. After serving as La Fayette's aide at Brandywine, Gloucester, Barren Hill, and Monmouth, he went back to France for one year. Returning to America in 1780, he was appointed to command a light infantry unit which fought at Green Spring in 1781. He led his men in a successful assault at Yorktown that same year. He returned to France in 1782 and was named colonel in command of a colonial regiment in Martinique. He later was governor of Saint Lucia from 1789 to 1792.List of American Revolutionary War battles
This is a list of military actions in the American Revolutionary War. Actions marked with an asterisk involved no casualties.
Major campaigns, theaters, and expeditions of the war
Boston campaign (1774–76)
Invasion of Quebec (1775–76)
New York and New Jersey campaigns (1776–77)
Saratoga campaign (1777)
Philadelphia campaign (1777–78)
Yorktown campaign (1781)
Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War after Saratoga (1778–81)
Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War (1775–83)
Western theater of the American Revolutionary War (1777–82)
Naval operations in the American Revolutionary WarMcDonell's Highlanders
The 76th Regiment of Foot (MacDonald's Highlanders), sometimes referred to as 'MacDonnell's Highlanders' after its colonel, John MacDonnell of Lochgarry, was a Scottish Light Infantry regiment raised in the west of Scotland and western isles of Scotland in 1777.Toano, Virginia
Toano, formerly Burnt Ordinary, is an unincorporated community in James City County, Virginia, United States.Virginia Association
The Virginia Association was a series of non-importation agreements adopted by Virginians in 1769 as a way of speeding economic recovery and opposing the Townshend Acts. Drafted by George Mason and passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses in May 1769, the Virginia Association was a way for Virginians to stand united against continued British taxation and trade control. The Virginia Association served as the framework and precursor to the larger more powerful Continental Association.Virginia in the American Revolution
The history of Virginia in the American Revolution begins with the role the Colony of Virginia played in early dissent against the British government and culminates with the defeat of General Cornwallis by the allied forces at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, an event signaled the effective military end to the conflict. Numerous Virginians played key roles in the Revolution, including George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson.