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Battle of Green Spring

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Surnames/tags: American_Revolution 1776
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Battle of Green Spring

The Battle of Green Spring took place near Green Spring Plantation in James City County, Virginia during the American Revolutionary War. On July 6, 1781 United States Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, leading the advance forces of the Marquis de Lafayette, was ambushed near the plantation by the British army of Earl Charles Cornwallis in the last major land battle of the Virginia campaign prior to the Siege of Yorktown.

Following a month of marching and countermarching in central Virginia by Cornwallis and Lafayette, Cornwallis in late June moved to Williamsburg, where he received orders to move to Portsmouth and send some of his army to New York City. Lafayette followed Cornwallis fairly closely, emboldened by the arrival of reinforcements to consider making attacks on the British force. On July 4, Cornwallis departed Williamsburg for Jamestown, planning to cross the James River en route to Portsmouth. Lafayette believed he could stage an attack on Cornwallis's rear guard during the crossing.

Cornwallis anticipated Lafayette's idea, and laid an elaborate trap. General Wayne's forces were very nearly caught in the trap, and only a bold bayonet charge against the numerically overwhelming British enabled his forces to retreat. Cornwallis did not follow the victory with pursuit, instead following his plan to cross the river. The action reinforced the perception among contemporaries that justified the moniker "Mad" to describe Wayne, although opinion on the merits of his actions was divided. The battlefield has been partially preserved, and reenactments are sometimes staged. (1)

Battle of Green Spring

Part of: the American Revolutionary War
Date: July 6, 1781
Location: James City County, Virginia
Result: British victory
Belligerents: United States, Great Britain

United States

Commanders and leaders:
Marquis de Lafayette - portrait by John Opie
Anthony Wayne - 18th-century engraving
Strength: 800-900
Casualties and losses: 28 killed, 122 wounded

Great Britain

Commanders and leaders:
Charles Cornwallis - painting by Thomas Gainsborough
Banastre Tarleton
Strength: about 7,000
Casualties and losses: 75 killed and wounded


  • Detail from a 1781 French map prepared for Lafayette depicting the Williamsburg/Jamestown area and the movements of Lafayette and Cornwallis. The Green Spring conflict is labelled "le 6 Juillet".

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