Geography of the Battle of Cowpens
Length: on site visit: - 2 hours
Pre-Site Presented by: teacher
Park Primary Theme: The Battle of Cowpens
(2008) SC Social Studies Standards 8.2, concentrating on 8.2-3: “Summarize the course and key conflicts of the American Revolution in South Carolina and its effects on the state, including the attacks on Charleston; the Battle of Camden; the partisan warfare of Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion; the Battle of Cowpens; and the Battle of Kings Mountain. (H, G)”
(2005) SC Science Standards:8.3.9 Identify and illustrate geologic features of South Carolina and other regions of the world through the use of imagery (including aerial photography and satellite imagery) and topographic maps.
Goal: To learn about the Battle of Cowpens, its participants, and how the battle affected the state of South Carolina, particularly in the backcountry (upcountry) and the outcome of the American Revolution.
Planning Your Visit
Why were the Americans and the British fighting this far inland? By 1780, the American Revolution in the North had become a stalemate, and the British decided to focus on winning the war in the South.
The American Revolution in the backcountry of South Carolina was a really a civil war. Brothers were fighting brothers; neighbors were fighting neighbors. European immigrants who followed the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania settled mainly in the backcountry, the frontier part of the state. It was far inland of the coastal cities like Charleston, which were settled primarily by wealthy English planters. The people from the two regions did not get along. Moreover, the taxes and other problems that the coastal people had with the king of England did not affect the people in the backcountry. As a result, the backcountry inhabitants tended to be loyal to the king, while the coastal residents tended to be against the king.
Knowing that most of the people of the backcountry remained loyal to the king, the British decided tobolster loyalist support in Georgia and the Carolinas. To accomplish this, they set up strongholds in Ninety-Six, Georgetown, and other posts to protect inland supply lines and to reinforce the newly formed loyalist militia. The British won major battles at Savannah, Georgia and at Charleston and Camden, South Carolina, and their plan to win the war in the South seemed to be working. However, these British victories were followed by losses in the South Carolina backcountry at Musgrove Mill, KingsMountain, and Blackstocks Plantation, beginning to turn the tide of war in favor of the patriots.
Following the British victory at Camden, General Gates, the overall American commander in the South, was relieved of his duty and replaced by Nathanael Greene. Greene, who took command in December 1780 at Charlotte, NC, had served as Quartermaster of the Army and knew the difficulty of feeding and clothing his men and of feeding their horses. To ameliorate conditions, he decided to split his army and send part of it West with Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, while he went East toward Charleston. This forced the overall British commander in the South, General Lord Cornwallis, to split his army as well.
On January 17, 1781, the Americans, commanded by Morgan, and the British, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, met at the Cow Pens, a well-known pasturing area, where the Americans defeated the British in less than an hour. The Battle of Cowpens was one of several turning points in the Southern Campaign. Upon hearing about the British loss at Cowpens, Cornwallis wrote to Francis, Lord Rawdon lamenting, “The late affair had almost broke my heart.”
Procedure: Teachers will lead the students in an in-depth pre-site study by having them research the Battle of Cowpens. They will follow this by an onsite visit, and end with an integration of the two in a post site study.
Materials and Preparation:
· Excerpt from Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene by William Johnson
· Online Resource list
On Site – Teacher-led
Be prepared for bad weather. All members of the group should dress appropriately for the weather, and the teachers/chaperones should have inclement weather contingency plans in place prior to their arrival. All teachers/chaperones must accompany the class on the walk.
· Students will be able to explain how the terrain impacted the decisions that Morgan and Tarleton made and how it affected the outcome of the battle.
· Students will understand the roles of the militia and the continentals and how they worked together to win the Battle of Cowpens.
· Students will know how the Battle of Cowpens impacted the remainder of the American Revolution.
Did You Know?
There were more Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes fought in South Carolina than in the other colonies.