It is amazing to me that sometimes history sits right before our eyes and we fail to realize it. I grew up in North Carolina and often drove across a bridge on 421 over the Yadkin River and have even driven on Shallowford Rd. I never even paused to consider from whence the name Shallowford might have been derived from.
And even more surprising, as much as I love history is that on the very stretch of country I used to travel, history was made on the evening of February 3, 1781 as American General Nathanael Greene and his troops successfully cross the Yadkin River to evade General Charles Cornwallis. as well as heavy rainfall on February 1, which Greene feared would soon make the river impassable.
During the Revolutionary War, the Congress had been unfortunate in the selection of commanders in the South. It had chosen Robert Howe, and he had lost Savannah. It had chosen Benjamin Lincoln, and he had lost Charleston. In the summer of 1780, near Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, the British attacked Horatio Gates’ army, which broke and ran in wild confusion. This defeat effectively ended the American Southern Army as a cohesive fighting force. It left the way clear for Cornwallis to pursue his goals of gathering southern Loyalists and taking the war to Virginia. He planned then to use his southern ports to move men and material into the interior of North and South Carolina.
When Gates’ successor was to be chosen the Congress decided to entrust the choice to Washington. On October 5 it resolved “that the Commander-in-Chief be and is hereby directed to appoint an officer to command the southern army, in the room of Major General Gates.” Washington , on the day after he received a copy of the resolution, wrote to Nathanael Greene at West Point, “It is my wish to appoint You.” The Congress approved the appointment, gave Greene command over all troops from Delaware to Georgia with extraordinarily full powers, “subject to the control of the Commander-in-Chief”; effectively becoming the second-in-command of the entire Continental Army.
Following the defeats at Catawba River and Tarrant’s Tavern, Greene retreated with his forces towards the Yadkin River. Greene feared correctly, that the heavy rainfall from February 1 would soon make the river impassable. The efforts of Thaddeus Kosciusko, a Polish engineer and military advisor, made the crossing possible. Kosciusko had built a fleet of flat-bottomed boats for General Greene to use as a means of transporting his men across the water without having to waste time on manual portage, which would have involved soldiers removing the boats from the water and carrying them on their shoulders over land. The boats could be loaded into the Southern Army’s wagons for transport between river crossings. Kosciusko’s study of the rivers also allowed Greene to accurately predict the two-day interval between a heavy rainfall and rising river water.
Greene had ordered the Kosciusko-designed boats to be waiting for his men at the Yadkin. Thus, despite the flood of refugees clogging North Carolina’s roads in a desperate rush to leave before notoriously cruel British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton arrived, Greene was able to move his troops to the river and cross it. Although Cornwallis caught the tail-end of the Patriot crossing and shelled Greene’s camp on the far side of the river on February 4, he was not able to cause major damage or disruption.
Greene’s timing was impeccable–Cornwallis was unable to ford the quickly rising Yadkin behind him. Looking for a more suitable place to cross, Cornwallis led his men north into Davie County. There, they encountered “Dutchman’s Creek”. The British had built a ford (which is still there) and crossed Dutchman’s Creek. General Cornwallis was heard to remark that the rain soaked soil, on the ridge near Dutchman’s Creek, reminded him of English pudding. Thus the name “Pudding Ridge” was established and remains to this day
In order to cross the Yadkin, Cornwallis was then forced to march his men to the aptly named Shallow Ford and did not finish crossing the Yadkin until the morning of the February 7, by which time Greene and the Southern Army had a two-day lead in the race towards the Dan River and safety in Patriot-held Virginia.
These events paved the way for the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March of 1781 where Cornwallis is considered to have defeated General Greene, however the heavy casualties suffered by British troops resulted in a strategic victory for the Colonial forces and set up the conditions for the American victory at Yorktown in October 1781.
In celebration of these events, I give you Deputy Dave’s Drink of the Day: Revolution
½ oz Orange Bitters
½ oz bourbon
½ oz French Vermouth
Mix all ingredients in an old fashioned glass. Add Ice, wait 2 minutes and drink.0
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