Ed Bearss Tour Stop 5

Cowpens National Battlefield

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Bearss: Long before the park service was established, about 25 to 30 years before the centennial of the Revolution, as the nation is on fast track to secession and the Civil War, patriotic groups began to remember the old soldiers. The last soldier of the Revolution died in 1859. The government then makes a big mistake. They make widows eligible. Since young women had a habit of marrying old veterans for their pensions, the government made a big mistake. The last widow of the Revolution doesn’t die until we reach the 20th century. So William Washington becomes a big name in South Carolina, an important player, and they are beginning to form militia regiments. And by 1855, you have a railroad running from Charleston up to Spartanburg [Laurens]. So the entire regiment, 500 men or so, get a couple of stone masons and ride the train from Charleston up to Spartanburg [Laurens]. and then march out here. They did not rent buggies. And they march out here and the stone masons assemble this monument. While this is not the oldest Revolutionary monument, it is one of the oldest, and drew the country’s attention to the soldiers of the Revolution. During the centennial of the Revolution, you get a number of Revolutionary War monuments. Because these Revolutionary War battlefields are small,l and the main thing is getting a monument to identify where they happened. So this becomes one of the earliest monuments of the Revolution, and when I first saw it, it stood near the back of a farm lot. The house, I believe [pointing NE from the monument], is about over there where those two ladies are. And you had to ask his permission to come out and stand by the monument, because the old Mill Gap Road [pointing NW] followed the same alignment as the Green [River] Road. This is an important place in the battle, an important place to South Carolina and particularly to Charleston.

At the time of the Sesquicentennial, you get your second monument here, the one that is in [front] of the visitor center, which at time stood in a more prominent location and they had one and one-half acre. And with the approach of the 200th (Bicentennial), they realize how important this battle is, and they expand the one and a half acre to approximately a 750-acre park, whose role is to protect the site of the battle and restore and manipulate the landscape and the tree cover so it looked like it did at the time of the battle. And I was involved in 1967 in the planning for it, so I always get a thrill to come back here to Cowpens. And I particularly am an enthusiastic to be here today, because it’s you teachers of Cherokee County and nearby that the young people that you have in your classes will be familiar with the Battle of Cowpens and this important event on the road to our nation. So I commend you for coming to the program, commend the organization that sponsors it, and commend the superintendent and his staff.

Now we will be able to go up, after I take any questions that you might have, and talk about the turn of the battle, where it is going to be decided who is going to win and who is going to lose.

Question: The approximate cost of this original monument, did they set it up?

Bearss: The original one would probably be probably a couple hundred bucks. Because you could ride the train up here for a very low price any you both marched out from Spartanburg [Laurens] and marched back and whatever you had to pay the stone masons for building it. I would judge considerably less than the 1932 monument. Monuments always escalate in price.

Question: What is the significance of the actual design?

Bearss: Alright, you have the column and you have the cannonball atop of it, and according to legend, the real cannonball (and our good superintendent is going to try some detective work!) is in the historical society down in Spartanburg.


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