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Ed Bearss Tour Stop 4

Cowpens National Battlefield

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Bearss: We’ve now come about 100 yards from the sharpshooter line. We are now on the militia line held by probably about 300 men. Sharpshooter line, about 100, the militia line, around 300. Now, they are going to be in the same formation as the British regulars, the same formation as the Continental line. They will be in double rank, elbow seemingly to touch elbow, in two ranks. The second rank being in a position so that when he aims his rifle, it will be aiming [touching his right ear] just about where the lock is opposite the man in front of his right ear. They are taught to fire by volley. In theory, they can probably get off, if they’re trained, three volleys in one minute. They are also going to be joined by some of the riflemen. We’re here at their position.

Also, I think that if I were going to criticize the manipulation of the woods, my feeling is that the woods over here [pointing southward] are too thick. These woods over here [pointing northward] until you get to the thick woods over there that screen the highway are about the way they are because it would be rather difficult to form men in line of battle. They, however, are lacking one thing: the Continentals. They do not have bayonets. If they have any small arms, it will be a tomahawk tucked into their belt. Again, these are the men that Morgan was very stressful to: that he wants two volleys. Some people may recall it: three volleys. And then they can withdraw from the field and he wants them to withdraw to the north, pass around the flank and form in support of the Continental line and the Virginia militia. I imagine if I was Pickens, I’d be very worried since Pickens has renounced his Oath of Allegiance to the crown. Which means that if he is captured, and any men like him, will be subject to the death penalty. Of course, he probably has - doesn’t worry that much since he is an old-style Presbyterian like Thomas Jonathan Jackson and believes in predestination, the end which the Lord has already decided, whether he is going to live or die. I would say that this may be the real secret of Morgan winning the battle. He needed two or three volleys out of his militia and having them move off in relatively good order around the left flank of the Virginia Continentals and taking another position. But regardless, Morgan shows leadership, and he shows that he’s, a much smarter than General Gates. General Gates has been an officer in the British establishment, and he violates every rule that Morgan is going to enforce in this battle. There also has considerable dislike between Gates and Morgan dating back to the Battle of Saratoga in which in Morgan’s mind, did not receive the recognition he believed that he was entitled to. And Gates will become the hero of Saratoga, and a man who has been striving to replace George Washington as commander-in-chief.

It is very important what is happening in this backcountry. To the British, prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, the British plan is working. Patriot leaders taking the Oath of Allegiance, they’re winning the hearts and the minds of the people in the backcountry, but it’s all going to change after Kings Mountain and the chance of the British winning the hearts and the minds of the backcountry people after the Battle of Cowpens will be slim and none. As the old cliché is “Slim has left town.” So, how bad? Kings Mountain! Cowpens! Guilford Courthouse! And you are on a high-speed route of the Colonials to Yorktown. This is a major step on your road to Yorktown. It does not get as much attention as it should. Up until 1966-67, the park was ½ acre in extent, in a triangle along the Mill Springs [Mills Gap] Road. So we will go up here and make a brief stop at the first monument. And then we’ll go and join where the battlefield turned up here at the second hillock. I want to talk a little bit about the monument that’s over here about 100 yards. This will be the first monument here, and there is some rather interesting genealogy to it.

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