Today is the anniversary of one of the most significant battles in the history of the United States and nobody seems to notice. A short history of the Revolutionary War could read like this:
- The British surrendered at Yorktown after being surrounded by the Continental Army on land and bottled up by the French fleet at sea.
- The British were stuck at Yorktown because they had been so long occupied in the South by battles like the disaster (for the British) at Cowpens
- Cowpens was made possible by Valley Forge and the victory over the Hessians at Trenton
- The French navy was brought into the war because of the overwhelming victory over the British at Saratoga.
- Trenton was made possible by the Continental Army slipping out of Long Island where they really should have been trapped and destroyed by the British
- Long Island was made possible by the victory over the British in the siege of Boston which in turn was made possible by the guns taken from Fort Ticonderoga and by the start of the war at Lexington and Concord.
Of the above - the Battle of Cowpens (which happened 237 years ago today) is probably the least remembered.
If it is remembered it is probably the version that was put forth in the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot. In the movie there is a battle without a name in which Gibson's character asks his irregular infantry to get off two shots and then retreat to trick the British into chasing after them. This is the same basic "plot" to the Battle of Cowpens. The Jason Isaacs character of the dark-hearted Col. Tavington is loosely based on Col. Banastre Tarleton who led the British troops at Cowpens. Unlike the battle in the movie, however, in real life Tarleton (nee Tavington) escapes to fight another day.
One other note that may only interest me. In the movie The Patriot, Gibson's character uses straw soldiers to convince the British to let captives escape. In real life this trick was used but it was used by the British to allow the "captive" loyalists to escape Boston via ships in the harbor under the cover of "troops" placed overlooking the city on Bunker Hill. The troops later turned out to be straw dummies.