Greenlee Ford and the Catawba River


Greenlee Ford was the shallow crossing of the Catawba River used by travelers. The party of some 1400 backcountry militiamen crossed the river on the morning October 1, 1780 and marched up the valley of Silver Creek as they proceeded south toward Gilbert Town in pursuit of British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army of American loyalists.

After the battle, as the patriots marched away with their loyalist prisoners, they marched hard for 32 miles during a heavy rain on October 15 to cross the Catawba River before it would become impassible. Unless they got across, they feared they would be trapped against it by Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his Green Dragoons, whom they believed were in pursuit. The patriots and their prisoners forded the rising Catawba River at the Island Ford before resting again at Quaker Meadows.

Today, the Catawba River Greenway extends along the east side of the river from Greenlee Ford to the north end of Catawba Meadows Park.

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Greenlee Ford at the Catawba River

Photo by Randell Jones

Greenleee Ford offered travelers access through shallow water to cross the Catawba River. The ford can be seen today from the west terminus of the Catawba Greenway. [View Additional File Details]

Catawba River Greenway

Photos by Randell Jones

The Catawba River Greenway is a designated segment of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. It is owned and maintained by the City of Morganton. [View Additional File Details]

Overmountain Victory Celebration at Catawba Meadows

Photos by Randell Jones

As part of Historic Burke Foundation's support of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, they help sponsor an annual education event at Catawba Meadows Park. It is a City of Morganton park at the north end of the Catawba River Greenway, a certified segment of the OVNHT. The multi-day event is held on schools days near September 30. Students walk from station to station where living history reenactors, many OVTA members, teach them about colonial life and the experiences of people living in this part of North Carolina during the American Revolution. [View Additional File Details]

Excerpts from "Before They Were Heroes at King's Mountain" by Randell Jones

pp. 488-489 The prisoners had been on a forced march for eight days with little food. The Patriot militiamen had beaten some and executed others. The prisoners' prospects for survival did not look good to them. {Lt. Anthony} Allaire took note of the outcome of this turn in the prisoners' attitude. He wrote on the 15th, "About one hundred prisoners made their escape on this march." {Dr. Uzal} Johnson estimated fewer but emphasized the prisoners' desperate condition. He wrote that "thirty-odd of the Prisoners made their escape on this March, tho very much fatigued and all most famished with hunger, having no Meat for three Days." The plight of the Patriot militiamen was not much different that day. "We set off early next morning," wrote Benjamin Sharp, "and shortly after the rain began to fall in torrents and continued the whole day." They quickened their march, wanting to cross the Catawba River before it became impassible. Perhaps such an urgent and demanding pace in such disagreeable weather enabled so many prisoners to slip off into the woods. In any case, the party marched 32 miles, crossing the Catawba River near midnight and discovering the next morning that it had become swollen beyond passage. They felt secure from Tarleton's pursuit, if, in fact, he had been riding after them. They stopped at Quaker Meadows, and Major McDowell rode along the line welcoming the men, telling them this was his plantation, and inviting them to use the rail fencing to build fires. "I suppose everyone felt grateful for this generous offer, " wrote [Benjamin] Sharp, "for it was rather cold, being the last of October, and every one, from the Commander-in-Chief to the meanest private, was as wet as if he had just been dragged through the Catawba River." Copyright 2011, Randell Jones Available at [View Additional File Details]

Cite this Page

Randell Jones, A Guide to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, 2011., “Greenlee Ford and the Catawba River,” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, accessed February 28, 2021, http:/​/​bythewaywebf.​webfactional.​com/​omvt/​items/​show/​2.​
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