26 May 2008

Give me two shots

Ok, so this is last thanksgiving, we went up to see my In-laws, and my dad also came out to share Thanksgiving dinner with us. The next day my dad and I went out to Cowpens National Battlefield, just north of Greenville, SC. Here's the situation: Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC have both fallen to the British. The American Revolution in the Northern States has ground to a stalemate, and British General Cornwallis is trying to use differences in American loyalties to his advantage, and subdue the Carolinas. This tactict of using Americans loyal to Britain ultimately failed, resulting in the British loss at King's Mountain, SC. General Nathaniel Greene, known as the General from Rhode Island, and who had become well known as Washington's right hand man, now came to South Carolina to take command. He split the American army into two groups, hoping the British would do the same. Command of about 700 men went to General Daniel Morgan, who had also fought in several Northen battles including Quebec and Saratoga, and he was given the task of harrasing any British efforts in the western part of South Carolina. Cornwallis, hearing of this, and still stung from his loss at King's Mountain, sent an army under command of the feared Banastre Tarleton to hunt down Morgan. When Morgan heard of Tarleton's aproach, he led his men to the Cowpens, a well known local landmark, simply a large field where cows grazed. Here he gathered his small group of Continental Soldiers and militia. The Continentals were well experienced men from Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland, many of whom had already fought in battles up north. The militia, who came from both Carolinas and Georgia, were mostly veterans of local skirmishes and were under command of "the Fighting Elder" General Andrew Pickens. He knew the militia's strength were their superior rifles and well practiced marksmanship, but they lacked military discipline. He used this advantage by placing them forward of the Continentals, and told them "give me two shots", and then they could retreat behind the safety of the Continentals. Just before dawn on Jan 16, 1781, the British under Tarleton entered the field and formed line of battle. When they were in range of the first line, the militia opened a deadly fire that severely stunned the British and dropped two-thirds of their officers. The militia delivered their obligatory second shot, then fled behind the Continentals. The British surged forward until they met the Continentals, where their attack faltered. Tarleton ordered up his division of the feared Scottish Highlanders, who threatened to flank the right end of the American line. General Howard, in command of the Continentals, ordered the right flank to fall back and reform to face the new onslaught, but the urder was misheard and the entire line began to retreat. Seeing this disaster about to fall upon his army, Morgan rallied on a place behind the retreating Continentals, and rallied them, turning and firing into British troops at point blank range. At this point, the American Cavalry, under command of William Washington, who had been waiting in reserve, rode up and closed on the British right flank. Meanwhile, Pickens' militia had regrouped and descended on the British left. The rare double-envelopment was complete, and the British forces collasped. The British forces, now in full retreat, were met by William Washington, who got in a sword fight with a British Officer, allegedly Tarleton himself, and broke his sword. His servant then rode up, and saved his life by shooting the British Officer. This scene is what inspired the famous painting most associated with the battle. The British loss was staggering. Almost 400 soldiers killed or wounded, and over 600 captured, compared to the Americans 128 killed or wounded. When Tarleton and his few remaining men stumled back to Cornwallis, he became so infuriated that he became hellbent on destroying the Americans under Nathaniel Greene. This led to a hot pursuit ending in the battle of Guilford Courthouse, technically a British Victory, but another knotch in the war of attrition that the Patriots were quickly winning. With fewer and fewer men, Cornwallis moved to Virginia to attack the Southerners supply base, and wound up trapped at Yorktown.

Ships named for the imporatant American Victory at Cowpens. The WW2 carrier USS Cowpens, and the modern cruiser (below) USS Cowpens, which fired the first shipborne shots of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is where Morgan's command camp was.
This, and the two pictures below, are the line where the Continentals stood, waiting to stop the British.

This and the picture below are where the main line of Militia was.

This is what the Militia would have seen that morning, waiting for the British to come up the road. The picture at the top of the blog shows what the British would have seen, marching toward the American lines.
This is where the British moved into line of battle at the bottom of the field.
This shows where the British placed their two Grasshopper canon, so named because due to their small size, when fired, they hopped like grasshoppers. It is said that near the end of the battle, as the Americans raced forward after the retreating British, a contest developed for who would reach the Grasshoppers first. A Maryland Captain named Anderson used a spontoon to pole vault and win the race to one of them, While Captain Kirkwood won the race to the other.

This is the monument to the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, SC, who made their stand here. It was placed in 1856 and is the earliest testament to the tremendous events that occured here on that cold morning.
Some Revolution era weapons in the park museum.
A painting of the battle in the museum
A replica of a Grasshopper canon
This is a view of Kings Mountain from a rest area on the way back.

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