Help Preserve 64 Acres at Three Revolutionary War Sites
We can save 64 acres of priceless Revolutionary War battlefield sites — together having a total transaction value of $2,115,500 — for only $47,650. Yes, you read that correctly, we can save over $2 million of our country’s history for less than $50,000!
The first 41-acre tract we have the opportunity to protect is adjacent to Battle Hill, a parcel of 160 acres in upstate New York once threatened by a granite and topsoil mine, which the Trust helped to save and has now been turned into a historical site by the town of Fort Ann.
These 41 additional acres will be used to provide an enhanced interpretive experience for all who visit, telling this chapter of our nation’s founding conflict, where citizen-soldiers bravely fought and died for American independence.
In the south, a much smaller, targeted tract lies squarely in the middle of a British advance, at Guilford Courthouse, where Nathanael Greene and his American Southern army created a line of defense that exhausted the British and contributed to Cornwallis’ retreat to North Carolina. Adding this tract to the existing preserved land will allow the Park Service to better tell the complete story of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.
In Camden, South Carolina, almost 23 acres where the often-overlooked Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill took place, is on the market. Much of the area has been lost to residential development over the years, which is why the tracts you and I have the opportunity to protect today will set a significant precedent — becoming the very first battlefield land to be preserved at Hobkirk’s Hill!
While we have had much success securing hallowed ground touched by the Civil War in the last few years, it is now our opportunity to secure property that contributes to the story of American independence. These three tracts, totaling around 64 acres, hold stories of grit and determination, of Americans coming together for the first time to determine our fate, and the fate of a new nation.
We have an opportunity to save tracts of hallowed land where a small, rag-tag group of citizen-soldiers managed to weaken and ultimately defeat the greatest military force in the world … to create this nation that we love.
The history of these tracts begins with the Battle of Fort Ann, fought on July 8, 1777, just one year and four days after we declared our independence, and when the future of our young nation was still very much in doubt.
In the summer of 1777, the British sought to slice the new country in two, using the Hudson River to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. General Burgoyne was in charge of British forces when they went after Fort Ann, part of the Saratoga Campaign strategy.
On July 8, 1777, Burgoyne sent about 200 troops under Colonel John Hill to observe and attack the Americans, but the Patriot soldiers had a different plan. After some preliminary reconnaissance, Captain James Gray and 300 Patriots surprised Hill’s men in their camp at the base of Battle Hill in upstate New York. Working their way behind them and forcing them to flee up a ridge, the redcoats held out for two hours before running out of ammunition.
On the verge of surrender, an Indian war whoop was heard, signaling the approach of reinforcements for the British and giving them a second wind. Unknown to American rebels, the war whoop was delivered by a single British officer. The trick worked, and the fight ended with both sides declaing victory. But historians agree that the battle at Fort Ann changed the momentum for the British, with Burgoyne’s army losing strength and suffering defeat in October of that year.
Now we turn our attention to the war’s Southern Campaign, where on March 15, 1781, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis’s army of 2,300 men engaged the American Southern army under Nathanael Greene at Guilford Courthouse.
To prepare for battle, Greene formed his roughly 4,400 men into three lines — a “defense in depth” — designed to exhaust the enemy’s advance and inflict as many casualties as possible, allowing the third line to deliver a decisive blow.
Cornwallis’s troops were first met with a line held by North Carolina militia, then a second line held by Virginians, before meeting Greene’s third and most formidable line composed of Continental Regulars from Virginia and Maryland. A melee began as Continental Regulars and the elite units of Cornwallis’s army fought fiercely in a whirlpool of battle.
Wanting to preserve his remaining troops, Greene retired from the field. While Cornwallis had won the day, he lost fully 28% of his men and withdrew to Wilmington, North Carolina.
Later, on April 20, 1781, Greene arrived at a major depot in Camden, South Carolina. The British held a chain of outposts that ran from Augusta, Georgia, up through South Carolina, including the depot at Camden. Greene made camp on the crest of Hobkirk’s Hill, a mile and a half north of town. On the morning of April 25, a deserter from Greene’s army informed the British commander, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Rawdon, of Greene’s location and strength.
Rawdon launched his attack that same morning. The Americans put up stiff resistance, and while sustaining higher casualties, the British again won the day. Despite the victory, Rawdon concluded that the American army was too strong, and he abandoned Camden anyway. After this battle, Greene famously wrote to an acquaintance that “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”
Each of these battles were defined by the scrappy resilience led by Greene and the Patriot fighters against the Redcoats. Though they didn’t necessarily come out as victors in each, the British recognized the determination of the Patriot men. By refusing to give up … by refusing to admit defeat … by refusing to lose hope in ultimate victory … battle after battle, Greene skillfully waged a war of exhaustion in late September 1781 that so weakened the British efforts in the Carolinas, they retreated to the coast, giving up outpost after outpost in the backcountry.
The lesson for us, as we fight to save our country’s history, is clear:
Every one of these acres, North and South, are essential to telling the story of how a small, rag-tag group of civilians and soldiers managed to defeat the greatest military force in the world at that time, helping to create the nation you and I hold dear.