This February marks the 233rd anniversary of General Nathanael Greene’s crossing of the Dan River at South Boston when his American Army outraced the British army under Lord Cornwallis in 1781.

On Saturday, February 22, visitors will enjoy the annual Crossing program with greetings, presentations of wreaths and a key-note address by Patrick Henry Jolly, the great grandson of legendary Revolutionary leader Patrick Henry. Following the program at the Chastain Theatre in the Prizery, 700 Bruce Street, a Brunswick stew for $5 will be available at the Riverside Exhibit. A portrayal of the Crossing by American and British re-enactors complete with a full size replica of a ferry boat and cannon and musketry fire will take place at the Boyd’s ferry site on the Dan River.

General Greene’s army crossed the rain-swollen river with six ferry boats that were acquired from sites along the Dan. The 28’ x 8’ replica will make it possible for the first time since the American Revolution for “troops” to cross the Dan in an authentic reproduction of a boat that carried a cannon, wagons, horses and men. Spectators will see the American soldiers crossing the Dan exactly like it happened in 1781.

This year also marks a new honor for the Crossing event. In September 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky, the National Society Sons of the American approved the Crossing of the Dan as one of the seminal Revolutionary War events celebrated across the nation. With this national recognition confirmed, visitors from as far away as Texas and Georgia plan to attend.

Finally, the new documentary The Crossing of the Dan will be available for purchase. Produced by Virginia Multimedia with WBTM’s “Hutch” Hutcheson and written and directed by Larry Aaron, State Historian for the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution, the documentary features live action, interviews with nationally recognized experts on Revolutionary War history, maps, and imagery from a variety of sources including the National Archives, Library of Congress and Brown University. Scenes were filmed at the Crossing event in South Boston and reenactments in North and South Carolina.

The commemoration honors those American soldiers who marched through rain and sometimes snow over 200 miles in cold winter weather, many of them barefoot, worn out and hungry by the time they reached the actual site where the reenactment is taking place. After crossing the Dan, they kept all the boats on the other side, leaving the British no way to cross the flooded river. Greene’s crossing of the Dan at South Boston, although a nearly forgotten episode in United States history, was instrumental in our winning the American Revolution. Dr. Lawrence Babits, an esteemed scholar of that war’s Southern campaign, has said that “Greene’s crossing of the Dan led more quickly to long-term victories than those at Trenton and Princeton” when Washington crossed the Delaware. Resupplied and reinforced with militias from surrounding counties such as Pittsylvania and Halifax, Greene was able to recross the river some days later and hand Cornwallis’s British army a terrific mauling at Guilford Courthouse that sent the British reeling toward Wilmington. From there Cornwallis made the fateful decision to enter Virginia where he surrendered his entire army at Yorktown.

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