Battle of Cowpens
It was clear and cold on the morning of January 17, 1781. British forces under Tarleton had marched since two in the morning and were approaching the Scruggs farm where the Americans led by Morgan and Pickens were waiting on the Green River Road for the attack.
Tarleton attacked head on – artillery in the middle and 50 Dragoons on each side. Morgan organized his troops with sharpshooters, the Overmountain Boys, out front and hiding behind trees who picked off the British front line.
Andrew Pickens’ militia got off two volleys and retreated with Tarleton’s Dragoons after them. Tarleton’s Highlanders charged with a wild wail of bagpipes causing an American call to retreat.
Morgan ordered the retreating units to stop, turn around, and fire in unison. William Washington’s Patriot cavalry surprised the British Dragoons with volley after volley.The firing took a heavy toll on the British as did a fierce Patriot bayonet charge. British infantry began surrendering en masse.
Finally, Tarleton and a handful of his men fled down the Green River Road. William Washington raced ahead and dueled hand-to-hand with Tarleton and two of his officers. Tarleton turned and fled...followed by his troops.
The battle was over in less than an hour. It was a complete victory for the Patriots. British losses were staggering: 110 dead, over 200 wounded, and 500 captured. Morgan lost only 12 killed and 60 wounded.
The Battle of Cowpens became known as the turning point of the Revolutionary War in the South and was part of a chain of events leading to British surrender at Yorktown.
Two U.S. military ships were named in memory of the Battle of Cowpens. The USS Cowpens CVL- 25, an aircraft carrier nicknamed The Mighty Moo, served from 1943 to 1947, and was decommissioned in 1959. Each year, the town of Cowpens holds a “The Mighty Moo Festival” honoring veterans of the USS Cowpens. The USS Cowpens CG- 63, a guided missile cruiser, was commissioned in 1991, served in the Iraq War, and is now based in San Diego.