When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
January 17, 1780 Battle of Cowpens
Shortly after sunrise, the American rifleman encountered the lead elements of Colonel Balastre Tarleton’s British Legion, the 7th Regiment of Foot, 71st Regiment (Fraser’s Highlanders), and 17th Light Dragoons south of the Broad River in South Carolina. The Georgians and Carolinian riflemen held up the British vanguard enough to prompt Tarleton to form a battle line. From right to left Tarleton placed the 17th Light Dragoons, the light infantry companies, British Legion infantry, the 7th Regiment, and the British Legion Dragoons. He kept the 71st Regiment in reserve. As the British advanced, the riflemen fell back to the militia line.
After firing a few volleys, the militia withdrew. In the hopes of seizing the day, Tarleton sent forward the 17th Dragoons in a mounted charge. Watching the cavalry advance, Morgan ordered his own dragoons, under Lt. Col. William Washington to meet the attack. Washington skillfully led his men forward and repulsed the British cavalry.
Undeterred, Tarleton continued on to the third line and met stiff resistance from the Continentals. Tarleton then elected to commit his reserves and the 71st Regiment came upon Morgan’s right. As the Americans redeployed to meet this threat, Morgan ordered them to reform on a nearby knoll. Watching their enemy seemingly withdraw, the British line broke into a bayonet charge. When the Americans reached their designated spot, Morgan yelled “Face about boys! Give them one good fire and the victory is ours!” The ensuing volley devastated the British ranks and Morgan launched a counterattack. In a double envelopment, the Continentals slammed in Tarleton’s center while Pickens and Washington struck the British flanks simultaneously. Tarleton’s line crumbled and what was left of his command fled from the field.