Brigadier General Daniel Morgan

By Werner Willis

Open Edition Paper 8″ X 10″

Brigadier General Daniel Morgan

“Washington’s Rifleman”

Daniel Morgan was a rough and tumble Virginia frontiersman who liked to drink, gamble and fight. A huge six-foot two-inch frame belied his good nature, and a remarkable combination of informality and decisiveness caused men to like and trust him instantly. He organized a corps of riflemen for Washington’s army and proved himself as a brave and capable leader on some of the major battlefields of the American Revolution.

Morgan joined Horatio Gate’s army in North Carolina, where he took command of a corps of light troops and was promoted to brigadier general. Morgan’s star shined brightest on January 17, 1781, at Cowpens, South Carolina. Demonstrating the value of personal leadership, Morgan circulated among his troops on the eve of battle rather than retiring to his tent in the habit of autocratic generals of the period. Morgan further sought to reduce the spectre of Tarleton’s reputation for cruelty by nicknaming him “Benny” and vowed that “the old wagoneer would crack his whip over Benny the next day”.

In the bone chilling cold of the following morning, Morgan’s mixed force of militia and regulars defeated Tarleton’s Legion in a perfect double envelopment which is still considered a classic maneuver. This defeat combined with the earlier defeat at Kings Mountain on October 7, deprived the British leader Cornwallis of most of his light troops at a critical period of the campaign.

Portrait of Morgan taken from the original painting by C.W. Peale