Cowpens, Battle of, January 17, 1781, an American victory in the American Revolutionary War. It was fought a few miles north of the town of Cowpens, South Carolina. This victory, coming soon after the American victory at Kings Mountain, was a severe blow to the British, under General Cornwallis, and greatly encouraged the Americans. Cowpens National Battlefield was established in 1929 to commemorate the battle.
About 1,000 American troops, mostly untrained militia, led by General Daniel Morgan, took up a position on two knolls with their backs to the Broad River. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, leading the British troops, attacked with about the same number of men. According to Morgan's clever plan, the American militia fired their muskets and then retreated behind the hills. Tarleton, thinking the Americans were running away, ordered his troops to advance. They marched straight into the central force of seasoned Continental troops. The militia returned to attack the British left flank, and the cavalry under Colonel William Washington attacked the right; they quickly defeated the British.