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By the summer of 1780, Great Britain held the advantage in the American Revolution. In the south, British forces controlled the major ports of Savannah and Charleston, and Maj. Gen. Charles Cornwallis had recently trounced American forces under General Horatio Gates at Camden, South Carolina. This crushing defeat set the stage for a potential death blow to the American Revolution in the south.
But General Nathanael Greene, General George Washington’s newly appointed southern commander, had other ideas. Greene, who would never win a battle but would be instrumental in winning a war, got off to an unconventional start. Instead of massing his forces, he divided them, sending Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan southwestward.
When British forces caught up to Morgan at Cowpens in January 1781, he was more than ready. Morgan’s victory was a tactical masterpiece, echoing Hannibal’s ancient triumph over the Romans at Cannae. Cowpens set in motion a chain of events leading to Yorktown and, ultimately, American independence.
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