General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Henry Adams


Henry Adams was born on February 3, 1761 in Bedford County VA. In 1777, Adams was sent to Campbell County VA for guard duty over some Tories and American deserters who were being sent to a prison there. Adams was stationed there for 3 months.
   In March 1781, Adams joined William Washington's dragoons on an expedition to Guilford Courthouse. Washington has been nicknamed the long arm of Greene by most military historians due to the tactics and the ferocity that he used fighting against the British.  At Guilford (March 15,1781) Washington recaptured some artillery taken by Leslie's 2nd Guards, and attacked a Hessian regiment. A Hessian report states that the Hessians suffered many casualties due to Washington's attack.
       During the battle of Guilford Courthouse, Washington saw a chance to capture Cornwallis. Cornwallis was on a hill unguarded watching the battle transpire. Washington ordered his men to charge.  While charging up the hill, a freak accident happened to Washington. Half way up the hill, his chin strap broke, and his helmet went tumbling down the hill. Washington ordered his second in command to continue the charge while he went after his helmet. However, before the new commander could get to Cornwallis, he was shot which caused his horse to bolt and run the opposite direction away from Cornwallis. The rest of Washington's dragoons followed the horse thinking the order had been changed. Meanwhile, Washington, who had been chasing down his helmet, watched in dismay as his men galloped away from the battle allowing Cornwallis to escape capture. If Cornwallis had been captured, there is a possibility that the Revolutionary war may have ended at Guilford Courthouse. Greene would be defeated at Guilford, but not before killing and wounding one third of Cornwallis's British troops.
      In April 1781, the VA House of Delegates refused to purchase any more horses for Washington's dragoons because they had received reports of Washington's men raiding farms in NC and SC and stealing horses from both Patriots and Tories. There was a severe shortage of horses in Washington's dragoons. On April 21, Washington attacked a Tory farm near Camden SC and captured 40 horses that would later be used in the battle of Hobkirk Hill SC on April 25, 1781
  Adams's next battle would be at Hobkirk Hill SC. Washington's dragoons were ordered to flank Rawdon, the British Commander, and attack his rear. Due to a large thicket, Washington was unable to outflank Rawdon and attack his rear. However, Washington did capture four British Surgeons and promised to parole them if they would treat the wounded American soldiers. Greene was defeated at Hobkirk Hill due to a communication problem between two Maryland regiments. Each thought the other had ordered a retreat when both were actually falling back to a better defensive position. This caused a widespread retreat on the field when the other American regiments saw the Maryland line retreating.
      On May 4, 1781, Adams was with Washington at Sawaney Creek SC where fought Rawdon in a small skirmish. On May 21, 1781, Adams was with Washington near Fort Ninety Six when they captured a large band of Tories camped near the fort. This was Adams last battle.
    Adams returned to Bedford County where he died on November 29, 1834. During Adams's military career, Adams had participated in the greatest cavalry adventure of the Revolutionary war, and almost made history with the near capture of Cornwallis.


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