DescriptionEncompassing 845 acres, Cowpens National Battlefield is 9 miles northwest of Gaffney and 18 miles northeast of Spartanburg, .2 miles east of the junction of SRs 11 and 110 at 4001 Chesnee Hwy. At the battlefield Patriots commanded by Gen. Daniel Morgan outfought a more experienced British force under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton during the Revolutionary War.
After the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780 British Gen. Charles Cornwallis chose to remain in South Carolina. Gen. Nathanael Greene, commissioned to reorganize the American forces, sent Morgan to divert Cornwallis' attention from the bulk of the American forces. Morgan threatened Ninety Six, where there was a British fort, so Cornwallis dispatched Tarleton to meet him.
When the two forces clashed at the cow pens on Jan. 17, 1781, the British infantry and dragoons outnumbered the Colonials, comprising Continental forces from Maryland and Delaware and militia units from the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.
Morgan, a brilliant strategist, divided his troops into three consecutive lines; the first two were meant to engage and slow the enemy, then fall back, leaving the brunt of the fighting to the more seasoned troops in the rear. The plan worked. Within an hour the Colonials sent the British regulars into a disorderly retreat. Morgan's losses were light; Tarleton's amounted to about 75 percent of his command.
Sites of major action are marked by exhibits along a 1.2-mile walking trail and a 3-mile automobile tour road. A restored 1828 log cabin also is beside the road.
The visitor center exhibits a lighted map tracing troop movements during the battle as well as oil paintings and weapons. An audiovisual presentation, “Cowpens: A Battle Remembered,” lasts about 20 minutes and is shown hourly. Picnicking is permitted until 4:30. Allow 1 hour minimum. Battlefield and visitor center open daily 9-5. Closed Jan. 1, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Free. Phone (864) 461-2828.