History for Benjamin Milam (ca 1746 - 1781)

The Life of Benjamin Milam in Historical and Cultural Context

Benjamin Milam was Thomas Milam's third son and was born in Culpeper County in the Dominion and Colony of Virgina in 1746 or earlier. About 1772 Benjamin married Elizabeth Jackson, daughter of Jarvis and Helena Jackson, in Bedford County. Earlier his brother, John Milam, had married her sister, Anna Jackson, around 1768.

I have read thousands of pages of the Orange County and Culpeper County Court Order Books from 1735 through 1761 then, after Thomas Milam removed, the Bedford County Court Order Books from 1758 through 1793 searching for Milams. I found no court orders for a Benjamin Milam which is extraordinary considerng the number I found for Thomas Milam and his other sons. In addition, there are no land surveys, warrants, grants, patents or deeds for him.

However, there is a 1760 land warrant (link) in Culpeper County which Benjamin Milam witnessed with his signature. His father, Thomas Milam, assigned a warrant for 200 acres to John Green - the future Col John Green discussed below. For details on this land warrant request and the persons involved, click here (link).

Benjamin Millam's Signature on Thomas Milam's land warrant to the future Col John Green, 26 AUG 1760
Thomas Milam warrant to John Green

Although disappointing, the reason for the paucity is enlightening: Benjamin and Moses Milam shared land and worked together as sawyers (link) in their sawmill. This is demonstrated by Moses' March 1773 lawsuit against David Wright.

"Milam vs Wright. Judgment. Confessed according to account & Costs. Stay exam three months." - meaning Wright agreed with the amount and was given three months to pay the Milams the balance. [503]

As you can read below, Moses Milam wrote a memorandom itemizing his - and Benjamin Millam’s - work: 1) for Alexander Baines Mill “for sawing 673 feet of Plank for his mill and also 5 Shillings for Sawing of the Trunk plank….£ 1.15. 0”; 2) for David Wright “claps {clapboards}…one house…£ 6.10. 0”; and 3) “balance owed Benjaman Millam on the old account….£ 1. 3. 9”.

Note that Moses signed this memorandum with his signature at the bottom right and that Moses spelled his name with one "l" but Benjamin's with two "l"s. For a larger image and transcription of the entire memorandum of the Milam vs Wright suit, click here (link).

26 AUG 1760
Moses Milam's suit against David Wright

That they shared property is supported by the 1786 deed from Moses Milam to Benjamin's widdow, Elizabeth Jackson Milam, after Benjamin's untimely death during the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in our Revolutionary War.

23 OCT 1786 BEDFORD COUNTY, DEED BOOK 7, 658. Moses Milam Deed to Elizabeth Milam, the relic of Benjamin Milam.

“This Indenture Made this twenty third day of October in the Year of Our Lord One thousand seven Hundred and eighty six, Between Moses Milam of Bedford County of the one part, and Elizabeth Milam (Relic) (link) of late Benjamin Milam, Deceased) of the other part.

Witnesseth, that the said Moses Milam for and in Consideration of the Sum of Twenty one pounds Currant {Money of Virginia} to him in hand paid by the above Benjamin Milam before his decease, the receipt whereof the said Moses Milam doth hereby confess and acknowledge, Had bargained and sold to the said Milam, deceased, and doth by these presents grant and Convey to the said Elizabeth Milam during her Natural Life, and after her decease to revert to the Heir at Law of the said Benjamin Milam deceased, a Certain Tract or parcel of Land lying and being in the County of Bedford upon the waters of the Otter River and bounded as follows, to wit, Beginning at a point of Rocks on the North side of Boyles Branch…to a Pine in Boyd’s line, thence along the said Line…to Boyd’s Corner Pine….Containing One Hundred and twenty acres…Together with every Appertanance there unto belonging to the said Elizabeth Milam and unto the Heir at Law of the said Benjamin Milam, deceased....Signed, Sealed & delivered in the presents of ~    Moses Milam.

At a Court held for Bedford County the 23rd day of October 1786.This Indenture along with the Memorandum of Livery and Seizon thereon endorced were Acknowledged by Moses Milam party thereto and Ordered to be Recorded ~~

Teste, James Steptoe CBC {Clerk Bedford Court}” [613]

Note: Boyd's Line refers to the property line of William Boyd Jr. Moses had married Elizabeth Boyd, daughter of William Boyd Sr. who died in 1761. You may read the entire original deed here (link).

Then there is this Bedford court entry in 1790:

22 MAR 1790 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 10, 4. "Commonwealth vs The Surveyor of the Road from Milam Sawmill Branch to the old Main Road". This was probably because the surveyor had not kept the road in good repair since five other road surveyors were sued the same day for that reason. [607]

These documents demonstrate that Moses and Benjamin not only worked together as sawyers (link) but also shared property. Thus they were very close. I suspect this is the real reason that Moses named a son, Benjamin Rush Milam ( of Alamo Fame ). Rush of course was the maiden name of their mother, Mary Rush. My ancestor was Rush Milam, the youngest son of Thomas and Mary Rush Milam, also named a son, Benjamin Rush Milam (link). Over time Rush became a recurring given name in the Milam lineage.

I discuss all these points in detail in my chapter on Moses Milam which you may read here (link) .

On 1 MAY 1777, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Act of Oath of Affirmation which may be viewed here (link). The following is the Oath of Affirmation, sometimes referred to as the Oath of Alligence, that the men affirmed with their signatures:

"I do swear or affirm, that I renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the third, king of Great Britain, his heirs and successours, and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the commonwealth of Virginia, as free and independent state, and that I will not, at any time, do, or cause to be done, any matter or thing that will be prejudicial or injurious to the freedom and independence thereof, as declared by Congress; and also, that I will discover and make known to some one Justice of the Peace (link) for the said state, all treasons or traiterous conspiracies which I now or hereafter shall know to be formed against this or any of the United States of America."

The Bedford County Court on 28 JUL 1777 proscribed the manner in which the Oath would be administered in the county:

"Agreeable to an Act of the General Assembly of this State, this Court doth appoint the following Gentlemen to administer the Oath of Alligence to the Inhabitants of this County (viz.) John Ward Gent. in the bounds of his Company, ....William Callaway Gent. in his own Company, ....Charles Gwatkins Gent in Capt. Gwatkins' Company,....Isham Talbot Gent. in Capt. Henry Buford's Company....etc." [492]

You may read the entire court order here (link).

20 SEP 1777: Benjamin Milam, Rush Milam, William Milam and Zachariah Milam signed the Oath of Affirmation administered by Justice William Callaway to his Company. [480] You may view a typed copy here (link).

The Bedford County Militia

Since Benjamin didn't survive the Revolutionary War, I relied on the Revolutionary War pension applications of men who fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in Col Charles Lynch's Virginia Rifles and who mention Benjamin or William Milam. These are those men: John Hale (link), John Holly (link), Thomas Brown (link), Charles Lambert, Nataniel Roundtree (link) and the affidavit of John Gaddie (link). You may click on any of the their names to link to a transcription of their pension application.

In 1775 the Continental Congress established Committees of Safety in each county to organize their militia and to enforce the boycott on trade with Great Britain. John Hale (link) recalled that in the fall of 1778 "the citizens of Bedford generally subject to Military duty were classed, and numbered in numbers from one to ten, and the numbers drawn for. Declarant recollects that his number was Seven." A Virginia law enacted in May 1780 required each county whose militia was not already engaged to recruit or draft one militiaman out of each fifteen over age 18 to serve in the Continental army until the end of 1781. [517]

The county militas were intended for home defense rather than regular military service and therefore lacked the training and battle experience of the Continental army in which men served for 18 months. The Commonwealth of Virginia recognized that these militiamen were farmers and had regular chores to complete throughout the year so militia service was limited to three months. When the situation was acute as when British General Cornwallis entered Virgina in Febuary 1781, there was a general call out of all able bodied men from the counties closest to the invasion as Bedford was. Because of draft resistence and desertions, the Assembly of Virginia shortened the militia draft to two months and increased their pay. A few pension applications indicate that some men were repeatedly drafted after returning home for as little as a few days or weeks, as was the case for Benjamin's brother, Rush Milam.

John Holly, who was in the 1777 Boonesborough campaign with Lt John Milam for eight months, recalled: "In 1781 when Gen’l. Cornwallis was coming into Virginia and came to the Dan River {14 FEB }, all the men able to bear arms in Bedford and half those in Botetourt {"Body-tot"} were ordered into service."

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).

Thomas Brown recounted:

"....sometime in February 1781 He was drafted into the service of the United States from Bedford County, Virginia, where he then resided, and served a tour of three months. He marched under Captain Charles Gwatkin, Lieutenant William Millam, ensign Thomas Logwood. He marched from said County thro’ Pittsylvania County across Staunton and Dan Rivers in Virginia to Guilford Court House, N. C., where he joined the army under the command of Gen’l. {Nathanael} Greene. His field officers as well as he recollects were Col. Charles Lynch and Maj. John Callaway {both from Bedford County}.....He was in the battle which was fought on the 15 of March 1781 between the American army under Gen’l. Greene and the British under Cornwallis. The battle commenced with a cannonading. The British kept their ground after the battle. The American army falling back to Troublesome Iron works {Speedwell’s Furnace} about 9 miles perhaps from Guilford, but the British army retreated a few days afterwards....."

"He recollects seeing regular and militia regiments and companies with the troops, but what were there numbers and by whom commanded he is not able now to remember, except Captains {Jacob} Moon and {Thomas} Helm, who commanded militia companies in his regiment and both of whom were killed in the battle of Guilford. He saw Capt. Moon shot, and carried from the field.....He was discharged sometime in April 1781 by Capt Gwatkin...."

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).

Charles Lambert had similar recollections:

"In the year of 1781, he was drafted to Capt. Charles Gwatkin’s company of militia in Bedford County, Virginia, the day and the month he cannot recollect, & marched thro’ Pittsylvania County Virginia, to Guilford court house, North Carolina. No Capt. being called for he marched with Lieutenant Millam & ensign Logwood, and joined the regiment commanded by Col. Charles Lynch & Major John Callaway & attached to the brigade of Gen. Robert Lawson.....Here again, in addition to the duties as a private, he discharged the duties of quarter master to the regiment until they joined the main army. At the time of the battle of Guilford {15 Mar}, he was ordered to take the baggage from Guilford to Troublesome Iron Works. His time of service expired being three months before the battle of Guilford, but he remained in service until the British retreated, and he was discharged at Ramsaur’s Mills. The time he cannot recollect – but he thinks it was in the spring of 1781, by Col. Lynch."

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).

John Gaddie made a relevent affidavit in support of Jeremiah Dawson's pension application:

"The said John Gaddie further states that he knows that said Jeremiah Dawson Volunteered and went into the Service of the United States in the revolutionary war under Captain Charles Wadkins and William Milam, first Lieutenant, in Colonel Charles Linch’s regiment, he states that his best recollection at present is that, Nathaniel Rountree, John Canady {Kennedy}, Benjamin Milam, George Gaddie, George Rucker and John Reynolds went into the service at the same time with Jeremiah Dawson and that they all served a tour of six months in said war. "

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).

Nathaniel Roundtree, whom John Gaddie mentioned, was with Benjamin and William Milam:

"he returned home to Bedford County....remained at home about three or five days and was again Drafted and was put under Captain Charles Watkins the Colonel's name was Charles Lynch, John Calloway Major all from Bedford County and then marched from Bedford to North Carolina and again Joined General Greene near the Hanging Rock {High Rock} Ford on Haw River. There was several skirmishing parties engaged at various times with the British. At length the reinforcement that was coming to General Greene was attached then Greene attacked the British at Guilford. The British commanded by Wallace {Lord Cornwallis} kept the field and Greene marched to the Iron works 18 miles Distant from Guilford..."

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).

General Nathanael Greene (1742 – 1786)                    General Lord Cornwallis (1738 - 1805)
General Natanael Greene General Lord Cornwallis

Prelude to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse is considered the "turning point" in our Revolutionary War; to understand why we need to review the previous battles. The British laid seige to Charleston, SC, in April 1780; it fell on 12 MAY giving the British a major city and port for supply. Even before this defeat, the Continental Congress ordered Major General Horatio Gates, the unwitting victor at Saratoga, NY, to go south to stabilize the situation. He arrived in South Carolina in late July to find a force of ~ 3700, mostly militias with two brigades of Continental Line (900 soldiers) from North Carolina. The troops were ill-equiped and poorly prepared. When British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis learned of the plan, he lead his battle hardened army of ~ 2300 from Charleston toward Camden, his most important inland garrison and supply depot. Cavalry scouts of the opposing forces stumbled onto each other in the middle of the night on 16 AUG a few miles north of Camden. [537]


By morning 16 AUG 1780, the forces were arrayed such that Cornwallis' strongest battalions were on his right flank opposing Gates untested North Carolina and Virginia militias. Except for one company, the American militias fled almost without firing a shot. Thus it was left to the Continental regulars to fight the battle.

It was no contest as the British swung their right flank leftward to surround the Americans. Gates who spent the entire battle in the rear fled the field leaving his mortally wounded second in command, General Baron Jean de Kalb, surrounded. American losses were estimated at 250 killed, and 800 wounded or captured. Many of the militia never returned to the ranks and, it is said, that General Gates didn't stop riding until he reached Charlotte. The defeat at Camden was the worse loss suffered by the American forces during the entire war. The most important out come was that General Nathaniel Greene was appointed to replace Gates. [538] You may view an animation of the Battle for Camden here (link) .

King's Mountain

The victory at Camden encouraged British soldiers and bolstered the morale of the British Loyalists, or Tories, in the Carolinas. Gen. Cornwallis concluded that the best way to secure South Carolina was 1) to destroy the pockets of militia resistance which were harrassing his supply trains and 2) ultimately to destroy the remnants of the American army in North Carolina which were using it as a sanctuary to attack south. He sent Major Patrick Ferguson with a force of ~ 1100 Tories to secure the northern portion of South Carolina.

In September there were skirmishes at Musgrove's Mill and Cane Creek. Ferguson sent an ultimatum to the "over-the-mountain" men from the Blue Ridge of the Carolinas to "desist from their opposition to British arms" or he threatened to "lay their country waste with fire and sword". [536] Militias of mountainmen numbering ~ 1000 gathered to resist Ferguson on the upper Catawba River in North Carolina. Ferguson learned of the militias trailing him and swung his force in a hook manuver to establish his men in a defensive posture on a ridge known as King's Mountain. [539]

The two forces met about 3 pm on 7 OCT 1780. The Patriots were organized into nine companies which approached the 1000 foot plateau from all sides. Although the Tories occupied the high ground, the Americans had the cover of large trees and boulders to hide between gun shots. Given the terrain the style of fighting devolved into what the Americans knew best from fighting the Indians. The mass formations with bulk musket volleys which the British normally used were useless. Ferguson ordered a number of brutal bayonette charges down the hillsides but in the end his British Loyalist forces were surrounded on the plateau in a smaller and smaller circle. Ferguson was killed by the Patriots' fire and his men then surrendered. [540]

Every man who fought at King's Mountain was an American except for Major Ferguson! The Tories casualties were 244 killed, 163 wounded and ~ 650 captured. The Patriots had 29 killed and 58 wounded. The loss at King's Mountain stuned Gen. Cornwallis and caused him to abandon his invasion of North Carolina for several months. This allowed the new American commander, Gen. Nathanael Greene, the time he needed to reorganize his army. In addition, General George Washington transferred key commanders and Continental units to the southern campaign. You may view an animation of this battle here (link) .

Hannah's Cowpens

In early January 1781 Lt General Cornwallis became concerned about Brigadier General Daniel Morgan patrolling the western part of South Carolina and rallying Patriots. He ordered his aggressive cavalry commander, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, to find and defeat him. By the 15th he had located Morgan. Cornwallis manuvered part of his main army north west to assist Tarleton who then had ~ 1100 men including three light infantry companies, two cavalry companies and two canons. Morgan learned of Tarleton's approach and manuvered to chose a battle field suited to his battle plan. He chose Hannah's Cowpens in western South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border. [541]

Gen Morgan by then had ~ 1000 soldiers including 237 Continentals from Maryland and Delaware, 80 cavalry, ~ 500 militiamen and 200 mountain riflemen. The American commanders had learned from their defeat at Camden and the victory at King's Mountain how to better deploy their militia and riflemen. Morgan organized a front line of about 150 militia riflemen and ordered them to fire two shots - aiming especially at British officers - before retiring back to the second line under Col Andrew Pickens which was located 150 yards to the rear. The Second Line rested on a knoll and would be composed of 300 militia who also were instructed to retire back to a Third Line after two good shots. The last line was 150 yards further back, more elevated still, commanded by Lt Col John Howard and had 450 men mostly Continentals. This formation was flanked on each side with 100 Virginia sharp shooters. Col William Washington's cavalry was placed in the rear as a reserve. [542]

Lt Col Banastre Tarleton had pushed his army through the cold night arriving at 6:30 am on the 17th. At 7 am the British charged in mass formation. Morgans first line of militia got off their two good volleys before easing rearward. When the advancing British were 100 yards from the Second Line, Pickens ordered his men to fire. British losses were severe especially of officers. The Virginia riflemen on the flanks cut apart Tarleton's cavalry and sent them retreating. Their two shots fired, the Patriot's Second Line retired to their left. When the British advanced to within range of Howard's Third Line, the process repeated. Tarleton later admitted it "produced much slaughter". Gen Morgan sensing the British faltering unleashed Washington's cavalry and ordered a bayonette charge which caught the British by surprise and sent them fleeing. The casualty figures seem disproportionate: British 110 killed, 200 wounded and 525 captured; American 12 killed, 60 wounded. This shocking defeat was said to have angered Cornwallis who attempted to persue Morgan but rain swollen rivers prevented him. Morgan retreated toward North Carolina and crossed the Catawba River on 23 JAN. You may view an animation of this battle here (link) . [543]

Guilford Courthouse

Gen Nathanael Greene met up with Gen Daniel Morgan on 30 JAN 1781 and withdrew further north toward the Dan River, north of the North Carolina border in Virginia. Their goal was to further stretch Cornwallis' supply line. Gen Cornwallis thought he had an opportunity to trap the American southern army against the flooded Dan. But Greene used Col Otho Williams as a decoy to lead Cornwallis further northwest while Greene's army crossed the Dan using boats at the flooded eastern fords on 14 and 15 FEB. [518] Cornwallis withdrew to Hillsborough, North Carolina, to regroup, recruit more Tory militias and resupply his army.

Do to expiring enlistments, Gen Greene's army dwindled to ~ 1500. We know from pension applications that, when Cornwallis entered Virginia near South Boston, there was a general call up of men to join their county militias. Greene temporarily camped at Halifax Courthouse. On 28 FEB Greene's army moved south and re-crossed the Dan River but he stayed clear of Cornwallis waiting for more soldiers. There were skirmishes near the Haw River at Weitzel's Mill on 6 MAR. Col Henry ("Light-Horse Harry") Lee's cavalry shadowing Cornwallis was in skirmishes on 11 and 12 MAR . [509, 519]

By 10 MAR General Greene could write Governor Thomas Jefferson that "the Militia have indeed flocked in from various quarters". [520] Brigadier General Robert Lawson brought ~ 650 Virginia militia; Brigadier Generals John Butler and Thomas Eaton brought ~ 1000 militia from North Carolinia; ~ 500 Continentals arrived from Virginia and were added to two Virginia Regiments; finally another ~ 900 Virginia militiamen arrived for a total of ~ 4400 troops. Gen Cornwallis had less than half that number ~ 2000 but they were tough, seasoned professionals. [510]

On 12 MAR Gen Greene left High Rock Ford [510] and headed his force toward Guilford Courthouse where he planned to fight Gen Cornwallis' army on ground of his choosing. During the "race to the Dan" Greene had studied the terrain around the courthouse. The potential battle field was divided into three distinct areas south to north: 1) a muddy, corn stubble strune field behind which was a split-rail fence with an avenue of retreat into a woods, 2) the woods themselves which would disorganize the British army columns advancing through them and 3) a shallow ravine of fallow land followed by a grade up to the courthouse.

General Greene also took heed of Gen Morgan's example at Cowpens and his advice regarding the militia:

"If they fight, you will beat Cornwallis; if not, he will beat you and perhaps cut your regulars to pieces....put the militia in the centre, with some picked troops in their rear, with orders to shoot down the first militiaman that runs." [521]

It rained during the night. Mid morning of 15 MAR 1781, Green deployed three lines of troops:

  • First Line - his least experienced force, 1000 North Carolina militia positioned after the muddly field of corn stubble, on the edge of a woods and behind a split-rail fense under Gens. Butler and Eaton. Gen Nathaniel Greene anchored their flanks with Col Charles Lynch's Bedford Riflemen on the right plus Lt Col William Washington Cavalry as you can see below. On the left flank were Col William Campbell's Virginia Mountainmen plus Col Henry Lee's Cavalry. They were ordered to fire two rounds then retire into the woods and join the Second Line. [511, 521]

  • Second Line - about 300 yards to the rear of the split-rail fence and in the woods, the more experienced Virginia militias with ~ 1200 men under Gens. Lawson and Stevens. Each of these contained some former regulars whose enlistments had expired. At Camden these militias had fled so Gen Stevens was taking no chances, he positioned 40 riflemen 20 yards behind his line with orders "to shoot the first man who might run." [511] The flanks of the Second Line were not protected so the plan was that the flank troops at the ends of the First Line would retire with the First Line, reforming on the flanks of the Second Line. [522]

  • Third Line - 500 yards to the rear ~ 1400 regular infantrymen of the Continental Line: the 4th and 5th Virginia Regiments north and the 1st and 2nd Maryland Regiments south. The 2nd Maryland was mostly fresh recruits. [512] In front of this final line, the ground sloped down to a large fallow field. Behind the Third Line was a forest which led to the road to Reedy Fork. [523]

My yellow line on the map below shows the positions and movements of Col Lynch's Virginia Riflemen. You may view an animation of this battle here (link) .

A Guide to Battles of the American Revolution, by Savas and Dameron, page 289 [544]
My yellow line shows the movement of Lynch's VA Riflemen. Click on this map for a detailed map.
Map of Guilford Courthouse Battle

Benjamin Milam and Lieutenant William Milam

Lt William Milam, Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy were members of Colonel Charles Lynch's Virginia Riflemen: 10 companies with a total of 200 men. The following quotes regarding the battle are from Angus Konstam's Guilford Courthouse 1781 with focus on Gen Nathaniel Greene's right flank (north) which involved Col Charles Lynch's Virginia Riflemen and thus the Milams and John Kennedy.

"Cornwallis had pushed his men hard since before dawn. By the time they arrived at the field they were hungry and tired." [544]

"Around 1:30 pm [513] the American First Line caught sight of the advanced guard of the British columns...some 800 yards west of the waiting militia. The Americans opened the battle by sporadically firing of their two 6 pound guns; Cornwallis responded with his three 3 pound 'galloper' guns. [523] ...the artilery duel played itself out over 20 minutes .... under cover of the growing smoke, the British started their advance....It was a martial spectacle...with muskets at the shoulder, bayonets fixed, drums and colors to the fore..." [524]

“...the British and Hessians advanced through the muddy corn stubble and up the slight rise looking “steady and guarded.”....at ~ 120 yards some of the NC militia fired their first volley then started to drible away. “Once they reached point blank range, some 50 yards from the split-rail fence, all four British regiments halted, presented their muskets, and fired a single, devastating volley. [524] As the British followed up their volley with a steady advance, the majority of militia (NC) turned and ran. Gen Greene asked for two volleys and mostly he got one." [525]

“The fire of Capt Robert Kirkwood’s Delaware company and Lynch’s Virginia Rifles also forced Lt Col Webster to react, swinging his 33rd Foot slightly to his left to prevent his line being enfiladed (link) as it passed.” [525] "

“As the militia along the fence routed, the two flanks of the American First Line were in danger of being isolated. Lynch and Kirkwood gave the orders to fall back to the positions allocated to them on the extreme right flank of the Second Line, their retreat covered by Washington’s cavalry. ” [526]

"...the British...formations were broken up by the woods, although they held positions in what approximated a north-south line...” [526]

“Given the terrain {forest}, it was inevitable that the fighting on the Second Line would degenerate into a series of small actions in which groups of British regulars fought to come into contact with isolated groups of Virginia militia.” 

“...but, in general, they pressed on through the woods, driving the Virginians before them. To the north of the 33rd Foot, the German Jaegers and the light companies of Guards had come under heavy fire from Kirkwood’s Delaware company and Lynch’s Rifles." [68] [514]

“The battle for the second American line was a hard-fought engagement in almost impossibly dense woods. Although the Virginian militia had been unable to stop the advance of Cornwallis’s army, they had disordered their neat formations and had inflicted casualties. Witnesses recall that after the battle the woods on each side of the road were strewn with the dead and wounded of both armies....” [527]

"Shortly before 2:30 pm...It was clear that the British had defeated both lines of militiamen in front of them. Next, Kirkwood's Delaware company and Lynch's Rifles appeared through the woods to the north of the clearing, taking up positions to the right of Col John Green's 4th Virginia Regiment on the extreme right of the American {Third} Line." [529[

The first British "to emerge were the Jaegers and light infantry on the extreme north edge of the clearing, closely followed by the British 33rd Foot....Lt Col Webster ordered his men forward, pausing only to straighten their lines....The Continentals { VA } waited until the British were within point-blank range then fired a crushing volley." It halted the British. "One of the fallen was Webster himself, whose knee had been shattered by a musket ball. He had little option but to order a retreat." [529]

"...more British troops emerged from the woods to the right {South} of the 33rd Foot; the 2nd Battalion, Foot Guards and Grenadiers.... they were commanded by Lt Col Charles Stuart.... He ordered them to advance. Col Otho Williams commanding the Maryland Brigade watched as the men of the 2nd Maryland {the new recruits} fired a single hasty volley..., then turned and ran. Stuart's men overran the two cannons and chased the Marylanders into the forest behind them. This was the pivotal moment of the battle." [529] Thus Greene's left flank was turned and the Americans were in danger of being encircled.

"General Greene realized that his army was more important than any potential victory, and took the only course that would safeguard his most important resource. He ordered a general retreat..." [530] It was about 3:30 o'clock.

"The American army had survived. In Gen Greene's words: 'we fight, we get beat, rise and fight again'." [531]

"Some of the worst fighting occurred on the flanks. Virginia Col. Charles Lynch lost four of his ten company commanders. He also had eleven enlisted men killed and many wounded." [535] A report by Gen Otho Williams showed that Col Campbell and Col Lynch had a total of 94 missing riflemen out of their initial ~ 400", roughly 47 from each Regiment. Benjamin Milam and William Milam and John Kennedy were among these. [515]

The Memoirs of the Reign of George III to Parliament, Vol 3, contains the following British accessment:

“This Victory, for so it must be called, had, according to the observations of the commander in chief, sir Henry Clinton, all the consequences of a defeat. The royal army was too much disabled and weakened to pursue the enemy. And we are told by a writer (Mr Charles Stedman) who was himself also an officer and commissary {quarter-master} in the army of lord Cornwallis 'that the British troops remained near two days without subsistence; that they were destitute of tents, and the night succeeding the battle was remarkable for its darkness – the rain at the same time falling in torrents. Nearly fifty of the wounded, it is said, sinking of their aggravated miseries, expired before morning. The cries of the wounded and dying who remained on the field of action', says he, 'exceed all description. Such a complicated scene of horror and distress, it is hoped for the sake humanity, rarely occurs, even in military life.' ” [533] 

The British lost 93 killed, 413 wounded and 26 missing - this represented over a quarter of their men. They captured 4 canons and 1300 muskets and rifles - mostly left my the North Carolina militia when they fled. A British opposition politician, Charles James Fox, declared: "Another such victory would ruin the British army". [516, 532]

"..the {British} army spent the {next} day burying the dead and collecting their wounded, who were taken to the New Garden Friends Meeting House. They also gathered the American wounded {~ 100 men} at Guilford Courthouse and word was sent to Gen Greene to supply surgeons." [532]

British Brig. Gen. Charles O'Hara writing to the Duke of Grafton:

"I never did, and hope I never shall, experience two such days and Nights as those immediately after the Battle, we remained on the very ground on which it had been fought cover'd with Dead, with Dying and with hundreds of wounded, Rebels as well as our own - a violent and constant Rain that lasted above Forty hours made it equally impracticable to remove or administer the smallest comfort to many of the Wounded." [548]

British Sergeant Roger Lamb, 23rd Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers:

"The wounded of both armies were collected by the British, as expeditiously as possible after the action; it was, however, a service that required both time and care, as from the nature of the action, they lay disperced over a great extent of ground. Every assistance was furnished to them, that in the then circumstances of the army could be afforded; but, unfortunately the army was destitute of tents, nor was there sufficient number of houses near the field of battle to receive the wounded. The British army...had no provisions of any kind whatsoever on that day, nor until three or four in the afternoon of the succeeding day..." [545]

In a 16 MAR report, Lt General Charles Cornwallis wrote: "I shall....leave about seventy of the worse of the wounded cases at the New-garden Quaker meeting house, with proper assistance, and move the remainder of the army to-morrow morning to Bell's mill." [545] In his biography, British Lt Col Banastre Tarleton wrote: “The severely wounded, to the amount of seventy, with several Americans who were in the same situation were lodged, under the protection of a flag of truce, in New Garden meeting house, and other adjacent buildings....” [546]

Lt General Nathanael Greene reported American losses: 79 men killed, 185 wounded and 1046 missing. [532] About one hundred American wounded were found by the British on the battle field and left at the Courthouse. Of the missing most were NC militia who simply went home. [532]

What Happened to Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy After the Battle?

According to Generals Cornwallis and Greene, the British kept few if any American prisoners. We know that the British not only lacked supplies, food and tents but sufficient wagons. Given his army's desperate condition it made sense that he not only left behind seventy of his own wounded with the Quakers but also left wounded American captives at the Courthouse.

On 16 MAR Gen Greene sent surgeons and some supplies to care for his wounded at the Courthouse. A few days later when Gen Greene decided to pursue Cornwallis south he also turned to the Quakers.

Terry Golway writes in his biography of Greene, Washington's General:

Quoting from Greene's letter to his wife of the 16th, "I had not the honor of being wounded....."

"So many of his men, however, were wounded, and it is not likely they considered their suffering an honor. They were left to the care of local residents with uncertain and perhaps dubious medical skills. With their tribulations on his mind, Greene wrote a moving letter to Quakers living in New Garden near Guilford Court House, asking for their help in tending to his wounded. He took the occasion to cite his own Quaker background..." [532, 547]

We must presume these wounded included Benjamin Milam, Lt William Milam and John Kennedy since they did not return to Bedford with their militia. Benjamin and John died of their wounds on June 19 and 26th respectively, more than three months after the battle. William Milam was finally able to return to Bedford County on August 2nd. [534]

On 16 MAR General Nathanael Greene found time to write an account of the battle to Samuel Huntington, President of the Continental Congress which was published by David C. Claypoole on 31 MAR. You may read Greene's account here (image) .

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was the turning point not only of the Southern Campaign but also of the Revolutionary War. Lt Gen Cornwallis had 3,300 men in and around Charleston, South Carolina, when he moved north in persuit of the American army. After Guilford Courthouse he had only 1400 able bodied men and they were worn out.

Seven months later General Charles Cornwallis would surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, on 19 OCT 1781.

The Aftermath

Benjamin Milam had made his Will on 13 OCT 1780:

"In the name of God, Amen, 13th of October one Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty

I Benjamin Millam of Bedford County being in perfect health and of good and Sound memory, Thanks be to all mighty God, calling to mind the mortality or afirmity of body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and Testament that is to say:

Principally, and first of all I give and Recommend my Sole into the hands of the allmighty God that gave it and my body I Recommend to the Earth to be buried in a decent form. If the allmighty willing and where with the allmighty God has been pleased to bless me with in this life, I give, disvise and dispose of In the following manner and form:

First, I Give and Bequeath to Elisebeth Millam, my Loving Wife whome I appoint, make and ordain the Sole Executrixe of this my last Will and Testament, all my Stocks of all kinds, Together with all my Household goods, debts and movable affects, Endureing her continuing her life unaltered. but if she sees cause to mary again to be Sold and Equily Divided amongst my children and I do heareby utterly disallow, revoke and disannul all and every other former testaments, wills, Legacies and Bequests and Executors by me in any wise before named, willed or bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament.

Witness where of I have Heare unto set my hand and Seal this Thirteenth day of October the year above mentioned. Signed, Sealed and delivered in Presants of us.

William Millam

Moses Milam

Benjamin Millam (Seal)" [608]

On 22 OCT 1781 Benjamin Milam's Will was approved.

"Last Will and Testament of Benjamin Milam deceased was proved by the Oath's of William Millam and Moses Milam his Witnesses thereto subscribed and on the motion of Elizabeth Milam as Executor therein named who made Oath thereto. Certificate is granted her claiming probate in due form. Jarvis Jackson {Jr.} and Rush Milam her securities.

Thomas Logwood, Isaac Banester and Henry Jeter....were Appointed to Appraise the said deceased Estate." [609]

25 Mar 1782 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 6, 338. Benjamin Milam proved that he lost his rifle gun & blanket in the action of Guilford under Gen. Green. Allowed £ 8. 10. [610]

In the Fall of 1782, William Milam petitioned the Virginia House of Delegates requesting back pay for himself, Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy which was approved on 4 DEC 1782.

“Resolved, that in the opinion of this committee, That the petition of William Milam, setting forth, that the petitioner, together with Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy, served in the militia which was ordered into Carolina from the county of Bedford, in the year 1781;  the petitioner as an ensign { actually second Lieutenant as of 28 AUG 1780 and first lieutenant as of 24 SEP 1781 } and the said Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy as soldiers; that at the battle of Guilford courthouse they were severally taken prisoners, in which state the said Benjamin Milam on the 19th, and the said John Kennedy on the 26th of June in the same year died;  and that the said petitioner did not return to the said county of Bedford from captivity, til the 2nd day of August following; and praying that he may be allowed the pay of ensign til the 2nd day of August, the day of his return; and also, that the representatives of the said deceased soldiers may be entitled to their pay until the respective days on which they died, is reasonable; and that the auditors of the public accounts ought to issue certificates for the same.” [534]

On 23 DEC 1782 this Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Benjamin Milam, Deceased, was Returned to Court and Ordered Recorded.

Benjamin Milam Inventory 1782

You may view pages 432 and 433 of the original Inventory here (image). [611, 612]

23 OCT 1786 BEDFORD COUNTY, DEED BOOK 7, 658. "Moses Milam Deed to Elizabeth Milam, the relic of Benjamin Milam." You may read the entire original deed here (link).

In 1787, the Personal Property Tax List for Bedford County, Virginia, finds Elizabeth Milam with 0 white males over 16 and under 21, 0 black over 16, 0 black under 16,  4 horses, and 9 cattle. No one in Elizabeth's household was tithable.

Elizabeth Milam apparently remarried and removed to Logan County, Kentucky.

Issue of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Jackson) Milam ( Robert Wilbanks IV ):

 I. Deborah Milam Born circa 1773 Bedford County, Virginia

II. Solomon Milam Born March 14, 1775 Bedford County, Virginia

III. Ruth Milam Born circa 1777 Bedford County, Virginia Married John Murphy on February 18, 1797 in Bedford County, Virginia

IV. Joseph Milam Born April 30, 1779 Bedford County, Virginia

V. Benjamin Milam, Jr. Born January 27, 1781 Bedford County, Virginia


~~~~~~~~~~~~~Please see Benjamin's records chronology for more records here (link) . ~~~~~~~~~~~~


NOTE TO READERS: Most all the words in bold type face are links to images, maps or word definitions in the Glossary. The Citations and Glossary are available under the Resources tab or here (link) .

To Top