kids encyclopedia robot

Battle of Cowpens facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Battle of Cowpens
Part of the American Revolutionary War
The Battle of Cowpens, painted by William Ranney in 1845. The scene depicts an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).
The Battle of Cowpens, painted by William Ranney in 1845. The scene depicts an unnamed black U.S. soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).
Date January 17, 1781
Result Decisive American victory
 United States

 Great Britain

Commanders and leaders
United States Daniel Morgan Kingdom of Great Britain Banastre Tarleton
1,887–1,912 1,150
2 guns
Casualties and losses
25 killed
124 wounded
110 killed
229 wounded
629 captured or missing
2 guns lost

The Battle of Cowpens was an engagement during the American Revolutionary War fought on January 17, 1781 near the town of Cowpens, South Carolina, between U.S. forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Sir Banastre Tarleton, as part of the campaign in the Carolinas (North and South). The battle was a turning point in the American reconquest of South Carolina from the British.

Morgan's forces conducted a double envelopment of Tarleton's forces, the only double envelopment of the war. Tarleton's force of 1000 British troops were set against 2000 troops under Morgan. Morgan's forces suffered casualties of only 25 killed and 124 wounded. Tarleton's force was almost completely eliminated with almost 30% casualties and 55% of his force captured or missing, with Tarleton himself and only about 200 British troops escaping.

A small force of the Continental Army under the command of Morgan had marched to the west of the Catawba River, in order to forage for supplies and raise the morale of local Colonial sympathizers. The British had received incorrect reports that Morgan's army was planning to attack the important strategic fort of Ninety Six, held by American Loyalists to the British Crown and located in the west of the Carolinas. The British considered Morgan's army a threat to their left flank. General Charles Cornwallis dispatched cavalry (dragoons) commander Tarleton to defeat Morgan's command. Upon learning Morgan's army was not at Ninety Six, Tarleton, bolstered by British reinforcements, set off in hot pursuit of the American detachment.

Morgan resolved to make a stand near the Broad River. He selected a position on two low hills in open woodland, with the expectation that the aggressive Tarleton would make a headlong assault without pausing to devise a more intricate plan. He deployed his army in three main lines. Tarleton's army, after exhaustive marching, reached the field malnourished and heavily fatigued. Tarleton attacked immediately; however, the American defense-in-depth absorbed the impact of the British attack. The British lines lost their cohesion as they hurried after the retreating Americans. When Morgan's army went on the offensive, it wholly overwhelmed Tarleton's force.

Tarleton's brigade was wiped out as an effective fighting force, and, coupled with the British defeat at the Battle of Kings Mountain in the northwest corner of South Carolina, this action compelled Cornwallis to pursue the main southern American army into North Carolina, leading to the Battle of Guilford Court House, and Cornwallis's eventual defeat at the Siege of Yorktown in Virginia in October 1781.

In the opinion of John Marshall, "Seldom has a battle, in which greater numbers were not engaged, been so important in its consequences as that of Cowpens."

Interesting facts about the Battle of Cowpens

Cowpens reenactors american
Reenactors portraying Colonial troops march into battle at Cowpens
  • The Battle of Cowpens was the known as the turning point in the war and the most decisive victory for the Americans.
  • The battle was very fast and lasted less than an hour.
  • 12 Americans and 39 British officers and 60 of their soldiers were killed.
  • Cowpens is a place in South Carolina, which was called Hannah's Cow-pens at the time of the battle due to the cow pastures and cowpens used by cattle nearby.


  • The battle site is preserved at Cowpens National Battlefield.
  • The Daniel Morgan Monument is in downtown Spartanburg.
  • Two ships of the U.S. Navy have been named USS Cowpens in honor of the battle.
  • Three current Army National Guard units (116th Inf, 175th Inf, and 198th Sig Bn) are derived from American units that participated in the Battle of Cowpens. There are only thirty Army National Guard and active Regular Army units with lineages that go back to the colonial era.

The battle in film

  • The final battle at the end of the 2000 film The Patriot drew its inspiration from two specific battles from the American Revolution: Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. The Americans used the same basic tactics in both battles. The name of the battle, as well as the winning side, were taken from the Cowpens battle. The size of the armies, as well as the presence of Generals Nathanael Greene and Lord Cornwallis, came from the Guilford Courthouse battle.
  • The movie Sweet Liberty, directed by Alan Alda, parodies how a film company takes great liberty with the depiction of the Battle of Cowpens.

Images for kids

kids search engine
Battle of Cowpens Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.