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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s temper snapped—as did the sword blade upon which he was leaning—as he listened to a humbled Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton relate to him the details of his defeat at a backwoods pasture known as Hannah’s Cowpens. The American rebels, led by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, had trounced the British. Tarleton’s losses were appalling, perhaps as high as eighty percent of the men he had led into battle, which represented nearly twenty-five percent of the army led by Cornwallis. Tarleton left behind over one hundred dead and nearly eight hundred men whom the Americans captured following the brief, but intense, battle. Tarleton’s report left Cornwallis desperate to overtake Morgan and the rebels, wreak his revenge, and retrieve his men. The British loss at Cowpens on 17 January 1781 set in motion a series of events that culminated in a Pyrrhic British victory at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on 15 March 1781, and eventually led to Cornwallis’s own defeat at Yorktown, a loss which sealed the American victory for the War of Independence.

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