"THE PATRIOT " ACCURACY

Numbered links [#] and underlined dates on this page are in The Patriot Accuracy [Pat#] links to & from the Chronology of American Revolution

 Chronology of American Revolution

TASTE of FREEDOM

from Songs "of the Neutral Ground"

Sing words in italics as sung by THE SPY

 "I, I love the taste of freedom ... for this land whose vastness is unknown ... How, how can I show the reason ... to preserve this holiness of home,

"Where I lived as I grew ... with the sorrow we came through ... in these woods and these hills ... where I roam?" 

 MILITARY LEADERS, in THE PATRIOT, both true #1-5 and based on true #6-9

[1] Am. Gen. Horatio Gates [2] Eng.Gen.Chas Cornwallis [3a] GenGeorge Washington [3b] Marquis de Lafayette [4a] Gen. Nathanael Greene [4b] Am.Gen.Daniel Morgan [5] Eng. Gen. Henry Clinton

[6] The Patriot, Ben Martin, imaged Frances Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens?

[7] British Colonel William Tavington in Patriot imaged Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton?

[8] Harry Burwell imaged Mjr. Gen. Richard Caswell & Col. Charles McDowell

[9] Loyalist Captain Wilkins imaged Mj Patrick Ferguson

HATS OFF to Mel Gibson

  Dates of Battles or Events referred to in The Patriot,

1780, Dec., Savannah falls

1780, May 12, Charleston SC English capture 5000 Am.Pat1

1780, May, Gates appointed Gen. Am. Southern Army

1780, May 29, Waxhaus, SC, Brit. kill many captured. Pat3

1780, June 12, Car. Civil war

1780, July, Gen. Rochambeau arrives RI w/5000 troops.Pat4

1780, Aug16 Camden SC Pat5 Gates lost to Brit. Cornwallis.

1780, Oct 7. Kings Mount.NC Patriots defeat Loyalists Pat6

1780, Oct. Greene & Morgan made Am. generals in south.

1781, Jan.17, Cowpens, S. C. Morgan leads in victory. Pat7

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 paperback: 1969
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 demonstration.)

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

1778, March,

Sir Henry Clinton [5] (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.

1778, December

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.

1779, September

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.

To index

1779, December

British General Lord Charles Cornwallis [2] (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 1780.

1780, March

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 or supplies.

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 index

1780, May

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 [3] (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 Valley Forge).

[1] 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 the battle.

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 [7] 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 their lives.

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 15 men.

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 rum kegs.

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. To index

1780, July

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 [8] 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 and peaches.

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." [b]

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." [a]

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 seven cannons.

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 [2]

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 index

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 below.

The Patriot's name in the movie was Benjamin Martin [6], 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. To index

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 loyalties.

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, like in "TO ARMS":

"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 index

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 bands.

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.

[9] 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 changed.

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 index

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 index

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 Patriot)

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 run.

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 even more.

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 Waxhaus massacre.

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," was based.

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 forager hanged.

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 groups around.

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.)

To index

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 rivers." [k]

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 The Patriot).

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' captured journal.)

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, Jan 7.

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 the war.

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 somewhat.

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 ordered.

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 events.

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.

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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 democracy.

Again I say, "HATS OFF to MEL GIBSON - DEAN DEVLIN - MARK GORDON - GARY LEVINSOHN - RONALD EMMERICH

To index of The Patriot Accuracy

To Index Page of The Spy