You are on page 1of 3

Dear Sir: January 19th 1781

The troops I had the Honor to fight with have been so fortunate as to
obtain a complete Victory over a Detachment from the British Army commanded
by Lt Colonel Tarleton. The Action happened on the 17th Instant about Sunrise at
the Cowpens. It perhaps would be well to remark, for the Honor of the American
Arms. Not a man was killed, wounded or even insulted after he surrendered. Had
not Britons during this Contest received so many Lessons of Humanity, this
might teach them a little, but I fear it might not.

To give you a just Idea of our Operations it will be necessary to inform you, that
on the 14th Instant having received certain Intelligence that Lord Cornwallis and
Lt Colonel Tarleton were both in Motion, and that their movements clearly
indicated their Intentions of dislodging me, I abandoned my encampment at
Grindales Ford on Pacolet, and on the 16th in the Evening took Possession of a
Post, about seven miles from the Cherokee Ford on Broad River. My original
Position subjected me at once to the Operations of both Cornwallis and Tarleton,
and in Case of a Defeat, my Retreat might easily have been cut off. My Situation
at the Cowpens enabled me to improve any advantages I might gain, and to
provide better for my own Security, should I be unfortunate. These Reasons
induced me to take this Post at the Risqué because its wearing the face of a

I received regular intelligence of the enemy’s movements from the time they were
first in Motion. On the evening of the 16th they took possession of the ground I
had removed from in the morning, distant from the Scene of Action about 12
miles. An hour before daylight one of my Scouts returned and informed me that
Lt Colonel Tarleton had advanced within five miles of our Camp. On this
Information I hastened to form as good a Disposition as Circumstances would
admit, and from the alacrity of the Troops we were soon prepared to receive
them. The Light Infantry commanded by Lt Colonel Howard and the Virginia
Militia, under the command of Major Triplette were formed on a rising ground,
and extended a Line in Front. The 3rd Regiment of Dragoons under Lt Colonel
Washington, were in the rear so they are not in the Line of Fire directed at them,
and to be so near as to be able to charge the Enemy, should they be broken. The

that they never had an opportunity of rallying. South Carolina & Georgia under the Command of the brave and valuable Colonel Pickens. All of Colonel Pickens Command then kept up a fire by Regiments retreating agreeable to their orders. broke and fled. they gained our flanks. they received a well-directed and incessant fire. small parties of riflemen were detached to skirmish with the enemy. horses made their escape. on the left of Major Cunningham. He was perused 24 miles. wounded and Prisoners will inform you with what Effect. of the N C Volunteers. Major McDowell. but we had taken a wrong trail at first. Lt Colonel Howard observing this gave orders for the Line to charge bayonets. The enemy’s whole force was now very poor in providing for their safety in flight. Tarleton. We retired in good order about 50 Paces.Volunteers of North Carolina. upon which their whole line moved on with the greatest impetuosity shouting as they advanced. The Enemy drew up in single Line of Battle 400 yards in Front of our advanced Corps. In Front moved two Pieces of artillery. was posted on the right Flank in Front of the Line 150 yards & Major Cunningham with the Georgia Volunteers on the left at the same distance in Front. formed. Colonels Brandon & Thomas of the S Carolinians were posted on the right of Major McDowell and Colonels Hays and McCall of the same Corps. advanced on the Enemy & gave them a fortunate volley that threw them into Disorder. The Disposition of Battle being formed. Lt Colonel Washington having been informed that Tarleton was Cutting down our riflemen on the left flank pushed forward & charged them with such firmness that instead of attempting to recover the fate of the day. which was done with such address that they fled with the utmost Precipitation. They retreated to the regiments intended for their support. The Light Companies on their Flanks. which one would have expected from an officer of his Splendid Character. McDowell & Cunningham gave them a heavy & irritating fire. The list of their killed. We pushed our advantage so effectually. were situated to guard the Flanks. leaving the fields Pieces in our Possession. . When the Enemy advanced to our Line. Lt Colonel Tarleton with his Cavalry was posted in the Rear of his Line. with the small remains of his cavalry & a few scattering infantry he had mounted on his wagon. Captains Tate & Buchannan with the Augusta Riflemen supported the right of the Line. which obliged us to change our Position. but their numbers being superior to ours. we never could have overtaken him.

also ten commissioned officers killed and two hundred R and F wounded. John Morgan . Good luck on the fallowing battles and never give up. two thirds of which were Militia.As I was obliged to move off of the field of action in the message to secure the prisoners. The Officers I have paroled. 35 Wagons. From the reports of an officer I sent to view the ground. & the Militia are taking up stragglers continually. I have taken the Liberty to enclose you a list made by Daniel Morgan of their officers from a conviction that you will be pleased to introduce such Characters to the World. there were 100 non commissioned officers & privates. In Justice to their Bravery & good Conduct. & all their Music are ours. From our Force being composed of such a variety of corps. which was immense. Such was the inferior of our numbers. Our Loss is inconsiderable. that they fought 1037. I have not been able to ascertain Colonel Pickens Loss but know it to be very small. Their Baggage. a travelling Forge. two Field Pieces. a wrong judgment may be formed of our numbers. Two Standards. I wish you the best and all of your troops to. Their own Officers confessed. We have in our Possession of 502 non commissioned officers & prisoners independent of the wounded. The Privates I am now conveying by the shortest Rout to Salisbury. My Wishes would induce me to mention the Name of every private sentinel in the corps I have the honor to fight with. were not less than 1150. Sincerely. I cannot be so accurate as to the killed & wounded of the enemy as I could wish. We fought only 80o men. they have in great measure destroyed. 29 Commissioned Officers have fell into our Hands. The British with their Baggage Guard.