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"Daniel Morgan"

Started by Newsletter, June 28, 2023, 05:01:50 PM

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"Daniel Morgan" By: Ah1Tom

On 14 June 1775, Congress "Resolved, That six companies of expert riflemen, be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia… [and] as soon as completed, shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army. "

The Virginia House of Burgesses chose Daniel Morgan to form one of these and serve as its captain. He recruited 96 men in ten days and assembled them at Winchester on 14 July. He then marched them to Boston, Massachusetts in only 21 days, arriving on August 6, 1775.

Daniel Morgan was born in 1735 to James and Eleanor Morgan in New Jersey. Both sets of grandparents were Welsh immigrants. Aside from this, little is known about his childhood, as he avoided talking about it to anyone.

His naturally abrasive personality irritated one British Lieutenant who struck him with the flat of his sword. Morgan, the brawler, knocked him out with a single blow. He was court-martialed and sentenced 500 lashes. He joined the British army after this as an Ensign, the only rank available.

He was ambushed taking a dispatch to his commanding officer. His escorts were killed, but even though he took a bullet to the back of his neck that knocked out several teeth on his left jaw and exited through his cheek, Daniel Morgan survived. However, he carried a bad scar for the rest of his life. He spent the rest of the French and Indian War fighting against the Indians on the frontier and learning their guerrilla tactics.

By the time the Revolutionary War began, Daniel Morgan was 40 years old. He had become proficient in Indian fighting tactics and was an excellent marksman with a rifle. He was assigned to Benedict Arnold's invasion of Canada. After General Montgomery was killed and General Arnold was injured, Morgan took command of the troops until he was forced to surrender and was taken as a prisoner of war.

After eight months, he was freed under the condition that he would not fight against the British until the Americans released British soldiers of war. His actions in Quebec earned him a promotion to colonel and he was given a special light infantry of backwoodsmen like himself, meant to defend the riflemen in close combat.

They really shone during the Saratoga campaign. Sent north to strengthen General Horatio Gates ‘position in Albany, they saw action near Freeman's Farm. Morgan directed his troops with turkey calls, and they surrounded the British troops. The riflemen specifically targeted the officers (considered dishonorable) and gunners manning the artillery. Their harassing the British troops and killing officers, according to British General Burgoyne, eventually led to mass desertions of soldiers and Indians and forced British surrender.

In his report to Congress, Gates declared that "too much praise cannot be given the Corps commanded by Col. Morgan." Many historians believe he did not get the credit he deserved for his actions there. In spite of his excellent performance, he was passed over for promotion to Brigadier General. He took this very personally and resigned from the Army.

He stayed in retirement until he was asked to join the southern campaign against Lord Charles Cornwallis following General Gates' defeat in Camden, SC., and he was promoted to Brigadier General. Daniel Morgan's reputation preceded him. When General Nathanael Greene sent him to flank General Cornwallis, Cornwallis sent Banastre Tarleton‘s infamous Tory Legion in pursuit. Many soldiers wanted a crack at Tarleton, and Morgan was happy to have his turn. He chose to meet the British soldiers at Cow Pens.

Morgan's previous experience with the British gave him a significant advantage over the Tory Legion, because he knew how they would react. He also knew the terrain better. On January 17, Morgan separated his men into three lines of defense. He divided his militia into two groups and positioned them behind the crest of the hill. They were to fire twice and then retreat behind the Continentals 150 yards back. He hid his reserves, the cavalry, knowing that Tarleton would attack head on. Thanks to a mistaken order, the British pressed forward, and seeing the retreating militia, believed they had won. The hidden cavalry surrounded the British and the British surrendered.

"A more compleat victory never was obtained," exclaimed Morgan following his success. Many call this battle at Cowpens his "tactical masterpiece." It was also his last major battle, as he retired shortly afterward due to a severe back pain, most likely sciatica. But he was happy in the knowledge that he had played a decisive part in the two most important moments in the war: Saratoga and Cowpens.