March 15: The Presbyterian War.

A Victory in Defeat

The British Parliament member, upon hearing of the “victory” in the colonies by the British army that day of March 15, 1781 has commented “another such victory would ruin the British army.” What did he mean?

In the southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War, Lord Cornwallis was doing his best to defeat the stubborn American forces.  Specifically, he was doing his best to punish those pesky Scot – Irish Presbyterians who  possessed a fervor of opposition to his military units.  Whenever he found a church building connected with them, the psalm books and Bibles would be burned.  That punishment would extend to the church building as well.  It was very much a battle against Presbyterians in the southern colonies.  In fact, they would meet on many a battle field, and one of the more fiercest times was this battle at Guildford Court House, North Carolina.

It was in the morning of March 15, that nineteen hundred British regulars and German allies attacked 4500 American militia members and seasoned Continental men.  The whole battle was fierce by any man’s standards.

The American commander, Maj. General Nathaniel Green, had positioned his troops in three lines.  First, one thousand militia from North Carolina formed the first line.  They were to fire two shots and retire from the battle field.  One half of the British Highlanders fell from that fire.  Green’s second line was composed of Virginia marksmen, both militia and seasoned Continentals.  They twice checked the British line, but eventually retired as well.  The third line of the Americans were fourteen hundred Continentals.  At this point, the fight grew desperate.  Cornwallis himself said, “I never saw such fighting since God made me.  The Americans fought like demons.”

After two and one half hours, Green retreated from the field, seeking to keep his army intact for future battles.  Cornwallis, on the other hand, lost in his “victory” over 25% of his officers and men.  Here he was, in enemy territory, without supplies, and with heavy loss of men.  He quit the area with the remnants of his army, marching to Yorktown.  Exactly seven months later, he would surrender his army to General George Washington.

The soldiers who composed the American army in the field were the members of Presbyterian congregations in the southern colonies.

Words to Live By:  There is a time when Christians must act their part in defense of truth and righteousness, peacefully if they can, with violence if they must.  In such an endeavor, they can with the help of the Lord win the battle.

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