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The Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781

It seems like the Battlefield at Cowpens,about twenty miles from where I live has always been a part of our family.

Our son Scott walked the trail as a scout, camped there as a scout, and then studied the tactics of General Daniel Morgan while in ROTC at Furman.

When John joined the Daniel Morgan Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, they hosted a celebration at the park for the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. When he became president of his chapter, he had the privilege of organizing this celebration. He also enjoyed marching in the state color guard to begin the program.

Then I wrote a biography about Kate Moore Barry, who was one of the scouts who sent her husband and brother to join the militia who fought at this battle. It is called “Courageous Kate.” One summer, I worked part time as a teacher at the battlefield teaching workshops to various school groups. Then I had the privilege of speaking and signing books at many of their celebrations.

Many books and articles have been written about this famous battle that turned the tide of the American Revolution.

A painting of General Daniel Morgan, the Old Wagoner and military genius.

Even Lord Cornwallis admitted to a superior force on the battlefield when he wrote, “The disaster of the 17th of January cannot be imputed to any defect in my conduct, as the detachment was certainly superior to the force against which it was sent…”

From the journal of Lt. Thomas Anderson from Delaware that provides an excellent telling from the perspective of a Continental infantry officer.

January 17, 1781: Before day reced information that col Tarlton was within five miles of us with a strong body of horse and infantry whereon we got up and put ourselves in order of battle by day light they have in sight halted and form’d the line in full view. as we had no artillery to annoy them and the Genl not thinking it prudent to advance from the ground we had form’d. We look’d at each other for a considerable time, about sunrise they began the attack by the discharge of two pieces of cannon and three huzzas advancing briskly on our riffelmen that was posted in front who fought well disputing the ground that was between them and us. flying from one tree to another at last being forst to give ground they fell back in our rear the enemy seeing us standing in such good order halted for some time to dress their line which outflanked ours considerably. They then advanced on boldly under a very heavy fire untill they got within a few yards of us but their line was so much longer than ours they turn’d our flanks which caused us to fall back some distance. The enemy thinking that we were broke set up a great shout charged us with their bayonets but in no order. We let them come within ten or fifteen yards of us then give them a full volley and at the same time charged them home. They not expecting any such thing put them in such confusion that we were in amongst them with the bayonets which caused them to give ground and at last to take to the flight. But we followed them up so close that they never could get in order again untill we killed and took the whole of the infantry prisoners. At the same time that we charged, Col Washington charged the horse which soon give way. We followed them ten miles but not being able to come up with them returned back to the field of battle that night and lay amongst the dead & wounded very well pleased with our days work. March this day.

The painter, Don Troiana, brought these words to life in his painting, “The Battle of Cowpens.”

Samuel Adams said on the day of the battles at Concord and Lexington, “What a glorious morning.” Perhaps someone said the same after this battle.

One other visual for you from YouTube is this short background video on that day!

Huzzah! We must remember those men who never wavered and put their lives on the line for our liberty.


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