Battle of the Cowpens


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Cowpens, THE. This name was derived from the circumstance that, some years before the Revolution, before that section of South Carolina was settled, some persons in Camden (then called Pine-Tree) employed two men to go up to the Thicketty Mountain, and in the grassy intervals among the hills raise cattle. As a compensation, they were allowed the entire use of the cows during the summer, for making butter and cheese, and the steers in tillage. In the fall large numbers of the fatted cattle would be driven down to Camden to be slaughtered for beef on account of the owners. This region, on account of its grass and fine springs, was peculiarly favorable for the rearing and use of cows, and consequently was called "The Cowpens." Subsequently the name of Cowpens was given to a village in Spartanburg county, which became the scene of a spirited battle in the Revolutionary War (1781).

From his camp, eastward of the Pedee, Greene sent Morgan, with the Maryland regiment and Washington's dragoons of Lee's corps, across the Broad River, to operate on the British left and rear. Observing this, Cornwallis left his camp at Winnsborough, and pushed northward between the Broad River and the Catawba, for the purpose of interposing his force between Greene and Morgan. Against the latter he had detached Tarleton with about 1,000 light troops. Aware of Tarleton's approach, Morgan retired behind the Pacolet, intending to defend the ford; but Tarleton crossed 6 miles above, when Morgan made a precipitate retreat. If he could cross the Broad River, he would be safe. On his right was a hilly district, which might afford him protection; but, rather than be overtaken in his flight, he prepared to fight on the ground of his own selection. He chose for that purpose the place known as " The Cowpens," about 30 miles west of King's Mountain. He arranged about 400 of his best men in battle order on a little rising ground. There were the Maryland light infantry, under Lieut. Col. John Eager Howard, composing the centre, and Virginia riflemen forming the wings. Lieut.-Col. William Washington, with eighty dragoons, were placed out of sight, as a reserve, and about 400 Carolinians and Georgians, under Colonel Andrew Pickens, were in the advance, to defend the approaches to the camp. North Carolina and Georgia sharpshooters acted as skirmishers on each flank. At eight o'clock on the morning of January 17, Tarleton, with 1,100 troops, foot and horse, with two pieces of cannon, rushed upon the republicans with loud shouts. A furious battle ensued. In a skilful movement, in the form of a feigned retreat, Morgan turned so suddenly upon his pursuers, who believed the victory was secured to them, that they wavered. Seeing this, Howard charged the British lines with bayonets, broke their ranks, and sent them flying in confusion. At that moment Washington's cavalry broke from their concealment, and made a successful charge upon Tarleton's horsemen. The British were completely routed, and were pursued about 20 miles. The Americans lost seventy-two killed and wounded. The British lost over 300 killed and wounded, and nearly 500 made prisoners. The spoils were two cannon, 800 muskets, horses, and two standards. The cannon had been taken from the British at Saratoga, and retaken from Gates at Camden. The Congress gave Morgan the thanks of the nation and a gold medal, and to Howard and Washington each a silver medal.



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