Unit 4 The War for American Independence

Unit 4 activities follow the menu headings for the other units.
Cowpens National Battlefield Curriculum Guide Grades 3 - 8 South Carolina and North Carolina
Militiamen firing their weapons

Unit 1 - The National Park Service The National Park Service manages and preserves over 375 parks. Sixteen are in the Carolinas.

native grasses at Cowpens National Battlefield

Unit 2 - The Pre-Agricultural LandscapeMeet Morgan at the Cow Pens’ must have echoed through the backcountry militia, and they did.

Scruggs House

Unit 3 - Backcountry Lifestyles Life was hard, and children were expected to help with daily chores.

drawing of a militiaman running

Unit 5 - The Southern Campaign These mountaineers had been fighting Indians and were hunters, sharpshooters and fierce combatants.

Battle of Cowpens by Charles McBarron

Unit 6 - The Battle of Cowpens “It is impossible to foresee all the consequences that this...event may produce.” - Lord Cornwallis

painting by Ranney
Unit 7 - The Battle - The Human Element “...the life of the common soldier — the ones who did the fighting — and those connected to the battle as non-combatants are equally important.”
Unit 8 Cultural and Natural Resources Agriculture and its relationship to the economy plan an important part in Carolina history
militia waiting to fire their weapons
The lengthy war had been costly and the British Parliament looked to taxation to pay the war debts. The colonists rebelled.


At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the first Treaty of Paris (1763) defined the British territory in North America. The territory was limited to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains. The western watershed and the lands beyond were reserved for the Indians. The British Army was charged with the protection of the colonies. The lengthy war had been costly and the British Parliament looked to taxation to pay the war debts.

Various attempts were made to tax the Americans and the colonists rebelled. Their argument was that they were being taxed by a parliament where they had no representatives. The colonists harassed tax collectors and, in Boston, demonstrated against the British crown. Shots were fired and five civilians were killed (1770). The situation deteriorated from that point.

The first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775. Although much of the fighting in the early years occurred in the north, there were important incidents that occurred in the Carolinas:

1. November 19-21, 1775, at Ninety-Six, South Carolina. Local Tories besieged Savage’s Old Fort near Ninety-Six which was held by local Patriot forces. The encounter ended in a truce.
2. February 27, 1776, at Moore’s Creek Bridge, North Carolina. Loyalist Highland Scots attacked patriot militia units. The Scots were defeated with heavy casualties insuring that British loyalists would not control the Carolinas.
3. June 28, 1776, at Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. The British attempt to take Charleston was thwarted when the cannonballs fired from ships of the British Navy failed to penetrate the palmetto log fortifications on Sullivan’s Island. The palmetto tree became South Carolina’s tree and is depicted on that state’s flag.

The Commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington, had the task of raising and training a new army. He attempted to avoid confrontation, when possible, in the early months in an attempt to gain time. The war moved across New England and into Canada. Finally, at the Battle of Saratoga, (New York), an engagement which lasted from September 19 to October 17, 1777, the British surrendered Gen. Burgoyne’s army.

Seeing that the war in the northern colonies was not winnable without a massive infusion of new troops, the British Parliament sought ways to bring the war to a conclusion. The taxes had been increased tenfold in England to pay for a long war that they had thought to win within a few months. Now, years were passing with no solution, casualties were mounting and the British taxpayers were paying for 30,000 Hessian soldiers, German mercenaries who were paid to fight for England.

Parliament endeavored to move the war to the southern colonies where they believed the territory could be won by British regular troops and then held by Loyalists (Tories). By moving British troops from the north to the south, and utilizing the large number of Carolina Tories, they believed they could sweep up through the Carolinas to Virginia. This strategy is known as the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War.

Guilford Fife & Drum Corps
GOAL: To introduce to students material culture and music related to the Battle
of Cowpens.

Robert Hooper for NPS

Material Culture: the Fife and Drum

Music played an important part in the Revolutionary army. Each company was led by a fife and drum. Each company, in turn, was expected to have at least one drummer and one fifer. A regiment might include as many as 20 of each, and include a fife major and drum major. The music boosted camp morale, assisted in marching cadence and contributed to the pomp of ceremonies. Faster music produced a faster marching cadence. Such music was based on British models and techniques. British cadence of the era called for 60 beats for the ordinary step and 120 for the quickstep.

The drum was especially important since it served as a means of signaling and conveying orders more effectively, being heard better than the human voice above the din of battle. Drums could signal an army to take such actions as to strike tents and prepare to march, troop to the regimental colors (flags or banners), march (move out), arise at daybreak, return to tents at night until reveille the next morning, take up weapons, and have a conference with the enemy. Many drummers were young boys, often as young as 16.

Drums and fifes were made from various natural and available materials. Drums were often made of wood, with animal skins stretched by ropes to provide a drum head. Sticks were wooden. Most fifes were crude wooden instruments, often made of boxwood. Some iron fifes were found.

Trumpets were often used by cavalry and bugle horns by light infantry. Riflemen often used their own innovations. At the Battle of Saratoga, Daniel Morgan used a turkey call to rally his troops.

The band movement in America most likely has its origins in the military music of early colonial America. High school and other bands in uniform remind us of this military tradition.


1. Have students learn standard Revolutionary Era drum or fife music for:
General – Strike tents and prepare to march
Assembly – Trotting to the colors
March – The troops move out
Reveille – Soldiers rise at daybreak
Tattoo – Soldiers return to the tents and remain until reveille next morning
Alarm – Alarm to take arms
Parley – When a conference with the enemy is desired
Indicate meal time
Indicate religious services (Source: Camus, Raoul F. Military Music of the American Revolution.)

2. Have other students interpret and carry out drum commands, then reverse the role of the participants. (See below.)

3. Or, have students meet in a group to make up their own signals and attempt to interpret those signals as described above.

4. Have students learn simple Revolutionary War era songs, and either sing them or play them on a fife or drum. Or, play recordings of such songs and discuss the meaning of the words.

5. Discuss what materials would have been used to make fifes and drums. How readily available were these materials? What alternative materials could be used? How would certain materials affect the quality and volume of sound? What alterations or materials would create a more bass sound?

6. Discuss alternative ways of communicating with troops. Why do you supposed Daniel Morgan favored a turkey call? Contrast the bugle (used more in later wars) to the drum as a means of signaling.

7. Define words and terms such as
(1) parley, (2) reveille, (3) “strike tents”, (4) colors (regimental banners), (5) “camp morale”, (6) cadence, (7) company, and (8) regiment. Have students compose sentences using these words or terms or, in addition, have them write a “fife and drum story” using the same.
1. parley – an informal conference between enemies under a truce
2. reveille – a signal to awake military troops and alert them to assignments
3. strike tents – to take down tents
4. colors – regimental flag
5. camp morale – emotional or physical conditions of troops in the face of hardships
6. cadence – the rhythmic flow of a sequence of sound
7. company – a relatively small group of soldiers
8. regiment – a unit of ground forces consisting of two or more battalions

Face right! Single stroke, and flam*
Face left! Two single strokes, and flam
Face right and turn about! Three single strokes, and flam Halt! Flam.
Fix bayonets, marching! Roll**, and flam
Return Bayonets, marching! Two ruffles***, and flam

* a drumbeat consisting of two notes in quick succession, with accent on the second
** the continuous sound of a drum rapidly beaten
*** a low continuous beating of a drum

1. Watch the program, Cowpens: A Battle Remembered. Watch and listen for the use of fifes and drums.
2. Use a drum to take onto the battlefield. Have students give drum signals as suggested in PRE-SITE ACTIVITIES.
3. See how far away such signals can be heard. Appoint a drum major to direct use of the drum.

1. Have students research the use of drums in history in general and the Revolutionary War in particular.
2. Have students research use of fifes in history in general and the Revolutionary War in particular.
3. Show students pictures of artwork on drums. Have students design art for drums which depict Revolutionary War motifs/themes or those of their own design.
4. Have students complete a bibliography of American literature in which “drum” or “drums” are included in the title.

The student will able to list the musical functions of fife and drum in relationship to Revolutionary armies and battles.
The student will explain why certain materials were used for construction of fife and drum.
The student will recount orally or in writing the relationships between the historic origins of fife and drum and use in the Revolutionary War era.
The student will compare and contrast such instruments to later use of bugles and other instruments.
The student will describe elements of music and sound. The student will design artwork for drums.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Music, Science, Language Arts, Visual Arts

North Carolina: Social Studies, Grade 4, Goals 3.1, 5.1, 11.1; Grade 8, Goal 1.3 Music: Grades 3-5, Goals 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 9.1, 10.3, 10.4; Grades 6-8, Goals 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 8.2, 9.1, 10.3, 10.4 Science: Grade 5, Goals 2.01, 2.03; Grade 6, Goals 4.03, 4.04 Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 3.06, 4.06, 5.01- 5.09; Grade 4, Goals 3.06, 4.06, 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 3.06, 4.06, 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01- 6.02; Grade 7, Goals 1.01, 1.02, 6.01-6.02; Grade 8, Goals 2.01-2.02, 6.01-6.02 Visual Arts: Grades 3-5, Goals 1.1-1.6, 2.1-2.4, 3.1- 3.5, 4.1,4.3, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1; Grades 6-8, Goals 1.1-1.6; 2.1-2.4, 3.1-3.5; 4.1, 4.3, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1
South Carolina: Science - Grade 4 - I-A; IV-A Language Arts - Grade 3 - III-B; V-A, B; Grade 4 -II- A; III-A, C, E, G; IV-A, B, E, H; V-A, B; Grade 5 -II- A, III-A, B, IV-A, E, I; V-A; Grade 6 - II-A, B; III-E, G, H; IV-A, B, K; V-A; Grade 7 - II-A; III-A, B; IV-A, C, F, J; V-A; Grade 8 - II-A, B, C; III-B, E, G; IV-A, B, E; V-A, B Music - Component 1-3 Visual Arts - Components 2-3

drawing of powderhorn with scrimshaw
GOAL: To introduce to students material culture related to the Battle of Cowpens.         

Material Culture: the Powder Horn

Militia in the Revolutionary War used powder horns to prime rifles for firing. Such horns, obtained from slaughtered oxen or cattle, became an inexpensive and convenient method of storing and carrying powder. Powder horns were strong and watertight, and would not mold or decay. Also, they would not build up static electricity or spark when struck against metal.

Militia in the Revolutionary War used powder horns to prime rifles for firing. Such horns, obtained from slaughtered oxen or cattle, became an inexpensive and convenient method of storing and carrying powder. Powder horns were strong and watertight, and would not mold or decay. Also, they would not build up static electricity or spark when struck against metal.

1. Have students search Cowpens National Battlefield museum for related accouterments for firing rifles or muskets.
2. Have students look at soldier models to see powder horns and accouterments.
3. Walk the battlefield trail, and discuss the importance of powder horns to the battle and the importance of cattle to South Carolina’s frontier economy.

1. Have students compose a journal or story about one soldier’s use of a powder horn at Cowpens (how obtained, fashioned, used, etc.)
2. Have students draw their own scrimshaw design (contemporaneous to the battle or to their lives (maps, forts, architecture, ships, rhymes, birds, animals, etc.) As a further activity, have students carve into scrimshaw-like material to make their design. To substitute for a horn, get poster board and coat it with gesso (found at art stores). Let this coat dry, then coat the surface with India ink. Scratch out the design on the dried surface.
3. Discuss the scientific composition and properties of horn, hoof and fingernail. Demonstrate translucence and discuss how horns can be made translucent (scraping or peeling into layers.) (See resources for sources for horns.)
4. Many of the regular soldiers carried cartridge boxes holding pre-measured powder in what was known as cartridges. A soldier would tear open the cartridge to prime his weapon, then ram the remainder down the barrel. Contrast andcompare advantages of cartridges and cartridge boxes over powder horns.

prime – to add powder to the pan in loading firearms
static electricity – a stationary electrical charge built up on an insulating material
tallow – animal fat
translucent – permitting diffused light to pass through militia – members of colonial volunteer armies; not professional soldiers
scrimshaw – the art of carving or engraving into whalebone, horn or other material
accouterments – the equipment of a soldier
gesso – a plaster-like material on which designs can be scratched to simulate scrimshaw

The student will describe the function of a common natural material (a powder horn) as necessary to the Battle of Cowpens.
The student will use cognitive skills in answering progressively difficult questions.
The student will see relationships between this natural material and its cultural adaptation contemporary with the battle.
The student will use language arts skills to create a story based on use of this material in the Battle of Cowpens. The student will use art skills to design scrimshaw to picture some aspect of the Battle of Cowpens on a powder horn.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Science, Language Arts and Visual Arts

Social Studies: Grade 4, Goals 2.1, 10.3, 11.1, 11.2; Grade 8, Goal 1.3 Science: Grade 4, Goal 2.01; Grade 7, Goals 4.02-4.06 Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 6.01- 6.02; Grade 8, Goals 1.01-1.04, 6.01-6.02 Visual Arts: Grade 3-5, Goals 1.1-1.6, 2.1-2.4, 3.1- 3.5, 4.1-4.4, 5.1-5.6, 6.1-6.6, 7.1-7.4; Grades 6-8, Goals 1.1-1.6, 2.1-2.4, 3.1-3.5, 4.1-4.4, 5.1-5.6, 6.1-6.6, 7.1-7.3 South Carolina: Language Arts - Grade 3 - IV-A, B, E; V-A, B, C; Grade 4 - IV-A, B, G, J; V-A, B; Grade 5 - IV-A, D, E; V-A, B, C; Grade 6 - IV-A, C, F, K; V-A; Grade 7 - IV-A, B, C, G, H, L; V-A, B; Grade 8 - IV-A, B, D, E, F, G; V-A Visual Arts - Components 1-4 Science - Grade 4 - I-A; II-A; Grade 5 - I-A; II-A; Grade 7 - I-A; II-A Social Studies - 3.2.6, 8.1.2

drawing of a haversack
GOAL:To have students learn about the personal effects carried by soldiers
during the American Revolution.

drawing by Gregg Glymph

Personal Effects of a Revolutionary War Soldier


All soldiers carried personal effects such as clothing, weapons, accouterments, tools and living accessories. The American soldier of the Revolution was no different. Each man probably had a rifle or musket, bayonet, canteen, cartridge box and a haversack with personal items. Most soldiers wore a haversack in which they carried their personal belongings. A good source for learning about the Revolutionary soldier’s equipment is the Collector’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution by George C. Neumann and Frank J. Kravic.


1. Have students brainstorm and make a list of items that a soldier in today’s U.S. Army might need if going into battle.
2. Have students do research on what personal effects are used by the men and women of our armed forces today.
3. Have students hypothesize about what personal effects they think a soldier would have carried on January 17, 1781, at the Battle of Cowpens.
4. Research Revolutionary War soldiers’ haversacks, and their size, fabric and contents, etc.
5. A journal topic could be “What I carry in my haversack,” written as a Revolutionary War soldier.

1. Have students take notes on the personal effects (uniforms, equipment, etc.) of the American soldier during the Revolution by looking at the displays, paintings, artifacts, etc., found in the Visitor Center at Cowpens.
2. Have students take notes on the personal effects of the American soldiers at Cowpens as they tour the battlefield and look at the battlefield markers.

Have students construct a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the soldier of the American Revolution with the soldier of today’s army.

The student will locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources.
The student will use a variety of research skills to locate and collect data.
The student will compare and contrast the 18 th century army with today’s army.
The student will take notes and organize information. STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts

Social Studies: Grade 4, Goal 11.1; Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 4.1-4.10, 5.01- 5.08; Grade 4, Goals 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 1.01-1.04, 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 1.01-1.04, 6.01-6.02; Grade 8, 1.01-1.04, 6.01-6.02
South Carolina: Social Studies - 8.1.2, 8.2.6 Language Arts - Grade 8 - I-B, C; V-A, B

drawing of musket and rifle
GOAL: To help students understand the importance of the musket and rifle to the early settlers, and identify the difference between the two weapons.

drawing by Scott Withrow

The Musket and Rifle

People on the early Carolina frontier used the musket and rifle. The musket was usually longer than a rifle. A bayonet fitted on the muzzle of the musket. The musket was heavy enough to use as a club when a person ran out of ammunition, or did not have time to reload it.

The musket was 58 inches long, and it took a lot of effort to steady it and to fire it. The musket was accurate between 80 to 90 yards and could carry about 300 yards. The long rifle was about the same length. Inside the barrel were spiral grooves, whereas the inside of the musket was smooth. The rifle was more accurate with an effective range up to 300 yards. Powder was poured down the barrel from a powder horn. Then a linen patch with a lead ball inside was rammed down the barrel. A bayonet would not fit a rifle. Since the rifle weighed 7 to 8 pounds, it was not used as a club.

The loading and firing of muskets is a very detailed and complicated action requiring precise movement following a specific pattern. These patterns involve mature eye-hand coordination and knowledge of kinesthetic awareness. During times of battle, there wasn’t time to ask someone what to do, nor were there any written instructions. Often, the time for loading and reloading of muskets was included in the battle plan. Therefore, this activity required specific knowledge and efficiency in order for one to be a productive infantryman.

1. Research the history and function of the rifle and musket.
2. With a wooden strip measuring 58 inches, determine how long it takes to steady the wooden strip and aim at a target. Using the prop, review the steps necessary to load and fire a musket.
3. Once a level of proficiency is obtained, attempt it again blindfolded.
4. Measure an amount of sand equal to the weight of the musket (about 12 pounds). Carry around the sack of sand to understand how importance endurance was to the Continental soldier.

1. To teach sequence: Have students write steps to load a musket. Act out steps to see if they are correct.
2. Write a creative story explaining why it was important to be a sharpshooter when living in the wild.
3. Make a Venn Diagram comparing the musket and a rifle.
4. Compare and contrast modern-day weaponry to that of the Revolutionary War era.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts, Math

Social Studies: Grade 3, Goals 1.1-1.3, 4.1-4.5; Grade 4, Goal 8.2; Grade 8, Goals 4.1, 4.2, 4.5, 5.4 Science: Grade 4, Goals 1.01, 1.03; Grade 8, Goals 2.03, 2.04

South Carolina: Social Studies: 3.5.1, 4.3.1, 8.25, 8.26, 8.62, 8.63 Science - Grade 3 - I-A; II-A, B, C; Grade 4 - I-A; II-B; Grade 6 - I-A; III-A; Grade 7 - I-A; II-D; III-A; Grade 8 - I-A; II-A Language Arts - Grade 8 - I-C, F, L; IV-F; V-A, B

Preamble to the Constitution
GOAL:To introduce to students the connection of citizenship to ideals of the American Revolution and to demonstrate the importance of civic responsibility and participatory choicesin American constitutional government.

Citizenship Then and Now

The seeds of conflict in the American Revolution had their beginnings in lack of Colonial representation in British government. In addition, British mercantilism dictated that economic benefits flowed to the mother country, giving the colonies little choice in economic matters. Along with Continental (regular, paid) soldiers, brave citizen soldiers, or militia, fought for independence at a great cost, with little or no pay. Thomas Young was only 17 years old and fought in the Battle of Cowpens on his birthday! He survived to live to an old age, but many gave their lives for freedom from tyranny.

The Declaration of Independence addressed colonial grievances in these matters, and emphasized inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In winning the war and gaining their freedom, Americans created a written constitution, which limited the powers of the new national government, the United States. Remembering British tyranny, some believed the Constitution didn’t go far enough in guaranteeing basic freedoms, so they added the Bill of Rights, or the first 10 amendments.

The American Revolution and its citizen-soldier, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights all helped secure these freedoms. These freedoms are sometimes taken for granted and people become apathetic to the political process of constitutional government. Americans who exercise rights such as freedom of speech and the right to vote demonstrate confidence in the political process and make constitutional government work. Exercising these rights is often seen as a civic responsibility. In addition, citizens can make various other choices such as speaking on issues and volunteering for those activities they believe important.

There are opportunities to participate at various governmental levels. Cowpens National Battlefield and other national parks offer ways to participate in park activities. Each park is required to preserve and protect all its resources. Resources at Cowpens National Battlefield include forests, grasslands, springs, streams, wildlife, an historic road, monuments, park interpretive signs, and park facilities. Visitors and volunteers can contribute by learning why each resource is important, by understanding threats to the resource, and by following park rules and regulations, including helping in recycling efforts and disposing of litter.


1. Have students research basic rights denied colonists and list their stated grievances. State the connection between the French and Indian War and increased British taxation.
2. Have students read the Declaration of Independence, and portions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Differentiate among the reasons for and focus of each, and explain content relevant to rights and responsibilities in a free society.
3. Have students match statements on rights found in these documents to colonial grievances.
4. Read about and discuss the role of the militia in the American Revolution. Refer to such books as Some Heroes of the American Revolution in the South Carolina Upper Country (Bailey), Autobiography of a Revolutionary War Soldier (Collins), Memoirs of Major Joseph McJunkin (Saye), or other sources.


1. Walk the battlefield and talk about the role of the militia, pointing out the militia line. What dangers did they face? What would have motivated these citizen soldiers to fight for no pay? Why did they not simply remain neutral? 2. Have students catalogue natural and cultural resources of the park: the monument in front of the Visitor Center, the Washington Light Infantry Monument, the historic Green River Road, streams, forests and trees, grassland, wildlife (deer, turkeys and other birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles) the Scruggs House, trails and walkways, the Visitor Center Museum and other facilities. Discuss threats to these resources – water and air pollution, littering, urbanization, etc.) Discuss ways that they and other visitors can help protect these resources in context of their responsibilities as citizens.


1. Discuss your field trip to Cowpens National Battlefield and ask students what they enjoyed most. Have students choose a park resource and explain why it is most valuable to visitors
2. Discuss present-day rights and responsibilities originating with the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


Using a textbook or other resource, the student will list rights denied Colonial Americans by the British government.
The student will identify and differentiate among the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The student will match selected statements in each document with colonial grievances.
The student will explain the role of the citizen-soldier in gaining American independence.
The student will identify some of the responsibilities and participatory choices in a democracy.
The student will identify the resources at Cowpens National Battlefield and list ways he or she as a citizen can help protect those resources.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Science, Language


North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 3, Goals 1.1-1.3, 4.1-4.5; Grade 4, Goal 8.2; Grade 8, Goals 4.1, 4.2, 4.5, 5.4 Science: Grade 4, Goals 1.01, 1.03; Grade 8, Goals 2.03, 2.04

South Carolina:

Social Studies: 3.5.1, 4.3.1, 8.25, 8.26, 8.62, 8.63 Science - Grade 3 - I-A; II-A, B, C; Grade 4 - I-A; II-B; Grade 6 - I-A; III-A; Grade 7 - I-A; II-D; III-A; Grade 8 - I-A; II-A Language Arts - Grade 8 - I-C, F, L; IV-F; V-A, B

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Cowpens National Battlefield
338 New Pleasant Road

Gaffney, SC 29341


(864) 461-2828

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