A Visit to the Cowpens National Battlefield

The second stop of the first day of my Southern Campaign Weekend Road Trip was the Cowpens National Battlefield near Gaffney, SC. I visited the Cowpens National Battlefield back in the late 1990s, but I’ve been wanting to go back because of how important the battle was: The Battle of Cowpens on 17 January 1871 was a pivotal battle of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution; the defeat of the British at Cowpens set them on the road to Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, the eventual end of the war, and American independence. I was also lucky enough to take a Military History course from Dr. Lawrence Babits, the author of a wonderful book on the battle: A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens (if you plan on visiting Cowpens, I highly recommend his book; I reread it before I visited ), so it’s a battle that has interested me since I took his course at Armstrong State College (when I graduated, it was Armstrong State College, not yet University, much less Georgia Southern).

Cowpens National Battlefield is located near the town of Cowpens, just west of Gaffney, SC. Due to COVID-19, the Visitors Center is only open from 10am-4pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but the Rangers have outside displays and programs from 10am-4pm, including a short film about the battle, on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition to the Visitors Center, there is a walking trail through the battlefield and a driving tour around the battlefield on a perimeter road. The monument in front of the Visitors Center is a great place to start, because it gives you and idea of who the combatants were and how many of them there were.

Even though there’s a driving tour that goes around the battlefield, I highly recommend taking the walking tour of the battlefield; it’s a 1.3 mile loop that takes you down the battlefield giving you the perspective of the Patriot Militia and Continental Soldiers commanded by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan then back up the battlefield from the perspective of the British and Loyalists commanded by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. I won’t go into the details of the battle here; I’ll encourage you to visit and learn about it firsthand, but suffice it to say that it was a brilliant victory on the part of the Patriot Militia and Continentals. The first part of the battlefield trail takes you down the Green River Road, which prominently ran though the middle of the battlefield; the second part takes you onto a paved trail that roughly parallels the Green River Road. It’s an easy walk and interpretive signs along the trail tell you about the positions and movements of the combatants before, during, and after the battle.

After taking the walking tour of the battlefield, it’s also worth taking the auto tour on the 3.8 mile loop road. There is interpretive signage along the road as well, but they also offer companion audio that you can download on the park’s website. It’s well worth downloading the audio and listening to it at the stops; it was read by Ed Bearss, a noted Historian and tour guide; it’s almost like getting a personal tour from an expert on the battle. A log cabin from 1828 is also on the park grounds and is part of the auto tour.

Another important battle of the American Revolution occurred not too far from Cowpens only a few months before Cowpens and it’s just east of Gaffney, SC: King Mountain. You can easily fit a visit to both battlefields in one day (or split them up like I did).

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