The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Cowpens
Battle of Cowpens

The Aftermath
Of Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton's 1,076 man force at Cowpens, 110 were killed and 712 were captured, of whom 200 were wounded. Tarleton also lost two artillery grasshoppers, two regimental standards (colors), thirty-five wagons, 100 horses, 800 muskets, a traveling forge and even the officers' slaves. More importantly, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis had lost his light troops. He would no longer be able to launch lightning attacks. On January 23, Major Edward Giles reached Maj. General Nathanael Greene's camp and delivered the news of the victory. The camp celebrated with many toasts to the victory and musket fire. Giles then carried the news all the way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, forgetting to stop at Williamsburg and inform Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson.

Congress awarded Brig. General Daniel Morgan a gold medal. Lt. Colonels William Washington and John Eager Howard received silver medals. Andrew Pickens received a sword. The Virginia House of Delegates awarded Morgan "a horse with furniture, and a sword," while South Carolina Governor John Rutledge promoted Pickens to brigadier general. Back at Cowpens the fighting was not over. Lt. Colonel Washington still wanted to catch Lt. Colonel Tarleton, so he gathered his dragoons and began his pursuit. Tarleton galloped past the abandoned baggage train. He now learned that General Cornwallis was still to the south, so he coerced a Rebel into serving as a guide. Thirty minutes later, Washington arrived and asked the Rebel's wife for information. Fearful of her husband's safety, she pointed Washington down the wrong road. Only after twenty-four miles did Washington figure he had been misled.

General Morgan himself did not linger on the battlefield to bask in the victory. He was sure that General Cornwallis would pursue him, so on the day of the battle he marched five miles north to Island Ford and crossed the Catawba River. While Morgan was on his way to Gilbert Town, Lt. Colonel Tarleton was arriving at Cornwallis' camp at Turkey Creek where he made a report of the battle to the General. After Cornwallis learned from Tarleton of the Battle of Cowpens, he swore to recover the prisoners. Meanwhile, Tarleton endured silent accusations of his responsibility for the disasterous loss. On January 27, 1781, he requested that he be allowed to retire and await a court martial. Cornwallis denied his request with a letter of confidence on January 30th.

General Morgan soon rejoined with General Greene in a retreat from the pursuing General Cornwallis across North Carolina. What has become known as the 'Race to the Dan River' was underway. In his effort to catch the Continentals, Cornwallis burned his wagon train. This action would cripple him following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina in March 15, 1781. For Daniel Morgan, the cold and rainy weather brought on his sciatica and soon it was too painful for him to sit on a horse. On February 10, 1781, Morgan retired to his home in Virginia until July.

3. Buchanan, John; The Road to Guilford Courthouse
Picture: Col. William Augustine Washington at the Battle of Cowpens. Drawn and engraved for Graham's Magazine by S.H. Gimber

Topic Last Updated: 7/5/2001

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