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Frequently Bought Together

A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens + The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas + The Revolutionary War in the Southern Backcountry
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080784926X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807849262
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's easy to forget that the British won most of the battles during the American Revolution. The Americans certainly carried the day at Saratoga and Yorktown, but they were beaten again and again by their enemy elsewhere--and often badly. So it's especially odd that the Battle of Cowpens, fought in South Carolina on January 17, 1781, isn't better remembered in American imagination. As author Lawrence E. Babits shows, Cowpens was the Continental troops' greatest tactical moment--and it marked a crucial turning point in the war.

The fight itself was fairly brief, and the outcome lopsided--it was "a devil of a whipping," as American leader Daniel Morgan said at the time. Babits provides a richly detailed account of the battle, including an especially good overview of the weapons and tactics used by troops of the time. An archaeologist by training, Babits approaches Cowpens with the familiar meticulousness of his profession; this is an important piece of scholarship on the military history of the American Revolution. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


An exceptionally well-researched and richly detailed treatment of one of the most important battles of the American Revolution. (Military History of the West)

Babits comes closer than any previous historian to reconstructing the eighteenth-century soldier's experience of combat and has given us as close to a definitive account of the battle of Cowpens as we are ever likely to have. (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography)

One of the best analyses that we have of an individual Revolutionary War engagement. (Journal of American History)

With the tools of social history, Lawrence Babits has demonstrated what military historians have long argued: war is above all else a human endeavor worthy of study to complete the record of mankind's struggle to survive and to achieve. (William & Mary Quarterly)

One of Babits's purposes was the hope that the Cowpens veterans would not be forgotten. The masterful work that he has produced goes far towards achieving that purpose. (Journal of Southern History)

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Customer Reviews

Anyone reading this book should do so carefully.
Robert Busko
This book is highly recommended for any one interested in military history, the American Revolution, and/or the southern campaign of our war for independence.
W. H. Harkey
This is a very good book in terms of research and analysis.
Wayne A. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on July 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lawrence Babits has packed a thorough study of the Battle of Cowpens into a slim book.
The forty-minute battle was crucial to our success in the war. It was a devastating defeat for the British, specifically "Bloody Tarleton," whose British Legion had been the scourge of the Carolinas. The defeat was so total because of the Masterful plan and seamless execution by General Morgan and his subordinates. Too few Americans know about Cowpens and its place in steering Cornwallis ultimately to Yorktown.
The author had a mission: to dissect the Battle of Cowpens through pension records of participants and memoirs in order to construct an accurate placement of troops during the battle, the size of American forces present, the total of British casualties and the duration of the affair.
He has done his work well and convincingly. In the process, Babits clarifies and rectifies some commonly held notions of Cowpens. The militia line made an orderly retreat through the Main line through previously established gaps in that line and not around the flank; Morgan's troop totals and casualties in his report were only for Continental troops -- the militia doubled Morgan's probable force to 1800 men engaged; Washington did not encounter Tarleton at the end of the battle but three British cavalry officers; the South Carolina militia did not cross the field during their planned withdrawal; the North Carolina militia stayed in the fight on the American right after their planned withdrawal.
If these details have lost you, it focuses on a major facet of the book. It is for readers who have some appreciation of the Revolution in the South and the Battle of Cowpens.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Objectively, this book represents historical scholarship at his best. The labor the author put into the work is evident. I doubt we can get any closer to the truth of the Battle of Cowpens than what is presented here. There is also a lot of insight into how Revolutionary War battles were fought on the tactical level. However, I think only professional historians, battle re-enactors, or American Revolution junkies could truly "love" this book (although many will like it). This is definitely not a "popular history" and, as such, the presentation is very dry and frankly sometimes tedious.
If you're looking for the straight facts, and lots of detail, get this book. If you're looking for a history that is also "entertaining," you might be disappointed.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By John Robertson (jr@shelby.net) on December 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover
For those with interest in the Battle at Cowpens, there is a real treat in store for you in Lawrence Babits' "Devil of a Whipping", a full length book on the battle which was released in early November 1998.
Babits has made full use of all available sources and has made a very detailed analysis of the battle. Many of the ideas that have been fairly common to previous accounts and have been engraved on monuments at the park will henceforth be given a serious re-examination.
I am reading "Devil of a Whipping" for my 2nd or 3rd time and far from my last!
He commented that Tarleton correctly expressed the facts "if he knew them" and included him among his primary sources. Essentially he proves that Tarleton's estimate of number of militia was quite close to actual, and that Morgan had not counted them at all! And he explained why Morgan had not included them (fear of losing support for a regular army due to two quick local victories involving militia).
He clearly makes the point that his work would not have been possible without the monumental work that Dr. Bobby Moss has done in wading through all the records of the individual participants. Dr. Moss has accounted for more Patriots at Cowpens than Morgan reported, despite the fact that, for most, *50 years* had passed before they had occasion to report their experience in applying for a pension.
I noted that he said that the victory of the patriots can be explained by the better use of cavalry. This is notable since Washington had only had half as many as Tarleton and half of them were militia "stand-ins". Whenever W. used his, he used them *all* in the same place, always noticeably out-numbering the British cavalry he opposed.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Babits certainly put in the time to do the research for this book. As anyone knows who has done research involving combat actions, memories, even very shortly after a battle can become blurred. Babits I think does a good job sifting through some of the bogus recollections that comes from this "fog" of battle. The battle reconstruction, unit movements, and analysis of casulties is the best I have read regarding this action. Anyone reading this book should do so carefully. Footnotes should be consulted and time should be spent with the variety of charts and maps. The book is a little slow, but then most books of this nature are read by people looking for knowledge and not a good time.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Larry has produced the consumate account of the battle of Cowpens using data painstakingly gleaned from veteran's pension applications to locate the various units on the field, while using their stories and records of their casualties, to determine their role in the conflict. The story that he reveals differs in several respects from the long accepted version. The reader will find that, to use Wellington's phrase, "it was a near run thing..." while some of our more cherished stories of Cowpens are exposed as myth. "A Devil of a Whipping ... " joins "The Raod to Guilford Courthouse" by Buchanan as a "must read" account of the Revolutionary war in the South.
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