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SCETV Endowment, Southern Campaign Tour, Stop 1 - Cowpens

May 10, 2018 - Posted in Behind the Scenes by Andrew Davis

Late last month, a three day series of tours occurred, for the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. This tour was made possible with the cooperation between the SCETV Endowment, and the National Park Service. The guides who took guests throughout the tour were South Carolina historian Dr. Walter Edgar, and Ranger John Slaughter, of the National Park Service.  The first day of the tour was a rainy one, but everyone was in good spirits. After coffee, and an opening statement from Dr. Edgar, the group departed for the tour. The first stop was Cowpens National Battlefield, where one of the most significant battles of the American Revolution took place. 

The morning of January 17, 1781, was a bitter cold one. Before the battle, General Nathaniel Greene, commander of all patriot troops in the south at that time, broke one of the traditions of war in that period: he split his main army into two smaller ones. Commanding the other half of the patriot army, comprised of both professional continental soldiers, and militia, was General Daniel Morgan. Morgan was a seasoned commander, who earned his combat experience during the French and Indian War, and was familiar with the south's back country terrain. Greene sent Morgan's troops southwest, from North Carolina, to forage for supplies, and to disrupt British supply lines. British General Lord Cornwallis received news of this maneuver, and sent Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton's loyalist forces after Gen. Morgan.  Tarleton, also known as "Bloody Ban" was a notorious British commander known for his brutal tactics, witnessed by patriot forces during the Battle of Waxhaws. The two armies would come head-to-head with each other at Cowpens. Here at this battle, we have a young, brash British officer with an ego, up against an older, much more experienced commander. 

The Battle of Cowpens lasted less than twenty minutes, with a stunning victory for the patriots. Morgan's strategy was of tactical genius. So much so, that even today, cadets at Westpoint still study this battle. "The Battle of Cowpens," says Dr. Edgar, "was the only battle of the American Revolution where British infantry fled from the American army, and abandoned such." 

Upon arrival at the visitors' center at Cowpens, guests were immediately immersed in the atmosphere provided by the museum. Here, one could see exhibits, artifacts, uniforms, and even a "grasshopper" cannon, similar to the ones used by British troops during the battle. After watching a short documentary on the battle, the tour braved the rain, and went out onto the trail, to see where different parts of the battle took place. Dr. Edgar, and Ranger Slaughter, elaborated on details at each stop along the trail, outlining things such as the British positions, American positions, the "grasshopper" cannon locations, and where the British 71st Highlanders regiment charged, and were cut down at near point-blank range by continental soldiers.  The guests on the tour were enthusiastic about learning more, however, all were ready to get back indoors and dry off from the non-stop rain. 

In addition to the tour, another project currently underway for the Southern Campaign, is to integrate use of augmented reality, for smartphone and tablet users. With the use of an app called "HP Reveal", guests such as school children on field trips, and every day visitors, can see exhibits at each battle location "come to life" in front of them. For example, if someone walked up to the exhibit of Gen. Morgan on his horse with this app open, a video will appear, showing a brief video clip detailing more about Gen. Morgan during the battle. Steve Folks and I were able to test this app out in the field (pun intended), and initial tests proved successful. It is our goal to make about three or four "trigger points" at each battlefield location. More announcements will be made about this project at a later date. 

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