Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Morgan to Greene, re: Cowpens (Part 1)

General Morgan to General Greene–
Report on the Battle of Cowpens

Camp on Cain Creek on Pedee
January 19th, 1781.

Dear Sir–The troops I have the honor to command have gained a complete victory over a detachment from the British Army commanded by Lieut.-Col. Tarleton. It happened on the 17th inst., about sunrise, at a place called the Cowpens, near Pacolet River. On the 14th, having received intelligence that the British Army were in motion, and that their movements clearly indicated the intention of dislodging me, I abandoned my encampment at Glendale Ford, and on the 16th, in the evening, took possession of a post about seven miles from Chroke on Broad River. My former position subjected me at once to the operations of Lord Cornwallis and Colonel Tarleton, and in case of a defeat my retreat might easily have been cut off. My situation at Cowpens enabled me to improve any advantage that I might gain and to provide better for my security should I be unfortunate. These reasons induced me to take this post, notwithstanding it had the appearance of a retreat. On the evening of the 16th, the enemy occupied the ground we had removed from in the morning. One hour before daylight one of my scouts informed me that they had advanced within five miles of our camp. On this information the necessary dispositions were made. From the activity of the troops we were soon prepared to receive them. The light infantry commanded by Lt.-Col. Howard, and the Virginia Militia under Major Triplett, were formed on a rising ground. The Third Regiment of Dragoons, consisting of about 80 men, under command of Lt. Col. Washington, were so posted in the rear as not to be injured by the enemy's fire, and yet to be able to charge them should an occasion offer; the Volunteers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia under the command of Col. Pickens were posted to guard the flanks. Major McDowal, of the North Carolina Volunteers, were posted on the right flank in front of the line 150 yards. Major Cunningham, of the Georgia Volunteers, on the left, at the same distance in front, Colonels Brannon and Thomas, of the South Carolina Volunteers, on the right of Major McDowal, and Colonels Hays and McCall of the same corps to the left of Major Cunningham. Capts. Tate and Buchanan, with the Augusta Riflemen, were to support the right of the line. The enemy drew up in one line four hundred yards in front of our advanced corps. The first battalion of the 71st Regiment was opposed to our right, the 7th to our left, the Legion Infantry to our centre, and two companies of the light troops, 100 each, on our flanks. In their front they moved two pieces of artillery, and Lieut.-Col. Tarleton, with 280 cavalry, was posted in the rear of the line. The disposition being thus made, small parties of riflemen were detached to skirmish with the enemy, on which the whole line advanced with the greatest impetuosity, shouting as they advanced. Majors McDowal and Cunningham gave them a heavy and galling fire, and retreated to the regiments intended for their support; the whole of Col. Pickens' command then kept up a fire by regiments, retreating agreeable to orders. When the enemy advanced on our lines they received a well directed and incessant fire, but their numbers being superior to ours they gained our flanks, which obliged us to change our position. We retired, in good order, about fifty paces, formed and advanced on the enemy and gave them a brisk fire, which threw them into disorder. Lieut.-Col. Howard observing this gave orders for the line to charge bayonets, which was done with such address that the enemy fled with the utmost precipitation. Lieut.-Col. Washington discovering that the cavalry were cutting down our riflemen on the left, charged them with such firmness as obliged them to retire in confusion. The enemy were entirely routed, and the pursuit continued upwards of twenty miles. Our loss was inconsiderable, not having more than twelve killed and sixty wounded. The enemy's loss was to commissioned officers and over 100 rank and file killed and 200 wounded, 29 commissioned officers and about 500 privates prisoners which fell into our hands with two pieces of artillery, two standards, 800 muskets, one travelling forge, thirty-five baggage wagons, seventy negroes and upwards of 100 dragoon horses, with all their musick. They destroyed most of the baggage which was immense. Although our success was complete we fought only 800 men and were opposed by upwards of one thousand chosen British Troops. Such was the inferiority of our numbers that our success must be attributed, under God, to the justice of our cause and the bravery of our Troops. My wishes would induce me to mention the name of every private centinel in the Corps. In justice to the brave and good conduct of the officers, I have taken the liberty to enclose you a list of their names from a conviction that you will be pleased to introduce such characters to the world. Major Giles, my aid de camp, and Captain Brooks, acting as Brigade Major, deserves to have my thanks for their assistance and behavior on this occasion. The Baron de Glabuck, who accompanies Major Giles with these despatches, behaved in such manner as to merit your attention.

I am sir, Your obedient servant,