On the morning of January 17, 1781, a combined force of Patriot Continentals and militia commanded by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeated a British army under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton during the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina. This Patriot victory during the American Revolution was one of several British defeats in the southern colonies that eventually led to the October 1781 British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. Commemorative efforts at the battleground began in 1856 when the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, South Carolina, erected a monument. After numerous failed attempts, the United States Congress passed legislation in 1929 creating a one-acre national battlefield site at Cowpens. Placed in charge of the site, the War Department subsequently erected the U.S. Monument. After Cowpens was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) in 1933, the agency maintained the property as an unmanned site and made minor improvements under the Mission 66 program. However, battleground supporters continued to seek a larger park. A major drive for such a park began in 1966, culminating with the designation of Cowpens as a national battlefield in 1972. Over the next decade, the NPS acquired over eight hundred acres, developed visitor facilities, and began restoring the battleground to its 1781 appearance. Cowpens has operated since 1981 as a full-scale unit within the national park system.
Today, the Service continues to manage Cowpens National Battlefield as an 841.56-acre historical site in Cherokee County, South Carolina. A total of 213,000 people visited the battlefield in 2000 to use the park's recreational facilities and to learn about the Battle of Cowpens and colonial life in the South Carolina backcountry. In order to preserve and interpret that history, the NPS maintains a visitor center and museum, a picnic area, an interpretive loop road, an interpretive walking trail, two monuments, a historic road trace, a historic house, and historic chimney ruins. Landscape restoration efforts continue to be a major priority.
This administrative history traces the development and management of Cowpens National Battlefield from the time of the 1781 battle to the present, especially during the years of NPS administration. Chapter One provides background on the Battle of Cowpens and its significance. Chapter Two details the early commemorative efforts undertaken by private groups as well as the federal government. Chapter Three deals with the various campaigns to obtain congressional authorization for a full-scale national battlefield at Cowpens. Chapter Four covers the development of Cowpens as a national battlefield between 1972 and 1981. Chapter Five looks at the NPS administration and continued development of Cowpens after 1981. Chapter Six examines visitor services, especially the interpretation of the site to the public. Chapter Seven deals with resources management and protection at the park, including sections on cultural resources management, natural resources management, and law enforcement. Four appendices provide a chronology for Cowpens, a list of superintendents and staff, annual visitation statistics, and copies of relevant federal legislation. Last, a bibliography of sources for further information and an index are included.
Last Updated: 10-Dec-2002