Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Nathanael Greene, 24 January 1781

From Nathanael Greene

Camp on Pedee January 24th. 1781.


I congratulate you on the success of the detachment under Genl. Morgan. They were attacked by 1100 British troops under Lt. Col. Tarlton on the 17th. Inst. whom they defeated entirely and with very little loss. I must beg you will permit me to refer you to Major Genl. The Baron de Steuben for the particulars.

I have appointed Major Hyrne of the S. Carolina line Deputy Commissary General of Prisoners and have directed him to march all the prisoners to Charlotville. I beg your Excellency will please to give the necessary orders for their reception. Genl. Stephens has them in Charge.

I am With respect and esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient & humble Servant,

Nath Greene

P.S. Unless the State of Virginia immediately begins to collect the magazines of provision on the Roanoke, we shall absolutely starve in this Country.


RC (PHi). Tr (CSmH).

This brief announcement from Greene relates to one of the most complete American victories of the war—Morgan’s defeat of Banastre Tarleton at “the Cowpens” in South Carolina on 17 Jan. 1781. Tarleton was a brilliant soldier with a long record of combat experience dating back to the beginning of the Revolution, but Morgan, through a simple ruse whose object was to convey to the enemy the idea that the Americans were being put to rout, led the numerically larger force into a trap, turned its flanks with cavalry and militia, and killed or captured almost the entire body. Of Tarleton’s force of 1,150 (opposed by 940 under Morgan, including Pickens’ command), some 600 were captured and over 200 were killed or wounded (Tarleton and a small remnant escaped); the American loss was 72 killed or wounded (see Carrington, Battles of the Amer. Revolution, p. 542–6; Edward McCrady, History of South Carolina in the Revolution; and the sketch of Tarleton in DNB description begins Dictionary of National Biography description ends ). See also Stevens to TJ, 24 Jan. 1781.

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