General Nathanael Greene
Cain Creek, January 19, 1781.
THE troops I have the honor to command have gained a complete victory over a
detachment from the British army, commanded by Lieut. Colonel Tarleton. The
action happened on the 17th instant, about sunrise, at a place called the
Cowpens, near Pacolet River.
On the 14th, having received intelligence that the British army were in
motion, and that their movements clearly indicated their intention of
dislodging me, I abandoned my encampment at Grendales Ford, and on the 16th,
in the evening, took possession of a post about seven miles from the Cherokee
Ford, on Broad River. My former position subjected me at once to the
operations of Lord Cornwallis and Col. Tarleton, and in case of a defeat my
retreat might easily have been cut off. My situation at the Cowpens enabled me
to improve any advantages that I might gain, and to provide better for my
security, should I be unfortunate. These reasons induced me to take this post,
notwithstanding it had the appearance of a retreat.
On the evening of the 16th the enemy occupied the ground we had removed
from in the morning. An hour before daylight one of my scouts informed me that
they had advanced within five miles of our camp. On this information the
necessary dispositions were made, and, from the alacrity of the troops, we
were soon prepared to receive them. The light infantry, commanded by Lieut.
Col. Howard, and the Virginia militia under Major Triplett, were formed on a
rising ground; the third regiment of dragoons, consisting of about 80 men,
under the command of Lieut. Col. Washington, were so posted in their rear, as
not to be injured by the enemy fire, and yet to be able to charge them, should
an occasion offer; the volunteers from North Carolina , South Carolina and
Georgia, under the command of Colonel Pickens, were posted to guard the
flanks; Major Mc Dowal, of the North Carolina volunteers was posted on the
right flank, in front of the line 150 yards; Major Cunningham, of the Georgia
volunteers, on the left, at the same distance in front; Colonels Brannons and
Thomas, of the South Carolina volunteers, on the right of Major Mc Dowal; and
Colonels Hayes and McCall, of the same corps, on the left of Major Cunningham;
Captains Tate and Buchanan, with the Augusta riflemen, were to support the
right of the line.
The enemy drew up in one line, 400 yards in front of our advanced corps. The
first battalion of the 71st regiment was opposed to our right, the 7th to our
left, the Legion Infantry to our centre, and two companies of light troops of
100 each on our flanks. In their front they moved two pieces of artillery, and
Lieut Col. Tarleton, with 280 cavalry, was posted in the rear of his line. The
disposition being thus made, small parties of riflemen were detached to
skirmish with the enemy, on which their whole line advanced with the greatest
impetuosity, shouting as they advanced. Majors Mc Dowal and Cunningham gave
them a heavy and galling fire, and retreated to the regiments intended for
their support; the whole of Col. Pickens command then kept up a fire by
regiments, retreating agreeable to orders. When the enemy advanced to our
line, they received a well directed and incessant fire, but their numbers
being superior to ours, they gained our flanks, which obliged us to change our
We retired in good order about fifty paces, formed, advanced on the
enemy, and gave them a brisk fire, which threw them into disorder. Lieutenant
Colonel Howard observing this, gave orders for the line to charge bayonets,
which was done with such address that the enemy fled with the utmost
precipitation. Lieut. Colonel Washington discovering that the cavalry were
cutting down our riflemen on the left, charged them with such firmness as
obliged them to retire in confusion. The enemy were entirely routed, and the
pursuit continued upwards of 20 miles. Our loss was inconsiderable, not having
more than 12 killed and 60 wounded. The enemy loss was 10 commissioned
officers, and upwards of 100 rank and file killed, 200 wounded, 29
commissioned officers, and above 500 privates, prisoners, which fell into our
hands, with two pieces of artillery, two standards, eight hundred muskets, one
traveling forge, thirty five baggage wagons, seventy Negroes, and upwards of
one hundred dragoon horses, with all their music. They destroyed most of their
baggage, which was immense.
Although our success was complete, we fought only eight hundred men, and were
opposed by upwards of one thousand of chosen British troops.
Such was the inferiority of our numbers, that our success must be attributed,
under God, to the justice of our cause, and the bravery of our troops. My
wishes would induce me to mention the name of every private centinel in the
corps. In justice to the bravery and good conduct of the officers, I have
taken the liberty to enclose you a list of their names, from a conviction that
you will be pleased to introduce such characters to the world.
Major Giles, my Aid de Camp, and Captain Brooks, acting as my Brigade Major,
deserve and have my thanks, for their assistance and behavior on this
occasion. The Baron de Glabuck, who accompanies Major Giles with these
dispatches, served with me as a volunteer, and behaved in such a manner as to
merit your attention.
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
The Web Wargamer:
Issue 1: History section
The Web Wargamer. Issue 1, February 1997. History: The Battle
of Cowpens. By
Mike Joslyn. ... Issue 1: American Legions: The Battle of Cowpens. The Web
THE BATTLE AT COWPENS
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... is to fire two shots and they can fall back to the rear.
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... Casualties: 72, 315. Leaders: Brig.Gen. Daniel Morgan,
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