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

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Served Their Country

Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions

Each May, America commemorates those who have died while serving in the armed forces by organizing parades, picnics, and visits to cemeteries and national memorials across the country.

This Memorial Day, honor those brave men and women by exploring the country’s national parks, many of which are home to preserved historic sites, monuments, and memorials dedicated to celebrating military history.

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In an earlier post we commemorated the sacrifices made for a revolutionary idea by exploring some of the significant landmarks that witnessed the beginning of the new nation.

In today’s post we’ll dig a little deeper into American history and 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.

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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

The American Civil War

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From 1861 to 1865, the American union was broken in a Civil War that remains a defining moment in America’s history. Its causes and consequences, including the continuing struggle for civil rights for all Americans, reverberate to this day. From the war’s outbreak at Fort Sumter, to the largest battle fought at Gettysburg, to the closing chapter at Appomattox Court House, more than 40 Civil War battlefields are preserved by the National Park Service.

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The bloodiest battle of the civil war, which served as inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, was fought on the beautiful grassy knolls of this Pennsylvania battlefield.

Start at the National Park Service Museum and walk the trails on foot or experience them on horseback. Complete your visit with a stop at Soldiers National Cemetery, the resting place for many Union soldiers as well as those who perished in all American wars since 1865.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia and Tennessee

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought for control of Chattanooga, known as the “Gateway to the Deep South.” The Confederates were victorious at nearby Chickamauga in September. However, renewed fighting in Chattanooga that November provided Union troops victory and control of the city.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The American Indian Wars

During the late 19th century, as the United States sought to expand its territory further west, a policy of removing the American Indians from tribal lands was adopted. The resulting distrust and broken promises ultimately led to violence, and more than 1,500 armed conflicts were fought during the Indian wars. Today, the National Park Service preserves several of the battlefield sites of the Indian War and interprets its effect on native peoples and their cultures.

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas

Fort Davis National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Set in the rugged beauty of the Davis Mountains of West Texas, Fort Davis is the best surviving example of an Indian Wars frontier military post and one of the best preserved Buffalo Soldier forts in the Southwest. Fort Davis is important in understanding the presence of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military.

Fort Davis National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Cold War

The nearly 50-year period of political and military tension between the Western world and communist countries known as the Cold War led to the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons by both sides. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tells the story of these weapons that not only held the power to destroy civilization, but also served as a nuclear deterrent which maintained peace and prevented war.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, South Dakota

Minuteman Missile National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


During the Cold War, a vast arsenal of nuclear missiles were placed in the Great Plains. Hidden in plain sight, for thirty years 1,000 missiles were kept on constant alert; hundreds remain today. The Minuteman Missile remains an iconic weapon in the American nuclear arsenal. It holds the power to destroy civilization, but is meant as a deterrent to maintain peace and prevent war.

This Memorial Day weekend take time to thank those who have served and protected America.

Worth Pondering…

Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

—John F. Kennedy

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