COWPENS, S.C. (WSPA) – With a population of nearly 2,000, the town of Cowpens has a history much larger than what meets the eye. A key part of the American Revolutionary War was fought right in the town’s backyard.

Just a 20 minute drive north of the town of Cowpens, visitor can learn about the area’s history at an American Revolutionary War landmark: the Cowpens National Battlefield.

How did Cowpens get its name?

“For lack of better a word, it’s a cow pasture in the middle of the forest with natural barriers,” Cowpens National Battlefield Park Ranger Paul Cothren explained. “With creeks, bayou ground, and river cane surrounding the edge of that open area in the middle of the forest, where folks wouldn’t have to put up fences.”

Park rangers said the “cow pen” was a meeting site for local militia back in the 18th century.

“The cow pens were what many of the local militia were able to use as a landmark,” Cothren said. “When Daniel Morgan started working this way into South Carolina with his small band of continentals and militia troops to rally.”

It eventually became a key battle site in the Revolutionary War.

On January 17, 1781, U.S. forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan fought British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. It’s now known as the Battle of Cowpens.

“[The Battle of Cowpens] changed the course of the revolution in the Southern Colonies, and led directly to Cornwallis’ surrender nine months later at Yorktown, Virginia,” said Cothren.

“There was more action in the state of South Carolina than anywhere else in the United States, on land, during the course of the American Revolution,” said Cowpens National Battlefield Superintendent Diana Bramble.

Park rangers said the site helps preserve the area’s history.

“We are so fortunate, as rangers of the National Parks Service, to be able to preserve sites like this,” said Bramble. “What these battle sites do, and what these historic sites do, is they provide a sense of place where people can come and see where the history took place.” 

Two U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Cowpens in honor of the battle, according to the Town of Cowpens’ website.

The first USS Cowpens was a WWII aircraft carrier (CVL-25), which was converted from a light cruiser to an aircraft carrier under the pressure of war. The ship, which was nicknamed the “Mighty Moo,” was launched on January 17, 1943, exactly 162 years after the Battle of Cowpens, according to the town’s website. It was decommissioned on Jan 13, 1947.

The second USS Cowpens, an Aegis guided missile cruiser of the Ticonderoga class (CG-63), was launched on March 3, 1989, according to the town’s website. It is nicknamed “The Thundering Herd” and is currently located at Naval Base San Diego.

The town honors and welcomes current and past crew members to its annual Mighty Moo Festival.

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