Iredell County Public Library

Iredell County Public Library

American Revolutionary War Brigadier General Nathanael Greene will be visiting the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville Monday at 7 p.m.

Greene, as brought to life by historical researcher and reenactor John Misenheimer, will tell what his real plans were when he took over the Southern Continental Army from General Horatio Lloyd Gates in Charlotte after Gates defeat at the Battle of Camden in “The Revolutionary War in Iredell County.”

Revolutionary War historian and reenactor Misenheimer has an MBA from Appalachian State University and a B.S. from Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer. He is president of the Lt. Col. John Phifer Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and previously he served 8 ½ years on the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission and was the vice-chairman.

Misenheimer was named North Carolina Historian of the Year by the N.C. Society of Historians and assisted the Battlefield Preservation Foundation and the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution in research on the battlefields of Cowan’s Ford and Ramsour’s Mill in creating the “Official Battlefields Report”, to be turned over to the U.S. National Park Service.

Traditional history tells us that after Brigadier Gen. Daniel Morgan defeated British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Sir Banastre Tarleton Jan. 17, 1781 at the Battle of Cowpens he retreated across the Catawba River and joined forces with Major Gen. Nathanael Greene's Southern Continental Army. British Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, still stinging from the earlier Patriot victory at Kings Mountain Oct. 7, 1780, burned his supply wagons in Lincolnton to travel faster and set out in hot pursuit of Morgan and Greene. Greene and the Continental army escaped during a retreat that is now known as the Race to the Dan. Greene's plan was to get across the Dan River into Virginia ahead of Cornwallis where he could gather more troops and supplies and engage Cornwallis when he was ready.

Misenheimer says there is a “New History” regarding Greene’s plans prior to the Race to the Dan and also Iredell County’s part in the American Revolution. Gen. Washington, acting on authorization of Congress, appointed Greene as commander of the Southern Continental Army October 14, 1780. Greene arrives in Charlotte and takes over command from Horatio Gates Dec.3, 1780.

Misenheimer’s research shows that Greene’s first plan after taking command of the southern Continental Army was not to Race to the Dan, but rather to form a junction of all the American Troops both Continental and Militia and Fight Cornwallis at Salisbury. His plan was to lure Cornwallis to Salisbury by placing the 712 British soldiers captured by Morgan at Cowpens there. It was to be at Salisbury that Greene first planned to fight Cornwallis and not at Guilford’s Courthouse.

The timeline looks like this: Greene takes over the Southern Continental Army in Charlotte Dec. 3, 1780. Morgan defeats Tarleton at the Cowpens Jan. 17, 1781. Cornwallis burns his supply wagons to move his army more quickly from Jan. 25 to the 27. The Race to the Dan does not start until Feb. 9, 1781, after Greene learns through spies that Cornwallis is on the move and has a War Council with Morgan and his other officers. It is during that period between Cowpens on Jan. 17 and the War Council on Feb. 9, 1781 that Misenheimer’s research shows that Greene’s plan was to gather his forces and fight Cornwallis at Salisbury.

Misenheimer’s research shows that there are three known Revolutionary War battlegrounds in Iredell County. All three events took place Feb. 1, 1781. The Battle at Beattie’s Ford took place at 6 a.m. Feb. 1, 1781 when British Artillery on the west side of the Catawba River fired “grapeshot” from cannons on patriot soldiers for 30 minutes, killing several soldiers including a father and son. At the time the British cannons had a range of 600 yards while the Catawba River was 450 yards across. Both the Revolutionary War Papers of General Joseph Graham and the Revolutionary War Pension Application papers from soldiers there confirm this.

The Battle or Skirmish of Sherrill’s Ford took place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Feb. 1, 1781. Greene orders the Continental Army to march from the Catawba River toward Salisbury when they are attacked under one mile or 5/8th of a mile from the Sherrills Ford crossing on the Iredell County side. The attack came from British Loyalist Militia hiding on the north side of the road and fired into the Continental ranks. The location of the attack would now be on April Road in the Fallstown area. Two soldiers from the Maryland Continental Line were killed and are supposed to be buried at Sherrills Ford. The Continental Army returned fire chasing the Loyalist Militia away.

The third and final battle took place near Mooresville at Torrence’s Tavern. The Battle of Torrence’s Tavern (also called The Battle of Tarrant’s Tavern) occurred between 2 and 3 p.m. Feb. 1, 1781, when British cavalry units under Lt. Col. Sir Banastre Tarleton attacked a makeshift Patriot militia camp at the Tavern with a cavalry charge. History has noted the battle as a simple skirmish in which the Patriots were quickly routed and chased into the countryside. Iredell County educator Chris Stonesteet in his book, “A Quick and Bloody Affair: The Skirmish At Torrence’s Tavern”, found evidence of a more heated and prolonged battle between the Patriots and Tarleton’s Green Dragoons. Both Stonestreet and Misenheimer gathered information from the Revolutionary War Pension Applications where men who fought in the battle recounted what actually happened on Feb. 1, 1781. Tarleton himself said in his “Memoirs” that “The militia were vigilant, and were prepared for an attack.”

Monday night’s “The Revolutionary War in Iredell County” in a free program sponsored by the Iredell Friends of the Library. For more information please call Joel Reese at 704-878-3093 or email at jreese@iredell.lib.nc.us.

 Joel Reese is the Local History Librarian at the Iredell County Public Library.

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