Data from: * [a] Minks, Louise. America at War - The Revolutionary
War: 1992; [b] Wood, W. J.. Battles of the Revolutionary War - 1775-1781
- Major Battles and Campaigns. Chapel Hill, NC: Da Capo Press: 1990.
[c] Editor McLoughlin, E.V. The Book of Knowledge: New York: The
Grolier Society, Inc. , 1957; [d] Editor Adams, Jr., Russell B.. The
Revolutionaries - The American Story. Alexandria, VA: Time Life Books,
1996; [f] Cooper, James Fenimore. The Spy, A Tale of the Neutral
Ground, introductions. New York: The Heritage Press: 1963, original:
1821. [g] Bobrick, Benson; Angel in the Whirlwind - The Triumph of
the American Revolution; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997; [h]Cox, Clinton;
Come All You Brave Soldiers - Blacks in the American Revolution.
New York: Scholastic Press, 1999; [j]Axelrod, Phd., Alan; Complete Idiot's
Guide to the American Revolution. Indianapolis, Ind.: Alpha Books, Macmillan,
USA, Inc. : 2000; [k] Tuchman, Barbara W. The First Salute,
a View of the American Revolution. New York: Ballantine Books: 1988; [m]Alden,
John R. A History of the American Revolution. New York: A Da Capo
Note: History books do not always agree on dates, numbers, etc.
Keep in mind that 90% of the men in the American colonies in the late
1700's were farmers to some extent. The main purpose of their lives was
to furnish food, clothes and housing for their families, thus, young boys
were trained to shoot game for food at an early age, so felt qualified to
join the army if they could shoot a gun. This was demonstrated in The Patriot.
Reloading a musket for farmers was not always a matter of life or
death like in a war, unless facing a bear or mountain lion, etc. It took
a minimum of thirteen seconds needed to pour powder into a muzzle-loading
musket, then the projectile ball, then more powder, then the ramrod had
to jam the powder in tightly enough to cause the explosion of powder to
shoot the ball far enough to injure the enemy faced. (Seen in a muzzle-loading
This was guessed as the reason The Patriot
in one scene told two of his younger sons to both fire the first
shot at British taking an older brother away, then after that, the younger
of the two siblings was to continue reloading for his brother, who obviously
was a better aim, having lived longer and practiced more.
The Kentucky long rifle could shoot farther, but not hold a bayonet,
so knives and tomahawks were carried for hand to hand fighting, until the
long spear like 6-7 foot spontoon was added as weapons, noted for officers.
A rifle with a spiral grove inside the barrel could shoot straighter by
causing the ball to spin and hold its line, whereas barrels that were smooth
inside would send the ball slightly off in any direction, according to a
gun expert. That, and the extra foot of barrel length giving the ability
to outshoot the British musket in distance, gave Americans with long rifles
the advantage of hitting more targets on the first fire when the opposing
armies were lined up for battle, British style.
Watching The Patriot
melt his son's toy lead soldiers, pour the molten lead into the ball
shaped form to make his musket balls (bullet equivalent), caused a nostalgic
memory to emerge of an older brother melting broken hollow lead toy soldiers
over the gas fire of our furnace, as an 8 or ten-year old, then pouring
the shiny metal liquid into smaller solid toy soldier molds, that produced
toy soldiers the very size The Patriot had.
Except for those who spear fished, wielding a bayonet or sword was
not a general practice for farmers, unless trained for military use, and
was understandably a reluctant action, until seen or heard used on comrades
in warfare, then revenge raised its ugly head and drove many to retaliate
in like manner, as occurred on King's Mountain after the Patriots cry for
revenge of the "massacre of the Waxhaus," 1780.
EVENTS or BATTLES by Date
Sir Henry Clinton  (mentioned in The Patriot and The Spy) succeeded General
Howe as commander-in-chief of His Majesty's forces in North America, officially
taking command in May 1778, upon Howe's departure. After suffering several
losses in the north, he decided to take offensive actions in the south.
Savannah, GA, an appropriate initial target in the south, was attacked
by Britain's powerful fleet from sea bombardment, and taken in late December,
1778. By June 1779, all of Georgia, including the governor's office, was
under British control.
When combined American and French forces, with over twice the 3,200
English troops holding Savannah, failed to retake that seaport by siege
and storm, the French Admiral d'Estaing took his 33 ships, 4000 troops and
sailed back to France in October 1779. [a] The small remaining American
force withdrew to Charleston, smarting under the bitter defeat that wasted
800 American lives compared to 155 British dead. Admiral d'Estaing was wounded
and revered Count Pulaski dead.
With the French fleet gone, the American coastline was left unprotected,
and this was the situation of reference in The
Patriot, when a derogatory remark was made about the French being
unreliable friends, upon meeting the Frenchman who, in the movie, dressed
for battle once in his finest French officer's uniform.
British General Lord Charles Cornwallis 
(top British officer predominantly seen in The
Patriot) persuaded his superior officer, General Sir Henry Clinton,
to seize the critical port of Charleston, S.C. , then move upward through
the south toward New York. In December 1779, Gen. Clinton and his second
in command, Lord Cornwallis, sailed from New York harbor with 90 transports
carrying 8,500 troops. Enduring a treacherous journey, the fleet finally
landed at Savannah, and prepared to lay siege to Charleston by mid-February
The siege was finally in place by the end of March. Southern American
General Benjamin Lincoln had pulled his militia to Charleston, South Carolina,
hoping for reinforcements. The hardy fort of logs that protected Charleston
harbor from British attack in 1776, had deteriorated since then, and did
not stand the siege, noted lasting for 44 days of shelling from British
ships, and attacks by ground troops and cavalry, with no outside reinforcements
1780, May 12
With homes burning and supplies cut off, Charleston was surrounded.
General Lincoln surrendered the city in one of the worst defeats for the
Americans of the war (mentioned in The Patriot).
British bounty [b] was over 5,000 prisoners, three generals, 6000 muskets,
391 cannon, and immense stores of ammunition. Cost to the British: 76 killed
and 189 wounded. A British officer described the surrender: "the General
limped out at the head of the most ragged rabble I ever beheld." [a]
A jubilant Sir Henry Clinton sailed back to New York, leaving Lord Cornwallis
with over 8000 troops for defeating Americans in the south. To
During the siege of Charleston, SC, with its downfall expected, General
Horatio Gates was appointed by Congress as the new general of the southern
American army, but, over the objection of commander-in-chief, Gen. George
Washington  (to this viewer, the rider seen
in The Patriot with long cape draped
behind him over the horse, as it slowly plodded along beside marching men,
amid white falling snowflakes, because it looked like the famous 19th century
painting by William B.T. Trego of Washington with his troops trudging toward
 General Horatio Gates, (mentioned
in The Patriot) Congress considered
an excellent military leader, largely because of his victory over the British
General Burgoyne, who surrendered at Saratoga, New York. Gates' report of
the battles at Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights, sent to Washington, led
Congress to believe that it was basically Gates' leadership had enabled
the victory to be won.
Those fighting at the battle of Freeman's Farm, however, knew how
bravely Benedict Arnold had ridden back
and forth in front of the Americans urging them on, in the midst of the
fighting and being shot himself. Acclaimed as a great hero in stories told
of this battle among average populous, along with Daniel Morgan (mentioned
in The Patriot) and his "sharpshooters,"
Arnold's heroic efforts and bravery were not acknowledged in Gates' report
to General George Washington, either because of resentment that Arnold made
his own orders or from jealousy over Arnold's successful contributions to
Washington preferred General Nathanael Greene, a Rhode Islander who
had become Washington's confidant and friend in planning and executing the
capture of a German garrison at Trenton, N.J., in a surprise attack, after
crossing the Delaware River all during Christmas night, 1776. To index
1780. May 29
At Waxhaus, S.C., 10 miles east of present day Lancaster, 350 Virginians
under Col. Abraham Buford, who had marched within miles of Charleston, SC,
to bring aid, learned in mid-May that the city had fallen to the British,
so were headed back toward Virginia, when confronted by the forces of  British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton,
[Pat9] one of Cornwallis' top
officers that he had sent out and told to hotly pursue the Americans.
The Virginians were quickly surrounded. Buford had a white flag of
surrender raised, but Tarleton charged at the flag, his horse was felled,
and both went down. [b] Thinking their leader shot, his men began firing
and bayoneting the captured men who were helpless, having thrown down their
weapons on seeing the white flag. Amid cries of "giving quarter,"
Tarleton, though unhurt, apparently did not at first attempt to halt his
men from bayoneting the helpless Virginians, despite rules of war that soldiers
who surrender should be "given quarter" or leniency of sparing
When the slaughter ended, American casualties were about 260 killed
or severely wounded by bayonets and around 50 prisoners. Tarleton's loss
was some 20 killed or wounded. The massacre incited vengeance throughout
the south of those sympathetic to the cause for independence from the British;
cries of "Waxhaus Massacre" and "Tarleton's quarter"
tagged the name of the British leader as "bloody" Tarleton.
This massacre was reported by Gabriel Martin, son of The
Patriot, when he told of over 200 killed (or injured?). In military
language of the 1700's, "giving quarter" meant also giving protection
or leniency from being killed by an enemy due to a position like a
dispatch carrier as Gabriel Martin was at one point in The
Patriot. To index
1780, June 12,
The massacre at Waxhaus set off a civil war in the south between Loyalists
(or Tories) and Patriots, not involving British regulars, during which attacks
were made against individuals, single homes and some actions large enough
to call battles. One Patriot band surprised a Tory raiding party of 100+
men on Williamson's Plantation, SC, killing or wounding about 80, while
losing only one out of the 250 Patriots.
1780. June 20,
Col. Francis Locke with 400 Patriots attacked 700 Tories at Ramsour's
Mill, NC., then joined Thomas Sumter's Patriots in Mecklinburg County, to
attempt taking a Tory stronghold at Rocky Mount, SC, held by 150 Loyalists.
A standoff ended after three tries to burn them out, each side losing about
Not called Gamecock [c] for nothing, Sumter lost little time
and four days later attacked an outpost farther east at Hanging Rock, SC.
The 500 men from NC and 300 from SC fought so ferociously against Tory Major
Cardin, that his men fled or surrendered, leaving the supply center wide
open. The victors eagerly invaded the rum kegs and proceeded to get drunk.
Cardin rallied his escapees, attempted to retake their supplies, but was
kept astray by Major William Davie, who had restrained his men from the
Sumter managed to pull 200 away from the looting in time to confront
the legion of British descending upon them. Davie led a charge that drove
them off, and the total effort resulted in 12 Patriots killed and 41 wounded.
[b] The Battle of Hanging Rock was the last of the larger civil war actions,
but the Kings Mountain battle peaked the hostilities. Thereafter, the Tories
and Patriots joined their support to respectively chosen regular army units.
Hearing that French reinforcements had set sail for New England to
bolster Washington's troops, and with Charleston taken, Clinton had left
Cornwallis in command of British forces in the south June 6, 1780, sailing
from Charleston, NC, for New York; so that, when the French Comte de Rochambeau
with 5,000 French troops arrived at Newport, RI, in July, Clinton was able
to cut Rochambeau off, from landing his troops on the mainland, by forming
a British blockade of the harbor. To index
1780, July 25,
General Gates arrived at Baron de Kalb's camp on Deep River, taking
over what seemed the remaining American forces in the south. His first offensive
action was to try taking back Camden, South Carolina, and capturing its
supplies. Gen. George Washington in April had sent the Baron, with well
over 1000 troops, from Maryland and Delaware to join the southern forces.
De Kalb had tried to induce North Carolina militia Major General Richard
Caswell  and some Virginia militia to
join forces with him, but with no luck, then Gates ignored de Kalb's suggestion
to travel via a route where he knew settlers supported the patriot cause,
and might provide food. Gates also ignored taking suggestions of Colonel
William Washington and others who knew the area. Two days after Gates' arrival,
the army started its march to Camden, over a difficult terrain of pine woods
and swamps, covering 120 miles in two weeks, getting sick on green corn
1780, August 3,
At Pee Dee Creek, Gates was joined by Lt. Colonel Charles Porterfield
and Colonel Swamp Fox Francis Marion with their small bands of militia.
Several days later Gen. Richard Caswell was about to attack a British outpost
at Lynches Creek with over 2000 men, when a British surprise attack caused
disruption in the plans of both sides and withdrawal of each. (similar action
remembered in The Patriot) British forces
left to set up a roadblock to Camden.
1780, August 6,
Caswell and his men joined Gates' army, and moved toward Little Lynches
Creek, running into the British blockade on August 11, 1780. De Kalb proposed
marching up the creek, throwing British out of position while moving toward
Camden at the same time. Gates again ignored his advice, and tried to encircle
some British left in the open. British Lord Rawden sent Tarleton's cavalry
out to engage them, to allow time for men at the blockade to return to Camden,
where Cornwallis greeted them on
1780, August. 13.
American forces were far overestimated at 7000 by both Gates and Cornwallis,
despite Gates' Adjutant Gen. informing him at Rugeley's Mill on Aug. 14,
that the count was little over 3,000 fit for duty (4000 another stated).
Gates shrugged it off with "these are enough for our purpose."
Cornwallis' forces numbered over 2000 capable for duty and 800 sick,
but prepared for battle anyway, starting his men after dark on Aug. 15,
1780, toward Rugeley's Mill. Gates, too, had started his men toward Camden,
unfortunately after a half-cooked supper, which made many sick instead of
nourishing their strength, leaving those losing their suppers in a weakened
condition, plus most of them were inexperienced militia, an added disadvantage.
1780, August 16
Gates sent Armand's cavalry unit ahead, which ran into Tarleton's
men after 2:00 a.m.; a shooting spree followed, but ended shortly, as firing
into the dark was senseless. With the surprise element gone, when daylight
appeared, the opposing sides lined up British style with parallel lines
facing each other (seen from a window by The Patriot),
over the Rugeley-Camden Road, with the Continental Army on the north and
British army on the south.
Some books showed diagrams of where Gates placed each unit on which
side of the road, Caswell and other leaders' names with their units; and
likewise for Cornwallis's units across the road to the south, and their
leaders. One of the most savagely fought battles of the war "Gates'
bad judgment led his confused troops into the bayonets of the British."
Before the first British attack with bayonets, after the first fire,
reached North Carolina and Virginia militia, they fled. Gates and Caswell's
efforts to stop their flight failed (in The Patriot),
they raced into the woods in every direction. Battle descriptions are complicated,
too gross and extensive to repeat, as it lasted over an hour, with brave
de Kalb continuing to fight with his head split open, ball after ball taken,
horse shot out from under him, and taking eleven wounds to kill him.
(The Frenchman in The Patriot was
likely to represent one of the Europeans de Kalb brought over with him from
Europe to join American forces, one being Lafayette. De Kalb was only called
"Baron" in America [j], due to serving with a German unit in the
French infantry .)
Maryland and Delaware officers, after extensive fighting, led their
remaining 60 men in the one ordered retreat out of the entire army. Others
had been killed, captured or fled. Gen. Gates, Smallwood and Caswell rode
from the field with mounted militia to Rugeley's Mill. Cornwallis sent Tarleton
after them, but his horses gave out after twenty miles, though he picked
up Gates' entire baggage train (similar to an incident in The
Patriot). To index
The total American losses at Camden in history books vary from 1000
killed and wounded, not including captured or missing, to 650 killed and
captured, to 800 killed along with Baron de Kalb and 1000 captured. The
Adjutant estimated that out of 3,000 men, 2,000 fled without firing a shot.
Cornwallis' losses were reported at around 70 killed, 285 wounded and eleven
missing, but gaining 150 wagons loaded with ammunition and supplies, and
In "The Spy," the Camden defeat caused Sarah Wharton,
favoring the British, as her brother in the British army, to chide her younger
sister, Frances, who was in love with an American major, about Gates not
being as successful in the south against Cornwallis as he was against Burgoyne
in the north. The Spy 
Frances Wharton counters the remark with a comment about Gates being
an Englishman, likely implying that, because Gates was militarily trained
by the English, he would use the battle tactics they taught, the order of
battle used at Camden, SC, ( which The Patriot
called "madness," as he watched it from a window) where troops
in the front are lined "shoulder to shoulder, (and bolder and bolder"
as Nelson Eddy sang in "Stout-hearted Men."), then, when
in range of hitting the enemy line, also shoulder to shoulder, the entire
two lines fire their rifles or muskets at each other.
One of the most damaging blows to the American cause was the disgrace
of Gen. Gates, when his troops started falling back, by he himself high-tailing
it away from battle at Camden on the fastest horse available, not just to
Rugeley's Mill where officers Caswell and Smallwood stopped, but Gates rode
60 miles straight for Charlotte, NC, and did not end his retreat until reaching
Hillsborough, 180 miles from Camden, three days later. To
Before completely condemning Gates, however, it must be noted, as
explained in "The Spy," that it was expected of most young men,
in the affluent English classes of society, to attend British military school,
as this was considered a stepping stone to later life in the government
of the country. English descendants here in the early colonies carried on
that tradition, if they could afford it, and sent their sons to England
for military training, like Henry Wharton in The Spy, whether a son
liked it or not perhaps. Gates may have been one of those whose nature was
not that of a warrior, and lacked keen battle strategy. To index
1780, August - September
After his victory at Camden, SC, Cornwallis was ready to charge up
through North Carolina, Virginia, and into New York. He warded off minor
attacks by bands of patriots, like groups of men led by Frances Marion,
the Swamp Fox, [c] Game Cock Thomas Sumter (mentioned in The
Spy), Andrew Pickens and others. These three leaders, of southern Patriot
bands favoring independence, imaged the character of The
Patriot, in a combination of their lives and experiences as described
The Patriot's name in the movie
was Benjamin Martin , similar in last
name to the famous Swamp Fox Frances Marion, who grew up in the swamp
land area of South Carolina, and fought as a Lieutenant under Col. Moultrie
for the Provincial Congress of S.C. against the Cherokee Indian uprising,
began his American Revolutionary exploits with a band of about 20 men and
boys, black and white (The Patriot began
his band with probably his older sons, black slaves and a few friends, also
resentful of British army actions). Operating from South Carolina swamps,
into which they would disappear after a hit-and-run attacks on British patrols,
Marion's band took advantage of knowledge of local terrain, knowing paths
where swamp water was shallow with firm enough ground that horses could
travel through it, or where a boat was necessary to reach firm patches of
earth in central swamp areas.
In one such attack on a British detachment escorting American prisoners,
the surprise impacted so suddenly that the prisoners were released . As
his fame spread, his force grew to 150, then to even 700 at one point, fighting
along side the regular Continental army in and out of battles at Savannah,
Charleston, Camden and Halfway Swamp.
When appointed new commander of the southern American forces, General
Nathanael Greene requested Marion's help, having heard of his audacity in
attacks on the British. An incident was told of a British officer with a
white flag of truce, being blindfolded and taken back into the swamps to
Marion's hideaway. After discussing the truce, the courteous Marion invited
the Briton to join him for supper. Accepting the invite, he watched Marion
dig among the coals of the campfire, pull out some well baked sweet potatoes,
and offer one to his guest on a piece of tree bark. That was supper. The
officer was returned to his party, where he told his superiors that "men
like Marion and his troops could not be conquered." [c]
Even the vicious Tarleton was impressed, saying of him, "Mr.
Marion, by his zeal and abilities, shewed himself capable of the trust committed
to his charge."[d] It was said that Tarleton gave Francis Marion the
nickname of Swamp Fox. His band at some point, likely his early years
as the Patriot leader, was recognized by their small black leather caps.
After surviving numerous battles of the war, he returned to South Carolina,
married, and served in the state legislature, urging leniency for Loyalists.
The Patriot, Martin, had characteristics
of another famous partisan, tenacious 46-year-old Thomas Sumter, whose nickname,
Carolina Gamecock, warned his enemies how persistent he was in going
back for more, win or lose. Rivaling the Swamp Fox's audacity, Sumter
had also learned to fight like an Indian in the Cherokee confrontations,
had served with the South Carolina militia, but had been in retirement for
a while, when the Patriot bands' aggressive activity began.
After Tarleton's men burned his plantation in SC, as happened to The Patriot, the Gamecock was aroused
into action by raising a small militia and inflicting his own retaliation,
with mixed success (much as did Martin, labeled The Ghost because
he attacked hiding behind trees and could not be seen). A comment in THE
SPY, that Sumter lived among black people in the south, fit what happened
to The Patriot when his home was burned
and he took his children to live with their former nanny in a black settlement.
An average family, in 1780, was noted having six children; The
Patriot Martin had seven).
A skirmish with Tarleton, considered a defeat for Sumter in The
Spy, when Sumter was said to be wounded, though losing fewer men than
the British, likely combined the first and third of Sumter's attacks on
the Briton's unit as reported in historic references, the first as a defeat,
but third as a standoff in which he was wounded.
Written by Cooper 40 years later, approximate dates of actualities
seemed acceptable for a novel of mostly fictional main characters. When
General Greene asked Sumter to join his forces with the regular American
army, he declined for personal reasons, choosing to stage his own battles
against the British. To index
Colonel Andrew Pickens, with the religious characteristics of The Patriot, was a reserved 41-year-old Presbyterian.
Also a veteran Indian fighter, Pickens had been captured by the British,
but after the siege of Charleston, was paroled upon giving his word not
to take up arms again. The promise was kept, until Tories plundered his
plantation in South Carolina; whereupon he again took up his sword, but
not before riding to the nearest British outpost and informing the commander
that he intended to take back his parole.
This did not exactly happen to Martin, but Pickens is named in all
detailed history books as one of the leaders of Patriot bands who reinforced
the small American army led by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan at the battle
of Cowpens, SC (in which The Patriot
and his band also fought). To index
So, after you see the movie, these three South Carolina leaders of
Patriot bands may seem rolled into one in Benjamin Martin, who symbolizes
the courage and bravery of those who, for reasons of their own, wanted freedom
from an outside ruler in the colonies of North America, and helped create
the first modern day democracy. Those same qualities are depicted in "The
Spy," a combination of true spies' actions in the northern American
Revolutionary battle areas, but from a different perspective.
In the novel, "The Spy," by James Fenimore Cooper,
published in 1821, only 40 years after the war, its battles were fought
in the neutral ground area across the Hudson River from New York City, held
by Gen. Clinton's main British army in October 1780. The actual Loyalist
band [Spy-4] called, DeLancey's
Refugees,[f] was used in Cooper's novel, about a family divided in their
Pillaging and fighting for the British, the band was led by the uncle
of Cooper's wife. His novel was based somewhat on her family's experiences
in the American Revolution, including how a band of partisans burned their
home, but did NOT include that one of them set fire to a blanket and threw
it over Cooper's mother-in-law.
The Spy, also, combined stories of spies told by John Jay, a
friend of Cooper's family and George Washington's confidant, whom he appointed
first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and sent to England to make a pact
with them, which was called , "The Jay Treaty." Cooper's next
book was Last of the Mohicans.
The Spy dialogue is mostly verbatim on website, Songs
of the Neutral Ground, written like a T-V script with some dialogue
put to music if a reader wishes to play and sing the italicized words,
"To arms, to arms... the trumpet sounds ... and charge the battle
cry On horse, on foot ... to meet the foe ... no matter who may die... in
this bloody fight... Sabers wild slashing ... musket balls crashing ...
galloping hoof beats ... clanging as swords meet ... all sounds of the battle
tale... may end brave warriors lives.. before this fateful night ... again
hears quiet ... descend ... on the vale." To
1780, September - October
The British had set up a series of bases and outposts in Loyalist areas
of Georgia and South Carolina, and placed local Tory leaders over them to
recruit and train men to control their regions, and to be battle ready if
needed to reinforce Cornwallis' troops.
The most successful recruiter of Loyalist forces was Major Patrick Ferguson,
who was appointed by General Clinton to inspector of militia in southern
provinces. Raising a force of 4,000 Tories and dividing them into regiments,
he trained them to recruit more Tories to aid the English. Rallying and
"pacification were more of Ferguson's nature than the bloodshed and
terror that accompanied Tarleton's raids." [b]
However, as Loyalist numbers increased, he had less control of plundering
by recruits in far reaching areas. As found in The Spy, some bands
or gangs of pillagers, like the Skinners [Spy-5],
operated under a pretense of loyalty to one side or the other, robbing homes,
sometimes killing colonists for their own gain, causing fear of any renegade
Small bands of Patriots operated independently at first, then groups
would join together, realizing there was strength in numbers. While Marion,
Sumter and Pickens were the more predominant leaders of Patriots in SC,
the upper southern colonies had Patriot leaders like Col. Charles (or Joseph)
McDowell from NC, Isaac Shelby and Elijah Clark.
Ferguson had set up a rallying camp on Little River, a few miles east
of the British post Ninety-Six. When Ferguson's forces grew, McDowell induced
Col. Shelby, famed leader of over mountain men from the western side
of the Blue Ridge Mts., to join him.
Shelby brought 200 mounted riflemen to meet McDowell on Broad River,
where Col. Clarke also joined them with his Georgia militia. Between the
fall of Charleston and battle of Camden, these three bands attacked Tory
and British posts in three confrontations during July and August, 1780,
capturing Thicketty Fort without firing a shot, attacking though losing
a skirmish with Ferguson's forces, but keeping prisoners taken, then Shelby
and Clarke were joined by another Patriot unit in a surprise attack on Tories
at Musgrove's Mill.
The last surprise failed but cost the Tories 150 dead or wounded, and
70 prisoners. Patriots lost four men with eight wounded. With this encouragement,
the Patriot leaders planned an all out attack on Ninety Six garrison under
regular British army 30 miles away; but when ready to leave, news came of
Gates' disaster at Camden two days before, instead, they headed for hills
in the north.
 Loyalist Major Bulldog Patrick
Ferguson, hearing of the Patriots apparent retreat, set out after them,
but was stopped by a dispatch to report at Camden, where Cornwallis ordered
him to raise recruits to control the region from east to west, Charlotte
to Salisbury, north to Gilbert Town.
Ferguson had attended a London military school and served in the royal
forces before arriving in America. Here he fought in battles of Brandywine,
Little Egg Harbor, Va, with Gen. Clinton at Charleston, SC, and with Tarleton
at Monck's Corner; but Tarleton's ruthless methods, against civilians as
well as military, caused Ferguson to try to distance himself from Tarleton.
He was known to talk for hours with humor to farmers, yet the image he projected
to Patriots was the result of acts of his Tory troops.
1780, September 7,
After Shelby and McDowell's men had scattered into the Blue Ridge Mountains
for a rest with their families, and Ferguson thought his efforts to subdue
the Patriots was succeeding, he invaded North Carolina and occupied Gilbert
Town, and likely tried recruiting Loyalists as ordered. Statistics at the
beginning of the war reported the majority of colonists not wanting to break
with their mother country, but as lives were lost in battles, the percentage
1780, September 10,
Leaving Gilbert Town to find Clarke, Ferguson set up camp 22 miles northwest,
where he released one of those captured at Musgrove's Mill, to take a message
to Col. Shelby. It was an ultimatum to end their "opposition to the
British arms, and take protection under his standard, (or) he would march
his army over the mountains, hang their leader, and lay waste their country
with fire and sword." [b]
It backfired! Word spread over the mountains of the message, and recruitments
built up for the Patriots instead of the Tories. Shelby took the message
to John Sevier, known as Nolichucky Jack, an Indian fighter. Those
two called in Col. William Campbell of VA, Benjamin Cleveland of VA, and
Col. Charles McDowell. The call was to rally against the man who threatened
to "waste their country with fire and sword." To
1780, September. 26,
More than 1,000 riflemen assembled at Sycamore Shoals with wives and
families, to wish them off; it appeared like a holiday picnic, with all
the preparations and cooking of the women to see their men off in the best
spirits, and well fed. A local pastor said a prayer for the departing men,
comparing their goal to that of Gideon's men preparing to fight the Midianites.
(in The Patriot?)
The 90 mile march to Quaker Meadows was slowed by cattle climbing the
gap between Yellow and Roan Mts., where it was discovered two of Sevier's
men were missing, probably to alert Ferguson of their plans, so they had
to speed up and use a different route than the deserters knew, to try and
cut off Ferguson before he could get reinforcements from Cornwallis. Sevier
and Shelby led them across Gillispie's Gap to arrive at Quaker Meadows on
1780, September 30.
There at McDowell's plantation, their numbers increased to 1400 by North
and South Carolina reinforcements of James Williams, SC, William Chronicle,
Joseph Winston, Edward Lacey and other patriots in small bands or individually.
Of the 1800 (reported in one account that gathered, the final count at the
time of the battle is quite varied, 900 by several accounts, down to 800
on both sides) only 480 were said to be Sevier's and Shelby's men. Feeling
a force of their size needed a veteran leader like Daniel Morgan, they requested
one be sent by Gen. Gates. No reply came back, so William Campbell was elected.
Ferguson had learned of the Patriot alliance seeking him out and began
heading for the Ninety-Six post on Sept. 27, when word reached him that
Elijah Clarke's forces might also join the Patriot army. Sept. 30, the two
deserters found him and prompted his sending dispatch riders (as The Patriot's son was at one point) to Cornwallis
in Charlotte 35 miles away and Lt. Col. John Cruger at Ninety-Six, calling
for urgent reinforcements.
The next day Ferguson issued another threatening proclamation to induce
recruits from local colonists, and/or frighten them: "I say, if you
wish to be pinioned, robbed, and murdered, and see your wives and daughters,
in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind - in short, if you wish and
deserve to live and bear the name of men, grasp your arms in a moment and
run to camp." [b] Also reporting that men had crossed the mountains
with McDowell, Hampton, Shelby and Cleveland leading them. To
1780, October 2
After making certain his statement was distributed, Ferguson left, not
for the Ninety-Six garrison he hoped the Patriots would expect, but for
Charlotte, NC. This did confuse the Patriots; they lost his trail, stopped
to camp, and decided to have the best horsemen race for Cowpens, 21 miles
east. 700 swift horsemen set out for Cowpens, a cattle-herding center, where
someone might have heard of Ferguson's whereabouts, or they might cross
his path en route, or could swing back northeast and catch him on the way
to Charlotte where Cornwallis was stationed.
1780, October 6,
The Patriot horsemen arrived at Cowpens, where the largest cattle owner,
Hiram Saunders, knew nothing of help to them, but renourished them with
ample food. Ferguson had chosen, instead of continuing to Charlotte, to
take a stand atop a ridge called Kings Mountain, which extended across North
and South Carolina. Cruger sent word he had not enough men to defend Ninety-Six,
much less send any to Ferguson, who never learned that Cornwallis would
not help either. He had a feverish cold, and Tarleton was also down with
a fever ; his men were tired and needed a rest.
(Added thought: perhaps the children's game, "King of the Mountain,"
played as a child by the website owner, came from this battle, where the
"King" [like Ferguson] takes a stand on a high [or slightly
elevated] place, and his attackers come from below [as the Patriots
did] and try to knock him off the mountain.)
1780, October 7,
At King's Mountain, stretching across the border of North and South
Carolina, partisan bands totaling about 900 woodsmen, headed by John Sevier,
Isaac Shelby and other Patriot leaders (other number estimates and leaders
listed previously) isolated the defiant Loyalist band led by Bull Dog
Major Patrick Ferguson, [9b] an officer
in Cornwallis' army, who "had boasted he would burn their villages
and hang their leaders." [a] (Scenes in The
Atop the ridge of Kings Mountain, barren of leaves by that time of year,
Ferguson camped with 1,100 men, Tories from New Jersey, New York, North
and South Carolina, trained in British army tactics, not guerrilla-type
warfare of these Patriots. En route to the ridge, where the Patriots knew
by that time Ferguson had camped, the scouts brought in a Tory prisoner
with Ferguson's last message to Cornwallis.
After the Patriots checked their weapons, they moved toward the hill,
with wet leaves from the night rain muffling their footsteps approaching
the ridgetop. Their signal, a war whoop picked up from Indians in the Cherokee
War, started them up the hill, using trees and rocks for cover. After firing,
the British rushed at the Patriots with bayonets and swords, but with rifles
three to four feet long that held no bayonet, they ran, down the hill and
up the next.
Woodsmen had knives and tomahawks, so fought with them when necessary,
but those had the disadvantage of being shorter weapons. Campbell called
his men back to reload and attack again, and after five attacks, of retreating
and attacking again by other units along the ridge, Ferguson gradually paid
a price. Woodsmen knew how to shoot quickly, then dodge behind trees, and
Ferguson twice cut down white flags raised by his men, yelling, "never
would he yield to such damned banditti." [b] The woodsmen's repeated
attacks finally overcame the camp, as Ferguson, in his last desperate attempt
at a charge to break through Sevier's men, was cut down by gunfire. (Capt.
Wilkins: Ferguson's counterpart in The Patriot)
One notation told of a statue being erected in his memory, because he was
a brave man, fighting for what he believed best.
A terrible scourge followed the surrender, when embittered Patriots
kept shooting at the Tory prisoners, beginning like the massacre of Virginians
bayoneted by Loyalists at the Waxhaus. Col. Campbell yelled at them to stop,
"For God's sake, quit! It's murder to shoot anymore." [h] calling
their names, striking down their rifles, but the ridge was long, some did
not hear farther away. Cries of "Tarleton's quarter" and "Buford's
quarter" kept the shooting going. It was many minutes before the prisoners
themselves threw down their arms to show surrender.
The result was Patriots had 28 killed and 64 wounded out of over 900
[b] in battle. Tories lost about 320 killed and wounded and 700 prisoners.
One account noted that several dozen Loyalists were tried for treason, and
some of those hung, firing up the animosity of Tories against the Patriots
Patriot woodsmen eventually disbursed and returned to their homes, their
vengeance having been largely satisfied. They did not realize at the time
the influence this battle had in the fight for independence. It was the
last major confrontation considered between Patriots and Tories. Imagine
the impact on Cornwallis when he learned Ferguson and his entire legion
had been lost in one hour.
Kings Mountain was a unique battle. Except for Ferguson, it was all
Americans, Tories or Patriots. A force of nearly 1,800 Patriot irregulars
had emerged on call, (seen quoted also as 1200 and 900) organized into units
with competent leaders, agreed on action and proceeded like a highly mobile
corps, and most armed with long frontier rifles. Shelby's advice as a leader
was, "When we encounter the enemy, don't wait for the word of command.
Let each of you be your own officer, and do the very best you can."
[b] However, this may have contributed to why it was so difficult for the
Patriot leaders to stop their men from shooting captured Loyalists (seen
in The Patriot) in retaliation for the
Rumors of a Patriot uprising of 3,000 men caused Cornwallis, still with
a fever, to abandon Charlotte and head for South Carolina, marching 15 miserable
days through rain, quagmired roads, losing wagons, some to harassing Patriots.
Kings Mountain had altered the whole war in the south. British Gen. Clinton
said that Kings Mountain, "so encouraged the spirit of rebellion in
the Carolinas that it could never afterward be humbled." [b] To index
1780, late October
It was at this point in History that Cooper's "The Spy"
begins, on which this website, "Songs of the Neutral Ground,"
1780, October -December
By the time the disgrace of Gates was known and an investigation ordered
into his conduct, the Continental Congress on Oct. 5, 1780, passed a resolution
giving the commander-in-chief, Gen. George Washington, a directive to appoint
an officer to command the southern forces of their army. Washington's choice
for general of the southern American army finally took place, with his appointment
of General Nathanael Greene, [4a] who took over
the remaining troops, 90 cavalrymen, 60 artillerymen, and about 1500 foot
soldiers fit for duty, when he arrived on Dec. 2, 1780, in Charlotte, NC.
Another account shows the remnants of Gates' depressed army consisting
of 2,500 men on paper, 1,500 actually present 1,000 of them fit for duty,
949 were Continentals, and only 800 with enough clothing and equipment,
but all agreed few generals probably ever received such a sad state of command,
as General Nathanael Greene when he arrived at Charlotte, NC, and found
men who had lost discipline and "were so addicted to plundering that
they were a terror to the inhabitants."[h] Some left for days to find
food by pillaging or however. To discourage this practice Greene had one
Greene wrote Lafayette, "What a Herculean task we have, to contend
with a formidable enemy with a handful of men." [h] The governor of
South Carolina agreed that slaves would make good soldiers to fill the manpower
shortage, by offering them freedom if they served in the American army,
just as the British had enlisted slaves, who would run away from their owners,
by promising freedom to them after the war. (noted by a posted declaration
in The Patriot.)
Record Primes (likely the black fellow emulated in The
Patriot with Martin's men) had received a head wound at Camden,
seen the horrors at Kings Mountain, and joined other black soldiers at Cowpens,
like Fortune Freeman [he was a "free" man] who had seen
action at Brandywine, Monmouth, and Saratoga.
Following General Greene's appointment over the American army in the
south, of which he was unfamiliar, he consulted with Gen. Washington about
the myriad of waterways in the region, knowing they could be a hindrance
or a help in army movements, and so, very important to know their characteristics
in advance of any planned strategy. He deemed it necessary to have surveys
of the Dan, Roanoke, Haw, Pee Dee, Yadkin, Catawba, Santee, and the Broad
rivers and streams. On his way to Charlotte, Gen. Greene enlisted Lt. Col.
Edward Carrington, Col. Kosciuszko and Brig. Gen. Edward Stevens to survey
some of these rivers, while he himself collected data as he traveled. He
knew it was necessary to rely on abilities of the leaders of all the partisan
British posts were strung out from Savannah, GA, to Charleston, across
to Beaufort, Georgetown, Camden, Ninety-Six garrison, Winnsboro, and Augusta.
The widely spread force limited strength in the smaller posts. Troops seeking
food and traveling between garrisons were perfect targets for fast moving
partisans; but, Greene's first objective was to find a safe place to rejuvenate,
equip and train the men for offensive action against Cornwallis.
1780, December 2
Washington promised to send one of his favorites to Greene, Virginian
Lt. Col. Lighthorse Henry Lee and his legion, and, fortunately, Greene
had inherited superb leaders in Lt. Col. John Eager Howard and Brigadier
General Daniel Morgan, [4b] (mentioned in The Patriot),
a man known across all thirteen colonies for leading his sharpshooters with
daring and craftiness, spending half his 44 years as a fighter.
Morgan had resigned from service as a colonel in July 1779, after being
passed over for promotion by Congress time after time by younger men, even
with being known for his exceptional assistance in battles at Quebec and
two at Saratoga, perhaps because he was considered a backwoodsman, untrained
professionally by military officers in his early years. With the fall of
Charleston, a replenishment of officers was needed for those lost. Congress
sent orders to him at his farm in Frederick County, VA, to report for duty
under the newly appointed Gen. Gates, but Morgan ignored them. When he heard
the tragedy of Camden though, swallowing his pride, he rode to Hillsboro,
and reported to Gates, who placed him over a light infantry corps.
Congress finally appointed Morgan to Brigadier General on October 13,
1780, under the third General of the southern troops in six months, Nathanael
Greene, who immediately planned an unethical move for army practice, by
dividing the small force into two even smaller ones, giving himself and
General Huger 1,100 troops to march to a place for repose on Cherwa Hill,
and Morgan 600 men, including 80 dragoons under Lt. Col. William Washington,
(one account said 1,600, including MD and DL Continental infantry, 200 VA
riflemen, 160 horsemen) to stay on the west side of the Catawba River, where
he would be joined by volunteers of Gen. Davidson and Gen. Sumter. (talk
in The Patriot?)
Patriot leader Thomas Sumter, requested by Greene to add his sizable
force to Morgan's army, as other Patriot bands had been asked or volunteered,
did not respond to the call. It was known that he was commander of Patriots
in the Pacelot River area, and apparently resented this outsider, more famous
than he, being placed over his territory, plus surrounding regions. That
rejection of cooperation signaled the end of his career as a Patriot leader.
(The Patriot Martin remained.)
1780, December 16,
Greene's orders to Morgan were "to give protection to that part
of the country, spirit up the people, to annoy the enemy in that quarter,
collect provisions and forage." [b] If the enemy moved after Greene's
force, to move in a direction to join Greene or fall back onto the flank
or rear of the enemy, to spare no pains getting good intelligence on their
situation and informing Greene of such. Four days later Greene and Huger
started through heavy rains, and reached Cheraw Hill by Dec. 26, 1780.
1780, December 21,
Morgan left Charlotte, arriving at Grindall's Shoals on the Pacelot
River by Christmas Day. Days of rain slowed movement by all, "turned
the roads into troughs of mud that sucked at the marcher's boots."
[k] Greene, with usual care, had ordered "preparation of wheeled platforms
on which improvised pontoons could be hauled with the army for crossing
The miserable rainy and cold weather was forgotten with the arrival
of Major ? McDowell (in one account, Joseph, but in others it was Charles)
of Kings Mt. fame with 190 North Carolina riflemen. Greene's orders were
carried out to a degree on Dec. 27, by Morgan sending William Washington
(cousin of General George Washington) out with 280 dragoons and mounted
militia to intercept a Tory raiding party of 250 riders [b] who had been
ravaging Patriot settlements near Fair Forest Creek (example of this in
Washington rode hard, covering 40 miles the second day, and attacking
the Tories with a vengeance at Hammond's Store, 30 miles NE of the British
Ninety-Six post, killing or wounding 150, capturing 40. Before leaving,
he sent Col. Joseph Hayes 15 miles closer to Ninety-Six to take a small
Tory stockade called Fort Williams, then return. On New Year's Day 1781,
Cornwallis received a frantic message that a massive raid was nearing Ninety-Six.
In Winnsboro, SC, Cornwallis, puzzled over Greene's actions, studied
the map, (as seen in The Patriot) he
eventually reasoned out the clever strategy of Greene's dividing his small
forces, seeing if he, Cornwallis, struck out in force at Morgan to the left,
Greene could move in on Charleston and threaten the British supply line;
or if he went at Huger and Greene to the right, Morgan could attack Ninety-Six
or Augusta; or if advanced up the center along the Camden-Charlotte-Salisbury
axis into North Carolina, Morgan and Greene could attack both flanks or
the main force's rear. "Cornwallis' personal military history had never
revealed any lack of audacity." [b] (This realized by The
Patriot, reading Cornwallis'
Cornwallis would outdo Greene and have a mobile force under Rawden at
Camden that would fend off Huger if he moved out from Cheraw; a second force
under Tarleton would proceed to destroy Morgan, while Cornwallis with the
main British army would move north ward about January 7th, to help mop up
any of Morgan's forces left. With Morgan out of the way, they would turn
on Greene and Huger.
Tarleton's reconnaissance had verified that Wm. Washington's raiders
had come and gone, and in a letter to his chief dated Jan. 4, 1781, he requested
being the one sent to destroy Morgan's corps, Cornwallis answered that Tarleton
had done exactly what was hoped and proposed marching his troops on Sunday,
Tarleton's ruthlessness was feared and inspired revenge among Patriots
when hearing the words, "Tarleton's quarter." Tarleton
had come with Gen. Clinton, when he sailed down from New York to take Charleston,
and was placed in command of a British legion of green jacketed dragoons
(heavily armed mounted troops) and light infantry.
In February, 1781, Tarleton's green jackets proved fatal for a Loyalist
band under Col. John Pyle, that was coming to aid Tarleton, when two young
scouts, sent out, returned reporting finding a group of green-jacketed patrols
ahead, and giving their commander a message (they thought was from Tarleton)
to move to the side of the road for them to pass. Not until Lt. Col. Light-Horse
Harry Lee's green-jacked cavalry from VA passed well between the Loyalist
party standing aside, was the mistake uncovered that these green coats did
NOT belong to Tarleton's men. Lee's cavalry quickly reacted and sudden sword
swinging downed most of the Loyalist band. To index
1781, January 6 - 9,
Tarleton had recovered from the high fevered illness during the Kings
Mt. battle and was ready for action, but heavy rains caused slow movement
of both Tarleton, bogged down in mud at Duggin's Plantation on Indian Creek
with his group of 1,100, of which 200 had never seen action, and Cornwallis,
who spent 8 days to reach Hillhouse Plantation on Indian Creek, 40 miles
from Winnsboro. Tarleton crossed the Enoree and Tyger Rivers in pursuit
of Morgan on Jan. 14th, and did not hear that Cornwallis curtailed his advance
at Turkey Creek, thinking Tarleton was still socked in, due to mud.
Greene was happy learning their enemy had been stuck in the mud, giving
his men a chance to rest, and wrote Morgan on Jan. 13, asking him to hold
his ground if possible, because there could be very sad results from
a retreat, and that Tarleton was on his way to pay Morgan a visit.
If that must be, Morgan wanted the choice of where he must hold his
ground against Tarleton, as his surprise attacks proved deadly. Informed
by scouts that Tarleton had moved up the Pacelot River toward Wofford's
iron works, or Old Iron Works, and was only 10 miles away, Morgan saw if
Tarleton took his men across the river above and moved eastward, he would
get between Greene and Morgan.
1781, January 16
Morgan sent word to small patrols he had placed up and down the river
to check on Tarleton's crossing; this occurred at 6 am on the 16th, but
after Morgan had ordered all patrols to hurry back to Thickery Creek, then
on to Cherokee Ford. One patrol left so quickly that when Tarleton's patrol
reached their campsite, fires were still burning and breakfast cooking (in
The Patriot). The food was not wasted
by his men. Tarleton's hope was that Cornwallis would move toward Kings
Mountain and trap Morgan between them, but Cornwallis was not close enough.
Morgan was running for dear life, but knew he could not let Tarleton
catch him on the run, as that was fatal, he learned from those who had experienced
the surprise tactics of Tarleton, and now estimated his forces at three
times as many as Morgan's. He sought the advice of Major Charles McDowell,
who was familiar to the area, as to the best place to take a stand against
Tarleton. The choice was where the Patriots assembled before their last
battle at Kings Mt., Cowpens.
The cagey veteran gathered his forces to march to Hannah's Cowpens,
a pasture area for cattle, where behind them to the north was the swollen
Broad River, which to him would discourage a stampede retreat like Camden.
Happily word came that Andrew Pickens had crossed Broad River with 150 mounted
militia, and soon other groups of militia ( The
Patriot was among these) were coming from all directions to join
him. (Accounts stated totals of 1,100 -1,600 - 1,800 men)
As they had arrived at the pasture, Morgan rode ahead, taking Howard
and other officers with him, traveling north on Green River Road to familiarize
them with the road and lay of the land Tarleton would take to reach them
at Cowpens. It was as McDowell had described, the open area beyond the woods
sloping upward to a low crest about 400 yards ahead, with a ridge formed
by two small hills toward the northern edge of the open area, with a swale
or dip behind the nearer crest, extending 80 yards to the higher northern
crest, a rolling ground with the top crest no more than 25 yards higher
than the plain.
Reading the strategy is so interesting, but it boiled down to Morgan
placing his infantry in 3 battle lines, with Green River Road marking the
center: the front line 150 picked sharpshooters from NC under Major McDowell
and Georgians under Major John Cunningham. The riflemen were to take cover
and wait until their targets were within 50 yards before firing, and to
pick off the men with epaulets, taking two shots before falling back to
take their places with the second line of militia.
The militia, about 300, commanded by Andrew Pickens of NC and SC, with
their long rifles that could shoot farther with more accuracy than the British,
would be placed astride the road 150 yards behind the first line. These,
too, were instructed to get off two volleys within killing distance of 50
yards, then withdraw, but not to the rear. All the riflemen
and militia were to file off to the left and around the end of the third
line, then reassemble in the rear, behind the third line, as backup to fight
again if needed. Morgan knew militia would not stand and fight swords and
bayonets in an open field, so made their withdrawal part of the battle plan.
The third line, the main battle line, would be just below the crest
of the first ridge, made up of 300 Maryland and Delaware veterans in the
middle astride the road, 140 Virginians and a company of Georgians on the
right under Tate, and on the left Triplett's Virginians, headed overall
by Lt. Col. John Eager Howard., who had served in four major battles and
would in four more, called, "as good an officer as the world affords."
[d] The third battle line were seasoned veterans, experienced as any in
Morgan reviewed his plans with top officers and lower ranking ones,
and as night drew on, went from campfire to campfire, despite pain from
sciatica worsened by dampness, explaining his strategy to every soldier,
so they understood the battle plan, while boosting their morale. He couldn't
sleep until all were prepared, had their 24 rounds of ammunition and that
supper rations were issued and corn cakes were cooked and ready for a quick
breakfast. To index
1781, January 17,
About 6 am, Morgan was informed that Tarleton was 5 miles away, approaching
fast. Ignoring his rheumatism, after a hurried breakfast for all, Morgan
made his last round before dawn, when all were in assigned places; he rode
the lines, joking with McDowell's and Cunningham's forward line riflemen,
always repeating, "Look for the epaulets!" or "Pick off the
epaulets." [j] (Epaulets were worn by the officers and without them
to lead, there was chaos. This practice was protested by General Cornwallis
to Martin in The Patriot.)
The seasoned veterans of Howard's line needed no repeated instructions;
Morgan took his place behind the lines and hoped Tarleton's eagerness for
battle had caused him to rout his men up in the night and march through
brush and swamps of unfamiliar terrain that would exhaust their stamina
That was the case. Tarleton had called for reveille at 2 or 3 am, after
scouts had brought in a prisoner the night before, who revealed that Morgan
was in striking distance. Tarleton set out prepared for a swift strike in
the maneuver that had proven successful for him in the past. He sent Capt.
Ogilvie with several men on up Green River Road, but, coming into the open
pasture at Cowpens, a few shots were fired at them, causing them to rush
back to their commander and report.
Upon hearing that the enemy was up ahead, Tarleton quickly gleaned information
about the terrain surrounding Cowpens' open meadow, and joyously learned
of the swollen river behind Morgan, preventing a retreat, not realizing
Morgan was glad for that impediment to prevent his men from running as at
Camden, but would stand and fight with backs to a wall of sorts.
Tarleton's view of the first battle line caused him to stop before being
able to see the main line. His initial reaction, to rush the enemy, sent
his cavalry forward to startle and overwhelm the riflemen. Before reaching
them, however, shots took out 15 of his riders, and the rest quickly retreated,
so he ordered his oncoming unit into battle formation as they entered the
open field from the south.
Fifty dragoons plus light infantry arrived first, followed by 250 +
legion infantry, the cannon, 200 redcoats of the 7th Regiment of Foot, 200
Scots from the 71st Highlanders, 50 Light Dragoons, then Tarleton's cavalry;
[d] They piled excess equipment to pick up after the battle, and formed
a front line 400 yards from the facing American riflemen, light infantry
on the right, legion infantry on the left.
Over eagerness again worked to his disadvantage, by ordering an attack
before all units were ready to move into battle action. Cannons fired as
infantry advanced. Quotes of comments in the history books are amusing but
prophetic. Morgan's front line drew back, but fired in the process, making
good use of their shots, then joined the second line waiting for the British
line to come within the coached firing range. On signal at 100 yards due
to their long rifles, their fire let loose a volley of shots with accuracy
that halted the British line momentarily.
The militia had reloaded by then, fired a second volley at those that
kept coming, then turned to leave the field at the left as planned. Bayonets
were affixed by the English remaining on their feet, and still rushing forward.
The order to charge with bayonet was as quickly obeyed as it was uttered
by Tarleton, with his infantry trying to reach the Americans' forward lines
before they could leave the field. If the Americans turned and fled at this
point, it would have the effect of Camden, but Morgan's battle strategy
gave them a planned exit from the field; so they ran off to the left as
However, as they raced around Howard's left wing, it took quick persuasion
by their officers to stop many from heading for their horses in the woods,
and to fall back into position to reinforce the back line of militia. Tarleton
ordered a charge by Ogilvie's 50 cavalrymen into the retreating Americans.
Bad idea! They were met with a fire volume from Triplett's VA militia,
and then charged by Wm. Washington's dragoons and McCall's mounted riflemen,
causing a hasty dash to the rear of the British line, leaving Picken's men
to continue their orderly retreat.
By 7:15 am Tarleton ordered a second attack, for the purpose of finishing
off the third line of Americans. The British infantry rushed forward, with
the quick march of Morgan's front lines, off the field to the left, giving
them a sense of victory, only to be stopped by a volley of shots from Howard's
unit, as soon as the militia, moving across in front of them, had cleared
their line of fire.
The British recovered, returned fire, and a firefight resulted. Tarleton
realized the standoff, and sent his 71st Highlanders against the right side
of Morgan's line, as Morgan viewed the action, then noticed Howard riding
toward his right flank. ]
Suddenly, likely unbelievably, Morgan must have been aghast to see Wallace's
Virginians, on Howard's right flank, turn about and walk away, with their
backs to the battle, as other units of the right end followed suit, turned
their backs and marched to the rear. A command was misunderstood, they were
not marching in the expected direction; Morgan charged up hard in front
of this appearing to be retreating line to ask Howard what was wrong.
Howard's men continued marching up the slope of the northern ridge,
as Tarleton and his cavalry came racing down the slope of the southern ridge
into the swale behind and below the marchers, inspired likely by the looks
of a retreating enemy; but Wm. Washington saw this, quickly urged Morgan,
"Give them one fire, and I'll charge them." [k]
Morgan agreed, gave the order, and the instant the British onrushers
were within fire range, his signal led the riflemen to wheel about and deliver
a devastating volley of shots at close range, surprising the attackers.
Howard then ordered his veterans into a bayonet charge, and further disabled
the stunned British infantry.
Pickens ordered his men back into line to fire on the Highlanders. Washington's
and McCall's horsemen plunged into British dragoons that rushed up the hill,
pushing them aside, charged a second time, and 200 of them bolted from the
field. Washington kept going, plowed into the British infantry, with ugly
slashing causing the 7th regiment to throw themselves on the ground with
cries of "quarter," but were told to throw down their arms if
they wanted good quarter, not Tarleton's.
The American officers were able to stop that idea before it started.
McCall's horsemen then rounded up another 200 captives. Pickens men
nearly surrounded the Highlanders, pelting them until they, too, gave up.
Tarleton's efforts to assist them failed, and his brave artillery men stayed
at their guns until all were downed. All he had left was 200 dragoons, but
when he ordered them to charge forward to attack militia, those that he
had led to victory before, turned and fled.
With comparatively few men left, Tarleton got the picture, turned tail
and started a retreat from the field, but not without Wm. Washington and
his cavalry in high chase after him. Determined not to let this sought after
prize get away, he charged Tarleton into a sword fight as dramatic as could
be imagined. A young black bugler at one point wounded an officer "with
a ball from a pistol" [h] when he was about to cut Col. Washington
down with his sword.
You can read a detailed account of it in Battles of the Revolutionary
War, 1775 - 1781, [b] page 225], and The Revolutionaries. [d],
page 145] Differs somewhat from the end in The
Patriot, but that's a movie. An end must be what movie-goers
want. Watching a documentary of history does not lend itself to viewers'
personal compassion, as much as a story of specific characters one can become
emotionally concerned with, seeing how their lives are affected by historic
If your memory is good for details, try to remember and compare the
actions and maneuvers above, during the battle at Cowpens, with what is
seen in The Patriot, even get books
to fortify your knowledge of the real drama of history.
All that escaped of Tarleton's 550 legionnaires were 14 officers and
40 horsemen. The American losses were an incredible 12 dead and 60 wounded
(frontier rifles could shoot straighter and farther than the English muskets).
The British dead numbered 100 - 110 (39 officers), 229 wounded and around
600 - 700 prisoners. Morgan also acquired 800 muskets, 100 horses, 2 cannon,
Tarleton's baggage, 35 wagons with ammunition, the enemies' musical instruments,
bagpipes, fifes and drums, and about 60 slaves that had left their masters
to join the British. (This an accumulation from five historical accounts).
The overjoyed General Morgan wrote, "a more compleat victory never
was obtained." [d]
While the battle of Kings Mountain was totally a culmination of hostility
between American Patriots and Tories or Loyalists, with only one Englishman
involved, Major Ferguson; the battle at Cowpens was a combination of Patriot
bands, assisting a relatively small American army unit, to defeat a totally
British trained army force.
Congress was so elated and grateful for this turn in the tide of the
war, that they finally awarded the courage and military cunning of Daniel
Morgan, by giving him a gold medal. Washington and Howard received silver
medals, and Pickens a sword; but previously Congress had ignored Morgan's
feats of valor, both by recognition and promotion in rank, yet some historians
feel Morgan was the only military genius of the American Revolution .
Final scenes in the movie of the American Revolution's southern campaign,
to the surrender of Cornwallis to George Washington at Yorktown, VA, likely
included an appearance of the Marquis de Lafayette, [3b]
among other officers at the surrender, because he was listed as a character
in the movie, and he actually was present at the surrender of Yorktown.
Names came so quickly within The Patriot
movie, sometimes it was difficult to catch for whom they were intended.
HATS OFF to MEL GIBSON, director Ronald Emmerich, and producers Dean
Devlin, Mark Gordon, and Gary Levinsohn, for initiating and coordinating
this enormous effort, to portray so precisely the occurrences of this period
in the American Revolution, and examples of heroes, without which the Revolution
in the south could not have been won. Outside The
Patriot's family interest story, only three remembered incidents
were not found in the above American history books. It is possible two of
the incidents occurred and may be found in other books about the American
Revolution, but, knowing film-makers' habits, could have been added to intensify
the drama, such as burning of the church. Such things, however, did occur
in Europe in the 1700's.
As Gone With the Wind inscribed so memorably the disaster of
the American Civil War in visual actions on our minds, so have these men
delved into even greater factual accounts of our beginning struggles in
war, to depict the sufferings of Patriots, Tories or Loyalists, and armies
in the southern colonies, and the survival of the fittest, most clever,
or most determined.
THE PATRIOT is a superbly recorded
visual action reminder of the sacrifices those early settlers endured, enabling
us pompous Americans of today to enjoy lives with the luxuries of telephones
and television, automobiles and automation, electricity and electronics.
Documentaries are great, but movie patrons seem to need that personal concern
for specific characters to entrench their interest in an historical epic.
That is what the efforts of this web site, based on THE SPY, a
story surrounding northern battles of the American Revolution, hoped to
accomplish, but few would see it. Am truly thankful that there were
those around Mel Gibson who aided him in showing us the endurance, tenacity
and wisdom of some of the people who gave life and limb to establish this
Again I say, "HATS OFF to MEL GIBSON - DEAN DEVLIN - MARK GORDON
- GARY LEVINSOHN - RONALD EMMERICH
To index of The