On January 17, 1781, a battle was fought at a place called the Cowpens. A patriot force of Continental soldiers and backwoods militia led by General Daniel Morgan defeated a large force of British regulars led by Gen. Banastre Tarleton, the most notorious British commander in the south. In less than an hour, it was over. One chronicler called Cowpens, “a devil of a whipping.” It was considered a turning point in the Revolutionary War because it was the first time Patriot troops had defeated British regulars in the South. “It was an important battle, an amazing battle.” according to Ashley Barrows of the National Park Service.
The Cowpens National Battlefield today is a tranquil spot near Gaffney, S.C. It is a unit of the National Park Service. In front of the center is a monument erected in 1932 listing those who fought in the battle.
The Visitor Center offers an electric map presentation which does an excellent job of setting the context of the battle as well as explaining them battle itself. A short video is offered on the hour. There is a 1 mile loop walking trail of the battlefield and a 3 mile auto loop road. One of the stops on both is the Robert Scruggs House, a cabin built in 1828 that is on its original location.
Ranger led presentations are offered daily at 10:30, 12:30 and 2:30. The 12:30 presentation is a guided tour of the battlefield. Admission is free. Depending on special events, this is subject to change. Click here for the battlefield calendar.
Cowpens National Battlefield is located about 11 miles from Gaffney and is about 2 hours or so from Columbia. For a glimpse at one of the key battles of the Revolution, head for Cowpens. One final word: It would be wise to bring a picnic lunch. There are no restaurants, etc. in the immediate vicinity of the battlefield. The nearest are 3 miles away in Chesnee or 9 miles away in Gaffney. There is a picnic area on the grounds.
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Cowpens Visitor Center
The Cowpens Visitor Center features a fiber-optic map presentation as well as a short video on the Battle. There is also a small gift shop. The monument was erected in 1932.
Ranger Ashley Barrows
A guided ranger tour is offered daily. Here, Ranger Ashley Barrows of the NPS explains the operation of a musket. The silhouette next to him shows the average height of a soldier in the battle, which was about 5’5″.
Wayside signage is evident throughout the park. Here a sign explains the significance of a skirmish line and the role of sharpshooters. The pathway is the route of the Green River Road, a major transportation route at the time.
This silhouette shows the position a sharpshooter would assume. On the tour, it was pointed out that while rifles were more accurate, muskets were much easier to deal with and operate.
Robert Scruggs House
The Robert Scruggs House was first erected in 1828. It remained in the family until the 1970s when the National Park Service bought and restored it.According to a NPS brochure, it served as the “unofficial first Visitor Center of Cowpens National Battlefield.”