Dressed as a Revolutionary War general, Robert Brown will act as a tour guide into the past this weekend.
For the second year, he’ll play the role of legendary Patriot leader Daniel Morgan. And he’ll lead a re-creation of the 25-mile march from the Pacolet River in upstate South Carolina to the cattle field where Morgan defeated the hated British commander Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of the Cowpens on Jan. 17, 1781.
The 234th anniversary celebration of the major American victory runs through Sunday at Cowpens National Battlefield near Gaffney. The four-day event includes 18th century weapons firing demonstrations, cavalry demonstrations, ranger-led battlefield walks and a talk by military historian Lawrence Babits, author of “A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of the Cowpens.”
Considered a crucial turning point in the American Revolution, Cowpens is a battle still studied at the U.S. Military Academy. As Tarleton and his elite legion bore down on Morgan’s army, the general led his force on a harrowing march that ended on the ground where he chose to fight.
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More than 50 people are expected to join “Morgan’s Victory March,” which begins Saturday near Pacolet, S.C. and ends Sunday at the national battlefield. Participants walk, ride nonmotorized bikes or horses or bounce along in horse-drawn wagons.
Marchers of all ages include history buffs and descendants of soldiers who fought at Cowpens. They come from all over, some from as far away as Germany.
Property owners allow the marchers to pass over segments of the historic route and one “Patriot Familiy” will provide brunch for the group before the final leg of the march on Sunday. Speaking at this stop will be Mary Ann Solesbee, author of “Sal and Amanda,” a children’s book about “Morgan’s Victory March.”
Lyman Town Council member and first-time marcher Teresa Shuler will be joined by her daughter and three grandchildren, all from Sykesville, Md. Shuler’s great-greatgrandfather, James Carlile, was a 17-year-old volunteer when he fought at Cowpens. He’ll be on her mind when she walks this weekend with her family members.
“It’ll be awesome,” said Shuler.
Sense of history
Brown is headmaster at Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, a former Cleveland County history teacher and the author of the 2009 book “Kings Mountain and Cowpens: Our Victory Was Complete.” At stops along the march, he provides an overview of the campaign along with anecdotes and stories.
Wearing a tricorn hat, he gets into the character of a general known as the “Old Waggoner.”
“It’s grueling, but fun,” Brown said of the two-day trek. “It gives you a sense of history.”
Sponsored by the town of Pacolet and the Cherokee County Historical and Preservation Society, the march follows the approximate route Morgan took and moves at about the same pace as his army did in January 1781.
At the national battlefield, marchers will follow part of the original Green River Road, which Morgan and his army took when they arrived at the Cowpens. Brown calls the historic road, used by drovers herding cattle from the mountains to Charleston, “the I-85 of the frontier.”
Another original landmark that Brown will point out is what’s left of Fort Thicketty, a block house Morgan and his army would have passed.
Jane Waters, former executive director of the Cherokee County Historical and Preservation Society, said it’s the only pre-Revolutionary structure still standing in upstate South Carolina. Remnants of the fort have survived because the owners put tin on the structure and used it as a barn, she said.
In 2014, Waters said, the historical society bought the property, which includes 5 acres, and plans to restore the fort as an educational site.
She has made the 25-mile hike twice on foot but now rides in a wagon.
“I’ve been out in rain, sleet and snow – everything God had to hand out,” Waters said.
According to Waters, the weather was so cold on the morning of Jan. 17, 1781, soldiers were killed when they fell off horses and hit their heads on ice.
For her, following the footsteps of Daniel Morgan “makes me feel proud,” said Waters. “It’s a great way to honor our ancestors.”
Pacolet Mayor Elaine Harris called the march “a moving experience.”
“We learn something every year,” she said. “This teaches us the importance of what our ancestors did. Our ancestors helped form this new nation.”
Brown considers Morgan “a homegrown military genius.”
Following the same terrain the Old Waggoner traveled in his history-making march “helps bring some of it to life,” said Brown.