Ed Bearss Tour Stop 2

Cowpens National Battlefield

Open Transcript


We’re looking a little to the south and east. The ground is level. This is the route that Cornwallis [Tarleton] approaches on. Morgan knows they’re coming. Out in front several miles, he has his scouts, commanded by Captain Inman. And soon as Tarleton’s men advanced, it was within three miles of us that they begin skirmishing with Inman’s mounted people. Inman will alert Morgan, so that Morgan will have his men formed before the British reach the area. In the distance, you may see the Scruggs Cabin. The Scruggs Cabin will appear here in the 1820s, and be a place for Lossing and other people who write of the battle will visit. For Ranney the painter who would do this painting of this clash as Tarleton seeks to flee the area and Tarleton placed, placed, Ranney [Lossing] stops with the Scruggs.

So as Cornwallis [Tarleton] approaches the area here, he is ready. The first thing he does is to deploy his dragoons, the 17th regiment under Captain [Major] Ogilvie. So he is going to screen the advance, watching the right, watching the left. Then his men will take position with the light infantry, as the drums and the Fraser highlanders’ bagpipes swirl, making that noise that sounds considerably like a pig’s squealing, he would deploy his men. On the right would be the light infantry of the dragoons of Tarleton’s command. He has his two grasshoppers, these three pounders, and he will place one of them near the road to the right or north of where I am standing. He will then deploy Captain [Major] Newmarsh’s 7th infantry made up of many men who had deserted the Whig cause, taken the King’s schilling and joined the King’s army. En echelon to his left and rear, will be the battalion of Fraser Highlanders, wearing their trous commanded by Major MacArthur. And on the far left, in reserve will be the Green Dragoons of Tarleton’s legion.

The battle is going to last all of about one hour. Few battles will have the significance, as the battle of Cowpens, and last such a short time and be such a complete and total victory. You probably have to go back to the battle of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham, back in mid-September 1759. Wolfe does the same thing, almost but a little different than Morgan does. He’ll tell his men, the line regiments, “Don’t overload your Brown Besses, and you’re not going to fire. You’re going to hear that our people are familiar with that.” As Eager Howard and Morgan are going to tell their men, the continentals, “Don’t Fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” He probably gets the idea from Wolfe at Quebec City, where two volleys win French Canada and French Louisiana to the British. Because we’re going to let the French close to 45 yards and give them two volleys and then the French break and are pursued. Both Wolfe and Montcalm will die. So you got an innovator here, or if Morgan is a really intellectual, and I don’t think he is an intellectual, he has read Caesar’s commentaries and the great Roman [Carthage] victory of antiquity is Cannea, which is a double envelopment and all great generals of history like to carry out a double envelopment. Whether Morgan read Caesar’s commentaries and knew about the battle of Cannea, he is going to use a double envelopment to crush, to beat, to smash Tarleton’s command. I will now be open to any questions about this site.

Question: I have a question sir, We talked about or you talked about Pickens and Sumter. How far from here, estimation wise were both of those two elements Sumter and Pickens to travel here?

Bearss: Sumter doesn’t get here. Pickens is north of the Broad River, and it is five miles to the broad, maybe seven or eight miles north of the Broad. And he will join Morgan on the night of the sixth and seventh. Most of the miltia belong to Pickens’ command, those are the guys in the second line.

Question: I have a question. I have lived here all my life and I heard you call it Hannah’s Cowpens, and I have never heard that term. Can you give me the background?

Bearss: That is one of the names, there are several names give to it. And one of the names given to it by a contemporary author is Hannah’s Cowpens. There are several other names that appear not at the time of the battle but writing before 1790. Alright, we will now go up and join the sharpshooter’s line, which is up there where that first rise is.


46.1 MB