A Call of Valour
Leave this field empty
Saturday, March 18, 2017
By Austin Rese
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March in North Carolina can be a very unpredictable time of year. Ole’ Man Winter is hobbling his way out while spring seems to be near. Today, the sky is filled with cobalt blue, hyphenated by a few slow-dancing clouds. The breeze is light. One can hear the birds heralding the change of season. Peace seems to fill the air.


I suppose it might have been a similar scene in 1781. However, March 15 did not end with such a feeling of serenity. It was the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in (presently) Greensboro, North Carolina. This was a very important chapter in the American Revolution.


It was here that British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and his army of 2100 soldiers defeated American Major General Nathanael Greene and his band of nearly 4,500 soldiers. But who really won?


History has it that Cornwallis’s goal was to rid himself of Greene. Greene’s goal was to significantly disable Cornwallis. Considering Cornwallis lost 27% of his forces—but did not eliminate General Greene, one might believe both sides of this 90 minute battle won.  It was soon after this that the extremely successful General Cornwallis surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown, thus sealing the success of the American Revolution.


Every year, the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park hosts a commemorative reenactment of this important battle. This year, I decided to attend.


The park has been left very natural with rolling hills, streams, and woods composing the majority of the property. -- It gives one the feeling of what it might have been like on that very pivotal day. As I wandered about, I came upon a clearing where a camp of Hessian soldiers had set their tents. They were in perfect alignment. A sense of regiment prevailed. Some had lanterns posted. Some had their “doors” pulled back to reveal the inclusion of life’s mere necessities. To one side, you could witness the soldiers preparing for war. Even the flag boy was among the lot. This is extremely well-choreographed pageantry: it is done with the utmost sincerity and professionalism. The soldiers certainly appeared real. With only a minor adjustment of veracity, one could easily become consumed by the theatre of it.


The other end of the camp included the gathering of a group of colonial women and their children. You could listen to their conversations of concern and peril. It was very thought provoking indeed. There was a commitment here. A call to do what was deemed vital to the survival of one’s beliefs and life.


Soon, the hour of the famed encounter arose. The troops marched to the field of battle. Over loud speakers encompassing the scene, an extremely savvy narrator educated the crowd of spectators of the pending action. Not only is it a window into the history of the day, but of the life and mindset of those involved. It was quite fascinating.


Within moments, the fog of war exploded, as the smoking muskets blurred the landscape. It is with little wonder why the soldiers wore bright coats of red and blue to identify themselves among their comrades.


As the Hessians, Highlanders, British Redcoats, and the horse brigade stormed the field, the American forces appeared through the woods--fighting for their own beliefs. Greene had plotted a 3 tier assault to combat Cornwallis and his troops. The narrator kept the crowd posted of the importance of these stages and their proximity to this site.


The crowd appeared transfixed. Mesmerized. All eyes were held prisoner of the action. This was not a video. This was not a motion picture. It was life in real time.  I became nervous. Agitated. I wanted to cheer—to take cover.


I remained still.


Soon, “casualties” of war began to mount. Soldiers, from all troops, lay strewn across the battlefield. A numbness began to creep across me. Although this wasn’t “real”, I began to sense what the horror of this might feel like.


Before me were two little boys. Both appeared to be about 7 years of age. Much like myself, they stood frozen.  Being within audible range, I listened as one boy whispered to his buddy, “Why are they all laying down out there”?


His friend replied, “I think they are just taking a break”.


If only life was that simple.



This was A Moment in America.

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Austin Rese - Thank you for such kind words! Your continued support is greatly appreciated. It is an honor to share my thoughts and experiences.
PJS - I am mesmerized by your talent in both design and words. Wish I were so gifted. Thank you for sharing.