British Lieutenant Colonel 1,100 men Battle of Cowpens – Date: Morgan and Tarleton clashed on January 17, 1781. Battle of Cowpens – Background: After taking command of the battered American army In the South, Major General Nathanael Greene divided his forces In December 1780. While Greene led one wing of the army towards supplies at Cheraw, SC, the other, commanded by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, moved to attack the British supply lines and stir up support in the back country. Aware the Greene had split his forces, Lieutenant General Lord
Charles Cornwallis dispatched an 1,100-man force under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to destroy Morgan’s command. A bold leader, Tarleton was notorious for atrocities committed by his men at earlier battles. Riding out with a mixed force of cavalry and infantry, Tarleton pursued Morgan Into northwestern South Carolina. A veteran of the war’s early Canadian campaigns and a hero of the Battle of Saratoga, Morgan was a gifted leader who knew how to obtain the best from his men. Rallying his command in a pasture land known as the Cowpens, Morgan devised a cunning plan to defeat Tarleton.
Possessing a varied force of Continentals, militia, and cavalry, Morgan chose Cowpens as it was between the Broad and Pacolet Rivers which cut off his lines of retreat. Battle of Cowpens – Morgan’s Plan: While opposite to traditional military thinking, the Morgan knew his militia would fight harder and be less inclined to flee If their lines of retreat were removed. For the battle, Morgan placed his reliable Continental Infantry, led by Colonel John Eager Howard, on the slope of a hill. This position was between a ravine and a stream which would prevent Tarleton from moving around his flanks. In front of the
Continentals, Morgan formed a line of under Colonel Andrew Pickens. Forward of these two lines was a select group of 1 50 skirmishers. Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s cavalry (around 110 men) was placed out of sight behind the hill. Morgan’s plan for the battle called for the skirmishers to engage Tarleton’s men before falling back. Knowing that the militia was unreliable in combat. he asked that they fire two volleys before retreating behind the hill. Having been engaged by the first two lines, Tarleton would be forced to attack uphill against would switch over to the attack.