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A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens Paperback – February 26, 2001
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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.
One of the best analyses that we have of an individual Revolutionary War engagement. ("Journal of American History")
An exceptionally well-researched and richly detailed treatment of one of the most important battles of the American Revolution. ("Military History of the West")
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")
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")
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")
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The author clearly explains why Morgan chose Cowpens for the place of battle, and why he placed his troops where he did by analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the militia and the Continental troops.
The author clearly explains what the plan of battle was and what actually happened with accompanying topographic maps . . . a lot of them especially . . . noting that Morgan had an extremely accurate understanding of how his opponent, Tarleton, would fight.
The author also explains all that is needed for the reader to know about the British troops and their leader. Also, explained was why Cornwallis sent Tarleton after Morgan in the first place.
The implements of combat . . . the muskets, etc, are also explained and described including how their strengths and limitations effected the battle, and how the weapons affected where Morgan placed his troupes.
The author explains the almost uncanny understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his troupes, an why this understanding led Morgan to place his troops in the unusual tactical disposition he did.
The author explains how Morgan went to great lengths to explain to his men how they would be deployed, and what to expect, especially that the militia in the forward line would move behind the second line after a few volleys so the men wouldn't assume a retreat was in the making.
I thought that the most interesting part of the battle was when American troops misunderstood a command and began moving to the rear as they were threatened with being outflanked. This misunderstanding of orders which could have been disastrous was salvaged and turned to advantage as the British charged the retreating troops. At the right time the troops turned about on command, after reloading while marching in order to the rear and fired a volley into the British then made a bayonet charge into them. This was done in full coordination with the mounted dragoons who charged the British at the same time. Thus potential disaster was turned into a devastating attack which preceded the surrounding of most of the British and a virtual end to the battle.
This manoeuvre demonstrates the high degree of professionalism attained by the men by that time in the war.
The great amount of detail in this book is extremely noticeable. I too found it somewhat distracting, but figured that that amount of detail is necessary when writing a book that makes significant corrections about the details of a battle . . . details that had been accepted as fact for many years. I suppose that such details could have been included in an appendix . . . I don't know. The research seemed very, very complete.
Ken Daigler, author "Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence in the Revolutionary War"