The Revolutionary War ushered in an era of chaos for every single state in the Union, and North Carolina was no different in that regard. Since it was located in the South, it did not have the amount of military action that the Northern states faced, but it still was an undoubtedly influential zone for turning the tide of the war.
In the early stages of the Revolution, North Carolina had little to no fighting within the boundaries of its state. The only combat that took place in North Carolina were battles with the local Cherokee Indian tribe, who joined forces with against the American troops after the British promised to remove the Americans who were invading on their land. Finally, a troop consisting of 2,400 men led by General Griffith Rutherford led a campaign to destroy the Cherokee Indian troops, blazing a trail of destruction on the tribes throughout Western North Carolina, finally culminating in the Treaty of Long Island, in which the Cherokee not only promised to stop the fighting, but also ceded land towards the American troops.
However, in 1778, discouraged by their unsuccessful military endeavors in the North, the British adopted its “Southern Strategy” in which it slowly took out the Independence movements arising in South while working its way towards the North. By utilizing this plan, the British forces led by General Cornwallis quickly moved up the south, taking out Georgia and South Carolina with relative ease. However, once he moved into Charlotte, he heard news of a force of a Tory force of 1,100 men being overwhelmed and defeated by Backcountry men along the North Carolina and South Carolina border. This battle, known as the Battle of King’s Mountain, forced Cornwallis to retreat from North Carolina for the time being and bolstered the morale of the entire revolutionary force.
The culmination of the Revolution in North Carolina occurred in 1781 at Guilford Courthouse. The American forces led by Nathanael Greene numbered at around 4,400 men, and they were pitted against General Cornwallis’s army of roughly 2,300 troops. Despite the disparity in numbers, the battle was an incredibly fierce one, with both Generals taking desperate measures to assure victory. In the end, General Greene did retreat, so it was declared a tactical victory for the British. But General Cornwallis still suffered incredibly heavy casualties. Exhausted and in desperate need of supplies, Cornwallis moved to Wilmington, but was met with rebel forces constantly harassing him and his army along the way. While he did eventually take North Carolina by invading it through Virginia, the blow that Cornwallis’s forces suffered at the battle of Guilford Courthouse was very important in securing Cornwallis’s ultimate defeat at Yorktown.
So in the end, North Carolina was not the most important state throughout the Revolutionary war, its strong loyalist presence combined with its lack of necessary strategic zones did not make it a very high priority for the British army except for the role it played in their Southern Strategy as a whole. However, with the battle of Guilford Courthouse and the issues that North Carolina as a whole presented for the General Cornwallis, the events that transpired in North Carolina during the war undoubtedly aided the Americans to their ultimate victory in the Revolutionary War
The American Revolution – Gordon S. Wood