The Battle of Cowpens highlights our disgraceful National Park Service
The National Parks Service (NPS) is a shambles. It is run by progressives playing COVID kabuki theatre to limit access to the parks, and it partners with partisan tech giants to control information. Like so many of today's federal agencies, they need to be dismantled, the ground where their offices stood needs to be salted, and the organization rebuilt from the ground up. In particular, NPS's plans for the 221st anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens are an obscenity.
January 17 marks the 221st anniversary of one of the most important engagements during the American Revolution — the Battle of Cowpens. That pitted the colonial Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, the avatar of a hard-fighting, hard-drinking, unwashed backwoodsmen, against the most successful, arrogant, aggressive, and despised of British commanders, Bloody Banastre Tarleton, a man infamous in the South for slaughtering American troops trying to surrender at the massacre at Waxhaws.
On January 17, 1781, Morgan and Tarleton met in the backcountry of South Carolina. Morgan was leading a force of 1,065 men among between long-riflemen (proto-snipers), militia, Continentals (regular army), and cavalry. Tarleton commanded a force of 1,150 men, almost all of whom were light infantry units and cavalry of the British forces under the Southern Campaign commander, Charles Cornwallis.
Morgan's force threatened the British forts that controlled the South Carolina backcountry. Cornwallis dispatched Tarleton to chase Morgan down and eliminate his force. Morgan led Tarleton on a race across the northwest border of South Carolina before opting to turn and face Tarleton at Hannah's Cowpens, a mile-long, gently rolling open field of grass bounded by water and heavy woods that suited Morgan perfectly.
Morgan set a trap for Tarleton. He expected the young cavalry commander to act precipitously and with the utmost aggression. Tarleton did not disappoint. On the frosty morning of January 17, 1781, Morgan arrayed his forces in four layers — the long riflemen, followed by the militia, then the Continentals. Behind them was a cavalry unit.
As soon as Tarleton saw Morgan's force, he charged with his entire force. Morgan, as planned, had the long-riflemen and then the militia fire a few rounds before falling back behind the Continentals. The British were in an all-out charge when they met the Continentals, while the militia, long-riflemen, and cavalry came back around the British flanks, encircling them. The Continental line held; the envelopment was successful; and, after an hour of fighting, virtually the entire British force but for Tarleton himself and a few of his dragoons were killed or captured.
Image: Cowpens re-enactors, January 2006. Public domain.
It was the greatest single tactical victory of the Revolution, and its importance cannot be understated. It ultimately led Cornwallis to chase the victorious Americans into North Carolina, then Virginia, finally stopping to await relief with his greatly depleted force at Yorktown, Virginia. That set the stage for George Washington's October 1781 Siege of Yorktown that functionally ended the Revolution.
Unfortunately, the National Park Service runs the Cowpens National Battlefield Park. Here we are, a mere ten days out from the anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens, and the NPS website for the Cowpens contains no information about planned events at the site. I found that stunning. One of the pivotal events in American history, and it is being ignored.
I called the NPS office at Cowpens and learned they are still in full COVID hysteria and limiting access to the open-air park. The NPS office itself is being manned only two days a week. Everyone, regardless of vaccine status, must wear masks outside in the park. There will be a very small number of re-enactors allowed into the park for the weekend before the 17th, and any activities that the park has — and the NPS officer could not tell me if any specific activities were planned — will be shown on Facebook.
This is ridiculous. All of South Carolina's state and municipal parks are fully open for business, and at every one of those parks, choosing to wear a mask is optional. Even in some historic buildings that private organizations run, while masks are mandatory, they are otherwise operating as normal.
For example, in July 2021, I attended a reenactment of the revolutionary skirmish Huck's Defeat in Brattonsville, South Carolina. Several hundred people were there, and there was nary a mask in sight.
Bottom line: There is no justification for what NPS is doing with our history. These people are no longer the custodians of our shared history; they are, obscenely, the gatekeepers. Whether by choice or by COVID hysteria, they are denying us access to that history.
And lastly, the vague promise to put out some material from Cowpens's 221st anniversary on Facebook is not an acceptable alternative. Facebook, which routinely censors conservative speech, is a hard-left cesspool to which no conservative should belong. I do not belong to Facebook and flatly refuse to join. And yet, to gain access to the NPS's Cowpens content, I must turn my personal information over to Facebook.
Wolf Howling is a pseudonym.