Battle of Cowpens
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,
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
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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