This monument honors Major Joseph Winston and the Surry County militia that he commanded against the vicious British soldiers led by Lord Charles Cornwallis. Major Joseph Winston contributed to the greater American defense at the Battle of the Guilford Courthouse by commanding the Surry County militia at the southern flank of the 2nd line of defense. The monument of Major Joseph Winston was erected in 1894 to honor him and the Surry County riflemen for their heroic efforts to battle the British army on March 15th, 1781 at the Battle of the Guilford Courthouse.
Joseph Winston was a revolutionary patriot, militia officer, and North Carolina politician. He moved to North Carolina in the late 1760’s and by the early 1770’s, he had settled on the Dan River in Surry County. In 1775, Joseph Winston was named First Major of the Surry County militia. In 1776, he led his men in a fight against the British at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, the first American Revolution battle to occur on North Carolina soil. Shortly after the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, Winston would join forces with other North Carolina County militias to battle the British at Kings Mountain on October 7th, 1780. The battle at Kings Mountain in Western North Carolina was an overwhelming victory for the American forces. This victory helped the North Carolina militias and regiments carry momentum into the rest of the campaign that would occur across the state in the coming months. On March 15th, 1781, Major Joseph Winston and his Surry County militia would fight in the Battle of the Guilford Courthouse. This violent exchange was the last major battle fought on North Carolina soil for the American Revolution. Many accounts claim that Winston and his men were the last Americans to leave the battle against the British. In 1812, the North Carolina legislature presented Joseph Winston with an elegant sword honoring his heroic military services to the state.
Leading up to the Battle of the Guilford Courthouse in 1781, the American Revolutionary War had already raged on for six years. The war was a fierce battle for independence by the American colonies against the controlling British empire. The British armed forces first concentrated their attack campaigns in the North and advanced further South as they eliminated forces and conquered land. The Southern campaign proved to be more tumultuous for the British forced than originally anticipated. The well-trained and battle tested British armies were constantly met with fierce opposition across the colonies. As the British moved further South, the battles produced more and more losses, which they were unaccustomed to. The Battle of the Guilford Courthouse which occured on March 15th, 1781 proved to be one of those times of great British loss, it became one of the largest turning points in the American Revolution.
Initially, the Battle of the Guilford Courthouse was considered to be a British victory but in the following weeks it could be argued that it was an American victory. In the weeks following the battle, it became apparent that the losses dealt to the British army were far too great to continue the Southern campaign. The Battle of the Guilford Courthouse forced Lord Charles Cornwallis to retreat to Yorktown, Virginia to resupply and reconvene with other British soldiers. It took months for Lord Charles Cornwallis and his army to wind-up in Yorktown, Virginia. It was at this location where Lord Charles Cornwallis would eventually surrender to the American leader and General George Washington in 1781, thus marking a huge moment in the ending of the American Revolution. Although Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army to General George Washington in 1781, the war would not officially come to a conclusion until 1783 when The Treaty of Paris was signed.
Joseph Winston’s legacy lives on today in many ways. He was the father of twelve children, all which went on to lead influential and successful lives. Winston passed away on April 21st, 1815 at the age of 68 in Surry County, North Carolina. He was buried in the Winston family cemetery near Germanton, North Carolina. In 1906, his remains were moved to the battlefield of the Guilford Courthouse. His grave lays roughly one-hundred yards from his monument that towers over the eastern-side of the military park. In honor of Joseph Winston's life, heroic accomplishments, and service to the state of North Carolina, the city of Winston was named after him. The city name would eventually evolve to become Winston-Salem in 1913 when the towns of Winston and Salem would merge to become one.