United States History and American Revolution: Early 1781

About the United States and the American Revolution in early 1781, the Battle of Cowpens, the Articles of Confederation.


--Negro Quork Walker won his freedom in Massachusetts, basing his plea on a simple statement of fact: the State constitution said, "All men are born free and equal."

Jan. 17 Milestone Battle: Cowpens. Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan, fighting his rheumatism along with Tarleton's feared Legionnaires, set a trap. The site he chose was shaped like a cattle chute, and he counted upon his undependable militia--they would flee before the British straight toward the "bullpen." The plan worked. The retreating militia drew the British into range of the encircling Continental infantry, upon whom Morgan could depend, and he executed that professional soldier's dream: successful, sequential attacks on an enemy's front, flanks, and rear.

Jan. 30 The Articles of Confederation were adopted.

Feb. 30 Adm. Sir George Rodney seized the island of St. Eustatius, a West Indies center of the contraband trade. Over Pond3 million in booty was taken, together with numerous blockade-running ships. But Rodney's preoccupation with St. Eustatius allowed the French admiral De Grasse to reach Martinique safely with 20 ships loaded with troops and munitions for the U.S. was effort. In an ironic twist of fate, Rodney's 24 shiploads of loot were nearly all recaptured later by coastal privateers.

Mar. A new snowfall left 8" on the ground. During this record-cold winter, the Hudson River froze solid, and foot traffic crossed at King's Ferry. The British brought supplies to Staten Island by horse and sleigh.

May 12 In South Carolina, Rebecca Motte urged the patriots to shoot flaming arrows into her home because the British were using it as a fort.

June 4 Twenty-six-year-old Virginia militia captain Jack Jouett was visiting his family at their inn, the Cuckoo Tavern, 35 mi. east of Charlottesville, when 250 Redcoats led by Col. Banastre Tarleton arrived for a rest. Pretending to be asleep, Jouett eavesdropped on the soldiers and learned of their plans to capture Thomas Jefferson and disperse the Virginia General Assembly. Jouett slipped away and set out on horseback to warn Jefferson at Monticello, 40 mi. away. Riding all night, Jouett arrived at dawn and woke Jefferson and the leaders of the Assembly, some of whom were guests at Monticello. Jefferson breakfasted at leisure, spent 2 hours picking out his most important papers, and then fled to the safety of a neighbor's estate some miles away.

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