Continental General Daniel Morgan
||Born: 1736; Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Died: July 6, 1802; Virginia
Battles: Quebec, Saratoga, Cowpens
"Great generals are scarce--there are few Morgans around."
- Nathanael Greene
Southern Campaign: 1780-1781
On December 3, 1780, Brig. General Daniel Morgan rode into Charlotte, North Carolina and greeted his new commander, Maj. General Nathanael Greene, who had replaced Maj. General Horatio Gates as Southern Department Commander. Greene had only arrived the day before. At first, Greene did not change Morgan's task and Morgan resumed his campaigning. Greene spent two weeks surveying his army and its supplies and found them lacking.
General Greene decided to divide his army to buy time to rebuild the force so that it would be strong enough to face Lt. General Charles Cornwallis. Greene selected Morgan to command the smaller, more mobile portion of the army with orders "to give protection to that part of the country, spirit up the people, to annoy the enemy in that quarter, collect provisions and forage." However Morgan was to also avoid direct engagement with the British. Morgan left Charlotte on December 21st in command of 600 men. Cornwallis recognized Greene's strategy and immediately ordered Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton to pursue Morgan. Morgan played cat and mouse with Tarleton for three weeks.
Battle of Cowpens: January 17, 1781
Morgan learned of Lt. Colonel Tarleton's tendancy for a quick frontal charge from his officers who were experienced in fighting Tarleton. He also knew of the low expectations that the British had for Patriot militia. After choosing Cowpens, North Carolina as his battleground because of the hills in its geography, he formulated a plan that made use of both tendancies. He had spent the night before going around his camp, encouraging his men and especially the militia to give him two shots.
When Lt. Colonel Tarleton arrived at Cowpens, he found Morgan had placed the militia under the command of Andrew Pickens on the front line. Tarleton quickly ordered for his veteran troops to advance. The militia fired two rounds and retreated. Tarleton saw the retreat as the beginning of a rout similar to what had happened at Camden in August when the militia had fled and left the Continental forces vastly outnumbered. Tarleton ordered a bayonet charge, but soon found himself double-flanked and Tarleton himself barely escaped the field. Cowpens was the worst defeat for the British since Saratoga.
Revolutionary War: 1781
Morgan did not bask in his victory, but quickly moved north to join with General Greene in a retreat from the pursuing General Cornwallis across North Carolina in what has become known as the Race to the Dan River. But 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, missing the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina on March 15, 1781.
Morgan's service to the Patriot cause was not finished, though. On July 7, 1781, Morgan joined the Marquis de Lafayette in Virginia. Morgan and Brig. General Anthony Wayne pursued Lt. Colonel Tarleton, but failed to catch him. The activity brought on another severe case of sciatica and Morgan again retired to his home in Virginia in ill health.
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