General Morgan's Report on the Battle of Cowpens
Papers of the Continental Congress M247 roll 175 vol. 1 pg. 541
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland
Camp near Cain Creek
Januay 19 1781
The Troops I have the honor to command have gained a compleat Victory over a Detachment from the British Army commanded by Leut. Colonel Tarlton. The Action happened on the 17th Inst. about Sunrise at a Place called the Cowpens near Pacolet River.
On the 14th having received Intelligence that the British Army were in motion, and that their movements clearly indicated their Intentions of dislodging me, I abandoned my Encampment at Goindales Ford and on the 16th in the Evening took possession of a Post about 7 miles from the Cherokee Ford on Broad River. My former Position subjected me at once to the Operations of Lord Cornwallis and Colonel Tarlton and in Case of a Defeat my Retreat might easily have been cut off. My situation at the Cowpens enabled me to improve any advantages that I might gain and to provide better for my Security should I be unfortunate. These Reasons induced me to take this Post notwithstanding it had the Appearances of a Retreat. On the Evening of the 16th the Enemy occupied the Ground we had moved from in the morning. An Hour before daylight one of my Scouts informed me that they had advanced within five Miles of our Camp. On this Information the necessary positions were made and from the alacrity of the Troops we were soon prepared to receive them.
The Light Infantry, commanded by Leut. Colonel Howard and the Virginia Militia under Majr. Triplett were formed on a rising Ground. The 3rd Regiment of Dragoons consisting of about 80 men under the command of Lt. Colonel Washington were so posted in their Rear so as not to be injured by the Enemy's Fire and yet to be able to charge them should an occasion offer. The Volunteers from N. Carolina, S. Carolina and Georgia under the command of Colonel Pickens were posted to guard the Flanks. Majr. McDowell of the N. Carolina Volunteers was posted on the right Flank in front of the Line 150 yards and Majr. Cunningham of the Georgia Volunteers on the left at the same distance in Front. Colonels Brannon's and Thomas of the S. Carolina Volunteers on the right of Majr. McDowell and Colonels Hays and McCall of the same Corps on the left of Majr. Cunningham. Captains Tate and Buchannan with the Augusta Riflemen were to support the right of the Line.
The Enemy drew up in one Line 400 yds. in Front of our advanced Corps. The 1st Battn. of the 71st Regt. was opposed to our Right. The 7th Regt. to our left. The Legion Infantry to our Center and two Companies of light Troops of 100 each on our Flanks. In their Front they moved two pieces of Artillery and Lt. Colonel Tarlton with 280 Cavalry was posted in the rear of his Line. The Disposition being thus made small Parties of Riflemen were detached to skirmish with the Enemy on which their whole Line advanced with the greatest Impetuosity shouting as they advanced. Majers [sic] McDowell and Cunningham gave them a heavy and galling fire and retreated to the Regiments intended for their support. The whole of Colonel Picken's Command then kept up a Fire by Regiments retreating agreeable to orders. When the Enemy advanced to our Line they received a well directed and incessant Fire but their Numbers being superior to ours they gained our Flanks which obliged us to change our Position. We retired in good order about 50 Paces, formed, advanced on the Enemy and gave them a brisk Fire which threw them into disorder. Lt. Colonel Howard discovering this gave orders for the Line to charge [with] Bayonets which was done with such address that the Enemy fled with the utmost Precipitation.
Lt. Colonel Washington discovering that the Cavalry were cutting down our Riflemen on the left charged them with such Firmness as obliged them to retire in Confusion. The Enemy was entirely routed and the pursuit continued upwards of 20 miles.
Our loss was inconsiderable, not having more than 12 killed and 60 Wounded. The Enemy loss was 10 Com. Officers and upwards of 100 Rank and File killed, 200 Wounded. 29 Com. Officers and above 500 Privates Prisoners, which fell into our Hands with two Pieces of Artillery, two Standards, 800 musquets [sic], one travelling Forge, 35 Baggage Waggons, 70 negroes and upwards of 100 Dragoon Horses with all their [Musith?]. They destroyed most of their Baggage which was immense.
Altho our Success was compleat, we fought only 800 Men and were opposed by upwards of 1000 of proven British Troops.
Such ws the Inferiority of our numbers, that our Success must be attributed to the Justice of our Cause and the Bravery of our Troops. My Wishes would induce me to mention the Name of every private Centinel [sic] in the Corps. In Justice to the Bravery and good Conduct of the Officers, I have taken the Liberty to enclose you a List of their Names from a conviction that you will be pleased to introduce such Characters to the World.
Majr. Giles my Aid d[e] Camp and Capt. Brooks acting as my Brigade Majer [sic] deserve and have my thanks for their assistance & Behaviour on this occasion.
The Baron De Glaibeuh, who accompanies Majr. Giles with these Dispatches, served with me as a Volunteer and behaved in such a manner as to merit your attention.