By Wally Wersching
On Saturday and Sunday, January 14th and 15th, the 236th anniversary of the Battle Of Cowpens was celebrated. It happened during the Revolutionary War after the Battle of Kings Mountain. On January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his outnumbered troops against Banastre Tarleton’s British troops. It was another victory for the Americans, and helped turn the tide of the war in our favor. The last battle of the movie “The Patriot” was loosely based on the Battle Of Cowpens.
There were encampments of Revolutionary War re-enactors who demonstrated musket firings. Cavalry demonstrations were held by the members of the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons. All forms of 18th century life were exhibited by very knowledgeable reenactors, all wearing authentic uniforms, and civilian garb.
After checking the weather forecast for the weekend, I decided to go on Sunday. Sunday was a bright, sunny day with only a few clouds in the sky. I decided to ride “Miss Vickie”. Last weekend, we had snow, and single digit cold temperatures. The park was closed during that time. They were very lucky to have the activities this weekend instead of last.
When I arrived at the Cowpens Battlefield near Chesnee, SC, it was just about 10:30AM. I was guided to a great spot in the parking lot near the main building by the South Carolina National Guardsmen who were directing traffic.
The air was filled with wood smoke from the camp fires as the re-enactors cooked breakfast. I walked around taking pictures of the people getting ready for the long afternoon. In the background, I could hear the hammering of the blacksmith making things in his forge.
There were a couple of young children playing with a hoop and stick. They’d throw the hoop in the air, and catch it on the stick. The older girl was pretty good at it.
I walked to the area where the weapons firing demonstrations were to be held. There was a film crew taking movies of the battle. The British were standing in a line while the Patriots formed a skirmish line near the woods. They didn’t fire their weapons but the British charged with bayonets - yelling all the way, and the Patriots fell back into the woods.
I walked into the museum to watch the movie but it wasn’t going to be shown until later. I walked into the room where the light show describes the battle along with other events in history around the same time frame. I had to ask the ranger to start the show for me. It’s very interesting to see how the battle played out. It’s like having a bird’s eye view of the battle while a narrator explains what’s happening.
At 11:15, there was a cavalry demonstration in a nearby field. There were three horsemen in the proper uniforms for their respective regiments. They talked about using the horse as a weapon while in battle with the infantry. The main weapon for the cavalry soldier was the sabre. Some also had pistols. It was very interesting. They were a little long-winded so I left to see the weapons firing scheduled for 11:45.
I watched as the line of riflemen marched to their places in front of the crowd. They didn’t talk much about their lives as soldiers like they did last year. They turned an about face, and fired their flintlocks on command. It was pretty loud, and some of the children were afraid. It’s always enjoyable to see the muskets fire, and smell the burnt black powder as the smoke drifts over the spectators.
When they fired again, there was no bang from the muskets – only a small pffst from one of the musket’s primer. All six muskets misfired. I would imagine that misfiring happened a lot during battle when the powder wasn’t dry.
While walking around the encampment talking with the re-enactors, I learned that they came from all over the southeast to participate in the activities. I talked to one young lady who actually works in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. She was supposed to be a refugee, and drank water from her gourd canteen. There was a group of young women who slept under a tree the night before. She said that it rained a little but they were all under cover, and the rain didn’t penetrate their blankets.
I walked around the encampment once more, and saw a group of “Red Coats” playing music on a fife and a drum.
I cannot wait until next year to visit the battlefield celebration again. I never know what I’ll see, or who I’ll meet. It’s always very educational, and interesting.