This week marks the 261st anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens, a victory for the Americans led by Daniel Morgan, over the British led by Banastre Tarleton. Each year, on the weekend closest to the data of the battle, the national park hosts a weekend-long historical encampment. Despite it being a bit chilly Saturday morning, we hit the road to drive the 45 minutes or so up to Cowpens to learn more about the local history. Of course, we also wanted to get some photos!
Those of you who have seen The Patriot will be familiar with some of the details of this battle, as the final battle of that movie is loosely based on a combination of Cowpens and another battle fought in the Southern Campaign. Namely, the use of militia at the front to draw the British to an unorganized charge over a ridge, where the regular Continental lines were waiting for them just out of sight. That’s about the only true similarity between this battle and the scene from the movie though.
For that matter, if you get the right Ranger guide for your tour, you’ll also learn about all of the other things he thinks popular historians have gotten dead wrong about this battle as well. I can’t speak to everything he told us, but I can tell you that if you read a history that talks about the “hills” the lines were behind, they are incorrect. We’ve been there, there are ridges, but nothing that even resembles a hill! Morgan got there first and used the lay of the land to effectively hide parts of his army in plain sight, by using the slight ridges of the field to keep them out of the British line of sight. We live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are lots of hills near us, not so much when you go over to Cowpens.
So, despite the chill in the air, it was a lovely enough to spend a few hours exploring and learning from some folks dedicated to keeping the history alive!