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University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia
Much had changed in the seven months since the disgraceful American defeat at the battle of Camden. In reflecting the final battle that culminated the Cowpens - Guilford Courthouse campaign, the Earl Lord Cornwallis stated: ?Such fighting I have not seen since God made me; The Americans fought like demons? (171). It was a campaign that pitted the worlds crack, most disciplined, life term troops against, irregular, short-term militia with a reputation to count their lives dearly. It was a race to the Dan. But as Lord Cornwallis was to find out that victory was not always what it seemed. The Cowpens ? Guilford Courthouse Campaign is the lesson of warfare that Turin, Italy never taught Cornwallis (185). It is the epitome of comparison and contrast between the prepared and the predestined; the prepared in the likes of Cornwallis, Tarleton, Webster, Stuart and even Gates as to the predestined as Morgan, Lee, Howard, Gunby, and the Quaker Greene. The author of the text, Burke Davis was born in Durham, North Carolina on July 24, 1913. When he was six years old he moved with his family to Greensboro where many of the events of this book took place. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After his graduation, he worked for newspapers in Charlotte, Baltimore and, finally, back in Greensboro. He was for twenty years the special projects writer for Colonial Williamsburg, Inc. and has more than fifty books, many of them non-fiction to his credit. His awards are prestigious, winning the Fletcher Pratt Award from the Civil War Round Table of New York in 1958 for his book Jeb Stuart: The Last Cavalier. He received the Mayflower Cup from The Society of Mayflower Descendants in North Carolina in 1959 for his book To Appomattox: Nine April Days, 1865, and many more since that time, which would obviously legitimize his abilities as a historian and author, including a honorary doctorate from Greensboro College in 2000. Previous to writing this book, Mr. Davis had predominantly written detailed studies in the American Civil War including campaigning that would benefit his understanding of the complexities in strategies involved with Nathanael Greene, Lord Cornwallis and Daniel Morgan. These books include, the already mentioned To Appomattox: Nine April Days, 1865, published by Rinehart in 1959, and Our Incredible Civil War, published by Holt of New York, NY in 1960. The Cowpens-Guilford Courthouse Campaign is a vivid account of the participants and events from the January 17th battle of Hannah?s Cowpens in South Carolina to the aftermath of the battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina. Mr. Davis? journalistic style and research talent helps to educate the student to the disparity between the armies in the southern campaign, concisely detailing their American battle history to date prior to their arriving on campaign in the south. His description of accoutrements and armament are of important visual benefit to the novice. (16) Davis does an admirable job of presenting Daniel Morgan and the difficult obstacles the latter overcame in defeating Banastre Tarleton at the Cowpens. His description of his choice of ground, ability to increase moral and keep the troops motivated and in position against Tarletons approaching Legion gives an excellent view of the over-achieving ?Old Wagoner.? He quotes Morgan as saying ?[j]ust three rounds of fire, and you?re free, and when you go back home, how the old folks will bless you and the girls will kiss you.? (22) He describes the heroic and unusual drama of an American bayonet charge when John Edgar Howard?s infantrymen plunged forward into the astonished British. (36) Even Tarleton was thunderstruck: ?The defeat?must be ascribed either to the bravery or good conduct of the Americans?.? (37). Davis gives a full description of the deployment, engagement, aftermath, and casualties with credible attention to Morgan?s plan as a precursor to Nathanael Greene?s plan for Guilford Courthouse with three lines of deployment as effective use of militia. The author brings out the contrast of Greene to Gates as an example of why things were so different. He explained how Greene, in one night, knew more of the situation then Gates did his whole time with the army. (57) Davis writes more of the irregular tactics that Greene, Morgan, Marion and Lee employ against Cornwallis. With every turn the depletion of the Earl?s army continued with constant raiding by Harry Lee?s Virginia Horse, Francis Marion?s hit-and-run attacks, and the frustrating retreats of Nathanael Greene; always just out of reach in the large expanse of the south. The campaign and movement is well presented with detailed descriptions of Morgan?s movements toward Greene and not wishing to cross Cornwallis? front. (45) Davis use of original correspondence adds credibility to his history and gives us a sense of the pain which Morgan suffered. ?It is a sciatic pain in my hip that renders me entirely incapable of active service?have had it these three weeks past, but in getting wet the other day, it has affected me more violently which gives me great pain.? (47) The author writes of the many frustrations of both sides. Nathanael Greene?s every correspondence with detestations of the militia, and Cornwallis with the frustration with the lack of response from the supposed Tory throng just waiting to join. There are also the mistakes of Lord Cornwallis burning his baggage trains at a time when he was more than 200 miles from his nearest supplies to increase his mobility to pursue Greene. Davis condenses the Guilford Courthouse battle into a brief presentation with some primary resources and an accurate account of progressions. But his book stays true to it?s title of ?campaign? with little detail to the battle. The significant aspect brought forth is that victory is not as it always seems. Tarleton was butchered at the Cowpens. And although he had won at Guilford Courthouse, all he could do was fall back. (185) The text is presented in a chronological form; very much a narrative and popular in its readability. The author is very faithful to the facts as history presents the facts in the primary sources. He predominantly utilizes secondary sources, but some of the primary sources referenced are impressive, such as Roderick Mackenzie, Strictures on Lt. Col. Tarleton?s ?History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781? (London, 1787), Henry Lee?s The Campaign of 1781 in the Carolinas (Philadelphia, 1824), and Roger Lamb, An Original and Authentic Journal of Occurrence during the Late American War (Dublin, 1809). Some contradiction has been found between this research and others as to the position of General Nathanael Greene and the author?s statements in this text at the battle of Guilford Courthouse, which would suppose a credibility issue. A further item of concern is the lack of quality maps. Although the author has elaborate descriptions of movements and maneuvers throughout the South and North Carolina Countryside during the campaign, it would seem the effort into several quality maps would have lent to extensive relief to the reader in mental exercise in deciphering the movements and exactly where events actually stood at a specific time and place. In London, when news came of the casualties of Guilford Courthouse, the dour Charles Fox told Parliament: ?Another such victory would be the ruin of the British army.?(175) Horace Walpole was even more critical. He stated: ?Lord Cornwallis has conquered his troops out of shoes and provisions, and himself out of troops.? (175) There would not be ?another such victory? but there would be defeat at Yorktown, Virginia in the following October. The Cowpens ? Guilford Courthouse Campaign is a well written text that merits recommendation as a supplemental reading to support further research to the events of the southern campaign. Many aspects of the text are essential in and of themselves to be considered as a beneficial ...
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