Cowpens National Battlefield

Cowpens National Battlefield, SC

“Just hold up your heads, boys, three fires and you are free…when you return to your homes, how the old folks will bless you, and the girls will kiss you, for your gallant conduct.”

-- Brig. General Daniel Morgan (on eve of battle)

Cowpens was the site of arguably the most one sided American victory of the Revolutionary War. The battle saw a hodgepodge army of 800 Americans under the command of Brigadier General Daniel Morgan face off against 1,100 battle-hardened British Regulars under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. The battle was part of the great southern campaign of General Charles Cornwallis intended to subdue the southern colonies and bring them back under British rule. Three months earlier, Cornwallis had suffered a humiliating defeat at nearby Kings Mountain. Eager to pay the Americans back in kind, Cornwallis dispatched the infamous Banastre Tarleton to destroy Morgan's force who had been erroneously reported to be headed to the British outpost at Ninety-Six. Upon arrival at Ninety-Six Tarleton discovered that Morgan was no where to be found and turned his force to pursue him. Morgan was ready. He had placed his forces on a low ridge between two marshy creeks in a relatively open area used by locals for foraging cattle (thus the name 'cowpens').

He did this for a couple of reasons. First, the surrounding wetlands would be a deterrent for any hasty retreat by his untested militia units. Secondly, the marshlands would limit the movement of the attacking British by taking away the option of flanking movements and forcing them into a frontal assault against the rebels. Morgan deployed his forces in three lines, one behind the other, in increasing amounts of strength. The first line would be made up of skirmishers, intended to harass the initial advance of the British. The second line would contain the militia units. Morgan, aware of the unreliable nature of militia, only requested that they deliver two solid volley's before they could pull back to the third line. Morgan's final line would contain his battle tested Continental Regulars. It was his hope that, by the time the British reached this final line, they would have been sufficiently bloodied that they could be repulsed. The plan went off (almost) without a hitch, handing the American forces in the south a much needed boost to morale and setting the stage for future events which would gradually lead to Corwallis' downfall at Yorktown.

Cowpens National Battlefield is located a short distance south of the North Carolina line less than an hour from Spartanburg. The battlefield is accessed by a short, 1 mile interpretive loop trail which highlights the events of the battle and their respective locations on the field. As with many of my historical albums I have arranged the album not in order of how you'd see them on the walk, but rather in chronological order...

Battle Statistics

Continental Army

Commanding Officer: Brigadier General Daniel Morgan

Strength: 800

Casualties: 149 or 18.6% (25 killed, 124 wounded)

British Army

Commanding Officer: Colonel Banastre Tarleton

Strength: 1,150

Casualties: 339 or 29.5% (110 killed, 229 wounded)

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