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Encyclopedia > Battle of Cowpens
Battle of Cowpens
Part of American Revolutionary War

Painted by William Ranney in 1845, this depiction of the Battle of Cowpens shows an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).
Date January 17, 1781
Location Cowpens, South Carolina
Result Decisive American victory
Combatants
United States Great Britain
Commanders
Daniel Morgan Banastre Tarleton
Strength
c.1,900 c.1,150
Casualties
Officially reported
12 killed
61 wounded
Patriot Claim
110 killed
229 wounded
529-767 captured [1]

The Battle of Cowpens was fought on January 17, 1781, during the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War and was an overwhelming victory by American Revolutionary forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan. It was a turning point in the reconquest of South Carolina from the British, and went down in history as the great American tactical masterpiece of the war. This article is about military actions only. ... Image File history File links Cowpens. ... William Washington (February 28, 1752 to March 6, 1810), was a patriotic Southern cavalry officer during the American Revolutionary War, who held a final rank of Brigadier General in the newly created United States after the war. ... is the 17th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1781 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Cowpens is a town located in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. ... Daniel Morgan (July 6, 1736 – July 6, 1802) was an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. ... Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 25 January 1833) was a British soldier and politician. ... The Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War became the central area of operations on land after France entered the war on the side of the United States. ... Drawing of the octagonal Williamsburg Magazine The Gunpowder Incident (also known as the Gunpowder Affair) was a conflict early in the American Revolutionary War between Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of colonial Virginia, and militia led by Patrick Henry. ... Combatants Patriot militia British militia Commanders William Woodford Lord Dunmore Strength 8,845 7,500 Casualties Americans: 20 killed, 56 wounded French: 52 killed, 134 wounded 156 killed 326 wounded 7,018 captured The Battle of Great Bridge was a battle of the American Revolutionary War, fought in the area... Combatants Patriot militia Loyalist militia Commanders Caswell, Lillington McLeod Strength 1,000 1,500 Casualties 1 killed, 1 wounded 30 killed or wounded, 850 captured The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge was fought near Wilmington, North Carolina, on February 27, 1776, between North Carolina patriots and Scottish Loyalists. ... The Battle of the Rice Boats was a battle of the American Revolution that took place in the Savannah River on the border between the Province of Georgia and the Province of South Carolina. ... The Battle of Alligator Bridge took place on June 30, 1778, and was the major engagement in Colonel Elijah Clarks third, and final, unsuccessful campaign to conquer East Florida. ... Combatants Loyalist militia Patriot militia Commanders James Boyd, Major William Spurgen, John Moore† Andrew Pickens, John Dooly, Elijah Clarke Strength 600 340 Casualties 20 killed, 150 captured 7 killed, 15 wounded The Battle of Kettle Creek is one of the most important battles of the American Revolutionary War to be... Combatants Patriot militia Loyalist militia Commanders John Ashe Samuel Elbert Archibald Campbell Augustine Provost Strength ~400 2,300 Casualties ~400 killed, Elbert captured 5 killed The Battle of Briar Creek was a Revolutionary War battle that took place on March 3, 1779. ... Combatants United States Britain Commanders Benjamin Lincoln John Maitland Strength 1500 900 Casualties around 300 (dead/missing) 150 The Battle of Stono Ferry was a poorly planned and badly conducted operation during the American Revolutionary War; it took place on June 20, 1779. ... Combatants United States France Kingdom of Great Britain Commanders General Benjamin Lincoln Admiral Comte dEstaing Count Kazimierz Pulaski † General Augustin Prevost Strength 1,550 American troops; 3,500 French troops and sailors 3,200 troops Casualties Total Allied: 800 killed 1200 wounded 40 killed 63 wounded The Siege of... Combatants Britain 17th Lancers{then called Dragoons} British Legion (1778) United States 3rd Virginia Detachment composed of 2nd and 7th Virginia Regiments Commanders Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton Colonel Abraham Buford Strength 270 400 Casualties 5 killed 12 wounded {11 horses killed 19 horses wounded} 113 killed 150 wounded and paroled... Combatants Kingdom of Great Britain United States Commanders Sir Henry Clinton and Mariot Arbuthnot Benjamin Lincoln Strength 14,000 troops 5,000 troops Casualties 76 killed, 182 wounded 92 killed, 148 wounded, 4,650 captured (see Trivia below) The Siege of Charleston was one of the major battles which took... Combatants Britain United States Commanders Charles Cornwallis Horatio Gates Johann de Kalb† Strength 2,239 3,052 Casualties 68 killed 245 wounded 64 missing 1,000 killed or wounded 1,000 captured 132 missing The Battle of Camden was an important battle in the Southern Theatre of the American Revolutionary... Combatants Patriot militia Loyalist militia Commanders William Campbell, John Sevier, Frederick Hambright, Joseph McDowell, Benjamin Cleveland, James Williams†, Isaac Shelby Patrick Ferguson† Strength 900 (+500 nearby) 1,100 (+200 nearby) Casualties 28 killed (including James Williams), 62 wounded 157 killed, 163 wounded, 698 captured (nine of the captured were later... Combatants United States Britain Commanders Nathanael Greene Lord Cornwallis Strength 4,400 1,900 Casualties 79 killed 185 wounded 1,046 missing Total: 1,310 93 killed 413 wounded 26 missing Total: 532 The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 inside the present... Combatants United States Britain Commanders Nathaniel Greene Lord Francis Rawdon Strength 1,551 900 Casualties 19 killed 115 wounded 38 killed 170 wounded 50 captured The Battle of Hobkirks Hill was a battle of the American Revolutionary War fought on April 25, 1781. ... Battle of Green Spring took place at Green Spring Plantation in James City County, Virginia during the American Revolutionary War. ... The Battle of Eutaw Springs was a battle of the American Revolutionary War, the last engagement of the war in the Carolinas. ... Combatants Kingdom of France  United States Great Britain German mercenaries Commanders Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau François de Grasse Gilbert de La Fayette George Washington Nathanael Greene Charles Cornwallis # Charles O’Hara # Banastre Tarleton # (stationed at Gloucester, Virginia) Strength 10,800 French 8,500 Americans 24 French warships 7,500... is the 17th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1781 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... The Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War became the central area of operations on land after France entered the war on the side of the United States. ... This article is about military actions only. ... John Trumbulls Declaration of Independence, showing the five-man committee in charge of drafting the Declaration in 1776 as it presents its work to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia The American Revolution refers to the period during the last half of the 18th century in which the Thirteen... A Brigadier General, or one-star general, is the lowest rank of general officer in the United States and some other countries, ranking just above Colonel and just below Major General. ... Daniel Morgan (July 6, 1736 – July 6, 1802) was an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. ...

Contents

The Colonial force

ghay The Colonial forces were commanded by Brigadier-General Daniel Morganhe is ghay. Although Morgan claimed in his official report to have had only a few over 800 men at Cowpens, historian Lawrence Babits, in his detailed study of the Battle, estimates the real numbers as: Daniel Morgan (July 6, 1736 – July 6, 1802) was an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. ...

  • A battalion of Continental infantry under Lt-Col John Eager Howard, with one company from Delaware, one from Virginia and three from Maryland; each with a strength of sixty men (300)[2]
  • A company of Virginia State troops under Captain John Lawson [3] (75)[4]
  • A company of South Carolina State troops under Captain Joseph Pickens (60)[5]
  • A small company of North Carolina State troops under Captain Henry Connelly (number not given)[6]
  • A Virginia Militia battalion under Major Frank Triplett [7] (160)[8]
  • Two companies of Virginia Militia under Major David Campbell (50)[9]
  • A battalion of North Carolina Militia under Colonel Joseph McDowell (260-285) [10]
  • A brigade of four battalions of South Carolina Militia under Colonel Andrew Pickens, comprising a three-company battalion of the Spartanburg Regiment under Lt-Col Benjamin Roebuck; a four-company battalion of the Spartanburg Regiment under Col John Thomas; five companies of the Little River Regiment under Lt-Col Joseph Hayes and seven companies of the Fair Forest Regiment under Col Thomas Brandon. Babits states [11] that these battalion “ranged in size from 120 to more than 250 men”. If Roebuck’s three companies numbered 120 and Brandon’s seven companies numbered 250, then Thomas’s four companies probably numbered about 160 and Hayes’s five companies about 200, for a total of (730)
  • Three small companies of Georgia Militia commander by Major Cunningham [12] who numbered (55) [13]
  • Detachments of the 1st and 3rd Continental Light Dragoon (both recruited mainly in Virginia) under Lt-Col William Washington (82) [14]
  • Detachments of State Dragoons from North Carolina and Virginia (30) [15]
  • A detachment of South Carolina State Dragoons, with a few mounted Georgians, commanded by Major James McCall (25)[16]
  • A company of newly-raised volunteers from the local South Carolina Militia commanded by Major Benjamin Jolly (45)[17]

The figures given by Laurence E. Babits total 82 Continental Light Dragoons; 55 State Dragoons; 45 Militia Dragoons; 300 Continental infantry; about 150 State infantry and 1,255-1,280 Militia infantry, for a total of 1,887-1,912 officers and men.
Broken down by state, there were about 855 South Carolinians; 442 Virginians; 290-315 North Carolinians; 180 Marylanders; 60 Georgians and 60 Delawareans. Illustration depicting uniforms and weapons used during the 1779 to 1783 period of the American Revolution by showing four soldiers standing in an informal group General George Washington, was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775. ... This article is about the U.S. State of Delaware. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ... Official language(s) None (English, de facto) Capital Annapolis Largest city Baltimore Largest metro area Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area Area  Ranked 42nd  - Total 12,407 sq mi (32,133 km²)  - Width 101 miles (145 km)  - Length 249 miles (400 km)  - % water 21  - Latitude 37° 53′ N to 39° 43′ N... Official language(s) English Capital Columbia Largest city Columbia Largest metro area Columbia Area  Ranked 40th  - Total 34,726 sq mi (82,965 km²)  - Width 200 miles (320 km)  - Length 260 miles (420 km)  - % water 6  - Latitude 32° 2′ N to 35° 13′ N  - Longitude 78° 32′ W to 83... Official language(s) English Capital Raleigh Largest city Charlotte Largest metro area Charlotte metro area Area  Ranked 28th  - Total 53,865 sq mi (139,509 km²)  - Width 150 miles (240 km)  - Length 560[1] miles (900 km)  - % water 9. ...


Morgan's Continentals were veterans, and many of his militia, which included some Overmountain Men, had seen service at the Battle of Musgrove Mill and the Battle of Kings Mountain. // Americans settlers of largely Scotch-Irish descent settled over the Smokies into the west so therefore became known as the Over Mountain Men. ... The Battle of Musgrove Mill, which took place on August 19, 1780, was one of the early turning points in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, and stands as an excellent example of the guerilla conflict and civil war that raged near the Musgrove Mill on the Enoree River... Combatants Patriot militia Loyalist militia Commanders William Campbell, John Sevier, Frederick Hambright, Joseph McDowell, Benjamin Cleveland, James Williams†, Isaac Shelby Patrick Ferguson† Strength 900 (+500 nearby) 1,100 (+200 nearby) Casualties 28 killed (including James Williams), 62 wounded 157 killed, 163 wounded, 698 captured (nine of the captured were later...


The British force

The British were commanded by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who headed his own Loyalist British Legion (250 cavalry and 200 infantry [18], a troop of the 17th Light Dragoons (50), a battery of the Royal Artillery (24) with two 3-pounder cannons[19], the 7th (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment (177), the light infantry company of the 16th Regiment (42), the 71st (Fraser's Highlanders) Regiment (334), the light company of the Loyalist Prince of Wales's American Regiment (31) and a company of about 50 Loyalist guides: a total of over 1,150 officers and men [20]. Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 25 January 1833) was a British soldier and politician. ... For the township in Canada, see Loyalist, Ontario In general, a loyalist is an individual who is loyal to the powers that be. ... Official name The 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridges Own) Colonel-in-Chief Duke of Cambridge Colonel-of-the-Regiment Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig Motto Or Glory Nicknames Binghams Dandies The Death or Glory Boys The Horse Marines The Tots The White Lancers Anniversaries Balaklava (20...


Tarleton’s men from the Royal Artillery, 17th Light Dragoons, 16th Regiment and 71st Regiment were reliable veterans: but the detachment of the 7th Regiment were raw recruits who had been intended to reinforce the garrison of Fort Ninety-Six where they could receive further training rather than go straight into action[21]. Tarleton's own unit, the British Legion were formidable "in a pursuit situation" [22] but had an uncertain reputation “when faced with determined opposition”[23].


General Cornwallis instructed Tarleton and his Legion, who had been successful at battles such as Camden and Waxhaw in the past, to destroy Morgan's command. Tarleton's previous victories had been won by bold attacks, often despite being outnumbered. American commander Nathanael Greene had taken the daring step of dividing his army, detaching Morgan away from the main Patriot force. Morgan called Americans to gather at the cow pens (a grazing area), which were a familiar landmark. Tarleton attacked with his customary boldness but without regard for the fact Morgan had much more time to prepare. He was consequently caught in a double envelopment. Only Tarleton and about 260 British troops escaped. Cornwallis redirects here. ... Combatants Britain United States Commanders Charles Cornwallis Horatio Gates Johann de Kalb† Strength 2,239 3,052 Casualties 68 killed 245 wounded 64 missing 1,000 killed or wounded 1,000 captured 132 missing The Battle of Camden was an important battle in the Southern Theatre of the American Revolutionary... Combatants Britain 17th Lancers{then called Dragoons} British Legion (1778) United States 3rd Virginia Detachment composed of 2nd and 7th Virginia Regiments Commanders Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton Colonel Abraham Buford Strength 270 400 Casualties 5 killed 12 wounded {11 horses killed 19 horses wounded} 113 killed 150 wounded and paroled... Charles Willson Peale painted a portrait of General Greene from life in, which was then copied several times by C.W. Peale and his son, Rembrandt Peale. ... Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 25 January 1833) was a British soldier and politician. ...


Morgan's preparations

Daniel Morgan knew that he should use the unique landscape of Cowpens and the time available before Tarleton's arrival to his advantage. Furthermore, he knew his men and his opponent, knew how they would react in certain situations, and used this knowledge to his advantage. To begin with, the location of his forces were contrary to any existing military doctrine: he placed his army between the Broad and Pacolet River, thus making escape impossible if the army were routed. His reason for cutting off escape was obvious; to ensure that the untrained militiamen would not, as they had been accustomed to do, turn in flight at the first hint of battle and abandon the regulars. Selecting a hill as the center of his position, he placed his Continental infantry on it, deliberately leaving his flanks exposed to his opponent. Morgan reasoned that Tarleton would attack him head on, and he made his tactical preparations accordingly. He set up three lines of soldiers: one of skirmishers (sharpshooters), one of militia, and a main one. The 150 select skirmishers were from North Carolina (Major McDowell) and Georgia (Major Cunningham). Behind these men were 300 militiamen under the command of Andrew Pickens. The Broad River is a river in North and South Carolina, United States. ... The Pacolet River is a tributary of the Broad River, about 50 mi (80 km) long, in northwestern South Carolina in the United States [1]. One of its principal headwaters tributaries also drains a small portion of western North Carolina. ... “Flanking” redirects here. ... A map of the Province of Carolina. ... Andrew Pickens (September 13, 1739–August 11, 1817) was a militia leader in the Revolution and a U.S. Congressman from South Carolina. ...

Reenactors at Cowpens Battlefield
Reenactors at Cowpens Battlefield
Battle of Cowpens Reenactment, 225th anniversary, January 14, 2006
Battle of Cowpens Reenactment, 225th anniversary, January 14, 2006

Realizing that poorly trained militia were unreliable in battle, especially when they were under attack from cavalry, Morgan decided to ask the militia to fire two shots and then retreat, so he could have them reform under cover of the reserve (cavalry commanded by William Washington and James McCall) behind the third, more experienced line of militia and continentals. The movement of the militia in the second line would unmask the third line to the British. The third line, composed of the remainder of the forces (about 550 men) was composed of Continentals from Delaware and Maryland, and militiamen from Georgia and Virginia. Colonel John Eager Howard commanded the Continentals and Colonels Tate and Triplett the militia. The goal of this strategy was to weaken and disorganize Tarleton's forces (which would be attacking the third line uphill) before attacking and defeating them. Howard’s men would not be unnerved by the militia’s expected move, and unlike the militia they would be able to stand and hold, especially since the first and second lines, Morgan felt, would have inflicted both physical and psychological attrition on the advancing British before the third line came into action. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2048x1536, 682 KB) Summary Taken at 225th anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2048x1536, 682 KB) Summary Taken at 225th anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1024 × 768 pixel, file size: 217 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken January 14, 2006 at the Cowpens Battlefield, near Gaffney, South Carolina I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1024 × 768 pixel, file size: 217 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken January 14, 2006 at the Cowpens Battlefield, near Gaffney, South Carolina I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public... William Washington (February 28, 1752 to March 6, 1810), was a patriotic Southern cavalry officer during the American Revolutionary War, who held a final rank of Brigadier General in the newly created United States after the war. ... This article is about the U.S. State of Delaware. ... Official language(s) None (English, de facto) Capital Annapolis Largest city Baltimore Largest metro area Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area Area  Ranked 42nd  - Total 12,407 sq mi (32,133 km²)  - Width 101 miles (145 km)  - Length 249 miles (400 km)  - % water 21  - Latitude 37° 53′ N to 39° 43′ N... This article is about the U.S. state. ... John Eager Howard, portrait by Chester Harding. ...


Additionally, by placing his men downhill from the advancing British lines, Morgan exploited the British tendency to fire too high in battle. The downhill position of his forces allowed the British forces to be silhouetted against the morning sunlight, providing easy targets for Patriot troops. With a ravine on their right flank and a creek on their left flank, Morgan's forces were protected against British flanking maneuvers at the beginning of the battle. Morgan insisted, "the whole idea is to lead Benny [Tarleton] into a trap so we can beat his cavalry and infantry as they come up those slopes. When they've been cut down to size by our fire, we'll attack them." In developing his tactics at Cowpens, as historian John Buchanan wrote, Morgan may have been "the only general in the American Revolution, on either side, to produce a significant original tactical thought.”

Battle of Cowpens 17 January 1781.
Battle of Cowpens 17 January 1781.

Image File history File links Download high resolution version (892x1023, 104 KB) Please see the file description page for further information. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (892x1023, 104 KB) Please see the file description page for further information. ...

Tarleton's approach

Battle of Cowpens Reenactment, 225th anniversary, January 14, 2006
Battle of Cowpens Reenactment, 225th anniversary, January 14, 2006

At 2:00 a.m. on January 17, 1781, Tarleton roused his troops and continued his march to the Cowpens. Lawrence Babits states that, "in the five days before Cowpens, the British were subjected to stress that could only be alleviated by rest and proper diet". He points out that “in the forty-eight hours before the battle, the British ran out of food and had less than four hours’ sleep” [24]. Over the whole period, Tarleton’s brigade did a great deal of rapid marching across difficult terrain. Babits concludes that they reached the battlefield exhausted and malnourished. But Tarleton sensed victory -- nothing would persuade him to delay. His Tory scouts had told him of the countryside Morgan was fighting on, and he was certain of success because Morgan's soldiers, mostly militiamen, seemed to be caught between mostly experienced British troops and a flooding river. As soon as he reached the spot, he formed a battle line, which consisted of dragoons on his flanks, with his two grasshopper cannon in between the British Regulars and American Loyalists. More cavalry and the 71st Highlanders composed his reserve. Sure of an easy victory, he sent his unrested men into battle. Tarleton’s plan was simple and direct. Most of his infantry (including that of the Legion) would be assembled in linear formation and move directly upon Morgan. The right and left flanks of this line would be protected by dragoon units. In reserve he would hold his 250-man battalion of Scottish Highlanders (71st Regiment of Foot), commanded by Major Arthur MacArthur, a professional soldier of long experience who had served in the Dutch Scotch Brigade. Finally, Tarleton kept the 200-man cavalry contingent of his Legion ready to be unleashed when the Americans broke and ran. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1024 × 768 pixel, file size: 190 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken January 14, 2006 at the Cowpens Battlefield, near Gaffney, South Carolina I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1024 × 768 pixel, file size: 190 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken January 14, 2006 at the Cowpens Battlefield, near Gaffney, South Carolina I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public... is the 17th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1781 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... For other uses, see Tory (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Dragoon (disambiguation). ... The grasshopper cannon is a weapon designed by the British in the 1700s as a light gun to be carried around with infantry. ... Commonly used to describe Napoleonic British foot soldiers, the British Regular was known for his flamboyant red uniform (It took three hours for a typical British soldier to prepare his attire for parade) and well-disciplined combat performance. ... Britannia gives a heros welcome to returning American Loyalists. ... The 71st Regiment of Foot was a Highland regiment in the British Army, which in 1881 it became the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry . ...


The battle

Morgan's strategy worked perfectly. After killing or wounding fifteen dragoons, the skirmishers retreated. The British pulled back temporarily but attacked again, this time reaching the militiamen, who (as ordered) poured two volleys into the British who—with 40% of their casualties being officers—were astonished and confused. They reformed and continued to advance. Pickens' militia broke and apparently fled to the rear and were eventually reorganized. Tarleton responded by ordering one of his officers, Ogilvie, to charge with some dragoons into the "defeated" Americans. His men moved forward in regular formation and were momentarily checked by the militia musket fire but continued to advance. The British drove in successive lines, anticipating victory only to encounter another, stronger line after exerting themselves and suffering casualties. The depth of the American lines gradually soaked up the shock of the British advance. Taking the withdrawal of the first two lines as a full blown retreat, the British advanced headlong into the awaiting final line of disciplined regulars which firmly held on the hill.


Despite this, Tarleton believed he could still win with only one line of Americans left and sent his infantry in for a frontal attack. The Highlanders were ordered to flank the Americans. Under the direction of Howard, the Americans retreated. Flushed with victory and now disorganized, the British ran after them. Abruptly, Howard pulled an about-face, fired an extremely devastating volley into his enemy, and then charged. Triplett's riflemen attacked, however, severely damaging the British, and the cavalry of Washington and McCall charged. Completely routed, the dragoons fled to their own rear. Having dismantled Ogilvie's forces, Washington then also charged into the British. When the British advance was finally halted by the Continentals, the American cavalry struck them on the right flank and rear, while the militia, having re-formed, charged out from behind the hill to hit the British left.


The shock of the sudden charge, coupled with the reappearance of the American militiamen on the flanks where Tarleton's exhausted men expected to see their own cavalry, proved too much for the British. Nearly half of the British and Loyalist infantrymen fell to the ground whether they were wounded or not. Their ability to fight had gone. Historian Lawrence Babits diagnoses "combat shock" as the cause for this abrupt British collapse - the effects of exhaustion, hunger and demoralization suddenly catching up with them [25]. Caught in a clever double envelopment, many of the British surrendered. With Tarleton's right flank and center line collapsed, there remained only a minority of the 71st Highlanders who were still putting up a fight against part of Howard's line. Tarleton, realizing the desperate seriousness of what was occurring, rode back to his one remaining unit that was in one piece, the Legion Cavalry. Desperate to save something, Tarleton assembled a group of cavalry and tried to save the two cannon he had brought with him, but they had been taken, and so Tarleton decided to save himself. Tarleton with a few remaining horsemen rode back into the fight, but after clashing with Washington’s men, he too retreated from the field. He was stopped by Colonel Washington, who attacked him with his saber, calling out, "Where is now the boasting Tarleton?": but Tarleton shot Washington's horse from under him and fled. A pincer movement whereby the red force envelops the advancing blue force. ...


Morgan's troops took 652 British and Loyalist troops - a devastating blow. The number of British killed was claimed by the victorious Americans variously as 100, 110 and 120. It should be noted, however, that in any war, ancient or modern, "body-counts" of enemy dead are usually exaggerated. What counted was that Tarleton's brigade had been all but wiped out as a fighting force.


Historian Lawrence Babits has demonstrated that Morgan's official report of 73 casualties appears to have only included his Continental troops. From surviving records, he has been able to identify by name 128 Patriot soldiers who were either killed or wounded at Cowpens. He also presents an entry in the North Carolina State Records that shows 68 Continental and 80 Militia casualties. It would appear that both the number of Morgan's casualties and the total strength of his force were about double what he officially reported [26].


It was claimed by some of the Patriots after the Battle that Tarleton had ordered his men, before they went into action, to take no prisoners. This may have been "black propaganda" of the sort that flourished amid the brutal conflict in the Carolinas during the Revolution. Tarleton's British Legion Cavalry were notorious for the way that they ruthlessly pursued defeated opponents, cutting them down as they tried to surrender. As a result, Tarleton was given the nickname, "Barbarous Ban" by the Patriot press. But it is notable that nearly every time they defeated the enemy - Monck's Corner, Lenud's Ferry, Camden, Catawba Ford - Tarleton's men did in fact take prisoners. Even at the Battle of Waxhaw Creek (alias The Buford Massacre), where Tarleton's men killed a high proportion of their opponents, they granted quarter to 203 Patriots [27]. By Tarleton's own account, his horse was shot from under him in the charge and chaos erupted when his men believed he had been killed. In the end, 113 Americans were killed and another 203 captured, 150 of whom were so badly wounded that they had to be left behind. Tarleton's casualties were 5 killed and 12 wounded[28].This does not disprove the allegation: but no explanation has been offered as to why Tarleton would suddenly have adopted a 'no prisoners' policy on the single occasion of Cowpens. Combatants Britain 17th Lancers{then called Dragoons} British Legion (1778) United States 3rd Virginia Detachment composed of 2nd and 7th Virginia Regiments Commanders Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton Colonel Abraham Buford Strength 270 400 Casualties 5 killed 12 wounded {11 horses killed 19 horses wounded} 113 killed 150 wounded and paroled...


Tarleton's apparent recklessness in pushing his command so hard in pursuit of Morgan that they reached the battlefield in desperate need of rest and food, may be explained by the fact that, up until Cowpens, every battle that he, and his British Legion, had fought in the South had been a relatively easy victory. He appears to have been so concerned with pursuing Morgan that he quite forgot that it was necessary for his men to be in a fit condition to fight a battle once they caught him.


Nevertheless, Daniel Morgan, known affectionately as "The Old Waggoner" to his men, had fought a masterly battle. His tactical decisions and personal leadership had allowed a force consisting mainly of militia to fight according to their strengths to win one of the most complete victories of the War.

Reenactors playing Patriot troops march into battle at Cowpens

Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2045x1199, 555 KB) Summary Taken at the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2045x1199, 555 KB) Summary Taken at the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. ...

Aftermath

Coming in the wake of the American debacle at Camden, Cowpens, in its part in the Revolution, was a surprising victory and a turning point that changed the psychology of the entire war —"spiriting up the people", not only those of the backcountry Carolinas, but those in all the Southern colonies. As it was, the Americans were encouraged to fight further, and the Loyalists and British were demoralized. Furthermore, its strategic result—the destruction of an important part of the British army in the South—was incalculable toward ending the war. Along with the British defeat at Battle of King's Mountain, Cowpens was a decisive blow to Cornwallis, who would have defeated much of the remaining American resistance had Tarleton won Cowpens. As a result, the battle set in motion a series of events leading to the British pyrrhic victory at Guilford Court House and the eventual Revolutionary victory at Yorktown. In the opinion of John Marshall, "Seldom has a battle, in which greater numbers were not engaged, been so important in its consequences as that of Cowpens." It gave General Nathanael Greene his chance to conduct a campaign of "dazzling shiftiness" that led Cornwallis by "an unbroken chain of consequences to the catastrophe at Yorktown which finally separated America from the British crown." The Battle of Kings Mountain was a fight in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War, fought on October 7, 1780. ... A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with devastating cost to the victor. ... Combatants United States Britain Commanders Nathanael Greene Lord Cornwallis Strength 4,400 1,900 Casualties 79 killed 185 wounded 1,046 missing Total: 1,310 93 killed 413 wounded 26 missing Total: 532 The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 inside the present... Combatants Britain Colonial America France Commanders Charles Cornwallis George Washington Comte de Rochambeau Strength 7,500 8,845 Americans 7,800 French Casualties 156 killed 326 wounded 7,018 captured Americans: 20 killed, 56 wounded French: 52 killed, 134 wounded The Battle of Yorktown (1781) was a victory by a...


Memorials

The battle site is preserved at Cowpens National Battlefield. Cowpens National Battlefield is a unit of the National Park Service near Chesnee, South Carolina. ...


Two ships of the U.S. Navy have been named USS Cowpens in honor of the battle. Two ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Cowpens, after the Battle of Cowpens during the American Revolutionary War. ...


The battle on film

The final battle at the end of the 2000 historical film The Patriot drew its inspiration from two specific battles from the American Revolution: Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. The Americans used the same basic tactics in both battles. The name of the battle, as well as the winning side, were taken from the Cowpens battle. However, the size of the armies, as well as the presence of Generals Nathaniel Greene and Lord Cornwallis, come from the Guilford Courthouse battle. The Alan Alda directed movie, Sweet Liberty, parodies how a film company takes great liberty with the depiction of the Battle of Cowpens. The Patriot is a 2000 film starring Mel Gibson and directed by Roland Emmerich. ... Combatants United States Britain Commanders Nathanael Greene Lord Cornwallis Strength 4,400 1,900 Casualties 79 killed 185 wounded 1,046 missing Total: 1,310 93 killed 413 wounded 26 missing Total: 532 The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 inside the present... Nathanael Greene Nathanael Greene (July 27, 1742 (O.S.)–June 19, 1786), was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. ... Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis (December 31, 1738-October 5, 1805) was a British general and colonial governor. ... Combatants United States Britain Commanders Nathanael Greene Lord Cornwallis Strength 4,400 1,900 Casualties 79 killed 185 wounded 1,046 missing Total: 1,310 93 killed 413 wounded 26 missing Total: 532 The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 inside the present... Alan Alda (born January 28, 1936) is a five-time Emmy Award-winning, six-time Golden Globe-winning, Academy Award-nominated American actor. ... Sweet Liberty is a 1986 comedy film about an author who is forced to deal with a film crew who comes to town to shoot a film adaption of his book on the American Revolutionary War. ...


Notes

  1. ^ Babits, Lawrence E. A Devil of a Whipping. University of North Carolina Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8078-2434-8, page 142
  2. ^ Babits, pages 27-29
  3. ^ Babits, page 28
  4. ^ Babits, page 77
  5. ^ Babits, page 73
  6. ^ Babits, page 28
  7. ^ Babits, page 33
  8. ^ Babits, page 104
  9. ^ Babits, page 34
  10. ^ Babits, pages 35-36
  11. ^ Babits, page 36
  12. ^ Babits, page 40
  13. ^ Babits, page 187, Note 14
  14. ^ Babits, page 40-41
  15. ^ Babits, page 175, Note 101
  16. ^ Babits, pages 41-42 and page 175, Note 101
  17. ^ Babits, pages 41-42
  18. ^ Babits, page 46, “British Legion Infantry strength at Cowpens was between 200 and 271 enlisted men”. However, this statement is referenced to a Note on Page 175-176, which says, “The British Legion infantry at Cowpens is usually considered to have had about 200-250 men, but returns for the 25 December 1780 muster show only 175. Totals obtained by Cornwallis, dated 15 January, show that the whole legion had 451 men, but approximately 250 were dragoons”. There would therefore appear to be no evidence for putting the total strength of the five British Legion Light Infantry companies at more than 200
  19. ^ Bearss, Edwin C., Battle of Cowpens, Originally published by Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, October 15, 1967, ISBN 1-57072-045-2. Reprinted 1996 by The Overmountain Press. Found at http://www.nps.gov/archive/cowp/bearss/chap1.htm
  20. ^ All unit strengths from Babits
  21. ^ 70th Congress, 1st Session House Document No. 328; Historical Statements Concerning the Battle of King’s Mountain and the Battle of the Cowpens; United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1928, found at: http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/revwar/KM-Cpns/AWC-Cp1.htm
  22. ^ Babits, page 46
  23. ^ Babits, page 46
  24. ^ Babits, page 156
  25. ^ Babits discusses this phenomenon fully on Pages 155-159
  26. ^ Babits, pages 150-152
  27. ^ Boatner, Mark Mayo. Cassell's Biographical Dictionary of the American War of Independence, 1763-1783 Cassell, London, 1966. ISBN 0 304 29296 6), page 1174
  28. ^ Boatner, page 1174

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public, coeducational, research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. ...

References

Battlefield monument
  • http://cgsc.leavenworth.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Moncure/moncure.asp
  • http://www.nps.gov/cowp/dmorgan.htm
  • http://www.nps.gov/cowp/batlcowp.htm
  • Army Chaplaincy article on Morgan and Cowpens
  • Buchanan, John. The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas. John Wiley and Sons, 1997. ISBN 0-471-16402-X.
  • Roberts, Kenneth The Battle of Cowpens: The Great Morale-Builder". Doubleday and Company, 1958.

Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 450 × 600 pixels Full resolution (2304 × 3072 pixel, file size: 1. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 450 × 600 pixels Full resolution (2304 × 3072 pixel, file size: 1. ...

External links

Further reading

  • Babits, Lawrence E. A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens University of North Carolina Press, 2001. ISBN 080784926X.
  • Bearss, Edwin C. The Battle of Cowpens Overmountain Press, 1996. ISBN 1570720452.
  • Davis, Burke The Cowpens-Guilford Courthouse Campaign University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. ISBN 0812218329.
  • Fleming, Thomas J. Cowpens: Official National Park Handbook Natl Park Service, 1988. ISBN 0912627336.
  • Swager, Christine R. C'ome to the Cow Pens: The Story of the Battle of Cowpens Hub City Writers Project, 2002. ISBN 1891885316.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Battle of Cowpens - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1648 words)
Painted by William Ranney in 1845, this depiction of the Battle of Cowpens show an unnamed fl soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).
The Battle of Cowpens was fought on January 17, 1781, during the American Revolutionary War and was an overwhelming victory by American revolutionary forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan.
The Battle of Cowpens was one of the many engagements between the Americans and the British during the Southern campaign during the American Revolution.
The American Revolution (Cowpens) (6958 words)
The Battle of the Cowpens was the second serious disaster which occurred to the British Army, operating in the Southern States, during the 1780-81 campaign.
Tarleton and Morgan met at the Cowpens, on the 17th of January, and in a battle noted for the unusual tactics adopted by the Americans, the British were defeated, with heavy losses, by a force inferior in numbers, a considerable portion of which was militia.
Morgan's plan of battle was to use the Maryland Continentals and the Virginia Militia (of worth equal to the Continentals, as many had served in previous campaigns) in his main position on the summit of the southernmost ridge and astride the Mill Gap Road.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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