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Cowpens

cornwallis, regulars, british, militia and river

COWPENS, Battle of, in the American Revolution, 17 Jan. 1781. At the end of 1780 Cornwallis held South Carolina with a little over 3,000 men, having lost 1,100 with Ferguson two months before, at King's Mountain. Wait ing for reinforcements, he lay at Winnsborough, north of. the centre, within supporting distance of Fort Motte and Orangeburg in the centre, Charleston and Georgetown on the coast, and Augusta and Ninety-Six in the west. In December Greene came down with only 2,000 men, but with a wonderful group of subordinate leaders fit for separate commands. With 1,100 men he occupied Cheraw Hill in the northeast, and kept Cornwallis in alarm for his communi cations with the coast; 900 under Daniel Morgan, part militia, part regulars, he sent to join hands with the victors of King's Mountain if possible, and alarm Cornwallis for the western posts. Cornwallis moved north into North Carolina to force a like movement on Greene, and sent Tarleton after Morgan. The latter took post in a pasture ground called the Cowpens, near the northern boundary, a few miles southwest of King's Mountain, and just west of Broad River. A long slope led up to a low .rise; then came a depression, succeeded 150 yards farther on by another rise; and in rear of this was the river, cutting off retreat. This move of Morgan's was in violation of all military rules, but he was a man of genius and used to militia; he said that he could ask but one thing better, and that was to have them entirely surrounded by the enemy, so they could not run — the river was cheaper than regulars to shoot them down. Tarleton came in sight on the morning of 17 Jan. 1781, and Morgan placed his militia 150 yards in front of the first hill, with injunctions to fire at least two volleys at close range before breaking; on the hill, the famous First Maryland regulars, with some fine Virginians; on the second hill, his cavalry under Col. William Washington, a second

cousin of George. As the British closed, the militia did not break; they were under Col. Andrew Pickens, and fired many more than the two volleys, with destructive effect Finally forced back, they retired to the left around the hills to the river bank, in rear of the cavalry, to re-form. The British left stretched around to flank the right of the American regulars, who drew back to face them; the British thought them retreating, and hurried forward in some disorder. Just then Colonel Washing ton's cavalry charged around the two hills to the left, coming up to the militia's old position and taking the British in rear, with the river on their flank; the militia rushed around the hills to the right, taking them in flank on the left; and the Continental regulars, only 30 yards off, poured in a withering fire and charged bayonet. Hannibal himself never wrought out a finer piece of tactics, or caught an enemy in a deadlier trap. Most of the British troops threw down their arms; the remnant fled with Tarleton, who barely escaped being cut down by Colonel Washington's sabre. Of the 1,100. 270 were killed and wounded, and 600 taken prisoners, with two field-pieces and 1,000 small arms. The Americans lost 12 killed and 62 wounded. Nearly a third of Cornwallis' army, including all his light troops, were annihilated at a blow.