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BOOK whose recent disasters had obliterated the memory
of his former successes, was superseded in his command by general Green, a man who, in military talents, appears to have been inferior to no officer employed in the service of the American States during this war. Early in the month of January, 1781, lord Cornwallis began his march to North Carolina, general Green retiring at his approach beyond the Pedee, having previously detached colonel Morgan at the head of the light troops to the westward of the Wateree, to penetrate into South Carolina, and watch the motions of the English at Wynnesborough and Camden. Lord Cornwallis, not choosing to leave so considerable a corps in his rear, ordered colonel Tarleton, at the head of a superior force, and who had been hitherto uniformly succeessful in all his enterprises, to drive Morgan from his station.
On the 17th of January the Americans were discual that covered posted at a place called the Cowpens, near Cowpens. an open wood, and drawn up in two lines; the first
of which consisted of militia only, the second of continental infantry and Virginia riflemen ; and a chosen body of cavalry was posted as a corps de reserve at some distance in the rear. Colonel Tarleton led on the attack with his usual impetuosity; and the American militia, as colonel Morgan had foreseen, gave way on all quarters. The British then advanced, secure of victory, to the attack of the se
Col. Tarle. ton defeat.
cond line ; and the continentals, after an obstinate BOOK conflict, retreated towards the cavalry. In the means time the militia had formed again, agreeably to their previous orders, on the right of the continentals; and the American corps de reserve, perceiving the British troops disordered in the pursuit, now came forward to the attack--the militia and continentals at the same time vigorously charging with fixed bayonets. Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the British . troops at these unexpected charges. The advanced
corps immediately fell back, and communicated a general confusion and panic, which all the efforts of colonel Tarleton could not remedy. Such was the precipitate flight of the cavalry, that the officers, in attempting to rally their men, were overborne and carried away with the torrent; and the greatest part of the infantry, perceiving themselves abandoned, threw down their arms and begged for quarter. The cannon, colours, and baggage-waggons, with more than 700 prisoners, fell into the hands of the victors. Colonel Morgan received, as he well doserved, the thanks of the congress, accompanied with a gold medal, for this important victory, which left his antagonist destitute of all consolation, excepting that arising from the consciousness of his own gallant personal exertions; and colonel Tarle. ton might exclaim in the language of Francis I. after the fatal defeat of Pavia, “ All is lost except
. our honor!”
Instead of being overwhelmed with their repeated disasters, the Americans seemed to rise with fresh courage from each misfortune. The affair of Cowpens, which so soon followed the defeat of major Ferguson, might have sufficed to deter an officer less enterprising than lord Cornwallis from prosecuting his bold and hazardous projects. His lordship, who in his public dispatches styled the defeat of Tarleton an unexpected and severe blow, in the hope of recovering the prisoners captured at the Cowpens, and intercepting the victorious Americans, immediately marched with the greater part of his army by rapid movements in pursuit of colonel Morgan. That officer had crossed the Catawba a few hours only before the arrival of lord Cornwallis on its southern banks, where, by heavy rains, he was detained two or three days.
On the 1st of February, however, the passage was found practicable; but colonel Morgan had by this time crossed the Yadkin, and effected his junction with general Green, who, on the 5th, wrote confidentially to a military correspondent, general Huger, that he was preparing to receive the enemy's attack. “ It is," says he,“ not improbable, from lord Cornwallis's pushing disposition, and the contempt he has for our army, that he may precipitate himself into some capital misfortune.” At length the whole American army, after crossing the Dan into Virginia, suddenly returned into the province
of North Carolina ; and with powerful reinforce- BOOK ments took (March 14) a strong position near Guildford Court-house. At day-break, on the 15th,
Victory of lord Cornwallis advanced to the attack of the Ameri- lord Corncans, who were ready formed in three lines to receive Guildford. him. Through the misbehaviour of the NorthCarolina militia, who were posted in front, the British troops soon forced their way to the second line, composed of Virginians, who made a much better defence, and, when at length thrown into disorder, effected a good retreat. The continental troops, who formed the third line, were last engaged; and here the contest was long and severe: but the British ultimately carried their point by superiority of numbers and discipline. The Maryland brigade being broken, an attempt was made to turn the flank of the Americans, and to surround the continental troops ; on which general Green drew off the army, and left the field of battle, with the artillery, consisting of four field-pieces, to the enemy. The Americans retired in good order, and took post be. hind a river, three miles only from the scene of action. This victory, for so it must be called, had, according to the observation of the commander in chief, sir Henry Clinton, all the consequences of a defeat. The royal army was too much disabled and weakened to pursue the enemy. And we are told by a writer who was himself an officer and commissary in the army of lord Cornwallis (Mr.
BOOK Stedman), “ that the British troops remained near
two days without subsistence; that they were destitute of tents, and that the night succeeding the battle was remarkable for its darkness - the rain at the same time falling in torrents. Many of the wounded, sinking under their aggravated miseries, expired before morning. The cries of the wounded and dying who remained on the field of action," says he, “ exceed all description. Such a complicated scene of horror and distress, it is hoped for the sake of humanity, rarely occurs, even in a military life.” But such are the triumphs of warand such the picture of those miseries which the accursed spirit of pride and domination has in all ages created, and which men, lost to the feelings of humanity, ad remote from the scene of action, regard with calm indifference, or even for the most part as a matter of agreeable amusement and curiosity.
This was an affair very different from that of Camden ; and, instead of pursuing the advantages thus dearly purchased on the part of the English by the loss of 600 veteran troops, the British general found himself under the necessity, in order to procure the requisite supplies for his army, to direct his march towards Wilmington, situated near the mouth of Cape-Fear river, a post already occupied by a detachment of British troops, where he arrived on the 7th of April.