Bill Federer recounts ‘miraculous’ hand at turning point of Revolution
British Colonel Banastre Tarleton was known as “the bloody butcher” for letting his dragoons bayonet and hack hundreds of surrendering American soldiers at Buford’s Massacre, May 29, 1780.
In January of 1781, Colonel Banastre Tarleton led 1,200 of Britain’s best troops, consisting of British dragoons, regulars, highlanders and loyalists, in a hot pursuit of the Americans.
American General Daniel Morgan led them into a trap – the Battle of Cowpens, Jan. 17, 1781.
The Americans took a stand with a river behind them, leaving them no opportunity to retreat.
Seeing this a foolish decision, British Colonel Tarlton gave into the temptation to pursue without doing any reconnaissance.
As depicted in the movie “The Patriot,” American General Daniel Morgan had his line of militia fire twice into the charging British cavalry, then retreat around a hill.
At a full gallop, Tarlton’s dragoons charged straight on, only to be surprised by a wall of 400 battle-hardened American Continental soldiers who had been hiding behind the militia.
The American Continentals stood immovable, firing at point-blank range. The militia then circled around appearing on the other side of the hill and attacked Tarlton’s flank.
In the confusion, 110 British were killed and 830 captured.
The Battle of Cowpens is widely considered the tactical masterpiece and turning point of the Revolutionary War.
When British General Cornwallis was told the news, he was leaning on his sword – and leaned so hard the sword snapped in two. Cornwallis gave chase, even abandoning his slow supply wagons along the way.
General Daniel Morgan hastily retreated north, meeting up with American General Nathaniel Greene, and they raced to get out of South Carolina, across North Carolina and into Virginia.
Cornwallis regrouped and chased the Americans as fast as he could, discarding slow supply wagons and heavy equipment along the way. Cornwallis arrived at the Catawba River just two hours after the Americans had crossed, but a sudden storm made the river impassable, delaying the British pursuit.
Written by BILL FEDERER
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