Ed Bears Tour Stop 1

Cowpens National Battlefield

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Stop 1- Visitor Center Bearss: We’re standing on a very historic piece of ground right now. This is where the battle of Cowpens took place early in the morning on the seventeenth day of January 1781. The British had come up with a new strategy during the winter of 1779 and 80: that’s to take the war to the South. To win the hearts and minds of the people of the backcountry of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina. And the British cabinet had approved and the British will move south. They’d attempted to bring the war to South Carolina back in 1775 and it had failed when they attacked Charleston on the twentieth-eight day of June of 1776. And the proud South Carolinians had shown that South Carolina Palmetto is superior to British Oak.

But they’re back and forth and the next year, you’re going to have few victories for the Patriot cause. Charleston will surrender on the 12th day of May 1780 - the worse defeat the patriots had taken up in the war up to this time. Following that day, as Col. Banastre Tarleton will pursue a number of continentals, who had tried to reach Charleston before it surrendered. Then up in the Waxhaws well to the east of us, he caught up with Buford’s command, and he will charge and his orders are, “Give them Tarleton’s quarter” which is death. And it will end up into a massacre in the last days of May.

So the Whigs in the upcountry will become very concerned as the British spread out over the upcountry. They [the British] will send Major Ferguson up to Ninety Six, which they hold, and there he will begin organizing backcountry Tories for service in the King’s army. Many of the South Carolinas patriots such as the “Gamecock,” Sumter, and Andrew Pickens will take the oath of allegiance to the crown. Things looked grim, as the Continental Congress will send an army south. And on the sixteenth of August at Camden, they rout the Continental army commanded by General Gates who had not heeded the words of his friends, “Don’t let the laurel leaves of Saratoga turn to crown of thorns in South Carolina” and they had.

Ferguson will move back to the backcountry. There will be the engagement on the sixteenth excuse me on the thirteenth [nineteenth] over to the west of us in which a force of patriots coming from over the mountain country defeat the British at Musgrove Mill. The overmountain men will then go home across the headwaters of the Holston. Ferguson from up here in Rutherford County will send a message to them, “Submit to the King or I will cross the mountains, hang your leaders, and burn your fields,” but he had stirred up a hornet’s nest of backcountry Whigs. And he reached a whirlwind on the seventh day of October at Kings Mountain, in which Ferguson and 209 of his men will die. To dampen the ardor of the backcountry Tories, they will swing thirteen of them off, as they said as they hanged them up here in Rutherford County. And no other part of the thirteen colonies is war as vicious as it is in the upcountry, families divided, ambushes and murders. Cornwallis, who had advanced with his army all the way to Charlottetown, as it was known as, abandons his position at Charlottetown and falls back to Winnsboro. And the Continental Congress will direct our commander-in-chief, George Washington, to send a new army south and find a new commander.

Sitting on the sidelines since the battle of Saratoga back in October 1777, is Daniel Morgan. Born in the middle of 1730s up in New Jersey, had moved to the lower Shenandoah Valley, and when Braddock marches west along with Washington at his right side, and Braddock’s army will be routed, rushed at the battle of the Monongahela, and Edward Braddock will die. At that time, Daniel Morgan, a wagoner, will have some trouble with a British officer, and he’ll knock him down. And the British officer will have him court martialed and, in essence, have him sentenced to death, because few if any men will survive 500 lashes across the bare back. He does, and warns the British that he will remember that. That’s going to be very much on Morgan’s mind, as he goes into camp where we’re standing on a cold evening on the sixteenth day of January 1781. And Washington will send south the second next to him the colonials most able general, Nathanael Greene, who will arrive in Charlottestown as Charlotte was known there on the second day of December and relieve Granny Gates, the man who had been humiliated in the rout at the battle of Camden on August 16. When he’d gone south, he had requested that they send him Daniel Morgan, who had been like Achilles of Greek history mythology, sulking in his tent because the Continental Congress had not realized how important he is to the continental cause. Promoted to Brigadier General, Morgan will come south, suffering from rheumatism, saying goodbye to his home near Millwood in the Shenandoah Valley, which he had named Saratoga. And by the Christmas season, he has arrived in Charlottetown.

Greene now makes a decision: he is going to divide his army. He is going to send General Huger with most of the army over to eastern South Carolina near Cheraw Hill where it’s easier to forage for the countryside. He is dividing his army, something that Bonaparte will say is foolish. And he will send Daniel Morgan with a Continental line, some 300 men who had come south and had covered themselves in glory at Camden under John Eager Howard. And they will be given to General Morgan along with about 200 Virginia militia of Augusta County who had been mustered out. And Morgan is to take his men east of the Broad River, across the Pacolet and move into the area north of the Tyger River, dividing his army. And geld the Tories who, less than enthusiastic for the British cause since the battle of Kings Mountain a little pain and suffering.

Now the activities of Greene over at Cheraw Hill over on the Pee Dee River about a hundred and fifty miles east of us and Morgan as he moves south of the Pacolet, stirs the British up. They get worried about their advanced base at Ninety Six. Now Cornwallis’s pet, yes Colonel Banastre Tarleton, his father had been Lord Mayor of Liverpool. Tarleton is in his mid-twenties, a real dandy. There is that wonderful picture of him; you can see how haughty he is. You can see him lacing his boots, this most popular painting of him, as he takes the field. Now, he and Ferguson had been bitter rivals. Tarleton had been what would be a brown-noser and was much the favorite of Cornwallis. Tarleton does not have to worry about his rival anymore because his rival, alas, lies under that rocky cairn up at Kings Mountain buried with one of his two mistresses that he had with him at Kings Mountain, who loses her life. And Tarleton is like a bulldog, hated by the patriots. In fact on the nineteenth day of October 1781, which is going to be nine months after the battle of Cowpens, in which Tarleton will escape with his life. But he is so hated by the patriots that they’re going to draw black beans to see who is going to assassinate him when the British army surrenders. Fortunately for Tarleton, he is on the Gloucester side, so he will not be assassinated. Now he commands his legion, the dragoons in his legion wear green coats, most of them are Tories and he is known as the Green Dragoon. And he will be ordered to Ninety Six, as the British following the attack by Morgan, ah by William Washington, attacked by William Washington on a Tory detachment at Hammond’s store, to take care of Morgan.

When he gets at Ninety Six where at that time if you lived in this area you went to pay your taxes in the District of Ninety Six. He will soon be reinforced by a detachment of artillerists of the Royal Artillery with three light guns. You can see one of them in the Visitor Center, known as the grasshopper. To reinforce Tarleton and his legion, they’re going to give him a battalion of the 7th Fusiliers commanded by Colonel [Major] Newmarsh. These men are mostly recruits, but the other unit that is going with him will be a battalion of Fraser’s Highlanders commanded by Major MacArthur. And he will take with him a detachment of British Dragoons, lobster backs, commanded by Major Ogilvie and he will start north, looking for Morgan, to bring Morgan to battle and disperse Morgan’s cause. And north they go, across the 3 forks of the Tyger. They will soon be approaching the Pacolet River. Morgan will learn of their approach, over 1100 men, skilled, led by “Bloody Ban” Tarleton, or as Morgan insists on calling him, “Benny” not Ban. And Morgan will fall back across the Pacolet. Tarleton will follow like in that poem a wolf down on the fold. Morgan on the 15th falls back to Burrs Mill on Thicketty Creek in the shadow of Thicketty Mountain and camps there on the night of the 14th and 15th. His scouts had spotted the Brits, crossing the Pacolet up near the mill, the iron foundry. And Morgan on the morning, the cold morning, on the 16th will break camp at Burrs Mill, wrestling with what is he going to do, as he marches up the Green River Road.

To this area then known as Hannah’s Cowpens where the upcountry people were in a habit of collecting their livestock before driving it to the coast in Charleston. Many of the militia knew well about it because on the 6th day of October 1780, they had rendezvoused here to leave on a dark and rainy night of the 6th to go to Kings Mountain where they defeated, killed, and dispersed Ferguson’s troops. Morgan is trying to decide what he should do, as he rides up the Green River Road and approaches Hannah’s Cowpens where we are standing. Two things are going to direct him here. Andrew Pickens that old Presbyterian preacher and the Gamecock Sumter had now said, “Forget it! We are tearing up our oath to the King!” because the king’s men are now insisting that they actively support the British force. So as honorable men since the British had first violated, ended the parole, they’re taken up arms up again. And Morgan gets a message from Pickens who is north of the Broad River, “Where should I meet you?” Knowing that Pickens had been here on the 6th day of October and everybody knows where Hannah’s Cowpens is. He says, “Meet me at Hannah Cowpens.”

He also knows as if you live in Cherokee County, halfway between where we standing right now and the North Carolina is Broad River, flowing from north-west to south-east and then it takes a sharp bend, and it is now due west of us. And Morgan thinks back what did the, what was the big mistake that Gates made? His big mistake that Gates made, was there was no obstacle for the militia flight. And he lets the militia know we are camping here, and if you run, you are going to have to cross the Broad River, which is high. And every one of them know about Buford’s defeat and what that would mean if they fled and be caught south of the Broad River. The militia that is coming in from North Carolina know where this is. So Morgan, as it begins to get dark on the evening of the 16th, goes into camp here. That same evening over at Burrs Mill in the shadow of Thicketty Mountain, the Brits go into camp and we will move on to another site where the enemy, the enemies, Whigs and the Brits and the Tories will first spot each other on a very cold 17th day of January. Not a cloud in the sky, it is going to be a clear, beautiful day. And Morgan is going to stroll through the camps and visit with his men and deploy them not like Granny Gates did at the Battle of Camden, but in a way that his men will have to fight. And we will talk about that at our next stop.


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