The Battle of Cowpens

Essay by grizzsgmUniversity, Master'sA+, April 2005

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"In South Carolina, where the grass is springing through every month of winter, cattle in those days grazed all year round; never housed, nor fed by hand of man, but driven from time to time into "cowpens", where the owners gave salt to the heard and each one marked those which were his own." Two miles from such an enclosure, upon a wide plain, on 17 January 1781, Patriot Brigadier General Daniel Morgan met head on with British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens.

After the disaster at Charleston and the succeeding defeats, the British spread out across South Carolina and Georgia, setting up a chain of forts. By July, the Continental Congress had placed General Horatio Gates, in command of the Southern Theater, despite General George Washington's objections, and ordered him to regain the lost territory. The result, in the following month was another huge disaster at Camden where only 700 out of 4,000 American troops escaped.

The destruction of Ferguson's Scots at King's Mountain in October saved North Carolina, but American fortunes did not truly improve until Washington selected General Nathaniel Greene, who had recently resigned as Quartermaster General, to take command from Gates. General Greene headed south to reclaim South Carolina.

Greene was determined to fight, but not at the expense of loosing more men. He made the decision that he would wear the British down, then engage them. Greene put a trusty ally to work in the new Southern Army, He appointed Brigadier General Daniel Morgan "Old Wagoner" in charge of the Army in South Carolina. Daniel Morgan was a steady veteran, serving with the British Army in the 7 years war and was one of the victors at Saratoga.

Now Morgan was in control of a continental force of about...