The Battle - The Human Element

Unit 7 activities follow the menu headings for the other units.
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Cowpens National Battlefield Curriculum Guide Grades 3 - 8 South Carolina and North Carolina

militia firing weapons

Unit 1 - The National Park ServiceThe 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 Landscape
Meet Morgan at the Cow Pens’ must have echoed through the backcountry militia, and they did.

Robert Scruggs Cabin

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

militia at arms
Unit 4 - The War for American Independence The lengthy war had been costly and the British Parliament looked to taxation to pay the war debts.
drawing by Gregg Glymph of 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
Unit 8 Cultural and Natural Resources
Agriculture and its relationship to the economy plan an important part in Carolina history.

Traditionally, historians have studied the Battle of Cowpens from the top down, studying its great leaders or studying the battle and battle tactics and weapons. These are valid and necessary topics, but the life of the common soldier — the ones who did the fighting — and those connected to the battle as non-combatants are equally important.

Non-traditional approaches to study of the battle include a study of the lives and lifestyles of lesser-known, sometimes unnamed participants in the events at Cowpens in context of the landscape and material culture of the period. Such approaches include:

African-Americans at Cowpens in context of the larger war, the American quest for independence, and anti-slavery sentiment inherent in the Declaration of Independence, Women at Cowpens in context of the role of women in the Revolution, especially those of the Carolinas, Human interaction with the landscape — flooded rivers, rain and cold, travel, and rugged terrain Camp life, medicine and foodways Material culture – supplies, transportation, battle accoutrements and clothing.

The activities that follow address these often-neglected, yet compelling stories related to the Battle of Cowpens.

Swordfight at Cowpens by William Ranney
GOAL: To introduce to students the role of African-Americans at the Battle of Cowpens in context of the Revolutionary struggle against England and the African-American struggle for freedom.

Courtesy of the State of South Carolina

Unsung Patriots: African-Americans at the Battle of Cowpens


Colonial South Carolina was possibly the most ethnically diverse among all the colonies. Those of Native-American, African, European, Moorish and Turkish descent inhabited the coastal plain, and such diversity was especially reflected in the Charleston area.

It was a diverse group of individuals that met on the field of battle at Cowpens on a bitterly cold Wednesday morning, January 17, 1781. Of the more than 2000 men who fought this battle, the National Park Service can document 15 African-American males who fought with the Americans. In addition, there is one famous African-American male the Park Service has been unable to document other than by tradition. In general, African-American genealogy is difficult because of lack of records.

The names of minorities that the National Park Service can document at the Battle of Cowpens are as follows: James Anderson (or Asher Crockett), Julius Cesar, Lemerick Farr, Andrew Ferguson, Fortune Freeman, Gideon Griffen, Morgan Griffen, Drury Harris, Edward Harris, Allen Jeffers, Berry Jeffers, Osborne Jeffers, Andrew Peeleg, Dick Pickens, and Record Primes (or Primus Record), and also Thomas Tyac, a Native American.

The William Ranney painting (above) shows the famous William Washington-Banastre Tarleton sword fight in which Washington’s servant rode up, fired his pistol at a British officer, and saved Washington’s life. Since most waiters were African-American, Ranney painted him as such. Apparently the servant did not file a pension, and Washington did not leave behind written papers of his own role or of anyone else’s role in the American Revolution. Therefore, the National Park Service cannot document his complete role in the battle and even his name (most likely either Ball/Collins/Collin). On a larger scale, African-Americans in the Revolution had a vested interest in the fight for freedom. Many hoped that liberties embodied in the Declaration of Independence would lead to the abolition of slavery. Many slave-owners, especially those in the Middle States and North, saw the connection between the Declaration and those issues involved in slavery, and freed their slaves (The North generally didn’t have as large an economic motive as the South.) George Washington, for example provided for the manumission of his slaves in his will. Phillis Wheatley wrote so eloquently on the issue that she was granted her freedom.

Slave-holders in the South feared British-inspired slave insurrections. Indeed, numerous slaves fought for the British in hopes that a British victory would offer them freedom. There is no evidence that they fared better under British command, however, than under their former masters. It is in these contexts the following activities are recommended:


1. Have students read the Declaration of Independence and memorize the Declaration of Natural Rights embodied in the Declaration. List and define or explain five words or phrases relevant to slavery and the African-American quest for freedom, i.e., concrete ways these natural rights were denied under slavery.
2. Have students read the List of Grievances embodied in the Declaration. Have them choose five grievances and summarize each. Have students prioritize the five as to those most important. Would these five apply to African-American slaves? How would they differ?
3. Some slaves petitioned for their freedom basing their petition on American petitions to England. Have your students write such a petition for freedom.
4. Have students research the lives of the following African-Americans of the Revolutionary War era: Phillis Wheatley, Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, Armistead Lafayette, Salem Poor, William Lee, Oliver Cromwell, George Latchom, Edward Hector, Austin Dabney, Prince Whipple, Primus Hall and Agrippa Hull.


1. Have students view William Ranney’s painting of events of the Washington-Tarleton duel. View other paintings adjoining the Ranney painting, paintings in the museum and the Don Troiani painting at the Visitors Desk. Do any of the other paintings depict African-Americans? Discuss how you would picture the events of the Washington-Tarleton duel differently from the Ranney painting. Critique the Ranney painting for its realism and accuracy. Compare and contrast the Ranney painting with the etching from Chappel’s painting of the same event. Using art vocabulary, critique each painting for its realism, accuracy, aesthetic appeal, style, artistic merit and elements of art.
2. Walk the battlefield and discuss the interpretive sign(s) related to the Washington-Tarleton duel. Discuss the heroic action of Washington’s servant, standing in the historic road on which the event occurred.
3. Have students look at the display, “Patriot Minorities Who Received Pensions or Served in the Battle of Cowpens” and identify the patriot minorities at the Battle of Cowpens.


1. Have students draw their own interpretation of the events surrounding the Washington-Tarleton duel.
2. Have students take on the role of Washington’s servant (Ball/Collin/Collins) and petition William Washington for his freedom based on his actions at the Battle of Cowpens. Or, have students take on the role of William Washington and dramatize (in verbal or written form) how he might have reacted to his servant’s actions. Undocumented legend says Washington freed his servant/slave, who, in Charleston, wore a silver belt given him by Washington.


The student will describe the role of African-Americans generally in the American Revolution.
The student will be able to correlate this role in the context of the Revolutionary struggle for freedom.
The student will identify the Patriot minorities at the Battle of Cowpens.
The student will describe and consider the role of William Washington’s servant (Ball/Collins/Collin) in the Battle of Cowpens.
The student will use art skills to illustrate the dramatic event involving the servant Ball/Collins/Collin.
The student will critique the historic Ranney painting of this event as to accuracy, aesthetics, artistic merit, style and elements of art.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts, Visual Arts, Theatre/Drama

North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 4, Goals 1.3, 2.3; Grade 8, Goals 3.2, 3.4
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
Visual Arts: Grades 6-8, Goals 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4 T
heatre: Grades 6-8, Goals 1-4

South Carolina:

Social Studies: 3.1.2, 3.2.4-3.2.7, 4.1.4-4.1.7, 8.1.1-8.1.2, 8.2.4-8.2.6
Language Arts: Grade 5 - I-A-C, F; IV-A-D, F, G; V-A; Grade 6 - I-A, B, E, F, J; IV-A-G, I, K; V-A; Grade 7 - I-B, D, G, H, J, N; IV-A-C, F, G; IV-A-C; Grade 8 -I- B, C, F, G, I; IV-A, B, E, F, H; IV-A-C
Drama: Components 1-3
Visual Arts: Components 1-4


Unsung Patriots: Women at the Battle


Women made important contributions to the American Revolution. Stories abound of heroines and others associated with the events of war. Many were camp followers following their husbands, sons, and fathers as they fought. They cooked, sewed, and nursed the wounded, served as messengers and spies, and sometimes fought in battle. Often we are aware of such persons as Molly Pitcher and Sybil Ludington (the female Paul Revere), but there were other lesser-known and sometimes unnamed women who are of equal importance. A number of women are known for their involvement in the Revolutionary War in South Carolina.

Many stories of Revolutionary War heroines are blends of fact and fiction. Good researchers document their findings.

Other than those heroines connected to battles, there were those women on the home-front who took on the sole obligations of managing home and family. It is interesting to note those roles taken by various Native-American, African-American, Patriot, and Loyalist women.


Complete the following activities using the list of heroines and other women associated with the Revolution below. Print the list of heroines.
1. Match each woman with bibliographical information about her.
2.Use a map of the 13 colonies (or present states) to pinpoint where each was from. Identify those from your state.
3. Assume the role of one of these women and write a diary of actual or possible experiences in context of the Revolution and historical events surrounding her life.
4. Use fabric and your imagination to make a banner or flag honoring one of these women.
5. Present a “This Was Your Life” program on one or more of these women. With each, a student can use or memorize a script to portray the historic woman. Another person can serve as an emcee or presenter; others, people, either real or fictitious, from this woman’s life.
6. Read selections from the book, Founding Mothers and contrast and compare the role of African-American women, Native-American women, Loyalist women and Patriot women. Discuss women’s role in war.


1. ___Catherine Moore Barry a. Eighteen-year-old who rode through wild Carolina backcountry to deliver General Nathanael Greene’s message to General Thomas Sumter.
2. ___Emily Geiger b. Mother of a future president, she traveled to Charles-ton and died as she attended to relatives on a British prison ship.
3. ___Anne Kennedy Hamilton c. Frontier Cherokee woman who warned settlers of impending attack. She helped introduce cattle into the Cherokee economy.
4. ___Nancy Hart d. Sixteen-year-old who warned the New York militia of an impending British attack against a Danbury, Con-necticut, supply center. She is remembered as “the female Paul Revere.”
5. ___Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson e. Laurens County, SC, heroine whose nickname was short for Laodicea.
6. ___Sybil Ludington f. African-American who wrote about freedom, she be-came a symbol for the abolition of slavery.
7. ___Molly Hays McCauley g. Heroine from Walnut Grove Plantation, Spartanburg Co., SC
8. ___Rebecca Motte . h. Patriot from Georgia for whom Hart County is named.
9. ___Dicey Langston Springfield i. Pennsylvania camp follower who was nicknamed Molly Pitcher when she took pitchers of water to wounded soldiers.
10. ___Nancy Ward j. She agreed that her own home be burned to drive out British invaders
11. ___Phillis Wheatley k. According to legend, her father, brother and future husband fought at the Battle of Cowpens.


1. Draw a poster illustrating the role of Anne Kennedy at the Battle of Cowpens (or women in other battles.)
2. An epitaph for Mary Patton is printed below. Write an epitaph for Anne Kennedy or any of the above women based on their role in the Revolution.



One of that heroic band who

established a civilization in the wilderness.

She made the powder used by

John Sevier’s troops in the battle

of Kings Mountain.

Erected by her descendants, 1932



The student will be able to identify the varied roles of women in the American Revolution.
The student will be able to explain this role in the context of the position of women in colonial society.
The student will identify women associated with the battle of Cowpens in the context of documented activities of women in South Carolina and all of colonial America.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts, Visual Arts, Theatre/Drama

North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 4, Goal 12.1; Grade 8, Goals 3.2, 3.3
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 6.01-6.02
Visual Arts: Grade 6-8, Goals 1.1-1.6, 5.1-5.6, 6.1- 6.4 Theatre: Grades 6-8, Goals 1-4

South Carolina:

Social Studies: 8.1.1, 8.2.6, 8.8.1, 8.7.7
Language Arts: Grade 8-I-F, H, L, N; IV-B, J
Visual Arts - Components 1-3
Drama: Components 1-3


The Battle of Cowpens: The Battle Geography


The geography of South Carolina has been a force in shaping the state’s history. Rivers and streams, mountains, and swamps all played a part in this history. All these were forces shaping the course of the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Cowpens.

South Carolina’s three major river systems (the Santee, the Pee Dee and the Savannah) flow generally from northwest to southeast, bisecting the state. Smaller rivers and streams flow into these systems. Many of the watercourses originate in the Blue Ridge mountains of the Carolinas. No one, then, can travel from the coastal plain to the upcountry without traversing rivers and streams. In many instances, rivers were obstacles.

Five rivers played an important part in the Battle of Cowpens, all part of the Broad River watershed and eventually the Santee. The Enoree, Tiger, Pacolet, and Broad rivers were instrumental in pre-battle travel, strategies and events. The Broad and Catawba rivers (both originating in North Carolina) figured prominently in post-battle travel and events. A swampy area leading to the battle site was most likely an obstacle, possibly affecting the outcome of the battle.

After the Patriot defeat at Camden, South Carolina (August 16, 1780), General George Washington changed commanders of the Southern Continental Army. He appointed General Nathanael Greene, who rebuilt the defeated army. The British at the time controlled Charles Town, Camden and many parts of South Carolina. Greene split his army, sending General Daniel Morgan to the backcountry to encourage the Patriots in the area and keep the British from getting supplies. General Cornwallis, commander of the British army in the south, learning of Morgan’s whereabouts, reciprocated by splitting his army and sending Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton in pursuit. Morgan, by then joined by militia units and knowing Tarleton was in pursuit, stopped at the flood-swollen Pacolet River.

Tarleton, further South and having already crossed the Broad in his pursuit of Morgan, crossed the Enoree and Tyger, both swollen by flood-waters. Morgan, on learning of Tarleton’s approach, crossed the Pacolet, and as Tarleton grew even nearer, struck out on the Green River Road (Mills Gap Road) towards the Cow Pens. Thicketty Mountain, a small mountain to the north of the Green River Road served as a landmark. Tarleton, pushing his army, crossed the Pacolet in pursuit. In the meantime, Morgan, with the flooded Broad River six miles to his rear (west), decided to stand and fight at the Cow Pens, fearing the fast-moving Tarleton would catch up and cut his soldiers down as they crossed the Broad. Morgan and his army of regulars and militia camped at the Cow Pens, the night of January 16 th and 17th . Tarleton, again trying to catch up, marched his army from two in the morning on the 17th and arrived at the Cow Pens before daybreak. He began the attack on Patriot forces at daybreak, his army now marching up a slight hill toward the waiting Patriots. Morgan, having arranged his army in three lines, had the advantage of trees and small hillocks for cover; the Patriot cavalry under the command of William Washington, were stationed behind an even larger hillock. From Tarleton’s view, the Americans appeared to be running, as the sharpshooters ran back to the militia line, and the militia retreated behind the Continental line. The British, thinking it a rout, were drawn in toward the remaining lines of Continentals. The British 71 st Highlanders entered the battle late, having been held in reserve by Tarleton and having had to negotiate a swampy area as they moved forward. An order to face the oncoming 71 st Highlanders was misunderstood as a call to retreat. Morgan stopped the retreat, had the line face about and fire in unison. The Continental line followed by a bayonet attack, and Washington’s cavalry and the regrouped militia came around to help envelop the British. The weary British began surrendering in numbers – more than 500 total.

Tarleton escaped the battle with some 50 of his soldiers, traveling the Green River Road east, and crossing the Broad River to Cornwallis’ camp at the head of Turkey Creek. Morgan, believing Cornwallis would come after him, left the Cowpens before noon. He, his army and more than 500 British prisoners, crossed the still-flooded Broad at Island Ford and proceeded to Gilbert Town. From there, they traveled northeast through Cane Creek valley, their destination Salisbury on the other side of the Catawba. He eventually met with General Greene at Salisbury. Patriot forces tried to delay the British at Sherill’s Ford of the Catawba.

Though Morgan retired from battle because of his health, Nathanael Greene led Cornwallis on a chase north to the Dan River which separated North Carolina and Virginia. From there he returned to fight Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse, where the British held the field but suffered numerous casualties. Cornwallis, a great distance from his base, short of supplies, and frustrated with the Carolinas, proceeded to Wilmington and on to Yorktown, where he was defeated by Washington, October 1781.

map of rivers

1. Have students use the map at left to identify each of the following: The Enoree River, the Tyger River, the Pacolet River, the Green River Road, Thicketty Mountain, Cowpens Battlefield, the Broad River, Turkey Creek (present-day York County) and the Catawba River. Which rivers appear the widest? What would be the effects of floodwaters? (current, depth, floating debris, etc.)
2. Have students analyze the part each site above played in events leading to the battle, the battle itself, and its aftermath.
3. Have students analyze the part played by hillocks on the battlefield, and the slight hill the British had to negotiate in their advance toward the militia line.


1. Walk the battlefield, and from interpretive signs, have students identify the hill the British had to negotiate. Begin at the point the British formed, and walk up this hill to the militia line, timing your walk. Discuss how this hill affected the British advance. Identify any rises or hillocks, which could offer cover to the Patriot army. Note especially the hillock William Washington and his cavalry waited behind. What part would erosion make in changing the height of these hillocks? Look for a swampy area near where the British formed. How could this site have delayed the 71 st Highlanders?
2. Have students identify Thicketty Mountain from the battlefield, or on the trip to or from the battlefield. Have students explain what a landmark is and how Thicketty Mountain served as one.


1. Have students write an imaginary journal as a British soldier may have viewed the battlefield and journey to it.
2. Have students write an imaginary journal as a Patriot soldier may have viewed the battlefield as well as the journey to and from the battlefield.
3. Have students analyze how armies would have crossed flooded rivers, and how Morgan crossed the Broad with more than 500 prisoners.
4. Have students use a map of South Carolina to plot travel from present-day Charleston to Greenville, South Carolina, without crossing a major stream. (Note to the teacher: It can’t be done, but the exercise will show the student the impact of rivers on travel across the state.)
5. Read Dr. Larry Babits’ study of erosion at the Battle of Cowpens. Have students analyze how this erosion has affected the battlefield landscape and limited present-day understanding of the battle.
6. Have students identify changes that led to easier and safer crossings of rivers (ferries, bridges).
7. Have students give directions to their school or community, and, in doing so, describe bodies of water or landmarks (natural or human-made) to guide the traveler.


The student will identify the rivers and other features of Carolina backcountry geography affecting pre-battle strategies and events, the course of the battle, and post-battle strategies and events.
The student will analyze the effects of backcountry geographic features on pre-battle strategies and events, the course of the battle, and post-battle strategies and events.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts

North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 4, Goals 3.1-3.3, 4.1-4.4, 5.1-5.2, 6.1-6.3; Grade 8, Goals 1.1-1.5, 4.5
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 3.05, 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 6.01-6.02

South Carolina:

Social Studies - 3.2.7, 3.9.1, 3.9.2, 3.10.1, 4.1.7, 4.6.2, 4.6.3, 8.2.1, 8.2.6, 8.8.1, 8.8.2, 8.8.3
Language Arts - Grade 3- IV-B, C; Grade 4 - IV-A, D; Grade 8 - I-F, H, L; IV-B, F, J

drawing by Gregg Glymph of a journal and quill pen
GOAL: To help students gain skills in understanding a primary (original) historical source, i.e., a journal as it relates to the Battle of Cowpens.

Drawing by Gregg Glymph

The Battle of Cowpens: The Journal of James Collins


James Collins was a 17-year-old South Carolinian who fought with General Thomas Sumter and other militia leaders after the fall of Charleston to the British. He kept a journal in which he wrote of British destruction, and battles leading up to the Battle of Cowpens. His account gives great insight into the battle, Daniel Morgan, his attitude toward the British, and the hardships of the militia. Probably his best account is that of the militia line as they got off two volleys and retreated in the face of Tarleton’s attack.


1. Download the followng excerpt and have students read this selection from Collins’ journal: “It was not long until it became necessary for us to seek safety by joining Morgan, who was encamped at the Cow Pens, but we were not permitted to remain long idle, for Tarleton came on like a thunder storm, which soon put us to our best mettle. After the tidings of his approach came into camp,—in the night, — we were all awakened, ordered under arms, and formed in order of battle by daybreak. About sunrise on the 17 th January, 1781, the enemy came in full view. The sight, to me at least, seemed somewhat imposing; they halted for a short time, and then advanced rapidly, as if certain of victory. The militia under Pickins and Moffitt, was posted on the right of the regulars some distance in advance, while Washington’s cavalry was stationed in the rear. We gave the enemy one fire, when they charged us with their bayonets; we gave way and retreated for our horses, Tarleton’s cavalry pursued us; (“now,” thought I, “my hide is in the loft;”) just as we got to our horses, they overtook us and began to make a few hacks at some, however, without doing much injury. They, in their haste, had pretty much scattered, perhaps, thinking they would have another Fishing creek frolic, but in a few moments, Col. Washington’s cavalry was among them, like a whirlwind, and the poor fellows began to keel from their horses, without being able to remount. The shock was so sudden and violent, they could not stand it, and immediately betook themselves to flight; there was not time to rally, and they appeared to be as hard to stop as a drove of wild Choctaw steers, going to a Pennsylvania market. In a few moments the clashing of swords was out of hearing and quickly out of sight; by this time, both lines of the infantry were warmly engaged and we being relieved from the pursuit of the enemy began to rally and prepare to redeem our credit, when Morgan rode up in front, and waving his sword, cried out, “Form, form, my brave fellows! Give them one more fire and the day is ours. Old Morgan was never beaten.” We then advanced briskly, and gained the right flank of the enemy, and they being hard pressed in front, by Howard, and falling very fast, could not stand it long. They began to throw down their arms, and surrender themselves prisoners of war. The whole army, except Tarleton and his horsemen, fell into the hands of Morgan, together with all the baggage. Later the fight was over, the sight was truly melancholy. The dead on the side of the British, exceeded the number killed at the battle of King’s Mountain, being if I recollect aright, three hundred, or upwards. The loss, on the side of the Americans, was only fifteen or sixteen, and a few slightly wounded. This day, I fired my little rifle five times, whether with any effect or not, I do not know. Next day after receiving some small share of the plunder, and taking care to get as much powder as we could, we (the militia) were disbanded and returned to our old haunts, were we obtained a few day’s rest.”
2. Discuss the reading and have students summarize Collins’ account.
3. Discuss his feelings toward the battle and conditions of the militia.
4. Discuss the meaning of such words and terms as mettle, imposing, my hide is in the loft, frolic, keel, drove, warmly engaged, redeem our credit, plunder, old haunts in context of Collins’ description of the battle.


1. Read Collins’ account of the battle as students stand at the militia line site.
2. Discuss student reactions and feelings to what Collins experienced.


1. Have students compile a journal of a particular event in their lives or events an extended time period. Have them write a summary of their journal.
2. Discuss the fact that journals are a good source for history, sometimes presenting historical information not found elsewhere. Discuss the fact that some journal writers, however, might have emotional feelings about events and present a bias. In other words, they might have been too closely involved with the event to be objective.
3. Read from other journals. Have students take positions, evaluating, or defending journal entries and points of view.


The student will contrast a primary source with a secondary source.
The student will abstract and summarize selections from the primary source.
The student will describe insights gained into the battle.
The student will discuss the importance and pitfalls of primary sources.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts


North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 4,
Goals 12.1-12.2; Grade 8, Goal 4.2, 4.5
Language Arts: Grade 3,
Goals 2.01, 2.05, 2.06, 2.07, 4.10, 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 2.01, 2.02, 2.05, 2.06, 2.07, 2.08, 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 2.05, 2.06, 2.07, 2.09, 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 2.01, 4.01, 4.02, 4.03, 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 1.01, 4.01, 4.02, 4.03, 6.01-6.02; Grade 8, Goals 1.01, 1.04, 3.01, 4.01, 4.02, 4.03, 6.01-6.02

South Carolina:

Social Studies - 3.
2.7, 4.1.7, 8.2.6
Language Arts: Grade 4 -
II-A; Grade 8 - I-L; IV-B, F; V-A, B

drawing of a court scene by Katie Fowler
GOAL: To have students abstract information relevant to the battle, its
participants and geography through the use of an original source.

Katie Fowler

The Battle of Cowpens: Lesser-known Participants


Many Revolutionary War soldiers, both militia and regular, filed pensions for their service in the Revolution. Today, these pensions can be obtained from the National Archives, Washington, D.C., and, sometimes, from state archives. These pensions, designed to spur enlistment and limit desertions, were first authorized during the course of the war.

After the Revolution, Congress passed a series of pension laws. At first, these laws gave pensions to those who suffered debilitating injuries in the Revolution and to those immediate survivors of soldiers killed in battle. Over the years, Congress passed additional laws, extending rewards to other family members. Congress also extended provisions to militia veterans when it passed laws saying militia were eligible for rewards after two years of service, even though it were non-continuous.

As part of these laws, the federal government offered free land as a reward for military service. If the pension were approved, land was given to the west of settled areas – land known as the early American frontier. These lands were surveyed in lots of sometimes 100 acres or more. Congress granted acreage based on rank and length of service. Some people made the trek west and settled their lands, while others sold their land to people known as speculators who, in turn, resold the land for higher prices. Surveyors and attorneys received benefits from this speculation. Well-known people such as George Washington became land speculators. Often, people who settled these lands clashed with Native-4 Americans who still claimed the land as their own. Land was granted to the Mississippi River, and, further, as the frontier advanced.

Continental armies kept good records, making it easy for its soldiers to get bounties. Militia, on the other hand, had to answer a number of questions in order to receive pension rewards. Usually attorneys would let them know that pensions were available. The militia veteran appeared before a judge in a local court to answer these questions. They were asked to prove their birth date and place of birth, battles they participated in, their commanders and other relevant questions. Latter applicants were old and often feeble and their memory failed them. They could get their minister or those in battle with them to testify in their behalf. Anyone could be present in the courtroom, and each had an opportunity to challenge a petition.

Judges rejected pensions when petitioners did not follow these procedures. It seems that few pensions were rejected because of outright fraud. The Federal Justice Department later weeded out false claims. A number of militia would not apply for pensions; they stressed that they fought for higher reasons than rewards – that they didn’t defend their country for money. But, as many got older they needed the reward, and applied for pensions. There are instances where young women married the pensioner to share in the bounty.

State governments also provided rewards, often in land or money. More and more, state governments gave money as a reward. This became a campaign issue as candidates courted the veteran vote and supported rewards.

Since state boundaries extended west indefinitely, land grants were given in the west, advancing as the early American frontier advanced. For example, Carolinians might have received grants just beyond the settled areas, then in Tennessee, all the way to the Mississippi River; and, later, beyond.


1. Print the following excerpt from a pension application and have students abstract the following pension application by answering the following questions:

Who is the person making the application? What battle(s) was he in?
Who were his commanders?
What did he relate about the Battle of Cowpens or other battles?
What features of the natural or human-made landscape did he include?
What features did he describe?
What factors made the petition acceptable? Did the petitioner say anything that would add to the knowledge of the Battle of Cowpens, the Revolution in the South, or the Revolution in general?

Kelly, James – 28 April 1835 –

“… he returned to Camden county – in a very short time he volunteered under Col. Washington. They did not rendizvous (sic) at any particular place – there Was but one horse at that time – Declarant was a horseman & found his own Horse he can not recollect the name of his captains where were with Washington Col Howard and Col Pickens – all the men he thinks amounted to 300. We Marched to a garrison called Rugeleys occupied by tories and some British – We got a pine log and Hacked it to look as much like a cannon as possible & put It on an old pair of Waggon wheels & run it up near the fort and sent in a Flag & Col Rugeley (a Tory) surrendered the garrison. …marched on to the (sic) join Genl. Morgan and did join him at the place where the battle of the Cowpens was fought & but a few days before said battle – Declarant fought under Col Washington in said battle The battle ground was part in the woods and part an old Field – the militia were in front & the regulars in the rear Washington and his men on the wing – They barely got formed before Tarleton made his charge – the militia soon run – the British began to cut down the militia very fast and Washington and Howards men charged & with the regulars of Morgan soon routed the British – Col. Washington & two or three men pursued Tarlton 18 or 15 miles & he understood that during this chace Washington would have been killed by one of the British but that one of Washingtons men shot the fellows arm off & Washington made a hack at Tarlton & disabled tarltons fingers & glanced his head With his sword and took a good many prisoners. Morgan took the prisoners on towards virginia…”

2. Have students put the above pension in their own words, verbally or orally.

3. Distinguish between a primary source (original source) and a secondary source. Give examples of each. Discuss how each can contain bias or inaccuracies.


1. View the laser-disc presentation, “Cowpens: A Battle Remembered.” In the Visitor Center, search for evidence of rewards Congress voted for Daniel Morgan, John Eager Howard, William Washington and Andrew Pickens.
2. Identify the rewards by photographing, sketching, or making a written description. How did their rewards differ from other battle participants? Identify the rank of each of these leaders at the Battle of Cowpens. Find and list evidence of other battles that each participated in.


1. Set up a court system in class, with students acting as judge, clerk of court and observers. Have students make pension applications by verbally presenting their role at Cowpens or other Revolutionary War battles. Have others testify for them.
2. Analyze the pension system. Was it fair and equitable? How could it have been improved? 3. Have students use such sources as The Patriots At the Cowpens (Dr. Bobby Moss) to list important battle participant information in abstracts and list sources for each abstract.
4. Have students summarize some of the pension or land bounty laws described in Locating Your Revolutionary War Ancestor (Neagles.) Trace the progression of pension laws from limited rewards offered to more liberal and inclusive rewards.


The student will abstract material from a Revolutionary War pension application.
The student will list and categorize facts on the Battle of Cowpens gleaned from the abstract.
The student will analyze the pension for questions addressed, testimonies or other information leading to approval.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts, Theater/Drama


North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 8, Goal 4.2
Language Arts: Grade 5, Goals 2.05, 2.06, 2.07, 4.10, 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01-6.02; Grade 7: Goals 2.01, 2.02, 3.01-3.03, 6.01-6.02; Grade 8, Goals 2.01, 6.01-6.02 Theater: Grades 6-8, Goals 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.2, 3.3, 5.1

South Carolina:

Social Studies: 3.2.7; 4.1.7; 8.2.6
Drama: Components 1-3
Language Arts: Grade 8 - I-C; IV-J; V-A, B

drawing of a family tree
GOAL: To have students learn research methods for locating Revolutionary War ancestors.

Lesser-known Participants: Genealogy for Beginners


Most citizens of the United States can identify at least one American General who fought in the American Revolution. Although leaders were important, it was the efforts of the thousands of lesser-known, or even unknown soldiers, that ultimately won the war. Many descendants of these men are unaware that their ancestors fought for their freedom.

To find out if the student has a Revolutionary War ancestor, he or she can begin by interviewing older family members who may remember family folklore of alleged Revolutionary War veterans. How can the student verify the information gleaned from grandparents? Many Revolutionary War veterans filed for pensions after the war. Both the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and state archives have records of these pensions.

Many soldiers had the same first and last name. Therefore, it is important to try to find birth, death, and marriage records to determine precisely which one is the correct ancestor. South Carolina began keeping records of births and deaths in 1915, while North Carolina began keeping them in 1913. Although North Carolina began keeping records of marriages in 1779, South Carolina did not start keeping marriage records until 1911. County courthouses have some records. The rest are kept in the state archives. Local public libraries also are excellent sources of genealogical information, and many have copies of census records on microfiche. In addition, the internet is a good source of genealogical information.

Genealogy comes from a Greek word meaning tracing generation or descent. Learning about their lineage enables people to find out about themselves - who they are and why they are that way. One can learn how one’s family fit into the context of history, thereby bringing history alive.


1. Draw a family tree, using your family name as the trunk. Make small branches come out of the side of the trunk, one for you and for each of your brothers and sisters. Write the names on those branches. Draw larger branches coming out of the top of the tree. On one side will be your mother’s side of the family (maternal), and on the other side will be your father’s side of the family (paternal). Make branches for your grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-grandparents; as far back as you can go. Interview your older family members to see if you can find out more. Did you learn anything new or surprising?
2. Ask your grandparents to tell you stories about when they were young. Ask them if they remember any stories about family members fighting in the Revolutionary War. Take notes. Keep a record of what you learned in a notebook. If you have a Revolutionary War veteran for an ancestor, did he or she participate on the American side or on the British side?
3. Visit your local library. Look through the census records to see if you can find ancestors listed. The reference librarian can help you with this. Write down your observations in your notebook. Search the genealogical files for Revolutionary War veterans. Ask the reference librarian if the library has copies of church histories. These will contain valuable information on marriages, births, and deaths. 4. Write to your state archives for information about your ancestors. The archivists may have additional suggestions for you to try. Note that there may be a nominal fee for printed information.


Have students look through books such as The Patriots at the Cowpens, The Patriots at Kings Mountain, The Loyalists at Kings Mountain, The Loyalists in the Siege of Fort Ninety Six, and Scots Irish in the Carolinas. Discuss how the authors acquired the information to write the books.


Write an autobiography so that your descendants will know about you and what you did when you were young. Be sure to include all that you have learned about your ancestry. Also write about your family now. Who is your favorite relative and why? How many people are in your family? Are you the oldest, youngest, middle, or only child? Where were you born? Where do you live now? Have you always lived there? What are your hobbies? Who are your best friends? What is important in friendship? Describe any family pets that you have had. Tell about your education. What are your favorite and least favorite subjects? Why? What is your proudest accomplishment? What was your most embarrassing moment? What do you think the future holds for you? Describe your personal code of ethics. If possible, include photographs for some items, and label them.



1. North Carolina Vital Records, Vital Records Section, PO Box 29537, Raleigh, NC 27626 ($10.00 fee for copies)
2. Office of Vital Records and Public Health Statistics, Department of Health and Environmental Control, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201 ($8.00 fee for copies)
3. North Carolina State Archives, 109 E. Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27601-2807
4. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 8301 Parklane Road, Columbia, SC 29223 5. Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8 th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20408


Bunnell, Paul J. The New Loyalist Index. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1989.

Chorzempa, Rosemary A. My Family Tree Workbook. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1982.

Dollarhide, William. Genealogy Starter Kit 2 nd Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc., 1998.

Kennedy, Billy. Scots Irish in the Carolinas. Greenville, South Carolina: Emerald House Group, Inc., 1998.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Loyalists at Kings Mountain. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1998.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Loyalists in the Siege of Fort Ninety Six. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1999.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Patriots at the Cowpens, Revised Edition. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1991.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The Patriots at Kings Mountain. Blacksburg, South Carolina: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1990.

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, Co., Inc., 1983.

Neagles, James C. and Lila L. Neagles. Locating Your Revolutionary War Ancestor. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc., 1983.

INTERNET This is a site for vital records. There may be a fee for some records. The title is The Cemeteries of the Area that was Old Tryon County, NC and Other Stuff. There is plenty of “other stuff.” This is the site for the SC Dept. of Archives and History. This is the site for the National Archives. This is the site for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints genealogy and ancestor search. It includes a link on how to search for one’s ancestor through their database.


The students will employ various methods to research his/her family tree.
The student will illustrate his/her family tree. The student will review various books to examine how authors have gained information. The student will write his/her autobiography.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts


North Carolina:

Social Studies: Grade 3, Goals 2.2, 2.3, 6.1, 7.3; Grade 4, Goals 11.1, 11.3, 12.1-12.2; Grade 8, Goals 3.2, 3.4
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 3.06, 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 3.06, 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 3.06, 5.01- 5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 6.01- 6.02; Grade 8, Goals 6.01-6.02

South Carolina:

Social Studies - 3.1, 3.2; 4.1, 5.1, 5.14; 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.6
Language Arts - Grade 3, I-A, B, C, D; II-C; IV-A, B, D, E, H; V-A, B, C; Grade 4-I-A, G; II-B; IV-B, C, D, E, G, H; V-A, B; Grade 5-I-A, F; II-A, B; IV-A, B, C, D, F, G, I; V-A; VI-B, C, D; Grade 6 - I-A, B, F, J; II-B; IV-A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I; V-A; Grade 7 - I-A, B, D, F, G, H. J, K, L, N; II-A, B; IV-A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I J, L; V-A, B, C; Grade 8 - I-A, C, E, F, H, I, L, N; II-A; IV-A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J; V-A, B, C; Vi - A, B, C, D

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Cowpens National Battlefield
338 New Pleasant Road

Gaffney, SC 29341


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