Thursday, August 13, 2009

Revolution in My Backyard: The Battle of Green Spring (July 6, 1781)

Holding true to my blog's name "Tidewater Historian," I thought I would focus on a little known but interesting Revolutionary War battle that was fought in Williamsburg not too far from where I live. The Battle of Green Spring was fought on July 6, 1781 in the vicinity around Jamestown. It was a minor British victory on the road to their ultimate loss at the more well-known Battle of Yorktown. Shown in the image on the left is Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, who was a top American commander at the Green Spring engagement. Below is a short narrative on the Battle from the National Park Service. I find these little-known battles around Hampton Roads to be quite fascinating and hope that us historians can shed some more light on them in the future.

"BATTLE OF GREEN SPRING. On July 4, Cornwallis broke camp at Williamsburg and moved toward Jamestown Island, the most convenient point for crossing the James. He sent some troops immediately across the river, but ordered the bulk of the army to encamp on the "Main" a little beyond Glasshouse Point, within sight of Jamestown, as a precaution in the event Lafayette should attempt to hinder the crossing.

Cornwallis was right—Lafayette did intend to strike the British at this unfavorable moment. On July 6, Wayne, commanding the American advance unit, made his way slowly toward the British encampment. Lafayette, cautious and not wanting to be deceived about the enemy strength, went with him to make personal observations. The young general quickly decided that Cornwallis was laying a trap, as indeed he was, but before he could call in his scouts and advance units, action had been joined.

The engagement at Green Spring, sometimes called the "Affair Near James Island," was a direct prelude to the struggle at Yorktown. The same forces later faced each other over the parapets on the York. Actual military victory, as at Guilford Courthouse, rested with the British. The most significant result of the encounter, however, may have been the stimulating effect on the Americans of the bravery and courage displayed by soldiers and officers alike. It was another good test of training and discipline—a detachment of American troops had confronted Cornwallis' main force and again they had fought well.

THE BRITISH MOVE TO YORKTOWN. Following the action at Green Spring, Cornwallis continued his move across the James River, and, on July 17, he was able to report by letter to Clinton that the troops which the latter had requested were about ready to sail from Portsmouth. Three days later, Cornwallis learned that all plans had been drastically changed. Clinton now instructed him to hold all of his troops and await further orders. More detailed instructions reached Cornwallis on July 21, including strong words about the necessity for holding a position on the peninsula—the area between the York and James Rivers. Clinton it seems, now thought that Yorktown was a good location for a naval station, offering protection for large and small ships—a vital necessity."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.