Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates a decisive battle that helped turn the tide of war in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. On this field on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his army of tough Continentals, militia, and cavalry to a brilliant victory over Banastre Tarleton's force of British regulars. The battle at the "Cow Pens," one of only a few successful double envelopments in history, is recognized by historians as one of the most important of the American Revolution.
Daniel Morgan knew both his men and his opponent. He put his militia in front of the Continentals, telling them to aim for the officers and to get off at least two good shots before retreating. Following the militia's retreat, the Continentals fought intensely with the British before Tarleton sent in his reserves. The Continentals misunderstood an order and began an orderly retreat. Thinking they had won the battle, the British broke ranks and charged forward. Morgan recovered, choosing new ground on which the Continentals could rally. The cavalry and militia reentered the battle and surrounded the British.
Coming on the heels of a patriot victory at nearby Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, it was the second successive staggering defeat for British forces under General Charles Cornwallis. Only nine months after the Battle of Cowpens, Cornwallis was forced to surrender his army to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781.