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American Hannibal, Jim Stempel

American Hannibal, Jim Stempel


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American Hannibal, Jim Stempel

American Hannibal, Jim Stempel

The Extraordinary Account of Revolutionary War Hero Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens

The battle of Cowpens was a fairly minor affair by the standards of most European wars of the periods, involving around 3,000 men in total, but it had a major impact on the course of the war. In its aftermath Lord Cornwallis attempted to catch the victorious Americans, who were withdrawing to avoid being trapped by superior numbers, but failed. This gave the Americans time to gather reinforcements, and at Guilford Courthouse Cornwallis was badly outnumbered. Although he achieved a battlefield victory, it was far too costly, further weakening his army. He then decided to invade Virginia, a campaign that ended with the famous surrender at Yorktown, the defeat that finally convinced the British government that the war couldn’t be won.

It’s fair to say that this book isn’t aimed at the British reader. If you don’t share a belief in American exceptionalism then the claims in the introduction will ring rather hollow and the subtitle makes it clear what attitude the author is going to take.

The author makes a big thing of the British having fallen into a ‘trap’ at Cowpens. However on close examination this claim simply doesn’t stand up. Morgan came up with a highly effective way of using his troops, which played into their strengths, but this doesn’t really count as a trap. The incident the author has in mind is the accidental retreat of the Continental infantry, caused by the misunderstanding of an order. This did indeed turn out to be a key point in the battle, as the British lost their discipline and pursued the withdrawing Americans, only to suffer heavy casualties when the Americans formed a new line. However this wasn’t in any way a deliberate move, so really can’t be called a trap. The American commanders gain a great deal of credit for the way they turned a potentially disastrous error into a battle winning moment, and the Continental Infantry for their ability to stop and turn after starting to withdraw, but it would only have been a trap if the initial movement had been part of a deliberate plan. The brief attempt to compare the American victory with Cannae isn’t convincing either – at Cowpens one part of the retreating and defeated British army was surrounded and forced to surrender by much stronger forces, while at Cannae the smaller army managed to surround and crush the larger one..

The author repeatedly states that the British army was the best in the world at the time (often in sections on how impressive the American achievement at Cowpens was). While it is true that individual battalions of British infantry often performed well in this period, the army as a whole wasn’t at its best during this period. During the Seven Years War British troops had often performed well, but their commanders were less impressive (most famously Lord Sackville, who was widely blamed for allowing the French to escape relatively intact after the battle of Minden, and then went on to serve as Secretary of State for American for most of the war). The entire conduct of the campaign that led to Cowpens rather demonstrates the flaws of the army in this period, with isolated units fighting a disjointed campaign, and poor planning and communication between the wings of the British army.

I’d also disagree with the author’s analysis of the British plan for victory, which was based on the assumption Loyalists would emerge in large numbers once the British had achieved a clear military victory in the South. The author claims that the events proved this theory to be false, but I would say that the British never actually achieved that military victory – despite winning several major victories, they were never able to eliminate the American southern army, so there was always a focus for resistance. It is also worth remembering that Tarleton’s British Legion was composed of American Loyalists, with strong elements from New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York (perhaps one of the reasons that Tarleton was so unpopular), and the account often mentions local Tory militia.

Having let off steam, let us now turn to the positives, of which there are plenty. First of all this is a very readable account of this campaign, bringing the characters to life. The book is well written and well structured, generally alternating between the two sides beween chapters, so we get to see both versions of the campaign in far more detail than is often the case. We also get a very good feel for the problems posed to both sides by the terrain in what at the time was very much a frontier region, with river crossings playing a major role in the campaign, as did a lack of supplies in each area.

Morgan emerges as a skilful intelligent commander, perfectly suited to getting the best out of his militia troops. His plan for Cowpens took advantage of their excellent marksmanship, but also acknowledged that they were unlikely to stand and fight when faced by the British (as demonstrated no long before at Camden). By allowing for that in his plan he reduced the chance of a collapse by the militia triggering a wider collapse, and also made it more likely that they would stay on the battlefield after their initial role was over. Morgan was also a much more experienced man than Tarleton, who was after all a relatively junior cavalry officer in his mid twenties, with a reputation largely won by frontal assaults on less capable opponents. It didn’t take any great skill to realise that Tarleton’s approach would be a simple frontal assault, but coming up with a tactic to counter that was impressive. Cowpens was an impressive achievement for Morgan and one of the most one-sided victories of the entire war, and this is an interesting account of that battle.

Chapters - twenty four, named after main character in each one

Author: Jim Stempel
Edition: Paperback
Pages:
Publisher: Penmore Press
Year: 2017



American Hannibal

On January 17, 1781, a remarkable battle took place in the backwoods of South Carolina. British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, handpicked by General Charles Cornwallis for command due to his dash and record of accomplishment, was opposed by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, a rough-and-tumble son of the American frontier. Morgan employed a scheme so brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed that within an hour, the British found themselves overwhelmed, enveloped, and routed from the field. In response to this stunning American victory, Cornwallis embarked on a reckless, desperate trek north in pursuit of Morgan—a strategy that ultimately led to his own defeat at Yorktown.
In his compelling account of the Battle of Cowpens, Jim Stempel makes the case that Morgan’s victory closely mirrors Hannibal’s extraordinary triumph at Cannae, regarded by many as one of the greatest military accomplishments of all time. With a narrative style that plunges readers into the center of the events, American Hannibal will enthrall students of American history and newcomers to the subject alike.


BOOK REVIEW: Becky Valley Books Reviews American Hannibal

Beck Valley Books
American Hannibal
Reviewed by Hubbie
June 12, 2019

American Hannibal will enthrall all history students in the art of battle command. Jim Stempel’s account of the Battle Of Cowpen is expertly researched and written.”

American Hannibal will enthrall all history students in the art of battle command. Jim Stempel’s account of the Battle Of Cowpen is expertly researched and written. In a time when there was no modern technology and orders/plans were drawn up on the spot and the pure instinct of soldiers kept themselves alive. How a researcher can bring the events and thoughts of those involved to life is an remarkable feat.

The reader is taken on a fantastic trip through history and can envisage the sights, sound and smells of the soldiers and share in their life of hopes and dreams through the excellent descriptive writing of the author. In the height of battle heroes emerge and their feats and exploits recorded.

Comparisons are always made between battles and the commanders in charge to discuss the similarities in their thought process and bravery which the author does in this book between Hannibal and Daniel Morgan.

The sharp wit and quick thinking in the implementation of an excellent scheme that was masterly executed ensured a masterminded victory and catapulted Daniel Morgan who was a true American Revolutionary into the history books.

This is the second book I have read by Jim Stempel and his passion and enthusiasm for American battle History shines through, a must read for anyone who is interested in the topic.


American Hannibal: The Extraordinary Account of Revolutionary Hero Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens

On January 17, 1781, a remarkable battle took place in the backwoods of South Carolina. British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, handpicked by General Charles Cornwallis for command due to his dash and record of accomplishment, was opposed by Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, a rough-and-tumble son of the American frontier. Morgan employed a scheme so brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed that within an hour, the British found themselves overwhelmed, enveloped, and routed from the field. In response to this stunning American victory, Cornwallis embarked on a reckless, desperate trek north in pursuit of Morgan—a strategy that ultimately led to his own defeat at Yorktown.

In his compelling account of the Battle of Cowpens, Jim Stempel makes the case that Morgan's victory closely mirrors Hannibal's extraordinary triumph at Cannae, regarded by many as one of the greatest military accomplishments of all time. With a narrative style that plunges listeners into the center of the events, American Hannibal will enthrall students of American history and newcomers to the subject alike.


American Hannibal Paperback – Illustrated, 8 January 2018

The author makes the case successfully that the Battle of Cowpens was a turning point in the American Revolution. Prior to that battle, things were not going well for the Americans in the South, having lost numerous battles and engagements. Horatio Gates prior to losing the battle of Camden requested his old colleague from the Battle of Saratoga, Daniel Morgan, to join him and lead his light troops. Morgan agreed, if the Congress would vote him as a Brigadier General, so that he could more effectively deal with the militia officers. When Nathaniel Greene took over for Gates, he continued that proposal and split his army. The book lays out all of these facts effectively and effortlessly and the background to the battle. Banastre Tarleton, the British officer in charge of Cornwallis' light troops including his own legion, with cavalry, is also highlighted. These were the two protagonist commanders: Tarleton who was rash but very successful and Morgan who was down to earth and a natural leader of soldiers. The book covers the campaign leading up to the battle and the battle itself, the back and forth fighting between the two sides. The battle of Cowpens actually seems to be a short affair, with relatively few soldiers on each side (1000) but was very bloody and decisive. It was a turning point because it changed the trajectory of the war in the South and the American Revolution in general leading up to Guildford Courthouse and Yorktown.

Whenever I read a book this excellent, I ask myself - shouldn't they make a movie of this? Well, in this case they have - 2 of them to be exact, but if they would make a movie following the book it would provide an accurate history. The second movie was The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson, released in 2000. This movie is terribly inaccurate - the battle at the end depicts what appears to be Cowpens, although Cornwallis is there and Tarleton dies at the end (at the hands of Gibson, of course). Maybe ii is meant to be a combination of the two battles: Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. The first movie is called Sweet Liberty starring Alan Alda and Michael Caine about the filming of a movie on the Battle of Cowpens. The depiction of the movie is totally inaccurate (like The Patriot) and Alan Alda who is the history professor who is the author of the book is enraged by it, all in a funny way. Yes, the movie is a comedy.

Finally, it is good to have books like this one published because it provides an accurate depiction of history in a very readable format. In fact, this book reads like a historical novel. With all the inaccuracies around our history, e.g. The Patriot, and the lack of understanding of our history by most Americans, books like this are sorely needed. Kudos to the author for taking the time to write it.

The book is very readable and I couldn't put it down. The author has a style which reads like a novel without trivializing the history.

I knew about Cowpens as some battle in the Revolution without understanding its significance. This book explains what happened and most importantly, why it happened. Morgan is described as a brilliant tactician, a lead from the front field general, and he thoroughly understood his opponent, Tarleton. It also explains how Cowpens was the beginning of the events which led to the surrender at Yorktown.

I most highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the American Revolution and/or military tactics.


The Race to Bastogne

It sounded at first like a thunderstorm, distant, rumbling. Then the ground began to shake as grinding columns of tanks and tracked transports finally emerged from the dense woods.

It was December 16, 1944, and what the Germans named operation Watch on the Rhine, and what the Americans would later call the Battle of the Bulge, had just exploded along three roads across an 85-mile front in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest.

Caught by complete surprise, a thin defense of poorly equipped, exhausted Americans was quickly overwhelmed.

German Generals Rundstedt, Krebs and Jodl plan their last ditch offensive in the Ardennes, November 1944.

Hitler, against his general’s best advice, had ordered the offensive, smashing through the dense woods of the Ardennes, the objective Antwerp, the Allies supply port on the Belgian coast.

His design was to quickly overwhelm the weary American troops and secure the port, cutting the allies off from their line of supply.

That accomplished, he then hoped to end the war on negotiated terms. To accomplish this, the Germans hurled 30 full infantry and armored divisions at the Americans, 200,000 troops, all told.

Twelve elite panzer divisions led the way, instantly heading for the Flemish towns of Houffalize, Sankt Vith, Stavelot, and Bastogne.

A German machine gunner marching through the Ardennes in December 1944.

American resistance was at first meager, but intensified as small units recovered and fought furiously, successfully delaying the German advance.

Receiving initial, disturbing reports, General Dwight Eisenhower – Allied Supreme Commander – grasped almost immediately the scale and intention of the German attack and identified the small Belgian village of Bastogne – with its regional network of connecting roads – as the key geographic element.

The Ardennes area of Belgium and Germany just before the German Ardennes counteroffensive, December 15, 1944.

If the Wehrmacht took Bastogne, they could quickly turn and race toward Antwerp. Three German columns were then advancing on Bastogne, thus small units of American armor, recon, and engineers were dispatched to try and slow the Nazi advance.

Desperate, heroic delaying actions were fought at Noville, Longvilly, and Wardin, blowing bridges, destroying lead tanks, hampering the German juggernaut.

American prisoners captured by the Wehrmacht in the Ardennes in December 1944.

Eisenhower realized it would now be a race between the Americans and Germans to get to, then hold, Bastogne. Unfortunately, he had almost no troops to work with. Casting about, he located the 101 st and 82 nd Airborne, then resting and refitting at Mourmelon after a long, hard-fought campaign. Unfortunately, they were 107 miles from Bastogne.

Moreover, the cold was then at record lows, intense fog and sleet hindering field operations, making an airborne drop impossible.

Warren Spahn, then a twenty-two year old infantryman serving with the Americans, later a Hall-of-Fame pitcher said, “I was from Buffalo, I thought I knew cold. But I really didn’t know cold until the Battle of the Bulge.”

American soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes.

So, the airborne troops were hastily loaded onto an immense convoy, then driven through a night of snow and sleet on treacherous roads to their objectives, the 82 nd deployed to Werbomont, the 101 st Bastogne. During the afternoon of the 18 th , a weary 101 st arrived to discover the Germans closing rapidly.

The 101 st was then under command of Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe and, grasping the desperate situation he was in, McAuliffe went straight to work. He sent paratroopers out to reinforce the army units already in the field, trying to slow the German advance.

At Noville, for instance, a team of paratroopers, supported by a unit of self-propelled tank-destroyers, wrecked 17 German tanks in fierce fighting, forcing the Germans to momentarily withdraw.

Despite heroic actions, however, the American forward units were eventually overrun, or recalled to Bastogne as the German assault, seemingly unstoppable, rumbled forward.

Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, artillery commander of the 101st Airborne Division, gives glider pilots last-minute instructions in England for Operation Market-Garden on September 18, 1944, before the take-off on D plus 1 of the operation.

As German columns surrounded Bastogne, McAuliffe circled the village with a ring of troops, deploying a hastily configured artillery group in his embattled center.

This deployment bristled with 36 155 mm howitzers, effectively belching-out targeted fire in all directions, blowing apart many German tanks as they approached the American perimeter.

The paratroopers fought furiously, joined now by several additional units, including the all African American 333 rd and 969 th Field Artillery, making the American compliment at Bastogne the first desegregated unit action since the American Revolution.

Even so, the Americans were still outnumbered 5 to 1, and by late on the 21 st short on ammunition, medical supplies, winter-gear, and rations. Indeed, they appeared on the brink of annihilation.

Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe and his staff gathered inside Bastogne’s Heintz Barracks for Christmas dinner December 25th, 1944. This military barracks served as the Division Main Command Post during the siege of Bastogne, Belgium during World War II.

Amazingly, for two days the Germans hesitated, methodically bringing-up reinforcements to make a final, overwhelming push. Eisenhower, however, sensing McAuliffe’s precarious situation, wasted no time. Realizing the German advance had already caused an enormous “bulge” in the American defense, on December 18 he called generals Bradley, Devers, and Patton to an emergency meeting at Verdun.

There it was agreed by all that Patton’s Third Army – then preparing to cross the Saar River and continue east into Germany – would rotate ninety degrees, and race due north – an extraordinary logistical maneuver that in normal times could take days, if not weeks, to accomplish.

Progress of the German Ardennes counteroffensive, December 16–25, 1944.

Patton, who had sensed the German move weeks prior, had already given instructions for his staff to begin the operation, even before meeting with Eisenhower. By midnight, the 18 th , Patton had the 4 th Armored Division on the road north, with the 80 th and 26 th Infantry Divisions stepping-off the following day.

Thus began the second heat of the race to Bastogne, with Patton’s lead tanks still 150 miles south of the Flemish village, “Old Blood and Guts,” typically driving both men and machine as if his life depended upon it.

General George S. Patton in command of US forces on Sicily, 1943

Meanwhile, back at Bastogne, on the 22 nd American paratroopers were presented with an unusual sight – four German soldiers approaching under a white flag of truce.

The Germans, it was determined, wanted to present a written ultimatum from General Von Lὓttitz calling upon the Americans to surrender. The note stipulated that McAuliffe had but two hours to ponder his fate, after which the Germans would bury Bastogne under an avalanche of artillery fire.

After reading the note, McAuliffe could barely contain himself. “Nuts!” he fumed. But sensing that blunt message might be interpreted as a bit crude, his written response was lengthened to “To the German Commander: Nuts! From the American Commander.”

Von Lὓttitz, having no idea what the message meant, had it interpreted for him by an American colonel as “Go to the Devil,” which, I suspect, was an exceedingly polite interpretation.

Infantrymen of the 110th Infantry, 28th Div., US 1st Army following the German breakthrough in that area, Bastogne, Belgium, 19 December 1944.

At any rate, the German demand had been a bluff, for they had not the artillery on hand to make good their threat, and besides, on the 23rd the weather cleared. Early that morning the blue skies over Bastogne blossomed with U.S. C-47’s, dropping hundreds of tons of ammunition, food, and medical supplies to the embattled defenders.

Then, screaming in just above the treetops, American P-38 Lightnings and P -47 Thunderbolts appeared, savaging German tanks, convoys, and infantry positions.

The RAF’s Lancaster and Halifax bomber groups added their weight, targeting bridges, rail, and communications, all this giving the desperate ground troops arrayed at Bastogne an enormous emotional lift.

The photo above shows the relief droppings from the C-47s over the surrounded Bastogne pocket. It was one of those C-47’s that did a low fly pass for a dropping on Christmas Eve, 1944 and was shot at by a German light caliber gun.

But the clearing weather refroze the slushy ground, making maneuver far easier for the panzers, and the Germans attacked in force, just as sunlight began to fade on the 24 th — Christmas Eve.

The blow fell on the south/east portion of the American line. Initially successful, McAuliffe responded by shifting paratroopers, and eventually the Germans were driven back in savage fighting.

Then later that night, German bombers appeared over Bastogne, dropping tons of ordnance, destroying much of the village, but failing to budge the defenders

Come morning, Patton’s divisions were closing on Bastogne, 133,178 vehicles and tanks, grinding through the slosh and mud. As a result, German attacks increased in ferocity, desperate to overwhelm the 101 st before Patton could break through. The weather clouded once again but, with reinforcements on the way, the Americans fought back ferociously,

Bradley, Eisenhower and Patton in Europe, 1945.

The tip of Patton’s spear was the 37 th Tank Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Creighton Abrams. They had been fighting through furious German resistance since departing, suffering heavy casualties along the way.

Now closing on Bastogne, the lead Sherman tank, named Cobra King , was commanded by Lt. Charles Boggess. As the 37 th headed toward Bastogne they passed through a wild gauntlet of German fire, a scene frighteningly reminiscent of a modern combat videogame.

US Army in World War II near Bastogne.

”We moved full speed, with the other tanks firing left and right,” said Boggess. “We were going through fast, all guns firing, straight up that road to bust through before they had time to get set.” Shells were booming, ricocheting, screeching in numbers too numerous to count.

“I used the 75 like it was a machinegun,” said gunner, Milton Dickerman. Cobra King finally broke through the German gauntlet, and late on the 26 th , fell-in with elements of the 101 st , two miles from the center of Bastogne. Later McAuliffe drove out and shook hands with Abrams – the siege of Bastogne had been lifted. The desperate race had been won.

Members of the 101st Airborne Division, Bastogne, Belgium, the town in which this division was besieged for ten days. This photo was taken on Christmas Day.

The Battle of the Bulge would continue into mid-January, the Germans desperately clinging to what ground they had taken.

But the stunning breakthrough Hitler envisioned never materialized and, over time, massive American reinforcements, air superiority, and German fuel shortages, doomed the Nazi advance, causing Winston Churchill to state: “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war, and will, I believe be regarded as an ever famous American victory.”

The Battle of the Bulge was the largest engagement ever fought by American forces, but success claimed a heavy toll: 100,000 casualties.

Above a dramatic picture of a destroyed M18 Hellcat and M3A1 Halftrack in the backdrop from 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion which supported the 101st Airborne at Bastogne. Allegedly, throughout the siege of Bastogne (20-27 Dec. 1944), the Americans shot around 40 German tanks and lost only six of their own.

Still, during the one-month period between December 16 and January 16, Allied airpower destroyed 11,378 German transports, 1,101 tanks, 507 locomotives, 6266 railroad cars, and 472 artillery positions, while American ground force inflicted 100,000 casualties of their own, effectively breaking the back of the Wehrmacht. Three months later Adolph Hitler was dead, and his 1,000-year Reich lay in ruins.

By Jim Stempel

For a full list of his current books, please click here: amazon.com/author/jimstempel

Jim Stempel is the author of numerous articles and nine books on American history, spirituality, and warfare. His most recent book, American Hannibal: The Extraordinary Account of Revolutionary War Hero Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens, is currently available at virtually all online outlets.

His newest, From Valley Forge to Monmouth: Six Transformative Months of the American Revolution will be released this fall by McFarland, and is currently available for preorder on Amazon.


Lightning Strikes Twice – American Hannibal of the Revolutionary War

It is dawn, August 2, 216 BC and lightning is about to strike the Roman Republic. On a ridge overlooking the expansive plain, Hannibal Barca watches as a massive Roman force.

Eight enormous legions consisting of 87,000 infantry and cavalry – marches directly, irresistibly toward his troops arranged on the ground below.

Two years before he had led his army over the Alps and descended into Northern Italy to harass and defeat the Romans time-and-again.

Now, led by the Consul Varro, the Romans have assembled a massive force for one purpose only – to destroy Hannibal and his army.

He watches as dust swirls around the approaching Romans, their breastplates glinting in the rays of the rising the sun. He’s been expecting them.

A marble bust, reputedly of Hannibal, originally found at the ancient city-state of Capua in Italy

Feigning retreat, Hannibal has drawn the Romans for days across miles of dry, barren land to the small village of Cannae in southeastern Italy, where he now intends to fight.

He has at his disposal at best 50,000 infantry and cavalry, but the dismal odds do not bother him. Near Cannae, he has placed his forward line in a crescent at the mouth of a small valley that rises like the letter V from the plain.

Upon each flank Hannibal has positioned his finest Carthaginian infantry, somewhat detached on small knolls. His heavy cavalry – a substantial force – also waits in hiding on the sloping ground behind Cannae.

The Romans are the greatest military power of the day, their legions well-trained, armed, and led. But Hannibal has studied their methods carefully, and because he knows precisely how they fight, he knows precisely how to defeat them.

Through the swirling dust the Romans march on, a formation stretching over a mile from flank-to-flank, a massive, seemingly unstoppable force.

Initial deployment and Roman attack (in red)

Finally spotting the Carthaginians arrayed for battle ahead, the Romans press hurriedly forward. At the mouth of the valley, both sides meet in a terrifying collision of flashing swords, flying spears, screams, and horrific bloodletting.

Slowly the Carthaginians give ground, backing into the valley – just as Hannibal has ordered.

The Romans, sensing victory – expecting to overwhelm the center of the Carthaginian line – press ever forward, unaware they are being lured into a trap.

From above the Carthaginian leader watches as the massive Roman formations crush into the ever-narrowing terrain below.

Satisfied, he turns and nods. A smoke signal goes up, and the detached Carthaginian infantry sweep down upon both exposed flanks of the unsuspecting Romans. Hannibal’s cavalry thunders out from hiding, driving off the Roman cavalry then returning to attack the Romans from behind.

Just like that, the legions have been surrounded. Moreover, because of the narrowing constraints of the landscape the Roman units cannot maneuver, change fronts, or even bring their vast numerical superiority to bear.

They have been trapped virtually shoulder-to-shoulder, like cattle in an enormous pen.

Destruction of the Roman army (red), courtesy of the Department of History, United States Military Academy

All day the Carthaginians hack away at the edges of the Roman formation, reducing it by the hour, until late in the afternoon the Romans are no more.

The historian Polybius writes that on the Valley floor some 76,000 Romans and allies lay dead. Another 10,000 have been captured. The Carthaginians suffer a mere 5,700 casualties. Their victory is unparalleled.

Hannibal’s astonishing victory over a substantially superior foe will go down as perhaps the greatest military victory of all time.

According to military historian Robert L. O’Connell, Rome’s losses that day totaled “more dead soldiers than any other army on any single day of combat in the entire course of Western military history.”

As such, Cannae has cast a very long shadow over Western military thought and traditions, virtually sanctified over time as the “holy grail” of martial brilliance.

Hannibal counting the signet rings of Roman nobles killed during the battle of Cannae

Many commanders have tried unsuccessfully to replicate Hannibal’s stunning double-envelopment: Frederick the Great, von Molke, and von Schlieffen, among others.

It is said Napoleon marched his army through numerous Alpine passes just to walk in the great Carthaginian’s footprints, while Dwight Eisenhower wrote that every military leader “tries to duplicate in modern war the classic example of Cannae.”

We now fast-forward to January 1781, for lightning is about to strike again. Pursued by a strong British force under command of Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, American general Daniel Morgan feigns retreat, drawing the weary British ever deeper into the cold, wintery backwoods of South Carolina.

British attack at Cowpens, the first phase of the Battle of Cowpens

Tarleton has risen to become General Charles Cornwallis’s handyman of choice. Cornwallis, a crafty and hard-driving general, has used Tarleton to impose his will across the rebellious countryside, and in this the young cavalryman has not disappointed.

But Tarleton has made his reputation generally running roughshod over small bodies of American cavalry or backwoods militia Morgan, a proven battlefield commander, may prove a tougher test.

Portrait of Daniel Morgan

Moving sluggishly across the wet, freezing landscape, Morgan finally locates ground he likes at the Cowpens, a crossroads where local farmers bring their herds for branding.

The American and British forces are roughly equal in numbers, but the British are pursuing with an elite force, while two thirds of Morgan’s men are rural militia, untrained in the basics of battlefield warfare.

Morgan understands that if he is defeated the American Revolution in the South will collapse, but he realizes his militia will never stand-up to British bayonets.

He also knows that Tarleton is a young, extremely aggressive officer, with a penchant for immediate attack against all odds. What will he do?

American counterattack, the second phase of the Battle of Cowpens

Like Hannibal, Morgan devises a plan to turn his command’s deficiencies into pluses, while simultaneously using Tarleton’s over aggressiveness to lure him into a trap.

Cowpens is a wooded area of small hills and swales that Morgan believes can be used to advantage. Rather than forming one battle line, he decides upon three, the first a small group of crack rifleman, the last two hidden by the terrain.

The first and second lines will be militia, asked only to fire twice before falling back to the final line of veteran Continentals.

This will spare them from British bayonets, while giving Tarleton the appearance of retreat, thus luring the Redcoats into Morgan’s trap. At the final line both the militia and Continentals will make a stand.

Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the uniform of the British Legion, wearing a “Tarleton Helmet”.

At daybreak, January 17, Tarleton’s detachment marches into Cowpens, 1,100 strong. Initially facing only a small contingent of riflemen, they immediately deploy for combat, as Morgan’s crack shots blast away, felling many Redcoats before falling back, as planned.

Tarleton, noticing the Americans in apparent retreat, leads the British forward even before they are properly formed, only then to stumble headfirst into the second American line, precisely as Morgan had anticipated.

The militia stand and unleash a furious blast of musketry at virtually pointblank range, savaging the Redcoat infantry, before falling back themselves to the waiting line of Continentals.

The Battle of Cowpens, painted by William Ranney in 1845. The scene depicts an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).

There both sides slug it out before an error on the American side sends the British rushing forward in hopes of victory. But the Continentals recover and fire a volley into the faces of the charging Redcoats, then lower the bayonet themselves.

Stunned, the British turn and run for their lives, Continentals on their heels. American militia and cavalry spontaneously join the pursuit, the militia closing on both flanks of the fleeing British as the cavalry sweeps around, surrounding the Redcoats in a scene eerily reminiscent of Cannae.

Fortunately for American posterity, the British throw down their weapons, and slaughter is avoided. The British have fought with great spirit and bravery, but they have been undone by their commander’s rash decisions. Tarleton, along with a few dragoons, escapes, but his entire detachment has been annihilated. American casualties are trivial.

Battle of Cowpens January 17, 1781. Right flank (cavalry) of Lt. Col. William Washington and (left flank) of the militia returned to enfilade

Morgan’s well executed plan saved the Revolution in the South for the American cause. Moreover, he is one of the few battlefield commanders who has ever come close to duplicating Hannibal’s masterpiece, this in a tactical scheme entirely of his own creation.

While Cowpens was hardly of the magnitude or sophistication of Cannae, I suspect it was a victory that even the great Carthaginian would have admired.

The United States rejoiced wildly upon receiving word of Morgan’s success, but today his dramatic victory seems all but forgotten.

The 13-striped, 13-starred American flag, with a single star in the center of a circling constellation, once believed to be flown during the battle, became known as the Cowpens flag.

For a full list of his books simply click on: amazon.com/author/jimstempel

Jim Stempel is a speaker and author of numerous articles and eight books on American history, spirituality, and warfare. These include The Nature of War: Origins and Evolution of Violent Conflict, and his most recent, American Hannibal: The Extraordinary Account of Revolutionary War Hero Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens.


  • Publisher &rlm : &lrm Penmore Press LLC (8 January 2018)
  • Language &rlm : &lrm English
  • Paperback &rlm : &lrm 418 pages
  • ISBN-10 &rlm : &lrm 194640926X
  • ISBN-13 &rlm : &lrm 978-1946409263
  • Item Weight &rlm : &lrm 608 g
  • Dimensions &rlm : &lrm 15.24 x 2.36 x 22.86 cm

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The author makes the case successfully that the Battle of Cowpens was a turning point in the American Revolution. Prior to that battle, things were not going well for the Americans in the South, having lost numerous battles and engagements. Horatio Gates prior to losing the battle of Camden requested his old colleague from the Battle of Saratoga, Daniel Morgan, to join him and lead his light troops. Morgan agreed, if the Congress would vote him as a Brigadier General, so that he could more effectively deal with the militia officers. When Nathaniel Greene took over for Gates, he continued that proposal and split his army. The book lays out all of these facts effectively and effortlessly and the background to the battle. Banastre Tarleton, the British officer in charge of Cornwallis' light troops including his own legion, with cavalry, is also highlighted. These were the two protagonist commanders: Tarleton who was rash but very successful and Morgan who was down to earth and a natural leader of soldiers. The book covers the campaign leading up to the battle and the battle itself, the back and forth fighting between the two sides. The battle of Cowpens actually seems to be a short affair, with relatively few soldiers on each side (1000) but was very bloody and decisive. It was a turning point because it changed the trajectory of the war in the South and the American Revolution in general leading up to Guildford Courthouse and Yorktown.

Whenever I read a book this excellent, I ask myself - shouldn't they make a movie of this? Well, in this case they have - 2 of them to be exact, but if they would make a movie following the book it would provide an accurate history. The second movie was The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson, released in 2000. This movie is terribly inaccurate - the battle at the end depicts what appears to be Cowpens, although Cornwallis is there and Tarleton dies at the end (at the hands of Gibson, of course). Maybe ii is meant to be a combination of the two battles: Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. The first movie is called Sweet Liberty starring Alan Alda and Michael Caine about the filming of a movie on the Battle of Cowpens. The depiction of the movie is totally inaccurate (like The Patriot) and Alan Alda who is the history professor who is the author of the book is enraged by it, all in a funny way. Yes, the movie is a comedy.

Finally, it is good to have books like this one published because it provides an accurate depiction of history in a very readable format. In fact, this book reads like a historical novel. With all the inaccuracies around our history, e.g. The Patriot, and the lack of understanding of our history by most Americans, books like this are sorely needed. Kudos to the author for taking the time to write it.

The book is very readable and I couldn't put it down. The author has a style which reads like a novel without trivializing the history.

I knew about Cowpens as some battle in the Revolution without understanding its significance. This book explains what happened and most importantly, why it happened. Morgan is described as a brilliant tactician, a lead from the front field general, and he thoroughly understood his opponent, Tarleton. It also explains how Cowpens was the beginning of the events which led to the surrender at Yorktown.

I most highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the American Revolution and/or military tactics.


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American Hannibal - Jim Stempel

The American Revolution was without question the seminal event in terms of the founding of the United States, but it also initiated the spread and acceptance of both democratic principles and civil liberties across the globe a process that in many ways and in many places is still ongoing. Thus any grasp of the American nation, or of the world as it exists today, without a reasonable grasp of the Revolution remains fundamentally uninformed by definition and therefore flawed at best. For generations the American people took great pride in this heritage, worked to grasp and understand, if not all the details, at least the general flow of events and the personalities that comprised the revolutionary tale, but sadly today that dedication seems all but lost.

Indeed, the leaders, events, even the reasons the American Revolution was fought seem to be rapidly disappearing from the collective knowledge of the American public. In a recent survey conducted by the American Revolution Center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for instance, a shocking 83% of American adults were found to be lacking even a basic understanding of the Revolution. How bad was it? Half of the respondents actually believed that the Civil War was fought before the Revolution that is, the country was almost torn in half before it had even come into existence, and over 33% had no idea in which century the War for Independence even took place. The average score on the survey was a 44% and many taking the quiz could not answer more than four of the twenty-seven questions listed in the questionnaire. Knowledge of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence were determined to be equally as dismal.

These are shocking facts, and facts that may well have far reaching consequences. As the English author George Orwell once pointed out, The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. Is it reasonable to assume that citizens will handle their civic responsibilities sensibly (no matter what their political philosophy or orientation) when they have no grasp whatsoever of the history of their own nation, the structure of their government, and the laws by which they are called to govern themselves? I think not. A country without a memory is a country of madmen, wrote George Santayana. In this case our educational system (from elementary school through graduate school) has clearly failed the fundamental needs of our society, and it has much to answer for in that regard, but that failure remains an issue for another forum.

Importantly, while many respondents to the Revolutionary survey faired poorly, over ninety percent still firmly believed that a grasp of their American origins was vitally important for the health of the nation, and it was that remarkable sense of historical appreciation that inspired this book. To best accomplish this, I have chosen a presentation in narrative nonfiction, the nonfiction aspect providing the reader with an accurate and well documented look at history (often in the words of those who lived it), while the narrative formula embeds that history in a storyline that is at once strong and compelling.

The American Revolution was fought over a six year period (1775 – 1781), while the Treaty of Paris that officially ended the war and recognized the infant United States as a sovereign nation was not signed until 1783. During that six year period many men and women served the American cause, yet their names – beyond, perhaps, George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, or possibly a few members of congress like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson – are today virtually lost and forgotten.

This book is about one of the more important and exciting engagements that took place during the course of the American Revolution, and it is populated by many of those same unknown characters who gave years of their lives over to hardship, danger, and constant toil to see the issue through to its final conclusion. The story is most principally about Daniel Morgan, a rough and tumble son of the American frontier who through hard work, intelligence, and strength of character rose through life to become a brigadier general, a man of wealth, and a United States Congressman, but many more lives than Daniel Morgan’s shine through its pages.

By and large these were unremarkable people who did remarkable things simply because they were placed in situations where they were forced to rise to the occasion. They were far from perfect – some were coarse, many uneducated, others unfair, biased, or self-serving – but that tarnished humanity, I think, only serves to underscore what they accomplished all the more. Against almost incalculable odds they achieved something the world had never before witnessed – the founding of a new, democratic republic predicated upon the rule of law and civil rights of its citizenry.

In that sense, then, this is a book, not just about war or revolution, but rather about the emergence of a new way of life and a new way of conceiving ourselves as human beings. The American Revolution freed the human spirit in a way it had never before been freed, and while that accomplishment was at its inception surely limited by our standards of morality and inclusion today, from tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow. Ultimately that freedom, the capacity, not just to dream, but to aspire to be something far more than what we once were, was what the American Revolution was really about, and that sense of aspiration is hardly a uniquely American phenomena.

Thus the initial formation of the United States might best be viewed as an imperfect gift, secured through enormous blood and sacrifice, and bequeathed from one generation to all those that followed, yet a gift every citizen today enjoys, whether aware of it or not. But just as a flame slowly dies if unattended, that remarkable gift will surely wither and burn out in the hands of those who neither understand nor value what they have been gifted. The great Indian activist Jawaharlal Nehru once observed that History is a record of human progress, a record of the struggle of the advancement of the human mind, of the human spirit, towards some known or unknown objective, and the Revolution was, I believe, a giant leap forward in the advancement of that human condition, repercussions of which still reverberate throughout our world to this day. In other words, the democratic revolution that began in the thirteen colonies is today far from over, its ultimate outcome still very much in question. As the young Frenchman Alexis De Tocqueville observed at the dawn of the 19th Century after visiting the infant United States, The nations of our time cannot prevent the conditions of men from becoming equal but it depends upon themselves whether the principle of equality is to lead them to servitude or freedom, to knowledge or barbarism, to prosperity or wretchedness. On those important issues the jury remains out, and that is why a basic understanding of the American Revolution matters a great deal, indeed perhaps today more than ever.

Almost everyone has heard of the soldiers of the Revolution being tracked by the blood of their feet on the frozen ground. This is literally true, and the thousandth part of their sufferings has not been told, nor ever will be told.

Private Joseph Plumb Martin, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some of the Adventures Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin

America, then, exhibits in her social state an extraordinary phenomenon. Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune and intellect, or, in other words, more equal in their strength, than in any other country of the world or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance.

– Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy In America

Daniel Morgan was the quintessential American, precisely the type Crévecoeur had in mind in Letters from an American Farmer, a new man who had left behind in the Old World the designation and status of peasant… A commanding presence combined with valor, a high natural intelligence, and a stirring capacity to lead men would take him from the bottom of the heap to the very uppermost rank in the pantheon of heroes of the Revolution.

– John Buchanan, The Road To Guilford Court House

A summer dawn was rising along the mountain’s slope as the lone rider picked his way across Virginia’s sparkling Shenandoah River in the early morning hours of the 28th day of June, 1780.¹ The horse carried him easily, as if it recognized the route, and perhaps it did, for the rider had traveled the road from Winchester to Fredericksburg many times before. He was a big man, almost a giant by the measure of his day, over six-foot two inches in height and carrying over two hundred pounds of hard earned muscle. For most of his life he had been fast and fierce and tough as nails, but now it was June, 1780 and his body had begun to betray him. So today he rode gingerly in the saddle and nudged his horse around a few scattered rocks in the road, slowly making his way up the lower rise of the Blue Ridge toward the tavern that was his objective, now not so terribly far distant. Behind him the Shenandoah Valley stretched out in all its scenic splendor towering mountains and undulating hills of green and stone, some of the most beautiful vistas in North America. Legend had it the Valley’s name meant beautiful daughter of the stars, christened, many said, by the Native Americans who lived and hunted and fought there even hundreds of years before, but no one could say for sure.

Surrounding him as he rode, the rising hills were green with fresh growth, for the long, brutal winter – one of the coldest ever – had finally given way to a gentle spring which in turn had given birth to summer. He’d mounted early that morning for the ride up the Blue Ridge to Ashby’s Gap, and as he neared Berry’s Tavern it is hard to imagine that he was not feeling a great sense of joy, for this was a day of particular importance. Indeed, throughout a life of violence and tumult the rider had experienced many decisive and consequential days, but few if any held more importance or meaning than the one he now faced. It was as if he had been given a new lease on life and, despite weeks of illness, pain, and fatigue, on that June morning, he rode with newfound confidence and hope.

The horse ambled up to the tavern on the Ridge’s western slope where he dismounted, perhaps handing the reins over to an eager youngster, for everyone there knew he was coming, and that soon he was expected inside. It is easy to imagine a crowd of respectful onlookers gathering to gawk as the rider dismounted, smiling and pointing, for in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley he was by 1780 a legend of some significance. Now forty-five years old – give or take a year or two – he was still tough and hard as granite, yet the truth of the matter was the war for American independence had taken its toll on his health which now seemed to rise and fall sporadically like waves on a fickle ocean. Today he felt strong enough to ride, but tomorrow he could easily be back suffering in his bed. The rider’s name was Daniel Morgan.

In the fall of 1775 Morgan’s regiment had spearheaded an expedition through Maine, the objective Quebec, Canada. It was hoped by the Continental Congress at the time that victories in that territory would reduce the British threat from the north, and hopefully even bring Canada into the war on the side of the Americans. Poorly provisioned and poorly planned, the expedition had struggled its way through hundreds of miles of frozen wilderness across creeks, mountains, and rivers. Often in cold or even freezing water up to his neck, with little or nothing in the way of food or warmth or support, through the sheer force of his physical strength and uncompromising willpower, Daniel Morgan had driven the lead element forward until finally reaching Quebec in December of that year.

On December 31 an assault on the city was launched which soon, due to confusion, bad weather, and overconfidence, disintegrated. Leading one of the attacking columns directly into Quebec, Morgan was eventually trapped in a cross-fire on the city’s streets and ultimately forced to surrender. Still in a fighting rage, he’d been surrounded by British soldiers, but he hated the British for the 500 lashes they had given him years before during the French and Indian War, and he refused to give up. Furious and stubborn and incapable of backing down, he probably would have been shot to pieces in a hail of bullets had not a local priest wandered by to whom he finally relinquished his sword.² Taken prisoner, Morgan spent months in confinement before finally being exchanged. While still strong and determined, the frigid expedition north had taken a severe toll on his health, leaving him often in distress with fevers, body aches, and weakness, all of which seemed to come and go with no more warning than the bad weather that tumbled over Massanutten Mountain from time-to-time near his valley home.

No, Daniel Moran was no longer the powerful presence who had marched a band of Virginia frontiersmen all the way to Boston five years earlier – every last one of them a crack shot with the long rifle, and an expert with the tomahawk – to the amazement of the locals en route. Morgan’s Riflemen they were called back then and their mere presence in Upstate New York in 1777 had caused the Redcoats to hesitate, and their Iroquois allies – known as terrifying and fearless fighters themselves – to simply flee the field. Now a colonel in the Continental Line, perhaps its finest field officer, Daniel Morgan had ridden that morning up to Berry’s Tavern hoping for a new opportunity to serve the cause of independence. Good with men and serene in combat, Morgan was by 1780 known on both sides of the Atlantic as a crafty tactician and fearless fighter. For weeks he had been down again with the condition he called sciatica – fevers, weakness, and extreme muscle aches – while ruminating unfavorably as to his future role in the revolution. Things had not been looking terribly good for him. Then the letter arrived.

That letter seemed to change everything in a single stroke. Penned by his old friend and military commander, General Horatio Gates, who was then at his country residence named Traveler’s Rest on the Potomac River near Shepherdstown, Virginia (present day West Virginia), the letter could not have done more for Morgan had it been a magic potion. Once forlorn and out of the war, it seemed now that he would not only return to duty, but return in the manner he felt he deserved.

For on May 12 of that year, Charleston, South Carolina had fallen to the British, General Benjamin Lincoln surrendering some 5,500 men and mountains of ordnance and supplies to the Redcoats under the command of generals Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Charles Cornwallis.³ That defeat proved a devastating blow to the cause of American Independence, indeed the most significant defeat of the entire war. Worse still, it left the entire South open to the potential of British control, as there was now no organized resistance of substance to oppose them. The British had simply to march north through the Carolinas clear to Virginia in order to subdue half of the United States and perhaps destroy the rebellion as a consequence. That could not happen if the infant nation was to survive. Something had to be done.

That something was contained in the letter Morgan received from Horatio Gates. Congress, frantic to respond to the situation at Charleston, had appointed Gates – the hero of the Battle of Saratoga, and one of the American luminaries of the war as a result – as new head of the Southern Army, and Gates wanted Morgan to handle a full corps of light infantry under this new command. It was precisely what Morgan excelled at, and the thought of returning to the war at the head of his own corps brought Morgan’s blood to an immediate boil. Would to god you’d a had it six months ago, Morgan wrote back immediately, referring to the debacle at Charleston, our affairs would have wore a more pleasing aspect at this day than they do. ⁴ Morgan was convinced Gates was the right man for the job, and that he would breathe life back into the American war effort in the South. Gates wanted Morgan to come to Traveler’s Rest in order to work out all of the details of the new command, but Morgan was still feeling far too feeble to make a trip of that distance. So they agreed to meet roughly halfway, at Berry’s Tavern in Ashby’s gap on the morning of June 28 as Gates began his trip south.

Flushed with fresh hope, Daniel Morgan made his way through the front door of Berry’s Tavern. It was an establishment with which he was entirely familiar. For Morgan, unlike Gates – who was English born and had risen as an officer in the British Army, serving on the expedition to Halifax in 1749 and later in the French and Indian War prior to settling down at Traveler’s Rest – had wandered into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley at the tender age of only eighteen, raw, uneducated, and virtually penniless. His place of birth was said to have been New Jersey or Eastern Pennsylvania, but of his past and origins Morgan rarely spoke. What he had done was work. Big, strong, and athletic, the Shenandoah was then the American frontier, and there was no shortage of good work for a youngster willing to toil. First taking a position as laborer, then as a wagon driver for a local farmer, he quickly saved enough to buy his own wagon, and before long had his own thriving business hauling goods over the Blue Ridge between Fredericksburg and Winchester. The Old Wagoner he still loved to call himself, as much a tribute to all he had overcome as it was a badge of genuine modesty. As well it made the troops under him aware of the fact that their leader was no different than them, a man who had worked and struggled his way to the top, no aristocrat’s son, born to wealth and a life of ease. The two men – Gates and Morgan – were very different, but this was not Europe where one’s station in life was virtually fixed at birth, but the newly minted United States of America where excellence and effort could set a man off on a course of his own creation.

Morgan instantly recognized his old friend, and Gates rose to greet him warmly. The two were about as physically different from one another as could be imagined. Horatio Gates was then fifty-four years of age, short in stature, ruddy-faced, and bespectacled, with thin graying hair, ⁵ while Morgan stood over six feet two, was broad at the shoulders, thickly muscled, with a jaw like an anvil. Morgan looked every bit the soldier he was, while Gates could easily have been mistaken for Morgan’s tailor, but the two men liked and respected one another and had been friends in the Valley of Virginia for years. At Saratoga they had stopped the British Army dead in its tracks.

The credit for the victory at Saratoga – surely the most important American victory of the war thus far – had gone to Gates, but in the field it had been Morgan and Benedict Arnold who had fought the British to a standstill. In 1777 the British had initiated a plan to sever New England from the rest of the United States, and hopefully strangle the young rebellion as a result. In June of that year General John Burgoyne (Gentleman Johnny, as he was called) began the trek south from Montreal, Canada with some 9,500 British regulars, Hessians, and Indian allies. The goal was to march south along Lake Champlain, take Fort Ticonderoga at its southern end near Lake George, then continue down the Hudson and force the capitulation of Albany, New York, by siege if necessary. The plan was for General Howe to march north from New York City with his own British army and rendezvous with Burgoyne, the two armies meeting somewhere near Albany on the Hudson. With the Hudson River then under full British control, New England would be cut off from the rest of the colonies, the head of the rebellion, so to speak, severed from the body. Initially Burgoyne’s march proved successful, but in early September, as he slowly made his way south along the river north of Albany, he ran headfirst into Gates, Morgan, and Arnold deployed and waiting for him at a place called Bemis Heights, New York.

Gates had been sent north by Congress specifically to confront Burgoyne, and he had selected his position with care. It [Bemis Heights] was a high plateau, covered with broken elevations separated by deep ravines through which creeks turned and twisted. The region was densely wooded except for occasional farms and wagon trails stretching down to the Hudson. ⁶ While the position was highly defensible even against the formidable British Army, it would still be a difficult test for the waiting Continentals. Marching directly into battle and fighting in tight linear formations required tremendous discipline and confidence in one’s officers and comrades. England’s army excelled in all these categories and was (and still is) universally recognized as the finest military machine of its age. ⁷ Yet Bemis Heights was the worst sort of terrain for the highly coordinated and disciplined British units to fight upon, while simultaneously a home away from home for Morgan’s frontiersman.

By early September Gates had been able to cobble together an army of over 7,000 militia and Continentals to oppose Burgoyne, Morgan and his famed unit of riflemen having been transferred north reluctantly by General Washington from his army near New York City in late August. Oh, for some Virginia riflemen, ⁹ one New York resident had bemoaned, and once Morgan’s unit arrived they were considered the very cream of Gate’s entire army.

On September 19 Burgoyne advanced in three columns against the American position. The column on the far right headed for the highest and most critical position on the American line held, of course, by Morgan, who had wisely deployed his men behind trees, rocks, etc. to take advantage of the natural cover the Heights provided. Now heavily reinforced, it was Morgan’s plan to fight from cover and let the British sacrifice themselves against his crack riflemen, who could kill a squirrel at two hundred yards. Indeed, one British officer later noted that he never in my life saw better rifles (or men who shot better) than those made in America. ¹⁰ Known generally as the Kentucky long rifle, the weapon had been developed on the American frontier, where a lighter, more accurate piece with greater range was required for hunting. Spiraled grooves in an elongated barrel gave the weapon both its unparalleled accuracy and range, and in the hands of a skilled marksman it could be lethal at ranges unheard of by the musket carrying British, who often fought at distances inside of fifty yards. American riflemen could not stand up to a furious bayonet charge (the long rifle had a slow rate of fire and, individually crafted, could not be fitted with a bayonet), but used properly, skilled riflemen could make an enormous impression on any field of battle, and Daniel Morgan knew how to use them wisely. Morgan deployed in the woods overlooking the open fields of a farm owned by a man named Freeman and opened a severe fire on the British as they advanced, bringing the Redcoats to a sudden halt.

Again and again the British tried to advance into the fury of Morgan’s rifles, only to be shot to pieces in the process. Meanwhile Benedict Arnold led his Continentals on counter thrusts across the open farm fields, only to be driven back time and again. Burgoyne then tried to force Morgan’s withdrawal by having his artillery blast away at the woods where the riflemen were hidden, but Morgan responded by having his crack shots focus on the crews manning the guns, and by late afternoon Burgoyne’s artillery had been silenced. Facing disaster, the British general was forced to withdraw.

Unable to move forward yet unwilling to retreat, Burgoyne had little choice but to dig-in and await Howe’s arrival. Unfortunately, Burgoyne’s supplies began to dwindle as the days wore on, and Morgan’s men made life miserable for the British, peppering the Redcoats from a distance and constantly bushwhacking their patrols and foraging parties. Moreover, unknown to Burgoyne, Howe had unilaterally abandoned the Hudson plan, and had moved his command south instead toward Philadelphia without notifying Burgoyne of his change of plans. Burgoyne, watching his manpower wither away daily, finally made the fateful decision to try and force his way past the American position, again in the hopes of reaching Howe’s phantom army that he still believed was marching to his relief. On October 7 he shifted his remaining force south of Freeman’s Farm and took up a defensive line. Morgan immediately reconnoitered the new British position and suggested two flanking assaults to Gates, one led by his own corps which would pass quietly through the woods and take the British right by surprise, while another column simultaneously struck the British left. Gates immediately agreed.

The twin assaults were launched, and in only fifty minutes Morgan – assisted once again by Arnold – drove the British from their forward positions to a secondary line of redoubts back at Freeman’s Farm. Morgan, sensing victory, attacked again and again, his men finally overrunning the key redoubt that exposed the British flank and rear to the surging Americans.

Burgoyne, his army now in tatters and in danger of being cut-off and destroyed by Morgan’s efforts, pulled his battered force back from Freeman’s Farm. Gates, at Morgan’s urging, followed promptly and surrounded the beleaguered British. There was now no place for Burgoyne to go, north or south, and on October 17 he formally surrendered his entire command to Gates at the small country village of Saratoga, New York.

The victory at Saratoga proved monumental for the cause of independence. Not only had the British been thwarted in their plans to split the colonies in two, but they had lost a major army in the process, a debacle that provided profound and prophetic evidence that British arms were not invincible. Even more importantly, the victory at Saratoga convinced the skeptical French that the American cause now appeared viable, and brought that nation into the war on the side of the Americans – an enormous boost for morale, finance, and material for the fledgling Continentals. Horatio Gates received the glory for the victory at Saratoga, but it had been Morgan and Arnold who had conceived the strategy and executed the attacks that had brought the British to defeat.

But that had been 1777. It was now 1780, and since the impressive victory at Saratoga the cause of independence had vacillated between the opposite poles of hope and doom. The British had finally shifted their attention away from New York and New England toward the Southern colonies, and in May they had successfully taken Charleston. It was a stunning victory for the Redcoats that marked the beginning of a campaign also aimed at splitting the colonies asunder – but this time from the other end. After Charleston’s fall Clinton departed again for New York, leaving General Charles Cornwallis behind with a substantial force to lead the charge through the Carolinas. Cornwallis was a tough and able general. Who would stop him?

After Saratoga, Morgan and his riflemen returned to Washington’s army about New York City where he handled the light infantry (Washington’s rangers) with panache. But the rewards and promotion he thought due him had not been forthcoming, and in the spring of 1779 Morgan – suffering physically – quietly resigned his commission and returned to his home near Battletown (present day Berryville, Virginia). No man thought more of George Washington or cherished the cause of independence more than Daniel Morgan, and while he was a man of enormous spirit and talent, Morgan was also a man of pride, and that pride had been pricked one too many times.

But now things had changed. The British were once again on the march. Horatio Gates – the hero of Saratoga – had been summoned by Congress to confront them, and Gates, as before, desperately wanted Dan Morgan to handle a full light corps under his command. Though still ill and weary, Morgan could hardly resist such an offer.

So here now were the two old friends and compatriots meeting again at Berry’s Tavern on the morning of June 28, the diminutive Gates and the imposing Morgan greeting one another warmly. Pleasantries aside, Gates quickly got down to business. Horatio Gates realized, of course, just how central Morgan’s role had been to the American success at Saratoga. Not only did Morgan excel with light troops – in particular with backcountry riflemen – but he was also an instinctive warrior, quickly discerning the enemy’s strength and intentions, always moving rapidly to employ counter measures. Moreover, unlike the fiery Arnold, who Gates had to order off the field at Bemis Heights for insubordination, Morgan took and received orders with professional calm. Although known to have a temper – Morgan had once cuffed a Congressional representative whom he considered disrespectful of Washington – Gates was confident he and Morgan could work together successfully due to their past relationship and mutual respect. "Whereas the previous


Biography

Jim Stempel is a speaker, novelist, and author of numerous articles and nine books regarding history, spirituality, and warfare. For over thirty years he has had the good fortune of living with his family at a country location in Western Maryland overlooking the Blue Ridge. His wife, Sandie, is on staff at nearby McDaniel College where she is a professor of astronomy and physics, while his three children—a daughter and two sons—have moved on to professional careers.

An avid athlete for most of his life, Stempel helped coach his children in basketball and baseball while they were young, while active as a runner and handball player himself. He was born and raised in Westfield, New Jersey, and is a graduate of The Citadel, Charleston, S.C.

Jim is considered an authority on the Eastern campaigns of the American Civil War, as well as the politics and engagements of the American Revolution. His book, The Nature of War: Origins and Evolution of Violent Conflict, has been well received by an international audience for its wide grasp of human conflict, its willingness to delve into the basic motivations of human warfare, and the true prospects for peace those motivations suggest.

Stempel's other published works reflect a wide range of interests, with numerous articles appearing in such varied journals as Concepts in Human Development, New TimesNorth & South, History Net, History News Network, War History Online, The Edge, and New Dawn Magazine, among others. Many of his historical pieces have been selected to reappear on the highly respected, Real Clear History.

When Beliefs Fail, Jim's nonfiction analysis of science, psychology, and modern spirituality, brought high praise from fellow authors Ken Wilber, Dr. Larry Dossey, and Mark Waldman. His novel Albemarle was nominated for the James Fenimore Cooper Prize in Historical Fiction. The West Coast Review of Books wrote of his novel American Rain, “Lovers of political satire may consider this book a masterpiece because of Stempel’s sly wit and insight.”

Jim's historical novel, Windmill Point – a Chanticleer Awards Finalist – brings to life one of the most exciting and critical periods of the American Civil War. Of American Hannibal, his nonfiction account of the Battle of Cowpens during the Revolutionary War, one critic wrote: “As one who reviewed Jim Stempel’s Windmill Point, I was again drawn into a fascinating story, told by a master historian, writer, and a man with the painter’s palette that left me with a most wonderful read.”

Stempel has now followed-up the success of American Hannibal with a new nonfiction work, Valley Forge to Monmouth: Six Transformative Months of the American Revolution, due out in October 2020. Pre-Release reviews have to date been excellent. John McElroy, for instance, historian, author, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, writes “Anyone interested in knowing what America’s independence from Britain required should read this book.”

Jim’s focus for over thirty years has been to present thoughtful literature, along with historical accounts – accurately and enjoyably – to the widest range of readers possible a mission he intends to continue.



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