Forbis Grave and Memorial

A Hard Death and a Brave Widow

Location


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Coordinates: 36.0229, -79.7073.

Type: Stop
Tour: Guilford Battle
County: Guilford

Access LogoDifficult

Park across Presbyterian Road from Alamance Presbyterian Church. Cross the street, and in the cemetery, walk toward the monument in the far right corner, which marks the location of the first church building. Near the flagpole there, look to the left for the tall obelisk with a low monument to its right, and walk to them.

Photo of a cemtery with an obelisk in the distance and a tree on the right
The memorial from the flagpole area (AmRevNC photograph)

 

Mug with a fortifications map saying, "Wilmington 1781"

 
Mug with an African-American soldier and the words, "Fighting for Freedom."

 

Description

Patriot militia Capt. Arthur Forbis lay on the battlefield at Guilford Court House for at least 24 hours under a cold March rain, with bullet wounds in the side and leg and a bayonet thrust from a vengeful Loyalist. You can visit the general location in our tour of that sight. He was found by a neighbor looking for her brother. She managed to get him onto a horse and started for the Forbis home in this vicinity.

His wife Elizabeth Wiley Forbis was on the way to the battlefield to look for him, and they met on the way. Back at home, she sought the help of educator and doctor David Caldwell, also pastor of Alamance Church. The doctor advised amputation of the leg, but Arthur “said he wanted to die in one piece…”[1] Within a few days, he was gone.

Photo of a white obelisk on the left and low, wide, monument on the right
(AmRevNC photograph)

Loyalists (“Tories”) had raided the Forbis property, and the family was down to one old horse. Knowing this, a neighbor brought over an escaped British army horse that had wandered into his fields. The next day Elizabeth put her 12- or 13-year-old son to work ploughing their cornfield with the horse, while she worked nearby with a hoe.

A couple of probable Tories—maybe just outlaws—showed up and demanded the horse. They recognized it as from the British by its docked tail. Elizabeth came over and refused them. One of the men started toward the horse to pull it out of the harness, and Elizabeth stepped in front of it with her hoe raised over her head. She “told him if he touched the horse she would split his head with the hoe.”

The Tories wisely moved on.[2]

What to See

Arthur is buried at the obelisk. It states on the front, “A patriot Soldier of the war of indipendence (sic).” The back side says: “Col. Forbis in company of his neighbors fought bravely as volunteers. He fell at his post & died of his wounds in the prime of mature life.” Either his rank is incorrect here, or he was promoted posthumously.

As noted on the memorial to his right, Elizabeth’s exact location in the graveyard is unknown. (Perhaps the Elizabeth Wiley buried nearby to the right was her mother.) Her story is known mostly due to Rev. Eli Caruthers, a student of Caldwell who in the 1800s interviewed N.C. folks alive during the war for their recollections.[3] His section on her is quoted on the memorial.

You may also wish to pay your respects to another Patriot soldier, Pvt. Ralph Correll. He is buried under a slab between Forbis and the road you crossed.[4]

A grave covered by an old, engraved slab with a modern tombstone standing above it
(AmRevNC photograph)


[1] Griffith, Daniel, An Ethnographic Overview of the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (National Park Service, 28 January 2015) <http://npshistory.com/publications/guco/eo-2015.pdf> [accessed 23 April 2020]

[2] Caruthers, E. W. (Eli Washington), Interesting Revolutionary Incidents and Sketches of Character, Chiefly in the ‘Old North State.’ (Philadelphia : Hayes & Zell, 1856) <http://archive.org/details/interestingrevol00incaru> [accessed 23 April 2020]; Caruthers indicates he knew Elizabeth personally.

[3] Ibid.

[4] In addition to the other footnoted sources, “Stop” information comes from one of two guidebooks; NCpedia; the online essay for the relevant North Carolina Highway Marker; and related Sight pages (see “About Sources“).

Guilford Battle Tour | Hannah Blair