On 16 January 2021, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution sponsored a commemoration of the Battle of Cowpens and Mt Hebron Cemetery in Winchester. This was a hybrid event conducted both on site and virtually. The Battle of Cowpens became the turning point in the southern campaign during the Revolutionary War. Up to the fall of 1780, the British under General Charles Cornwallis had been running over the colonial militias with relative ease in the southern campaign. In October, General Nathanael Greene was given command of the Southern Department of the Continental forces. He had determined that he was not ready to meet Cornwallis head on at this time and made the decision to divide his Army. He gave General Daniel Morgan command of a wing that was sent west to raise morale and find supplies for the Army. Soon after, the British felt this Army was a threat to their flank and General Cornwallis ordered cavalry Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to the west to find and destroy Morgan's fighting force. Morgan went north to avoid being trapped between Tarleton and Cornwallis. When he reached the Broad River and found it was at flood level, he decided to stand and fight. Tarleton had pushed his troops hard to catch his foe. Morgan was aware of Tarleton's mode of attack, knowing he would be aggressive with a headlong assault and developed tactics that are still taught at West Point today. His plan was to conduct a double envelopment of Tarleton's forces. His Army included 600 Continental and State Soldiers and roughly 1300 militiamen aligned against a force of 1,150 British. He knew many of his militiamen were not experienced fighters. The night of 16 January he went among his men and spoke with them on a personal level, encouraging them to do their best. The battle order was "No burning, no flying: but face about and give battle to the enemy & acquit ourselves like men in defense of their baggage, their lives and the interest of the Country". He deployed his Army in three main lines. The first was comprised of 150 sharpshooters and the second of militia men. He asked that they fire 2 rounds and then retreat to the left side of the formation. Tarleton roused his men at 2:00 a.m. on 17 January for a 12 mile march in difficult marching conditions. The British Army was exhausted after running out of food and having only four hours of sleep when asked to attack in damp, cold weather. When Tarleton saw the colonials retreating, he felt the field was his and encouraged his troops to charge ahead. Seeing the retreating Americans, the British charged aggressively into the third line of continentals and experienced militia who held their ground. Morgan's Army went on the offensive. The Continentals in the center, mounted a bayonet charge. Tarleton's force, faced with a terrible surprise, began to collapse; some men surrendering on the spot, while others turned and ran. The American cavalry came around from behind the American left to hit the British on their right flank and rear. The militia, having now reorganized, charged out from behind the hill to the British left flank. Morgan's Army took 712 prisoners and effected 110 casualties. Tarleton's elite fighting unit was wiped out as a fighting force. Of note, fighting in the battle were several units from Virginia, including a company of Continentals, a detachment of Virginia State Troops and four militia companies. After the battle, Morgan sent the Virginia Militia home but used them as guards escorting the prisoners who were marched to Winchester prison camps. This victory is known as the turning point of the war in the South, which lead to the American victory at Yorktown in October of 1781. The commemoration ceremony was conducted at Mt Hebron with Chip Daniel conducting the onsite ceremony. This included a combined Color Guard from three SAR Chapters. Included were Virginia SAR 1st Vice President Jeff Thomas, Colonel James Wood II compatriots David Carpenter, Sean Carrigan, Paul Christensen, Brett Osborn, Eric Robinson and Jim Simmons. Participating from the Fairfax Resolves Chapter were Ken Bonner and Dave Cook with Pat Kelly from the Thomas Jefferson Chapter. Marc Robinson of the Colonel James Wood II Chapter conducted the on line event which was attended by Virginia SAR President Bill Schwetke and representatives from Virginia, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia Societies with 14 SAR Chapters and three DAR Chapters. Photos are courtesy of Anita Bonner. The first picture is of the onsite wreath presentation l. to r. Jim Simmons, Eric Robinson, Chip Daniel, Jeff Thomas and Dave Cook. The second picture is the musket squad l. to r. Brett Osborn, Paul Christensen, Ken Bonner, Sean Carrigan, Pat Kelly, Dave Cook and Eric Robinson. The third picture is a group photo l. to r. Brett Osborn, Eric Robinson, Jim Simmons, Chip Daniel, Dave Cook, Sean Carrigan, Ken Bonner, Jeff Thomas, Paul Christensen and Pat Kelly.
Submitted by Dale Corey