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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

John Misenheimer and Nathanael Greene visit Iredell

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:40 PM by Jenny Levins

American Revolutionary War Brigadier General Nathanael Greene visited the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville on April 29, 2019. Greene, as brought to life by historical researcher and reenactor John Misenheimer, told the audience what his real plans were when he took over the Southern Continental Army from General Horatio Lloyd Gates in Charlotte, N.C. after Gates defeat at the Battle of Camden in “The Revolutionary War in Iredell County.”

Revolutionary War historian and reenactor John Misenheimer has an MBA from Appalachian State University and a B.S. from Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C. He is president of the Lt. Colonel 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. Commission. 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 General Daniel Morgan defeated British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Sir Banastre Tarleton on Jan. 17, 1781 at the Battle of Cowpens he retreated across the Catawba River and joined forces with Major General Nathanael Greene's Southern Continental Army. British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, still stinging from the earlier Patriot victory at Kings Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780, burns his supply wagons in Lincolnton to travel faster and sets out in hot pursuit of Morgan and Greene. Greene and the Continental army escape 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.

John Misenheimer says there is a “New History” regarding General Greene’s plans prior to the Race to the Dan and also Iredell County’s part in the American Revolution. General Washington, acting on authorization of Congress, appointed Greene as commander of the Southern Continental Army on October 14, 1780. Greene arrives in Charlotte, N.C. and takes over command from Horatio Gates on Dec.3, 1780. Misenheimer’s research shows that Greene 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, N.C. 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 on Dec. 3, 1780. Morgan defeats Tarleton at the Cowpens on Jan. 17, 1781. Cornwallis burns his supply wagons to move his army more quickly from January 25th to the 27th.  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. 17th 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.

John Misenheimer’s research shows that are three known Revolutionary War battlegrounds in Iredell County. All three events took place on Feb. 1, 1781. The Battle at Beattie’s Ford took place at 6 a.m. on 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. on Feb. 1, 1781. General 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 Sherrill’s Ford crossing on the Iredell County side. The attack came from British Loyalist Militia who were hiding on the north side of the road who 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 Sherrill’s 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 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 1, 1781, when British cavalry units under Lt. Colonel 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.”

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as, “Has history been wrong? Library program questions American Revolution battles in county” on April 27, 2019