The Dan River actually played a part in the American War of Independence. This fact is not well known and did not win the war for the Americans, but it did have an effect on the Battle Of Guilford Courthouse.
The Guilford Courthouse engagement between General Green, leading the Americans, and General Cornwallis, who was the commander of the British legions, was an extremely important event leading to the surrender of the British Army to the Americans at Yorktown.
It seems that Cornwallis chased Green and the Americans from Charlotte to Greensboro, across the State of North Carolina from border to border. The American mountain men had kicked ass at Kings Mountain and Cow Pens. Cornwallis was pissed. Both armies were tired about this time. General Green marched past Guilford Courthouse, which is the present day city of Greensboro and to the Dan River along the North Carolina and Virginia border.
Green had some how managed to get enough boats to ferry his army across the Dan River. Cornwallis was stopped by the river, because he did not have any boats. His army could have forded the river. Cornwallis knew that Green’s sharp shooters would have a field day with his men wading across the Dan River. Since they were tired and hungry, Cornwallis decided to back track to Guilford Courthouse and give his men an opportunity to rest.
The crossings of the Dan River took place some where near present day Danville, Virginia.
The chase from Charlotte to Greensboro took more of a toll on the British that it did on the Americans. Cornwallis actually destroyed some of his wagons and supplies in the belief that his army could/would move faster without the baggage. General Green decided that it was time to stop running from the British army. He recrossed the Dan River and marched his smaller army toward Guilford Courthouse which is about 30 miles south of the Dan River.
A battle that General Cornwallis had wanted for several weeks was about to happen. Although the British were stronger, there were a couple of things not in their favor. First of all Cornwallis did not pick the battle field and most important, he did not dream that Green would have the audacity to turn and attack a professional British army.
The battle lasted for less than 3 hours with the Americans retreating and leaving the battle field in the hands of Cornwallis and his British army. Greene’s retreat preserved the strength of his army, but Cornwallis’s frail victory was won at the cost of over 25% of his soldiers, dead or wounded. General Cornwallis is credited with saying
"Another victory like this and I will not have an army with which to fight."
The Battle at Guilford Courthouse was the last major engagement between the American and British armies before the British surrender at Yorktown. From Guilford Courthouse (present day Greensboro), Cornwallis marched to the port city of Wilmington, NC, where he was resupplied by the British navy.
From Wilmington the British Army moved north toward Virginia. Green followed closely on his heels. At the same time Washington was marching south. The British navy was sailing south from New York to evacuate Cornwallis and his army from the southern states. The French navy was moving to intercept the British navy.
Everything converged at Yorktown and the rest is history.
Dan River Revolutionary War