January 17: The Battle of Cowpens

Almost Entirely a Presbyterian Army
by Rev. David T. Myers

When Lord Cornwallis brought his British army into the southern colonies, it was the Presbyterian colonists of that part of the infant nation which met him and his forces in every county and town with their Bibles, their Psalm books, and their rifles. Sending a fierce cavalry officer in Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who rarely gave quarter, into western South Carolina, with a picked force of 1100 men, they came up against the smaller American forces at a grazing ground on the Broad River called the Cowpens.

Commanding the American militia and Continentals was Brig. General Daniel Morgan, a Presbyterian elder. In charge of the second of three lines of American soldiers was Presbyterian elder Andrew Pickens. The majority of the militia were from the Presbyterian congregations of South Carolina and Virginia.    It was almost entirely a Presbyterian army.  All through the night, the elders prayed with the men to ask God to give them the victory.

At sunrise on January 17, 1781, the charge of the British forces began. Moving with fifty yards, the American forces, as they were commanded to do by Morgan, fired two volleys, and retired to the second line. The second line of American riflemen fired three volleys, taking down all the British officers, and retired to the third line of American troops. This was composed of battle hardened Continental troops of the American army. As they, along with the retiring militia, charged the British troops, American cavalry attacked both flanks of the British forces. The latter retreated with a tremendous loss of men killed, wounded, and captured. A full one third of Cornwallis’s soldiers were out of action, and the battle of Cowpens was over. An American victory was given in answer to the prayers and courage of Presbyterian riflemen from the southern states.

Words to Live By: “The Lord is a Man of War; the Lord is His name.” Exodus 15:3 (Amplified)  It has been a much discussed topic down through the years since our American Revolution as to where Christian Presbyterians should have been as involved as they were in it.  But the issue really which should be discussed is whether it was a just war. If it was, then Christians must support it.  If it was not, then Christians have no place in it.  That is the question then.  Was the American Revolution a just war?  Our American Presbyterian ancestors thought it was, and so supported it and indeed fought in its battles.   We need to do the same examination with conflicts today.

  1. Jerry Slate’s avatar

    My Great Grandfather Nathaniel Austin and his ten sons fought in the Revolution. I believe with all my heart God was determining America as a special place that would honor Christ.
    At the battle of Cow pens my cousin John Collins was gathering men in South Carolina for the next battle. He gathered quite a large number, but did not know where his commanding officer would take the troops. His 16 year old sister
    Mary? Collins carried the dispatch sewed in her saddle. She returned with his orders they and met the rest of the army the day before the battle. Her brother John Collins and her future husband was wounded at Cow Pens. Too many things happened to just be coincidence. I believe the recent election was God ordained. An impossible, made possible by God. We see blindly. God help us.

  2. Jerry Slate’s avatar

    Great to hear of the love of Christ in our past.

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