Cowpens National Battlefield: The American Revolution

The Battle of Cowpens was one of those special moments in time when destiny is forever changed

On January 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The Battle of Cowpens was over in less than an hour. This battle was the event which started British General Cornwallis on his march north to his eventual surrender at Yorktown just nine months later.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

General Daniel Morgan had encamped his army the previous afternoon surrounding Green River Road which wound through the lush South Carolina backcountry. He was awaiting the arrival of British Troops under the command of bloody Banastre Tarleton. The battle began before dawn. Tarleton’s dragoons were joined by 200 Cavalry and a Brigade of Highlanders. Morgan commanded Col. Andrew Pickens’ Georgia and South Carolina Militia, Lt. Col. John Eager Howard’s Maryland and Delaware Continental Line, and Lt. Col. William Washington’s Cavalry. 

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s proceed into the park where the two armies met.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Entering Cowpens Battlefield Park we immediately approach the well maintained visitor’s center. Standing watch over the entrance is a monument dedicated to the valor of the patriots who fought on these fields: “On this field American troops under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan won a signal victory over a British force commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, January 17, 1781”.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After one’s tour of the visitor center the choice is between a walking or a driving tour. Being a pleasant day, we chose the walking tour.

Tarleton marched his troops up the Green River Road in search of the Continentals. Morgan had already chosen the Cowpens, a local grazing pasture surrounding the Green River Road, as the perfect spot to battle the enemy. On January 16, 1781 he awaited Tarleton’s arrival and their moment in history.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morgan’s battle plan was a brilliant one which didn’t fit the norm of period English warfare. He planned to have his sharpshooters fire a few volleys and then retreat into the safety of the more seasoned troops who brought up their rear. William Washington’s Cavalry would stand in wait for the moment that they were needed to bring their expertise to the fight. 

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Acting on faulty intelligence indicating the Continentals were planning to retreat across the Broad River, Banastre Tarleton aroused his troops in the wee morning hours of January 17th for a nighttime march up the Green River Road. His plans were to annihilate the Continental Army during the weakness of retreat.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Daniel Morgan’s troops spent the evening of January 16, 1781 resting in his chosen spot of battle, the backcountry cow pasture that locals referred to as Cowpens. Morgan was rallying the troops, moving from campfire to campfire to personally brief each group of soldiers on his battle plan. 

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As dawn prepared its rise, Tarleton’s advancing army was spotted by Continentals who informed Morgan of their approach. Patriots troops were quickly awakened and readied to meet the enemy.

Tarleton was surprised to see Morgan’s army prepared for battle, rather than in retreat. Daniel Morgan began the execution of his perfect plan.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morgan and his army turned the flanks of Tarleton’s British army. This classic military tactic, known as a double envelopment, was one of only a few in history. Considered a tactical masterpiece, this battle is frequently studied in military academies around the world.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the battle appeared to be clearly favoring the Patriots, Tarleton continued to anticipate an ultimate victory. An impressive personal battlefield confrontation with William Washington proved to be Tarleton’s final Cowpens defeat.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Convinced by associates that his safety was of strategic importance to the British cause, Banastre Tarleton abandoned the fight. He began a withdrawal down the Green River Road in search of the safety of Cornwallis’ camp.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was one of those special moments in time when destiny is forever changed. The march to Yorktown had begun.

We exit Cowpens National Battlefield with a sense of awe at the accomplishments of Daniel Morgan, Andrew Pickens, William Washington, John Eager Howard, and the brave men they led into battle. The quiet of the Cowpens on a warm November day stood in stark contrast to the bedlam of January 17, 1781. 

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Honoring Memorial Day the Revolutionary Way

What better way to honor those who served their country than to visit a national park that preserves the places where they fought?

History buffs may recognize Saratoga National Historic Park as the site of the turning point of the American Revolution or Valley Forge National Historic Park as the site of George Washington and the Continental Army’s 1777-1778 winter encampment. Anything related to Boston and that memorable tea party may also come to mind when thinking about the Revolutionary War.

But how many would recall places such as Cowpens and Guildford Courthouse as significant locations during America’s national history?

Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, take time this Memorial Day holiday to commemorate the sacrifices made for a revolutionary idea. Explore some of these lesser-known, but profoundly significant, landmarks that witnessed the beginning of a new nation.

Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dig a little deeper into American history and you will find a wealth of other national parks and programs throughout the U. S. that are equally exciting. This Memorial Day, take a moment to learn more about the incredible men and women who have fought for and supported America throughout its history.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From the soldiers that fought in the French and Indian War to the men and women who sacrificed their lives on Flight 93, Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions. 

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sites of Remembrance

The National Park Service has the honor of preserving battlefields, military parks, and historic sites that commemorate and honor the service of American veterans.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What better way to honor those who served their country than to visit a national park that preserves the places where they fought?

The American Revolution

USS Constitution (“Old Ironside”), Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Fought from 1775 through 1783, America’s Revolutionary War resulted in the independence of the United States of America. Battles were fought from Maine to Florida and as far west as Arkansas and Louisiana. Places such as Bunker Hill, Cowpens, and Yorktown entered the American consciousness and lexicon, and are today preserved by the National Park Service, allowing visitors to stand in the spot where the Founding Fathers debated whether to break away from England, or where patriots fought.

Boston National Historic Park, Massachusetts

Paul Revere House, Freedom Trail, Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Boston had been a thriving city long before the United States itself existed. Founded in the 17th century, Boston has been the center of attention in New England since the colonial period. As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. For over 350 years, some of the world’s greatest patriots, writers, thinkers, athletes, and artists have called Boston their home, leaving an indelible mark on this incredible city in the process.

A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

Saratoga National Historic Park, New York

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Site of the first significant American military victory during the Revolution, the Battles of Saratoga rank among the fifteen most decisive battles in world history.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Here in 1777 American forces met, defeated, and forced a major British army to surrender, an event which led France to recognize the independence of the United States and enter the war as a decisive military ally of the struggling Americans.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates a decisive battle that helped turn the tide of war in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. On this field on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his army of tough Continentals, militia, and cavalry to a brilliant victory over Banastre Tarleton’s force of British regulars.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The battle at the “Cow Pens,” one of only a few successful double envelopments in history, is recognized by historians as one of the most important of the American Revolution. Coming on the heels of a patriot victory at nearby Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, Cowpens was the second successive staggering defeat for British forces under General Charles Cornwallis.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This Memorial Day remember those who fought and died for our freedom.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Least-Visited National Park Service Sites and Why Each Is Worth a Visit

Celebrate the beauty and natural wonders of America’s National Park Service sites at these lesser-known locations

Among America’s 418 National Park Service (NPS) sites, some stand out as must-sees for most RV travelers: Blue Ridge Parkway, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Natchez Trace Parkway all come to mind as bucket-list sites.

And indeed, these and other parks welcome millions of visitors each year. Yet there are many other lesser-known parks equally worth your time—parks with extraordinary wildlife and unique natural features that mere thousands of visitors experience annually.

Here, we’ve rounded up ten of the least-visited national parks and make a case for why each one is worth a visit. Some are little-known, others are obscurely located, but all celebrate the beauty and power of America’s natural wonders—and, as a bonus, can be enjoyed with fewer crowds.

Cowpens National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cowpens National Battlefield

2018 visitor count: 189,410

Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates a decisive battle that helped turn the tide of war in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. On this field on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his army of tough Continentals, militia, and cavalry to a brilliant victory over Banastre Tarleton’s force of British regulars.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

El Malpais National Monument

2018 visitor count: 154,368

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails.

Coronado National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Coronado National Memorial

2018 visitor count: 103,218

In the Coronado National Forest bordering Mexico, Coronado National Memorial celebrates the achievements of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who led the first recorded European expedition to America, in 1540. The attraction for most visitors is the rugged and scenic terrain, which is crossed by several hiking trails.

Tuzigoot National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tuzigoot National Monument

2018 visitor count: 98,090

Tuzigoot is a small national monument that preserves the remains of dwellings of the 12th century Sinagua Indians. Tuzigoot comprises a cluster of buildings, on top of a small sandstone ridge close to the Verde River valley.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

2018 visitor count: 62,995

The Hohokam people built these structures when they were near the height of their power some 700 years ago. The monument preserves 60 prehistoric sites, including a four-story earthen structure. Interpretive walking tours and exhibits are available.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cumberland Island National Seashore

2018 visitor count: 55.650

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, full of pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches, and wide marshes. Walk in the footsteps of early natives, explorers, and wealthy industrialists.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

2018 visitor count: 260,375

With its multiple stems the organ pipe cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ.

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hovenweep National Monument

2018 visitor count: 40,574

Hovenweep is one of those out of the way destinations that are easy to miss. Hovenweep preserves six villages once inhabited by the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people. These structures at Hovenweep are numerous and varied.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

2018 visitor count: 39,361

Founded in 1876 by John Lorenzo Hubbell, this is the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation. This site in Ganado is part museum, part art gallery and still a functioning trading post, virtually unchanged since its early days.

Worth Pondering…
The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im