Unit 6 The Battle of Cowpens

Unit 6 activities follow the menu headings for the other units.
Cowpens National Battlefield Curriculum Guide
Grades 3 - 8 South Carolina and North Carolina
Militiamen firing muskets and rifles.

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

photo of 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.
1828 Robert Scruggs cabin
Unit 3 - Backcountry Lifestyles
Life was hard, and children were expected to help with daily chores.
militia at shoulder 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 William 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.
Climax of the Battle of Cowpens
"It is impossible to foresee all the consequences that this unexpected and  extraordinary event may produce.” - Report of Lord Cornwallis to Sir Henry
        Clinton, Jan. 18, 1781


When General Greene took command of the Continental Army in the South, he was faced with the responsibility of feeding that army. Since the area around Charlotte had been depleted, he was forced to divide the army. He sent about half of his army, under the command of General Daniel Morgan, to the backcountry of South Carolina in order to provide food for the men and forage for the horses.

Cornwallis feared that he would be entrapped between Greene’s command and Morgan’s command so he divided his army. He gave command to one of portion to Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton who was to pursue Morgan. Tarleton pushed his troops and was rapidly gaining ground on Morgan. General Morgan decided to stand and fight at Cow Pens.

Morgan called for militia to join him at the Cow Pens which was well known to the settlers of that day. Almost 500 men from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia responded and were placed under the command of Andrew Pickens. Added to the militia from Virginia and mounted infantry from South Carolina and Georgia, the number of militia mustered about 1,000. The Continental Army fielded an infantry unit from Maryland and the Virginia cavalry under the Command of Lt. Col. William Washington, providing another 375, so the total number Morgan had to command was at least 1,500 and more than half of them were militia. He was facing a British force of about 1,200 but those troops were highly trained regular soldiers and not a Tory militiaman among them. Morgan’s task was to make his highly vulnerable men an integral part of the operation.

Morgan moved from campfire to campfire telling the men what he expected of them in the battle. Morgan himself was a sharpshooter and he positioned sharpshooters with their long rifles ahead of the lines, asking them to aim for the epaulets; in other words, shoot the officers and sergeants.

The battle began early in the morning with a British advance. Andrew Pickens’ sharpshooters followed their orders and British officers fell. As the battle progressed Morgan moved his troops effectively and within an hour the battle was over. Tarleton fled the scene leaving more than 100 dead (39 of them officers), 229 wounded and 600 prisoners. Morgan lost 24 men killed and 120 wounded. It was the greatest defeat the British army had encountered in the south and, with the victory at Kings Mountain, dealt a bloody blow to Cornwallis’ Southern Campaign. Every British casualty was critical since Cornwallis could not get replacements for his dead and wounded.

Morgan quickly moved north with his prisoners and Cornwallis followed, hoping to recapture his men whom he needed to re-arm and return to his ranks. “It is impossible to foresee all the consequences that this unexpected and extraordinary event may produce,” said Lord Cornwallis of the battle in a report to Sir Henry Clinton. Morgan eluded him but General Nathanael Greene and his Continental Army met Cornwallis at Guilford Court House. Greene was forced to retreat but Cornwallis lost another fourth of his troops in that battle. He moved to the coast at Wilmington. Later, he moved to Yorktown where he was captured. In England, the parliament voted to end the war since the Southern Campaign had failed.

Fighting continued in the south after the Battle of Cowpens. After Greene retreated from Guilford Court House, he moved south and engaged the British under Lord Rawdon at Hobkirk’s Hill just outside Camden. After a brief encounter, Greene left the field to Rawdon but had inflicted so many casualties that Rawdon had to evacuate Camden. Again, Greene faced the British at Eutaw Springs and, leaving the field to the British, had inflicted so many casualties that the British were forced back into Charleston.

Battles raged across the Carolinas between British supporters and Patriots until the British were finally evacuated. Wilmington, North Carolina, was evacuated on November 18, 1781. Savannah, Georgia, was evacuated on July 11, 1782, and Charleston, on December 14, 1782.

Note: The numbers and composition of Morgan’s troops involved in the Battle of Cowpens have been updated by more recent research. See: Laurence E. Babits. A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

Daniel Morgan
GOAL: To have students contrast and compare the leadership styles of Daniel
Morgan and Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens in context of the
Revolutionary War.

Daniel Morgan by Charles Willson Peale, courtesy of Independence National Historical Park.

Leaders at the Battle of Cowpens


Daniel Morgan, the Patriot General at the Battle of Cowpens, and Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, the British leader, came from different backgrounds and chose to lead in their own way.

Daniel Morgan grew up on the Virginia frontier and lived his life as a frontiersman. As a young man, he was a wagon-driver in the French and Indian War. Courageous and mature, he fought against the British at Quebec and at Saratoga, New York. The attempt to take Quebec failed, but the Battle of Saratoga made him a hero.

Although he was promoted to brigadier general in the Continental Army, he preferred the homespun clothes of the militia, rather than an officer’s uniform. He commanded respect from his soldiers and understood how they fought and how to motivate them.

At the Battle of Cowpens, he showed skill in tactics when he arrayed his soldiers in three lines, giving the militia an honorable way to retreat against a British bayonet charge. (Militia could not fit bayonets on their Pennsylvania long-rifles.) Morgan’s tactics are studied today at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Tactics are just one way he led; he moved among his troops the night before the battle, speaking with them and motivating them. He talked of his own conflict with the British and of Tarleton’s brutality at the Battle of the Waxhaws. He had questioned those familiar with Tarleton’s tactics and expected a frontal assault.

Banastre Tarleton, on the other hand, was raised in relative affluence in Liverpool, England, where his father was mayor. He attended Oxford University where he was known for his athletic ability. He wasted his inheritance, however; with what money he had left, he purchased a commission in the British army. Proud of his bearing, he asked to be sent to America.

In the American colonies, he, like Morgan, was known for his courage and daring and rose in rank to Lieutenant Colonel. Tarleton, however, generally commanded less respect from his soldiers than Morgan did. At the Waxhaws, a Scots-Irish settlement in South Carolina in present-day Lancaster County, he gained a reputation as a butcher when he was said to have killed Continental soldiers as they were trying to surrender. From then on, Patriot forces talked of revenge against Tarleton.

When he learned Morgan was operating in the backcountry, he began a rapid pursuit. He pushed his army, allowing them little time for food and rest. On the morning of January 17, 1781, he marched them from two in the morning to catch up with Morgan.

At daybreak, Tarleton rushed his troops into battle without rest and without waiting for possible reinforcements. He moved so fast, he established little communication with those officers under him. His army even out-raced their own cannon (two three-pounders.) He was courageous to the end, trying to rally his troops. When it appeared all was lost, he and some 50 of his soldiers escaped down the Green River Road, back to Cornwallis’ camp on the north side of the Broad River. General Cornwallis, angered by his recklessness and defeat, still kept him as part of the British army. Tarleton at the time was 26 years old.

Tarleton survived the war, surrendering at Yorktown with Cornwallis. He was paroled to England, where he later was promoted to general and became a member of Parliament. Many older British officers at the time thought him immature, wondering how Cornwallis could let “that boy” lose at Cowpens. Today, he is probably remembered more in the United States than in Great Britain.

Though he was only 45 years old, Morgan suffered from crippling rheumatism, enduring great pain during the battle. Afterwards, he reported to General Greene, and retired to his home in Winchester, Virginia.

1. Read selections to your class on Daniel Morgan and Banastre Tarleton from sources such as The Green Dragoon (Bass), Daniel Morgan – Revolutionary Rifleman (Higgenbotham), and A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (Tarleton). How did Tarleton explain his defeat at Cowpens?
2. Discuss each leader’s method of fighting. How did their backgrounds contribute to that method?

1. Walk the battlefield and have students look at interpretive signs to identify statements made by or about each commander. How does each statement relate to what you already know about the leadership style of each commander?
2. Have students observe the battle landscape, and discuss the tactics of each commander.

1. Have students organize their knowledge by completing a Venn Diagram.
Leader of an entire army at the Battle of Cowpens
Cousin of Daniel Boone
Marched his army from two in the morning to arrive at Cowpens just before daybreak
Arrived at the Cowpens first
Lived through the Revolutionary War
Paroled to England after the Battle of Yorktown
Grew up on the Virginia frontier
Described as “that boy” by some of his peers
Known as the “Old Wagoner”
Rode a horse during the battle
His uniform was green
Reported to his senior officer after the Battle of Cowpens Suffered from arthritis, retired to Winchester, Virginia, after the Battle of Cowpens
Only 26 years old at the time of the battle
Known as a frontiersman
Son of the mayor of Liverpool
2. Have students pretend to be newspaper reporters. Have some write about the Battle of Cowpens emphasizing the actions of Daniel Morgan. Have others write on Tarleton.

The student will explain the leadership styles of Daniel Morgan and Banastre Tarleton in the context of Revolutionary War battles, and, in particular, the Battle of Cowpens.
The student will analyze each leader’s background and their position in the military as contributing to their leadership styles.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts

Social Studies: Grade 3, Goals 4.1-4.2, 7.1; Grade 4, Goals 12.1-12.2; Grade 8, Goal 4.3 Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 3.06-4.02, 4.04, 4.06, 4.07, 4.08, 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 3.02, 3.06, 4.05-4.08, 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 3.06, 4.05-4.10, 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, 4.1.7, 8.2.5, 8.2.6 Language Arts - Grade 3 - I-A, B, C; II-A, B, C; III-A, B, C; Grade 4 - I-A, B, C; II-A, B; III-A, B, C; Grade 5 - I-A, B, C, F; II-A, B; III-A, E; Grade 6 - I-A, B, E; II-A, B; III-B, C, D, E, F; Grade 7 - I-B, C, D, G, I, J; II-A, C, D; III-A, B, C; Grade 8 - I-B, C, I; II-B; III-B, D

John Eager Howard by Charles Willson Peale
GOAL: To have students assess the importance of leadership at the Battle
of Cowpens.

John Eager Howard by Charles Willson Peale, courtesy of Independence National Historical Park.

Cowpens Heroes: Howard, Pickens, & Washington: A Study in Contrast


Three capable leaders served under General Daniel Morgan.

John Eager Howard served as commander of Morgan’s third line of defense, totaling more than 300 Continental soldiers. Born on June 4, 1752, to a wealthy Maryland planter family, the well-educated Howard became a Captain in the 2nd Maryland Brigade of the Flying Camp in July 1776. He quickly advanced in rank, eventually becoming a Lieutenant Colonel. He was calm in battle, often involved in the fiercest part of the fighting.

At the Battle of Cowpens, Howard showed coolness and courage under fire. As Fraser’s 71st Highlanders advanced toward his Continental Line, he ordered his line to wheel backward and to the right to face the enemy. In the noise and confusion, his order was misunderstood as a retreat, and the line began moving to the rear, but in an orderly manner. Seeing this, the British broke ranks, sensing victory was at hand. Following Morgan’s order, Howard had the Continentals face about and fire in unison. Taking advantage of the disorder of the British lines, he ordered a bayonet charge. William Washington’s cavalry and Pickens’ militia came around to envelop the enemy, and gain the victory.

After Cowpens, Howard fought in the South Carolina battles of Hobkirk’s Hill (April 25, 1781), Ninety Six (May 22-June 19, 1781), and Eutaw Springs (September 8, 1781). His wounds at Eutaw Springs were so severe that they ended his career and caused him to suffer the rest of his life. Howard’s contemporaries considered him one of the finest officers of the period. Congress honored John Eager Howard for his actions at Cowpens with a silver medal, which he received in 1790.

After the Revolution, Howard returned to Maryland, where, in 1777, he married Peggy Chew, daughter of Chief Justice Chew of Pennsylvania. He continued his public service as a delegate to the Congress in 1788, Governor of Maryland from 1788-1791, and as United States Senator from 1796-1803. He was an influential member of the Federalist Party and ran unsuccessfully as its Vice Presidential candidate in 1816.

Howard has been remembered in numerous ways by his native state. There is an equestrian statue of him in Baltimore near a monument to George Washington on land Howard donated to the city. In fact, today, much of the land occupied by the city of Baltimore, Maryland, once belonged to Howard. Marylanders honored him by creating Howard County, with Baltimore as the county seat. John Eager Howard, a great Revolutionary War veteran and politician, died at his home on October 12, 1827, and is buried at St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore.

William Washington by Charles Willson Peale

William Washington by Charles Willson Peale Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park

William Washington was born February 28, 1752, in Stafford County, Virginia, to a Tidewater planter family. He was second cousin, first removed, to George Washington, 20 years his elder. Like his more famous cousin, William was an athletic, skilled horseman. Other than this, little is known of his life before the Revolution, except that he gave up study for the ministry when the Revolution began. Courageous and bold, he distinguished himself in battle almost from the start in battles at Brooklyn, Trenton and Princeton.

Military leaders sent Washington to South Carolina in 1778 when the British first laid siege to Charleston. At the age of 26, he was already a war hero. In North and South Carolina, he fought in battles at Rantowles Bridge (Governor Rutledge’s plantation), Monck’s Corner, Lenud’s Ferry, Rugeley’s Mill, Hammond’s Store, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk’s Hill, and Eutaw Springs.

Washington showed not only courage but ingenuity at Rugeley’s Mill. On December 4, 1780, Loyalist Rowland Rugeley and his followers, pursued by Washington’s cavalry, stockaded themselves in Rugeley’s house and barn. Since Washington had no artillery to dislodge them, he ingeniously had his men cut a pine log to resemble a cannon which he placed facing the stockaded buildings. Washington demanded they surrender or face destruction from his cannon. Rugeley sent up a flag of truce and his whole force of 125 men surrendered.

At Cowpens, Washington and his cavalry charged the British cavalry to save retreating militiamen. In a dramatic conclusion to the battle, Washington, racing ahead of his men, engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with the retreating British commander, Banastre Tarleton, and some of his officers. Washington’s life was spared when his 14-year-old bugler fired his pistol to disable a British officer with raised sword. William Ranney’s painting, circa 1845, dramatizes this encounter. Congress awarded Washington a silver medal for his valor at Cowpens.

Washington’s most dramatic encounter with Tarleton was at the Battle of Cowpens, but, in all, he was to face him three times in battle. At Rutledge’s Plantation, Washington and his cavalry first met Tarleton in March 1779 and drove his dragoons from the field. After Cowpens, Washington, as part of Greene’s forces, heroically faced Tarleton’s dragoons again at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Colonel Washington’s actions at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina, in September, 1781, was his last of the Revolution. In an attempted charge, his horse fell, and Washington was bayoneted and taken prisoner. He was paroled to Charleston where he recovered from his wounds, and was forced to remain until the end of the war.

At Rantowle’s Ferry, Washington met and married Miss Jane Elliott, who had earlier presented him a battle flag. They settled near Charleston, where Washington was elected to the state legislature, but refused the nomination for governor because “he couldn’t make a speech.”

William Washington died on March 6, 1810, and was buried with his wife in the Elliott family cemetery near Rantowle’s Ferry, along the Stono River near Charleston. His wife is most remembered for presenting him what became known as the Eutaw Flag. In an earlier visit with the Elliott family, he told his hosts he had no flag for his cavalry. In response, Miss Elliott cut a crimson cloth from a curtain (some accounts say the back of a chair), bound it to a hickory pole, and presented it to Washington, saying, “Here is your flag, Colonel.” This flag became the battle flag at the Battles of Cowpens and Eutaw Springs. It is a reminder of the heroics of Colonial Washington.

Andrew Pickens

Andrew Pickens, courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library

Andrew Pickens was born in Pennsylvania on September 19, 1739. Like other Scots-Irish his family moved south, traveling the Great Wagon Road, in search of new land.

In the Long Canes settlement of present-day Abbeville County, young Andrew Pickens married and raised a family. There, too, he became a military leader against the Cherokee and Loyalists. He and his militia won a battle over 700-800 British Loyalists at the Battle of Kettle Creek, Georgia, in 1779.

The Patriot situation worsened in 1780, when the British took Charleston and swept inland, eliminating much of the Southern Continental Army in the process. Pickens and other leaders lost hope and surrendered to the British, taking an oath not to take up arms.

Pickens’ neutrality was to change, however, when Tory raiders destroyed much of his property and frightened his family. He gathered his militia once again and resumed guerilla activities against the British.

Pickens’ real test of courage came at the Battle of Cowpens. Daniel Morgan, pursued by Banastre Tarleton, decided to make a stand at an upcountry pasturing ground called the Cow Pens and put out the call for Pickens and his men to rendezvous there. Morgan placed great trust in Pickens, giving him command over sharpshooters and a larger body of militia in the first two lines. Pickens’ soldiers got off volleys as instructed, and retreated behind the Continental line, to enter the battle again to help envelop the enemy. For his valor at Cowpens, the Continental Congress presented him with a sword and the State of South Carolina promoted him to Brigadier General in the state militia.

Pickens was ever moving west. Retiring to newly acquired frontier land on the banks of the Seneca River, he served as a treaty-maker with the Cherokee. He later moved even further west in what is now Oconee County, South Carolina. Respected for his wisdom and known as the Wizard Owl by the Cherokee, he sympathized with Native-American causes in his later years. Today, Pickens County, South Carolina, and its county seat, Pickens, are named after him.


1. Adapt the background information above and tell the story of one or more of the leaders of the battle to your students.
2. Have students do additional research on each leader. 3. Have students identify the following place names/ battle sites on a map and match the leader (s) most associated with each: Tidewater Virginia; Baltimore/Howard County, Maryland; Eutaw Springs; the Long Canes; Rugeley’s Mill; Charleston, South Carolina; Kettle Creek, Georgia; Cowpens; Pickens County, South Carolina; Hobkirk’s Hill
4. Have students put the following time lines in chronological order. Discuss events indicating cause and effect.

John Eager Howard Governor of Maryland, fought in the Battle of Ninety Six, died in 1827, became a Captain in the 2 nd Maryland Brigade, married Peggy Chew, fought in the Battle of Cowpens, born in 1752, Vice Presidential candidate
William Washington fought at Rugeley’s Mill, captured at Eutaw Springs, fought at Hammond’s Store, born in1752, fought at the Battle of Cowpens, married Miss Jane Elliott, studying for the ministry when the Revolution began, died in 1810, sent to South Carolina to fight in the Southern Campaign, elected to the state legislature
Andrew Pickens at the Long Canes he became a militia leader, born in Pennsylvania, militia leader at Battle of Cowpens, won the Battle of Kettle Creek, pledged neutrality, sympathized with Native-American causes, the British took Charleston and swept inland, resumed guerilla activities against the British


1. Have students look in the Visitor Center/Visitor Center Museum for items on display related to each. Have them number and describe each item (replica of Pickens sword, carved wooden replicas of medals given to Howard and Washington; plaque on Howard; paintings of Howard, Pickens and Washington; other paintings, Continental uniform, militia clothing, etc.
2. Have students photograph or sketch these items.
3. Walk the battlefield. Have students identify the Continental line, the militia line, and initially hidden position of Colonel Washington.


1. Have students assess the role of each leader at the Battle of Cowpens. In what way did each show valor?
2. Read facts on each leader and have students match information with names.
3. Have students take the role of a newspaper correspondent from the home area of one of the leaders. Have them write a newspaper article in which they emphasize the role of their native son.
4. Write a biography of one or more leaders, incorporating notes taken at Cowpens Visitors Center and information discussed in class.


The student will distinguish among the lives and roles of John Eager Howard, Andrew Pickens and William Washington in the American Revolution. The student will assess these roles in context of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. The student will construct a time line of events in the lives of each.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts


North Carolina:
Social Studies: Grade 3, Goal 7.1; Grade 4, Goals 12.1, 12.2; Grade 8, Goals 4.3, 4.5
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 3.06, 5.01- 5.08; Grade 4, Goals 3.06, 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, 4.1.7, 8.2.6
Language Arts - Grade 3 - I-A, B, C; II-C; IV-A, B, D, E; V-A, B; Grade 4 - I-A, B; II-A, B; IV-A, B, C, D, E, H; V-A, B; Grade 5- I-A, B, F; II-A, B; IV-A, B, C, D, G; V-A; Grade 6- I-A, B, F, J: II-A, B; IV-A, B, C, D, G; V-A; Grade 7 - I-B, C, D, G; II-C; IV-A, B, G; V-A, B



Artillery - Heavy, mounted arms such as cannon.

Bayonet – A daggerlike steel weapon attached to the end of a musket and used in hand-to-hand combat.

Bayoneted – To be stuck with a bayonet.

Brigade – A large body of troops, often consisting of two or more regiments.

Brigadier General – A rank between Colonel and Major General.


Continental soldiers – Regular, trained soldiers of the American Continental Army, as distinguished from local or state militia in each colony.

Cowpens – On January 17, 1781, Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton attacked forces under General Daniel Morgan at the Cow Pens (a frontier pasturing ground) and was soundly defeated. The battle was a turning point in the war in the South. Cowpens National Battlefield, located in Cherokee County, South Carolina, near the town of Chesnee, preserves and protects the site of the battle.

Dragoons – Elite, highly trained soldiers on foot or horseback.

Envelop – To surround completely.

Eutaw Springs — The last clash between regular British and American soldiers in the South (September 8, 1781) in which both General Greene and the British suffered heavy losses. The British army withdrew to Charleston and Savannah, but conflict between Loyalists and Whigs continued until 1782. The present-day village of Eutaw Springs is located in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, but the battlefield site itself is covered by Lake Marion.

Flying Camp – A quick moving army.

Fraser’s 71st Highlanders — Two battalions of Scottish troops raised by England and sent to America in 1775. Seventy-first Highlanders fought at Charleston, Camden and Cowpens, among other battles. At Cowpens, Tarleton initially kept his Highlanders in Reserve, but, as the advance faltered, he ordered them into action against the American right. The Highlanders bore the brunt of the last dramatic events of the battle.


Great Wagon Road – A wagon road stretching from Philadelphia, south to the Carolinas, used by countless pioneer families traveling south from the early 1700s to the Civil War.

Guerrilla – Tactics of warfare consisting of surprise raids and retreats, attacking supply lines and other techniques.

Guilford Courthouse – On March 15, 1781, a British army under Cornwallis attacked General Nathanael Greene’s Patriot forces at Guilford Courthouse (now Greensboro), North Carolina. Although Greene’s forces were forced to retire from the field, the British were badly battered with many men killed or wounded. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro, North Carolina, preserves the site of the battle.

Hammond’s Store – Victory of William Washington over Loyalists on December 30, 1780, The Hammond Store community was in Laurens County, South Carolina. Bold movements such as this made Cornwallis send Tarleton into backcountry South Carolina to protect the fort at Ninety Six. Hammond’s Store, a lost site, was located most likely near the present-day town of Clinton in Laurens County, South Carolina.

Hobkirk’s Hill – An indecisive battle between forces of Nathanael Greene and Lord Rawdon fought near Camden on April 25, 1781. The battle marked the beginning of British withdrawal from the interior of South Carolina.

Kettle Creek, Georgia – Victory of Andrew Pickens over Loyalists under Colonel Boyd at Kettle Creek in North Georgia just south of the Long Canes (February 14, 1779).


Lenud’s Ferry - Battle on May 6, 1780, in which Banastre Tarleton’s forces defeated forces of Colonel William Washington. Located at the time at the Santee River south of Georgetown, South Carolina.

Lieutenant Colonel – An officer ranking below a colonel and above a major.

Long Canes – The Long Canes were named for the native canes that grew and formed dense canebrakes in the bottomlands. These canes were sustained through Native-American use of fire as a cultural tool. The Scots-Irish settlement there inherited a region full of deer and other game, including the Buffalo. Because of its proximity to the trading path to the Indian village of Keowee, the Long Canes, more than any other settlement, was an intercultural settlement. The Long Cane settlement was in present-day Abbeville County, South Carolina.

Loyalist – Those of the colonial population remaining loyal to the Crown. Also referred to as Tories.

Militia – Part-time soldiers, subject to colonial (state) authority, they sometimes fought with the Continental or standing army in battles such as Camden, Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse.

Monck’s Corner – A British victory on April 14, 1780, over an American force under General Isaac Huger guarding a communications route to Charleston. Present-day Monck’s Corner is located in Berkeley County, South Carolina.


Ninety Six – British outpost in the South Carolina upcountry. Greene’s army besieged Star Fort there in May and June, 1781. The town of Ninety Six was so-named because traders on the Cherokee Path believed it was 96 miles from the Cherokee village of Keowee in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ninety Six National Historic Site, located about two miles south of the present-day town of Ninety Six in Greenwood County, preserves the site.

Oconee County – The southwestern-most county in South Carolina. Andrew Pickens’ final home was located in frontier Oconee County at a place known by the Cherokee as Tamassee.

Paroled – The promise of a soldier that he will not again take up arms.

Ranks — A line of soldiers standing abreast in formation.

Rantowles Bridge – Battle on March 23, 1779, in coastal South Carolina in which Colonel Washington met Banastre Tarleton for the first time and drove his cavalry off the field of battle. The present-day Rantoles community is located in Charleston County, South Carolina, near the Stono River.

Rantowles Ferry – A Revolutionary-era ferry across the Stono River southwest of Charleston, South Carolina.

Rugeley’s Mill – A William Washington victory over Loyalist Rowland Rugeley at Rugeley’s Mill near Camden (December 4, 1780). Rugeley’s Mill (part of the Clermont estate) was located in present-day Kershaw County about 10 miles north of Camden, South Carolina.


Scots-Irish – Scottish Calvinists (Presbyterian) of Lowland (southern) Scotland who removed to Ireland and later migrated to America in the early eighteenth century. In many instances, they were seen as frontier people and served as a buffer between the colonies and Indians. Many were Whigs and played an important role in the Revolutionary War.

Seneca River – A river originating in the southwestern mountains of South Carolina. Hopewell, one of the homes of the Andrew Pickens, overlooked the Seneca.

Stockaded – Fortified

Stono River – Low-country river near Charleston, South Carolina.

Tidewater – Coastal area along the Chesapeake Bay, especially in Virginia.

Tory – Another name for a Loyalist.

a drawing of a militiaman running
GOAL: To have students work with primary sources related to the Battle of Cowpens.

Drawing by Gregg Glymph for NPS

Voices from Cowpens


Thomas Young, from the Laurens District (SC), was one of the Patriots at Cowpens on the morning of January 17, 1781. According to records, that day was also his 17 th birthday. He told in his own words what he experienced that day. Young received sword wounds in the right arm, both shoulders, and the head.

The morning of the 17 th (January 1781)…was bitterly cold. We were formed in order of battle, and the men were slapping their hands together to keep warm—an exertion not long necessary…

About sunrise, the British line advanced at a sort of trot with a loud halloo. It was the most beautiful line I ever saw. When they shouted, I heard Morgan say, ‘They gave us the British halloo, boys. Give them the Indian halloo,…!’ and he galloped along the lines, cheering the men and telling them not to fire until we could see the whites of their eyes. Every officer was crying, ‘Don’t fire!’ for it was a hard matter to keep us from it.

I should have said the British line advanced under cover of their artillery, for it opened so fiercely upon the center that Colonel (William) Washington moved his cavalry from the center towards the right wing.

The militia fired first. It was for a long time a, pop-pop- pop, and then a whole volley; but when the regulars fired, it seemed like one sheet of flame from right to left. Oh! It was beautiful!


1. Define for the students what a primary source is. Have students brainstorm and list examples of primary sources and why they are important to the study of history.
2. After students have read the quote of Thomas Young above, have them describe in their own words, in a paragraph, what Thomas Young saw and experienced on the morning of January 17, 1781.
3. Have students draw a picture or illustration based on the quote of Thomas Young.
4. Have students discuss what Thomas Young was feeling on the morning of January 17, 1781, at Cowpens. Have the students discuss how they would have felt.


Have students stand on the battlefield in the area where Thomas Young and the other members of the militia would have been positioned. Have students write a description of the landscape, the weather conditions, and the sounds they hear at that moment. These can be shared after the visit.


1. Have students write an imaginary newspaper report based on the account of Thomas Young. Include Who? What? When? Where?
2. Have the students discuss what could be learned about the Battle of Cowpens if someone only read Thomas Young’s account.


Have students identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative.
Have students formulate historical questions from a variety of sources.
Have students obtain historical data from a variety of sources.
Have students identify ways in which sources of historical data can be preserved.
Have students construct sound historical interpretations with evidence.

STRANDS: Social Studies, Language Arts

North Carolina:
Social Studies: Grade 8, Goals 4.2, 4.5
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 2.03, 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 2.03, 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 2.03, 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 6.01-6.02

South Carolina:
Social Studies: 3.2.7, 4.1.7, 8.2.6
Language Arts - Grade 3 - I-A, C, G; II-A, B, C; IV-A, B, D, E; Grade 4 - IA, B, C, D, G: II-B: IV-A, B, C, H; Grade 5 - I-A, B, C, F: II-A, B; IV-A, B, I; Grade 6 - I-A, B, E, F, J: IV-A, B, C, D, G, K; Grade 7 - I-B, D, H. J; II-A, C, D: IV-A, B, C; Grade 8 - I-B, C, F, I N; II-B, C; IV-A, B, E, F

drawing of 18th century doctor performing surgery
GOAL: The goal of this lesson is for students to become familiar with the healing and patient care required for returning soldiers to battle.

Courtesy of Kings Mountain National Military Park

Triage after the Battle


An unfortunate consequence of war is that many people are wounded or killed as a result of enemy (and sometimes friendly) fire. Triage is an important function in treating the wounded. Life-threatening wounds need to be treated first while less serious wounds can wait. Despite this, there are times when a moral judgement must be made regarding whether or not to treat a soldier. For instance, if an officer and an enlisted man both are suffering equally, whom do you treat first?


1. Students will need to imagine what types of wounds are likely to occur as a result of the style of warfare used during the revolutionary war.
2. A discussion should center on their knowledge of first aid and what information is needed to determine the priority in returning soldiers to battle. Integral to this discussion is the value of life in general and the needs of the colonist’s army.
3. Students should discuss moral issues regarding who should live and who should die when it comes to soldiers on the battlefield.


1. Have students tagged representing how they are wounded (some may have multiple wounds).
2. Selected students are to perform triage and determine which injuries are to be treated first.


1. Discuss the difficulties in performing triage.
2. Discuss moral issues as a result of establishing the order in which the wounded were to be treated.


The students will be able to sort and treat wounded soldiers beginning with the most life-threatening injuries to the least serious wounds. Several students will be tagged to identify their wounds or injuries and the others will have to determine what wounds are treatable and what it might take to return the soldier to battle.

STRANDS: Science, Social Studies, Language Arts

North Carolina:
Social Studies: Grade 3, Goals 2.3, 6.1-6.2, 7.3; Grade 4, Goals 1.3, 2.3, 5.1- 5.3; Grade 8, Goals 1.3, 3.2 Science (Health): Grade 7, Goals 2.03-2.04
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goal 4.02; Grade 4, Goal 4.02

South Carolina:
Science: Grade 3, Life Science - Goals A-2B; Grade 4, Life Science - Goals A-IC, 2B; Grade 5, Ecosystems - Goals A-1, 2, 3; Grade 6, Muscular-Skeletal Systems - Goals A-1a, 2a; Grade 7, Life Science, Goals A-1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Language Arts: Grade 3 - II-A, B, C; III-A, B; Grade 4 - II-A, B; III-A, B, C, E; Grade 5 - II-A, B; III-A, B; Grade 6 - II-A, B; III-A, B, E; Grade 7 - II-A; III-A, C, D, E

caligraphy by Kate Fowler
GOAL: To be able to personalize and better understand certain aspects of the cultural, natural and social histories of the time and place of the Battle of Cowpens.

Caligraphy courtesy of Kate Fowler

Letters Home


Today, with the advent of computers and e-mail, handwritten personal letters are becoming increasingly rare, and penmanship is a minor part of the curriculum. It is important to remember that in the 18 th century, all documents (letters, wills, deeds, church records and diaries) were handwritten. Therefore, penmanship was an important part of the curriculum. It is equally important to remember the differences in the resources that are available to students of today compared to those of 1781.

Before writing a letter, 18th century students made their own pens from goose feathers. They made their ink from apple or oak galls (swellings on the tree made from the gall fly), mixing it with copper sulfate (a potentially harmful chemical), tree sap, letting it sit for several weeks, and finally diluting the smelly mess with water and combining it with iron salt.

It is significant to note when reading old documents, that not only were the writing implements different than they are today, the style of writing has changed greatly. Punctuation and spelling were different in the 18 th century than they are today. Sometimes pauses were indicated by dots. The origin of the colon came from a dot separating words. In addition to punctuation, the formation of letters has changed since the 18 th century, as well. For instance, I and J, or i and j were used interchangeably through the 19 th century. Therefore, it may take several different readings before one can fully grasp the meaning of the text. However, with practice, it can be done, and one can even attempt to write as people used to do many years ago.

MATERIALS: Pencil, paper


1. Students pretend that they are soldiers under the command of General Morgan (or Lt. Col. Tarleton) at the Battle of Cowpens. Have them write a letter to their parents about what they imagine their experience will be. 2. After research and discussion of the Battle and study of life at that time, each student carefully composes and writes two letters to a family member or trusted friend. One letter should be written the night before the Battle and the other letter should be written after the battle has taken place. The letters should each be dated and include a description of the weather, the terrain, what the student may have eaten that day and a description of activities he/she were involved in and of fellow comrades. A story or even a joke that may have been heard could be included. Have the student include personal feelings about the war and his/her role in it and what might lie in the future.
3. Read selections from The Journal of James Collins and Private Yankee Doodle. Have words changed spellings or meanings since these accounts were written?

ON-SITE ACTIVITIES: Have students view the laser-disk program, "Cowpens: A Battle Remembered" and take notes for a written report.


1. Display letters with illustrations by students.
2. Compare and contrast writing a letter with a quill pen and ink with sending e-mail.
*For the most ambitious, quill pens could be made by the students from turkey feathers and used with fountain pen or India ink. Unlined parchment-like paper could be used which could be artificially aged with coffee or tea before use. (See Revolutionary-Era Journals and Colonial Correspondence Materials, Unit 3.)


The student will research and restate historical elements in a creative, relevant manner conducive to a more effective understanding of that history. STRANDS: Language Arts, Social Studies

North Carolina:
Language Arts: Grade 3, Goals 2.01, 2.02, 2.06, 4.04-4.10, 5.01-5.08; Grade 4, Goals 4.05-4.10, 5.01-5.09; Grade 5, Goals 4.05- 4.10, 5.01-5.08; Grade 6, Goals 6.01-6.02; Grade 7, Goals 2.01-2.02, 6.01-6.02; Grade 8, Goals 6.01-6.02,
Social Studies: Grade 3, Goals 2.1-2.2, 3.1-3.2, 6.2; Grade 4, Goals 6.1-6.3, 11.1-11.3; Grade 8, Goals 1.4, 11.2

South Carolina:
Social Studies: 3.1.1, -3.1.2, 3.2.7; Grade 4, Goals 4.1.5- 4.1.7; 8.1.2, 8.2.5-8.2.6
Language Arts: Grade 3 - IV-A, B, C, D, E, F, G; V-A, B, C; Grade 4 - IV-A, B, D, E, H; IV-A, B; Grade 5 - IV-A, B, C, D, F, H, I; V-A; Grade 6 - IV-E, G, H, J, K; Grade 7 - IV-D, E, F, H; Grade 8 - IV-C, D, E, G, L

map of Cowpens National Battlefield
GOAL: To gain skills in math and learn of the Battle of Cowpens by completing mathematical exercises.

The Battle of Cowpens: The Spatial Landscape


Actions and troop movements across the Cowpens landscape have been studied, foremost, in the disciplines of history and geography. Yet, the Battle and the events before and after it lend themselves to spatial and numerical studies as well. Movement, velocity, trajectory, pace, troop numbers and other terms associated with the battle offer an excellent opportunity for the study of math. Opportunities for the study of math relate to the following:

1. Troop movement – speed, distance covered by army units
2. Numbers of troops 3. Battle tactics and long-term strategy
4. Battle statistics


Troop Movement —

General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army of the South sent Daniel Morgan and his Flying Army across the Catawba River, and, beyond, across the Broad to hamper British operations in the back-country. General Cornwallis, in turn, divided his army, and sent Banastre Tarleton and troops in pursuit. Captain Robert Kirkwood served throughout the war with the Delaware Continentals. His journal shows the movement of his regiment before and after the Battle of Cowpens. Have students read the following selection from his journal and answer relevant questions:

Decmbr. 6 th : This Day Maj. Genl. Greene took command of the Southern Army in room of Maj. Genl. Gates.

Decmbr. 17 th. March’d to Charotte (13 miles)

Decmbr. 21 st. March’d to Biggon Ferry on Catawba River. (13 miles)

Decmbr. 22 nd. Crossed the Ferry and March’d. (5 miles)

Decmbr. 23 rd. March’d (16 miles)

Decmbr. 24 th. March’d (13 miles)

Decmbr. 25 th. March’d to Pacolet. (8 miles)

Jan. 11 th. March’d. (10 miles)

Jan. 16 th. March’d to the Cowpens (12 miles)

Jan. 17 th. Defeated Tarleton

Jan. 18 th. March’d for the Catawba River and arrived the 23 rd . (100 miles)

Feb. 1 st. March’d to Col. Locke. (30 miles)

Feb. 2 nd. Marched and crossed the Yadkin River. (12 miles)

Feb. 4 th. March’d the night. (13 miles)


1. How many miles did Morgan’s army march from December 17 th , 1780, to its arrival at the Cowpens, January 16, 1781?
2. How many miles did Morgan’s army march from Tarleton’s defeat to its crossing of the Yadkin River?
3. How many times did Morgan’s army cross the Catawba River?
4. How many miles total did Morgan’s army march from December 17 through February 4?

Pace –

With news of Tarleton’s proximity, Morgan and his army retreated from their camp on January 16 and struck out toward Thicketty Creek. Tarleton traveled fast, and on the 17 th , awakened his men at two in the morning for a night march to catch Morgan. Morgan, encamped at the Cowpens, got news of Tarleton’s march. He had not expected an attack at dawn. With the flooded Broad River six miles to his rear, he was forced to fight.

Morgan went among his troops that night, motivating them to fight. At dawn, he was ready, his troops arranged in three lines to meet the oncoming British. Even though they were tired, the British made a quick attack, a frontal assault.

The sharpshooters, out front, faced the British first. They retreated to their militia line, its troops instructed to fire two volleys. The militia, in turn, were to retreat and reform behind the Continentals. The retreat was a race against time. The militia quickened their pace faced with a charge from British infantry and slashing from Tarleton’s feared dragoons. Mathematical study of this event involves pace, time and distance. Troops often traveled at a certain pace, gaining so many feet per second. It is estimated that the militia retreated in quick step, reloading as they were retreating. Have students complete the following chart to examine the relationship between speed of movement and distance gained:

Common Step Quick Step Double-Quick







1 sec.






2 sec.







3 sec.







4 sec.







5 sec.







General Daniel Morgan positioned his army in three lines. He placed the skirmishers, the best of the militia, at the top of a slight slope, with a good view of the enemy. They were to drive back Tarleton’s cavalry and withdraw to Picken’s line of militia 100 yards to their rear. The soldiers of the militia were to get off two shots and retreat behind the Continental Line 150 yards to their rear.

1. Locate the point on the battlefield where the British formed their lines.
2. Locate the point on the battlefield where the Patriot militia formed their lines.
3. From the militia line location, estimate the skirmisher line location 100 yards to its front.
4. From the militia line location, estimate the Continental line 150 yards to its rear.
5. Use the tape measure to verify your estimates.


Battle Statistics –

1. At the Battle of Cowpens, 110 British soldiers were killed out of a total of 1,100. What percentage of Tarleton’s army was killed in battle? Illustrate this amount on a pie graph.
2. Twenty-four Patriot soldiers were killed out of a total of 1,500. What percentage of Morgan’s army was killed in battle? Illustrate this amount in a pie graph.
3. Five hundred British soldiers were captured. What percentage of Tarleton’s army was captured? Illustrate this amount in a pie graph.


The student will use mathematical skills of addition, conversion, sequence, etc., to determine spatial and numerical data related to the Battle of Cowpens.
The student will analyze spatial and numerical data to gain historical insight into the Battle of Cowpens.

STRANDS: Math, Social Studies

North Carolina:

Math: Grade 3, Goals 1.01-1.05, 1.09-1.15; Grade 4, Goals 1.01-1.05, 1.07-1.12, 1.14-1.17, 3.01-3.03; Grade 5, Goals 1.01-1.05, 1.08, 1.15, 1.17-1.18
Social Studies: Grade 4, Goals 6.1-6.3; Grade 8, Goal 1.4

South Carolina:

Social Studies: 3.9.2, 3.10.1, 4.6.3, 4.6.5, 8.2.6, 8.8.1, 8.8.2
Math: Grade 3 - II-D; Grade 4 - V-C, D, F: VI-B; Grade 5 - I-D, E; VI-C, D

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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