This realm of freedom

The Battle of Cowpens as depicted by William Ranney, along with a profile of formerly enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley. (Images in the public domain)

(Left) The Battle of Cowpens by William Ranney;
(Right) Formerly enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley.
(Images in the public domain)

“Perish that Thirst of boundless Power, that drew
On Albion’s Head the Curse to Tyrants Due.
But thou appeas’d submit to Heaven’s decree,
That bids this Realm of Freedom rival thee!
Now sheathe the Sword that bade the Brave attone
With guiltless Blood for Madness not their own.”

Phillis Wheatley, from the poem “Liberty and Peace”

As do many others, I tend to think mostly of New England and Virginia when I think about the American Revolution. Yet a lesser-known battle in South Carolina has been described as the psychological turning point of the war, laying the groundwork for the siege at Yorktown.  In describing the Battle of Cowpens, John Marshall wrote, “Seldom has a battle, in which greater numbers were not engaged, been so important in its consequences as that of Cowpens.”

Life is full of unheralded people and less-famous events that nonetheless exert a powerful influence on how history unfolds.  Ranney’s painting of the engagement at Cowpens depicts an unnamed bugler, believed to have been African-American, saving the life of Colonel William Washington by shooting his British attacker near the end of the battle.  For every historic deed of bravery or moment of victory that we remember and celebrate, there are thousands of unknown moments and unnamed heroes, fragments of human drama that are never recorded.

Whenever you next find yourself at one of the many town square monuments that honor local people who died in wars, take a few minutes to reflect on the centuries that led up to where we are today.  Almost all of us can say “I have it much easier now, than they had it then.” During this weekend of fireworks, picnics, holidays and recreation, let’s honor the everyday people who made it all possible.

One year ago today:

The torch of freedom



  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    During my tour of the Cowpens battlefield I couldn’t help think of that other Carolina salient, Kings Mountain. If anyone is interested, a study of John Sevier is quite enlightening. These are but two locations that cause Carolinians to say “the revolution was begun in New England, and won in the Carolinas.”

    • Thanks, Eric. I will have to look that up, as I know nothing about it. Other than vague references to “the swamp fox” Francis Marion, I have read or heard very little about the pivotal role South Carolina played in the revolution. I guess New England has a better PR machine. Having lived in Tennessee for so many years, of course I had heard about Sevier, though not in the context of the Revolutionary War. I’m tempted to say that “any rival of Andrew Jackson’s is a friend of mine” but of course, Sevier’s record with the Cherokee is probably not much better than Jackson’s. In so many ways, those were brutal times.

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        One of the most fascinating Revolutionary War forts in South Carolina was known as “Ninety Six” (there is a town of that name today at that location). Apparently it was located ninety-six miles from an early Cherokee capital (before Sequoia’s time). The reason it stands out in my mind is that Ryan’s G G G G grandfather Culberson (Great Grand father of Robert Young, Sr.) fought the British at that fort. btw – having lived in Georgia, Did you know of the Revolutionary War battle of Kettle Creek, on the west side of the Savannah River?

        • No, I am shamefully ignorant of the history of my own region. I have STILL never even been to Savannah! But the details about “Ninety Six” and Kettle Creek sound interesting. Even the names are memorable. Jeff and I have long wanted to go back to South Carolina (our honeymoon was in Charleston) so maybe we can visit some of these places someday.

  2. MaryAnn

    Speaking of having it so much easier now, I often thank the Lord for modern conveniences that allow for time to enjoy life & serve others. My husband’s grandmother washed the men’s overalls in the spring. The story is still told, in amazement, about how much water she could wring out of them by hand! My mother tells of hanging out the laundry until it froze, before bringing it in the house.
    Paul & I watched the movie, “America, Imagine the World Without Her”. It has a great deal of history, some of which we did not know. Very eyeopening to those who are not aware of the challenges we face to keep our freedoms. We recommend it to all Americans!

    • Mary Ann, it amazes me to think what life must have been like for our mothers and grandmothers. Just thinking about washing diapers in a wringer washer (as my Mom did) would be viewed as a terrible hardship nowadays. I haven’t heard of that movie, but will look it up. Hey be sure to see tomorrow’s blog – you might know some of the people in it. πŸ˜€ Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!

  3. Oddly enough I noticed last week when I was home that my husband is reading a book on the American Civil War at the moment. I’ll have to ask him if he’s heard of the battle of Cowpens.

    • If he is a history fan, he may know of it. I think Tarleton, the British general who was defeated there, is probably famous since even I had heard of him, though I know practically nothing about him. I just popped over to your blog for a virtual walk – I didn’t get to walk today, so I needed the outing! I hope your Dad continues to get better and you will be home again soon. The water photos are lovely but I always like Jez and Max best. πŸ˜€

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        The more appropriate adjective for Tarleton is “infamous”. He was to the Carolinians of the eighteenth century what Sherman was to the Georgians of the nineteenth. Same language and skin color, the animosity could never have been exceeded by totally alien-looking beings!

        • That might explain why Cowpens was considered such a psychological victory. Conversely, I’ve heart it argued that Sherman’s admittedly brutal march to the sea was psychologically necessary to end the bloodbath that was the civil war. Sort of the same reasoning applied to Hiroshima. I don’t know enough about either conflict to have a valid opinion, but I do know that watching Jeff undergo what often seems barbaric “treatment” has made me consider and reconsider the lengths to which we go for even desirable ends. That’s not to say that I am not grateful every day for these treatments being available to him. But it all just seems so harsh sometimes. I am so thankful Jeff is willing to do whatever he can to stay with us, but I don’t know if I would have his bravery. I know I would not have his strength. Moral of the story, there will always be those of us who benefit from the cruel suffering that other people have to go through. I suppose there is not much we can do besides be grateful and humble to be where we are.

          • singleseatfighterpilot

            You say “I don’t know if”. I say I know I would not have taken the battlefield in Griswoldville, GA as a man in his mid-sixties leading 15-year-old boys to fight thousands of battle-hardened Federal soldiers, under Sherman. Similarly, I would not have done half of what Jeff has done! Do I honor and praise such men? How can I help but do so!?!?

            • I agree. Though it’s hard for some people to imagine this, I see a different type of conflict that has been waged courageously by parents of children with disabilities for years. Matt and I, among literally millions of others, are beneficiaries of these tireless and heroic efforts, but I know beyond doubt that I could not have dedicated my life to advocating for rights that I knew I would never live to see my child enjoy. I am thankful for courageous pioneers, of which there are all sorts — and I’m keenly aware of the responsibility of the rest of us not to hold those hard-won victories in contempt.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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