I had never been to a 235th Anniversary celebration before Saturday. As part of our job here at King’s Mountain National Military Park, Tom and I got to go to the Battle of Cowpens’ 235th Anniversary celebration on Saturday. We were able to take pictures and video of the National Park Service cannon crew as they fired the 3-pound “grasshopper” (so called because it hops backward when it is fired) cannon that was used in the Battle at Cowpens.
Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day here in South Carolina. It was sunny and 62 degrees. Cowpens National Battlefield is the sister park to King’s Mountain and a lot of the staff work at both parks. The Cowpens battle took place on January 17, 1781 with the Loyalist troops under Banastre Tarleton and the Patriot troops under Daniel Morgan. I’m not going to explain the battle now, because I will be writing about that at the appropriate time in the “Revolutionary War in a Nutshell” series. But going to a 235th Anniversary celebration is not something we do every day and I wanted to share our experience with you.
Battle anniversaries are a big deal at the National Military Parks. The staff prepares for months and tries to get as much publicity as possible. They do not reenact the battle – that would be inappropriate – but there are living history events and historians who help to interpret what happened. When we had anniversary celebrations at Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain, the living history groups were very small – less than 10 people. So we were not prepared for the size of the “encampment” at Cowpens.
There were living historians representing about 10 different groups at the 235th Anniversary celebration. About half were Loyalists and half were Patriots. They represented such disparate groups as the 1st Maryland, the Washington Light Infantry, the British Dragoons, and the Guilford Fife and Drum corps. There were redcoats (the Loyalists) and blue coats (the Continental army). There were also lots of wives and other camp followers including some children dressed in colonial clothes.
During the day there were talks and demonstrations. One living historian pretended to be the Marquis de Lafayette. Another was Jenny Cote, a camp follower. We watched a cavalry demonstration by the British Dragoons led by a man dressed like Banastre Tarleton. The New Acquisition Militia drilled children volunteers. There were ranger and author talks and demonstrations on shooting the Brown Bess musket and the long rifle.
There were over 2,000 people at Cowpens when we arrived on Saturday afternoon. The National Guard handled parking duties and had people parking in every available spot. People were enjoying the talks, the demonstrations, and walking around the mile-long trail of the battlefield. There were families having picnics on blankets in the fields.
After we listened to some of the talks and watched some demonstrations it was time for us to go to work. Our cannon team drilled and practiced, drawing a large crowd as they did so. Then they demonstrated the steps necessary for firing the cannon. Captain Leah even had a saber she drew when she yelled “fire!” After lots of pictures and questions from the crowd, we packed up our gear and headed back to King’s Mountain where they had a big crowd – over 500 visitors for the day!
The 235th Anniversary celebration weekend was a big success with all the rangers and volunteers who pitched in to help. The living historians were very interesting and I was amazed at how many there were. The visitors responded and everyone enjoyed the time they spent at Cowpens Battlefield on Saturday.