Yorktown Campaign > Battle of Green Spring

Battle of Green Spring


The Battle of Green Spring, also known as the Battle of Jamestown Island, took place on July 6, 1781, near Green Spring Plantation in Virginia. This engagement occurred during the American Revolutionary War and was one of the last major battles before the Siege of Yorktown. The battle involved American forces under General Marquis de Lafayette and British forces led by General Lord Charles Cornwallis.


  1. Strategic Context:

    • By mid-1781, the British Southern Campaign, led by General Cornwallis, had brought the war to Virginia. Cornwallis sought to consolidate British control over the colony, while American forces aimed to disrupt his operations and protect vital supply lines.
    • General Lafayette was tasked with shadowing Cornwallis's movements and preventing him from gaining a decisive advantage.
  2. Movements Leading to the Battle:

    • Cornwallis had established a base at Williamsburg and planned to cross the James River at Jamestown to move toward Portsmouth, where he could be resupplied by the British navy.
    • Lafayette, with a smaller force, aimed to prevent Cornwallis from crossing the river without engaging in a full-scale battle, given the disparity in troop strength.

The Battle:

  1. Forces Involved:

    • American Forces: Lafayette commanded approximately 1,200 soldiers, including Continental Army regulars and Virginia militia. Notable American officers included General Anthony Wayne.
    • British Forces: Cornwallis led a force of around 5,000 troops, consisting of British regulars, Hessian auxiliaries, and Loyalist units.
  2. Initial Engagement:

    • Cornwallis set a trap for Lafayette by feigning a retreat across the James River. He left a small rear guard to give the appearance of withdrawal while positioning his main force in a concealed position.
    • Lafayette, misled by the ruse, believed he had an opportunity to strike the British rear guard and ordered an attack.
  3. Main Battle:

    • On July 6, as American forces moved to engage what they thought was a retreating enemy, they encountered the main body of Cornwallis's troops.
    • The British launched a sudden and fierce counterattack. The Americans, taken by surprise, faced intense musket and artillery fire.
  4. Key Moments:

    • General Anthony Wayne, realizing the dire situation, ordered a bold bayonet charge to break through the British lines, attempting to create a gap for the American forces to retreat.
    • Wayne's charge, though costly, achieved its objective of causing confusion and buying time for Lafayette to organize a withdrawal.
  5. Outcome:

    • The battle resulted in heavy casualties for the Americans, with estimates of around 140 killed, wounded, or captured. British casualties were significantly lower.
    • Despite the losses, Lafayette managed to extricate his force and avoided a complete rout.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. Strategic Withdrawal:

    • The Battle of Green Spring demonstrated the resolve of American forces to challenge British maneuvers, even when outnumbered and outgunned.
    • Cornwallis continued his march to Portsmouth, but the engagement delayed his operations and allowed Lafayette to regroup.
  2. Prelude to Yorktown:

    • The battle was one of the last significant engagements before the Siege of Yorktown. It underscored the determination of American forces and their ability to adapt to British tactics.
    • The British failure to decisively defeat Lafayette's forces allowed the Americans to maintain pressure and coordinate with French allies for the Yorktown campaign.
  3. Legacy:

    • The Battle of Green Spring is remembered for the bravery and strategic acumen displayed by American commanders, particularly the audacious actions of General Anthony Wayne.
    • It highlighted the effectiveness of American resistance and the challenges faced by British forces in securing control over the rebellious colonies.


The Battle of Green Spring remains a testament to the tenacity of American forces and their leaders, marking an important chapter in the closing stages of the American Revolutionary War.

Yorktown Campaign Battles


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