America’s history is filled with thrilling accounts of heroism, bravery, and Divine intervention.
Sadly, many of these true accounts are no longer properly taught in our public school system. And, Hollywood is often unkind to America’s real heroes as well.
But, one recent film depicted an amazing American victory in the war for Independence – The Battle of Cowpens in 1781.
Today, January 17th, is the 236th anniversary of this war-changing battle.
William J. Federer has more about the battle and its aftermath:
“The bloody butcher” is what colonists called British Colonel Banastre Tarleton.
He let his dragoons bayonet and hack hundreds of surrendering Americans at Buford’s Massacre during the Battle of Waxhaw, May 29, 1780.
In January of 1781, 26-year-old Colonel Banastre Tarleton led 1,200 of Britain’s best troops, consisting of British dragoons, regulars, highlanders and loyalists, in a hot pursuit of the Americans.
American General Daniel Morgan led Colonel Banastre Tarleton into a trap – the Battle of Cowpens, JANUARY 17, 1781.
The Americans took a stand with the Broad River behind them, leaving them no opportunity to retreat.
Seeing this a foolish decision, British Colonel Tarlton gave into the temptation to pursue without doing any reconnaissance.
This scene was depicted in the movie, The Patriot, in which Mel Gibson’s character Benjamin Martin, portrayed a composite of the fiercest Carolina leaders:
Gen. Andrew Pickens (nicknamed “the Wizard Owl”);
Gen. Francis Marion (nicknamed “the Swamp Fox); and
Col. Thomas Sumter (nicknamed “the Carolina Gamecock”).
The American Continentals stood immovable, firing at point-blank range.
The militia then circled around, appearing on the other side of the hill to attack Tarlton’s flank.
In the confusion, 110 British were killed and 830 captured.
The Battle of Cowpens is widely considered the tactical masterpiece and turning point of the Revolutionary War.
When British General Cornwallis was told the news, he was leaning on his sword – and leaned so hard the blade snapped .
This was an amazing tactical victory by the up-start Colonial Army against the strongest fighting force in the world at that time – the British Army.
It was this stunning victory that positioned the Americans for final victory at Yorktown some nine months later.
But, after Cowpens, Divine intervention protected the Americans three separate times. William J. Federer explains:
Cornwallis gave chase, even abandoning his slow supply wagons along the way.
Cornwallis arrived at the Catawba River just two hours after the Americans had crossed, but a sudden storm made the river impassable, delaying the British pursuit.
The British nearly overtook the Americans at the Yadkin River, but again rains flooded the river slowing the British.
Now it was a frantic race to the Dan River.
General Nathaniel Greene quickly got the Americans across before another flash flood blocked the British.
British Commander Henry Clinton wrote:
“Here the royal army was again stopped by a sudden rise of the waters, which had only just fallen (almost miraculously) to let the enemy over, who could not else have eluded Lord Cornwallis’ grasp, so close was he upon their rear.”
Badly needed supplies, Cornwallis was ordered by British General Henry Clinton to move his 8,000 troops to a defensive position where the York River entered Chesapeake Bay, and wait for British ships.
So, here were three sudden, unexpected flash floods that just happened to hit right after the Americans crossed the rivers but before the British could catch up.
Hmmm . . . maybe the old American song has it right -“God shed His grace on thee.”
Of course, after Cornwallis and the British got to Yorktown – the rest, as they as say, “is history” – real American History – 235 years ago.
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