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The Battle of Cowpens

On January 17, 1781, it was a decisive victory by American Revolutionary forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War. It was a turning point in the reconquest of South Carolina from the British.

What do you know about the The Battle of Cowpens?
Try the American Revolutionary War - U.S. History Made Easy Trivia quiz.
"Check Your Answers" at the end of the page.

Take 2 points for each right answer.  Maximum this page: 20 points!19th century depiction of Battle of Lexington

1) Lt. Col Banastre Tarleton commanded the British forces. General Cornwallis instructed Tarleton and his Legion, who had been successful at battles such as Camden and Waxhaw in the past, to destroy Morgan's command.
What was Tarleton's strength?

  1. 550 men

  2. 1,100 men

  3. 2,200 men

2) At 2:00 a.m. on January 17, 1781, Tarleton roused his troops and continued his march to the Cowpens. Lawrence Babits A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens states that, "in the five days before Cowpens, the British were subjected to stress that could only be alleviated by rest and proper diet". He points out that "in the forty-eight hours before the battle, the British ran out of food and had less than four hours' sleep".

  • True or False?

3) Realizing that poorly-trained militia were unreliable in battle, especially when they were under attack from cavalry, Morgan decided to ask the militia to fire two shots and then retreat, so he could have them re-form under cover of the reserve (cavalry commanded by William Washington and James McCall) behind the third, more experienced line of militia and continentals. The movement of the militia in the second line would mask the third line to the British. The third line, composed of the remainder of the forces (about 550 men) was composed of Continentals from Delaware and Maryland, and militiamen from Georgia and Virginia. Colonel John Eager Howard commanded the Continentals and Colonels Tate and Triplett the militia.

  • True or False?

4) Taking the withdrawal of the first two lines as a full blown retreat, the British advanced headlong into the awaiting final line of disciplined regulars which firmly held on the hill.
Who did Tarleton order to attack the American's?

  1. Loyalist Prince of Wales' American Regiment

  2. Highlanders

  3. Royal Fusiliers

5) The Americans retreated. Flushed with victory and now disorganized, the British ran after them. Abruptly, the American's pulled an about-face, fired an extremely devastating volley into his enemy, and then charged.
Who lead the American troops?

  1. Lt. Col. Benjamin Martin

  2. Lt. Col. John Eager Howard

  3. Lt. Col. Harry Burwell

6) With Tarleton's right flank and center line collapsed, there remained only a minority of his troops who were still putting up a fight against part of the American line.
What was the British force?

  1. 71st Highlanders

  2. 17th Light Dragoons

  3. 16th Regiment

7) Tarleton was stopped by an American officer, who attacked him with his saber, calling out, "Where is now the boasting Tarleton?".
Who was the American officer?

  1. Lt. Col. William Washington

  2. Captain John Lawson

  3. Colonel Joseph McDowell

8) Tarleton was given the nickname "Barbarous Ban" by the Patriot press, a title that Tarleton relished since he felt it gave his command an advantage.

  • True or False?

9) Daniel Morgan had fought a masterly battle. His tactical decisions and personal leadership had allowed a force consisting mainly of militia to fight according to their strengths to win one of the most complete victories of the war.
What was he known as?

  1. The Old Waggoner

  2. The Old Ranger

  3. The Old Man

10) In July 1781, who did Morgan briefly join to once more pursue Banastre Tarleton, this time in Virginia, but they were not successful?

  1. Lafayette

  2. John Mosby

  3. von Stuben


Battle of Cowpens (Answers)

1) A.  2) True  3) True  4) B.  5) B.  6) A 7) A.  8) True  9) A.  10) A.

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