Trading Ford, Race to the Dan River recognized in report to Congress

Among most significant sites reviewed

Trading Ford Monument “The Revolutionary War (1775-1783) launched a new nation – the United States – which appeared to the world a novel experiment in self-government that might as easily fail as succeed.”

Twelve years in the making, the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) released its landmark Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States in June. Realizing that many historic sites of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were at risk from rapid urban and suburban development, Congress authorized the study in 1996. The goals of the study were 1) to gather current information about the significance of, current condition of, and threats to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites, and 2) to present preservation and interpretation alternatives for the sites.

Trading Ford, NC (3 February 1781) was included in the survey, along with other historic sites which comprise the “Race to the Dan River”. A linear resource, the inclusive “Race to the Dan River” is listed in the "Roads, Trails, and Waterways Needing Further Study" section of the report. These are resources that due to their size and complexity had no equivalent survey methodology that allowed them to be represented in an equitable manner.  (Race to the Dan map)

A sub-committee of the National Park Service Advisory Board gave each resource a ranking. The “Race to the Dan River” received a class of "A, site of a military or naval action with a vital objective or result that shaped the strategy, direction, outcome, or perception of the war." Paul Hawke, Chief of the ABPP, commented, “The Race to the Dan, and all of its contributing resources, are considered among the most significant sites we looked at.”  

During the early days of winter, 1781, Nathanael Greene, Southern Commander of the U. S. Forces, divided his forces, baiting Lord Cornwallis and the British to follow suit. After a decisive victory at Cowpens, SC on January 17th, Greene and his generals began a strategic retreat which would lead both armies 230 miles across the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont. The Patriots lost beloved General Davidson at Cowan's Ford on the Catawba. Dispirited but forging on, they reached Salisbury on February 2nd, then moved on to cross the Yadkin at the Trading Ford. The British arrived at the end of the day on the 3rd, in time to have a brief encounter with Greene's rear guard, only to find that the the rest of Greene's forces were safely across the now-swollen river, and that all the boats were on the far shore. On the morning of the 4th, the British furiously cannonaded the Americans before giving up their attack and marching north to the Shallow Ford to cross the river. The pursuit continued until Greene and his army crossed the Dan River at Irwin's Ferry in Virginia, February 13th, again leaving a swollen river facing the British army who lacked the boats to follow. Greene had led Cornwallis away from his base of supply in Charleston and provided himself with time for reinforcements to reach him. The stage was set for the encounter between the two armies which would occur at Guilford Courthouse on March 15th.   (Read the Trading Ford account...)

Salisbury historian Ann Brownlee, having previously surveyed the Shallow Ford site, led a group of volunteers who surveyed the Trading Ford site in 2000 and 2001, under the auspices of the Carolinas' Backcountry Alliance (CBA). The CBA Revolutionary War Sites Inventory Project was funded by a grant from the ABPP and was supervised by professional landscape consultant Susan Vincent. The Trading Ford site was submitted as potentially eligible for the National Register.  The Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association was subsequently founded to work toward the preservation of historic sites in the area.

The Report to Congress... recommends preservation efforts by federal, state, and local governments; private citizens and companies; and non-profit Friends groups. The ABPP's recognition of the role the Trading Ford played in the Revolutionary War is the second recent national recognition afforded this historic area. The Civil War Preservation Trust recognized another Trading Ford area site, the Yadkin River Bridge battlefield, as among the nation's 25 most endangered 2008 and 2009 Civil War battlefields.

Trading Ford in report prepared on historic war sites protection
, Staff reports, Salisbury Post, July 4, 2008

Trading Ford recognized in report to Congress
,  The Dispatch, June 16, 2008

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