American General Daniel Morgan’s Victory at the Battle of Cowpens
Perhaps the most brilliant American military victory during the Revolutionary War was that led by American Brigadier General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781. This was a much needed victory at what seemed one of the bleakest points in the American Revolutionary War. It also set into motion the series of events that unexpectedly led to the British surrender at Yorktown. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Morgan had been captured by the British during the ill-fated Battle of Quebec. Later paroled, Morgan was given command of a force of Virginia rifleman by George Washington and played a key role in the defeat of the British at the Battle of Sarasota. When George Washington assigned Nathaniel Greene as commander of the southern campaign after the British shifted their forces to the south, Morgan was sent to assist Greene. As British General Lord Cornwallis decided to move north into North Carolina, he sent British Lt. Colonel Tarleton to deal with the forces under Daniel Morgan who Cornwallis felt threatened his west or left flank. After being pursued by Tarleton, Daniel Morgan decided to stand and fight at Cowpens rather than risked being attacked while attempting to cross the Broad River. Knowing that the militia troops he had under his command were unreliable, he used this to his advantage by positioning them in front – but instructing them to fire only two volleys and then to retreat behind the regular troops. Seeing the militia men retreat, Tarleton ordered a bayonet charge that caused his men to break ranks. Behind the retreating American militia men, however, were the regular Continental army troops commanded by Morgan – which Tarleton’s men then ran headlong into coordinated volley. This resulted in a route of the disorganized British troops and a victory for the Americans. One of the heroes of the Battle of Cowpens was American Colonel William Washington, a cousin of George Washington’s.