Some battles are never forgotten. On January 17, 1781, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan of the Continental army faced off against Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s British forces. Morgan’s decisive victory at Cowpens, a pasture near what is now Spartanburg, South Carolina, became a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
Cowpens is a study in military strategy. General Morgan had honed his command skills during the French and Indian War, twenty years earlier. He knew how his men would react in battle. He also knew what Tarleton would do.
At just 26, “Bloody Ban” Tarleton had already earned a reputation for boldness on the battlefield. His line of attack typically involved charging forward and fighting until the last man went down.
At Cowpens National Battlefield, you can envision the scene as Morgan and Tarleton faced off. Morgan’s “double envelopment” strategy of dividing his troops and attacking the British army’s flanks remains one of the most studied and effective military operations. The battle was over in less than an hour.
War buffs will revel in this opportunity to study a brilliant military maneuver in situ. You can circle the battlefield by car on a perimeter road or take the 1.2 mile walking trail. The visitor center offers hands-on exhibits for children.
Did You Know
The battle at Cowpens is still used in U.S. military training exercises. Officers reenact the battle on paper, analyzing the decisions and movements of both armies and their leaders to understand why the “double envelopment” maneuver worked and how to defend against it.