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January 22, 2022

During these difficult days for many people, Clare and I have considered what we might do to help those in need.  We have decided to continue our support for the charitable nonprofit organizations serving our community.  Each week in this space, I will ask you to consider helping one charity.  Last Sunday, many places of worship were closed due to the snowstorm.  Remember, the bills still must be paid.  Please send a special donation, as you are able, to your place of worship or to your favorite charity.  Thank you.

By all accounts, Izzy was one of the most severe winter storms in the Upstate in several years.  The storm, caused by a major polar vortex, dubbed the Saskatchewan Screamer, impacted the lives of more than 100 million Americans.  Thousands of airline flights were canceled.  Hundreds of traffic accidents occurred along Interstate highways.  Many major roads were blocked or closed.  Twenty-three states were affected by the storm last week as it moved across the upper Midwest, into the Deep South, and up the Eastern Seaboard.  More than three-quarters of a million homes lost power.  Large cities, some with crippling snow accumulation, were paralyzed.  An untold number of people died as a direct result of the storm.

Here in the Carolinas, the impact was minimal by comparison.  The Greenville-Spartanburg Weather Bureau recorded a little over six inches of snow.  One woman told me, “We had planned a trip to Charlotte and were afraid we might have to cancel.  Friends in the Queen City told us, ‘Come on.  The Interstate won’t be bad.  We went on our trip, and the Interstate was horrible, but we made it.”

The month of January ushers into our lives the promise of a new year and the prospect of winter weather.  Meteorologists know that forecasting weather for the Upstate is always a challenge.  In winter, accuracy in their work becomes high risk.  With advanced technology at their fingertips, and instruments of their trade close at hand, most weather professionals would agree with Jack Roper.  The legendary Spartanburg weatherman told me that the tool that would be most helpful to him is usually absent in the weather room.  They probably would be more accurate in their predictions if they only had a window.  They could at least look outside to see for themselves what the weather was actually doing.

Country folks have their time-honored ways of determining the long-range forecast.  The length of hair on a horse’s back or the colors of the fuzz on a wooly worm are indicators of the winter ahead.  The relative scarcity or abundance of acorns, pecans, hickory nuts, and beechnuts are portents of the severity of winter.

In our part of the world, ice is the most dreaded winter weather event.  A forecast of sleet and freezing rain is reason for concern.  While ice-covered trees have a crystalline beauty, the popping of breaking limbs and the cracking of splitting trunks are sounds of nature’s agony.   Frozen roads, sidewalks, and ice-laden power lines contribute to the human misery of broken limbs and splitting headaches. 

During an especially severe ice storm several years ago, electric power at our house was out for several days.  With a blaze in our fireplace, warm blankets all around, and a steaming pot of hot soup prepared outside on a Coleman camping stove, we weathered the storm in fine shape.  We had no television and no computer access.  We did have a grand old time.  Clare’s constant refrain is “Party on!”

Last Monday, in the aftermath of Izzy, a friend from our Harvard days in Boston sent a text message to add his unique brand of humor to the icy cold.  “This is the devil,” he announced.  “It’s frozen over down here, too.”

Many people in the South, especially school children and schoolteachers, greet the prospect of snow with wild excitement.   When the seven-day forecast held the promise of snow last winter, I asked a school principal, “Is it supposed to snow?” 

“It’s always supposed to snow!” came the ready reply. 

Our grandchildren prepared for the winter weather by putting spoons under their pillows, flushing ice cubes down the toilet, and wearing their pajamas inside out.  These are superstitious practices that are intended to invoke snow.   They don’t always work.  This time they did.

Snow that sticks, that is, a snowfall with accumulation, creates a delightful playground.  Snow angels, snowmen, snowballs, snow ice cream, and sledding are all fun, though fleeting, possibilities. 

Some of our Northern transplants are baffled by our enthusiastic reaction to snow.  They are annoyed that a few inches of snow can bring life to a screeching halt for so many of us here in the South.  For them, snow is a nuisance.  Enough is enough for them.

The truth is that people of the South do behave in strange ways when snow is impending.  Grocery store shelves are quickly depleted of milk and bread.  It was always difficult for me to understand why.  “Do hundreds of people sit in their homes eating bread and drinking milk because we have snow?”  While standing in the express line at a grocery store, I posed the question.  Snow was in the forecast. 

The woman ahead of me made sense out of what seemed like nonsense.  “If my power goes out, I can give my three children peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk.  The peanut butter and milk give them a complete protein.”  I was glad to have a reasonable answer as I stepped forward to purchase my own bread and milk.

A beloved pastor had a favorite sermon for just such an occasion.  His text was Job 38:22, where the Lord asked Job, “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?”  There were three points to his sermon. 

(1) No two snowflakes are alike.  Children can verify this truth by catching fluffy snowflakes on a black cloth and examining and comparing the flakes under a magnifying glass.  As the Creator fashioned each snowflake uniquely, so, too, has He created us

(2) Snowflakes are small and delicate, inconsequential as individuals.  When many snowflakes accumulate, the world is altered by their combined power.  So, too, can individuals, ineffective when acting alone, do marvelous things when working together.  We work better together than separately.

(3) Snow is instant urban renewal.  A blanket of snow makes a dark, drab landscape bright and beautiful.  Lives darkened by despair can become whiter than snow through God’s mercy.

These are some of the treasures of snow.  But there are others.

My experience is that for children and adults alike, winter weather provides for many of us a day of grace, the unexpected blessing of a day off.  It can be a day to enjoy our families.  Last weekend Clare and I enjoyed our grandchildren in our home or by Zoom at various times during the storm.

Even if the power goes out, a day of grace can be a time to sit by a hearth with a warm fire and read a book.  My mother always fixed a big pot of vegetable soup on snow days.  Though the roads were too bad to go to school, her grandchildren found a way to go “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.”

This day of grace is a time to think of others.  As a pastor, when winter weather was approaching, I reminded church members to check on family and friends, especially the elderly and those who live alone. 

One year, a man in our church made a special gift to our benevolent fund.  “When I served in World War II, I was so cold I didn’t think I would ever be warm again,” he explained.  His gift was used that very week to provide heating oil for a family of five, including three small children.

Winter weather is not a delight for everybody.  It can be a reminder to those of us who have food and warmth to share.  Organizations such as Miracle Hill Ministries, The Haven, the Soup Kitchen, Mobile Meals, Total Ministries, Greater Spartanburg Ministries, and the Interfaith Hospitality Network provide service to our most needy citizens.  

Some years ago, I visited the hospital early one morning during an ice storm.  I came upon a homeless man sleeping on a landing in the stairwell between the second and third floors in the old part of the hospital.  I checked to see if he was breathing.  He was.  I put my well-used raincoat over him with a ten-dollar bill in the left pocket.  I walked to the window in the fourth-floor lobby above and watched the sleet falling onto a winter wonderland.  I prayed for the sleeping stranger and all who shared his plight before making my hospital visits.

Winter weather can be a call to prayer for people of faith.  If we receive a day of grace, some of that time can be spent in prayer.  Remember those who are working while others have the day off.  Medical personnel, paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement officers, utility employees, road crews, and tow truck drivers are but a few examples of those who labor long hours in the cold and damp.  To remember them in prayer with petitions for their safety and gratitude for their service is our privilege.  Pray, too, for those who seek shelter wherever they can find it.

The treasures of the snow come to all of us as gifts.  When our twenty-seven-year-old son, Erik, died twenty years ago last November, our grief was profound.  Spartanburg received a surprise snowfall with slight accumulation on the day of Erik’s funeral.  Some expressed sadness that we had to have his burial in the snow.  We felt differently.  We when first saw the flakes falling gently from heaven, Clare said, “I think maybe Erik asked God for a favor.  “Lord, you know this will be a difficult day for my family.  Could you please surprise them?’” 

For many, winter weather is an inconvenience.  For others, an onerous burden.  But for many in the South, snow is a blessing, a symbol of God’s grace.

Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, a teacher, a pastoral counselor, and a retired pastor. He can be reached at


January 15, 2022

This column has been drawn from many sources. Some are annotated while others are not. I have condensed those gleanings and transposed them into my own words.

Over these past months, I have asked that each of us contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that unless these nonprofit organizations are called to mind, they are quickly forgotten. Please know that I respect your freedom to choose those that are meaningful to you. One way to measure the strength of our community is to observe how we respond to those in greatest need. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week, please volunteer, or donate, as you are able, to Northside Development Group, 501 Howard Street, Suite A, Spartanburg, South Carolina, 29303, (864) 598-0097.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our nation will observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday.  It is a time when songs from the Civil Rights Movement are sung with more frequency and greater fervor by many Americans.  One such hymn is “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It is sung in schools, in churches, and at various MLK Day celebrations throughout Black History Month.  It’s a powerful song and deeply moving, especially when we understand the context.

Standing before 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most memorable speech.  His “I Have a Dream,” seventeen-minute masterpiece ranks as one of the best oratories of the 20th century.  King’s urging to “let freedom ring” sounded familiar to most of the crowd because of the references he made to the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Several accounts support the idea that King drew from the hymn.

Novelist Guy Johnson, son of Maya Angelou, wrote about the connection in Julian Bond and Sondra Wilson’s book Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem, 100 Years, 100 Voices.  He described attending a civil rights meeting held by a local branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in New York City in the early 1960s and coordinated by his mother.  Dr. King came to speak.  Guy Johnson reported, “The meeting was convened with a prayer and ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’”

In another essay from the Bond and Wilson collection, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia said that when he was a student at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. King came to preach.  The choir sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The Composition

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was a hymn written in 1900 as a poem by James Weldon Johnson.  He was the first black leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed the music for the lyrics.  “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The song was written for the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900.

James Weldon Johnson, (1871-1938)

The elder Johnson was a lawyer, diplomat, professor, prolific writer, and poet.  When he wrote this song in 1899, he was the principal of the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida.  That’s where the hymn debuted the following year, sung by 500 children at an event celebrating Black history and commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  

John Rosamond Johnson, (1873-1954)

The younger Johnson trained at the New England Conservatory of Music.  During his long musical career, Johnson composed and performed in stage musicals.  His work included various genres, from vaudeville and traditional theater to spirituals and Gospel music.

The Content

In 1919, the NAACP dubbed it “the Negro national anthem” for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.

The song is a prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the “promised land.” It is featured in many different Christian hymnals and is sung in churches of most denominations across North America.

The lyrics written in flowing verse are only half of what makes this hymn so iconic.  The musical setting is rich with meaning and stirring in its own right.

Music teacher Antoine Dolberry shares the history and importance behind “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” As Antoine puts it, “the first verse opens with a command to optimism, praise, and freedom!”

The History

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written at a crucial time in American history, when Jim Crow replaced slavery.  African-Americans were searching for an identity of their own.  In 1905, Booker T. Washington endorsed it, and in 1919, it became the official hymn of the NAACP.

In 1900, when “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was composed, Black Americans were at a turning point in history. The visibility and influence of African-American traditions were growing, but Reconstruction efforts had failed to provide opportunities for Black People.  Racism stood ready to close any door Black achievers dared to open.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was history, a proclamation, and a vision for the future.  It immediately resonated with Black communities and institutions.

In 1919, the NAACP proclaimed it the “Negro National Anthem,” twelve years before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as the national anthem.  It is a part of African-American worship tradition and an enduring refrain for Black musicians.

The Legacy

James Weldon Johnson himself best expresses the hymn’s legacy.  Among the pages of a 1935 collection of his poems, Johnson recalls what happened after the hymn was first performed by a chorus of 500 schoolchildren from the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

“Shortly afterward, my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds,” he writes.  “But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children.  It was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country within twenty years.  The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.”

Notable Performances

In 1923, the male gospel group Manhattan Harmony Four recorded the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.“

In Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the song is sung by the audience and students at Maya’s eighth-grade graduation after a white school official dashed the educational aspirations of her class.

In 1972, Kim Weston sang the song as the opening number for the Wattstax Festival at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  This performance was included in the film “Wattstax” made by Wolper Films.

During the opening logos, the 1989 film “Do the Right Thing” features a 30-second cover of the song, played on a solo saxophone by Branford Marsalis.

In 1990, singer Melba Moore released a modern rendition of the song, which she recorded along with others including R&B artists Stephanie Mills, Freddie Jackson, Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jeffrey Osborne, and Howard Hewett; and gospel artists BeBe & CeCe Winans, Take 6, and The Clark Sisters.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was entered into the Congressional Record by Delegate Walter Fauntroy (D-DC).  It was also added to the National Recording Registry in 2016.

In 2008, jazz singer Rene Marie was asked to perform the national anthem at a civic event in Denver, Colorado.  She caused controversy by substituting the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” into the song.  This arrangement of the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” with the melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner” became part of her 2011 CD release, “The Voice of My Beautiful Country.”

On January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights movement leader who co-founded and is a former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, used a near-verbatim recitation of the song’s third stanza to begin his benediction at the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.

The family of President Barack Obama, Smokey Robinson, and others sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in the White House in 2014

On September 24, 2016, the song was sung by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and chorus after the National Museum of African-American History and Culture opening ceremonies, at which President Obama delivered the keynote address.

On October 19, 2017, when white supremacist leader Richard Spencer spoke at the University of Florida, the university’s carillon played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to convey a message of unity.

On April 14, 2018, Beyoncé included the song in the setlist of her concert at Coachella and as part of the resultant concert film and live album.

In May 2018, the hymn was sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square during their worldwide broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” at the request of the National Executive Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who was holding its board meetings in Salt Lake City that year.

In 2020, portions of the song were played before and after Mike Phillips and West Byrd’s rendition of the national anthem at NASCAR’s 2020 Pocono 350.

In 2020, Google played a spoken word version of the song in a Google Doodle celebrating the Juneteenth holiday, performed by LeVar Burton.   

On July 2, 2020, the National Football League announced that the song would be played or performed live before the national anthem during the entirety of Week 1 of the 2020 regular season.  The league then signed Alicia Keys to record a version of the song at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; the video of her performance made its debut before the league’s opening night kickoff game on September 10, 2020 and was later replayed as part of the pre-game show of Super Bowl LV on February 7, 2021.  In July 2021, the league announced that it also plans to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” throughout the 2021 season, too.

A Proposal

Congressman James E. Clyburn is a member of the House of Representatives serving the sixth district from South Carolina.  He has proposed that the United States adopt “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the National Hymn that would be sung on patriotic occasions, not to replace the National Anthem that honors our flag.  Instead, this would be a hymn of unity to be sung by all Americans.

“To make it a national hymn, I think, would be an act of bringing the country together,” Clyburn, the House majority whip, put forward the proposal more than a year ago.  The highest-ranking Black American in Congress told USA Today.  “It would say to people, ‘You aren’t singing a separate national anthem, you are singing the country’s national hymn. The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song.”

More than thirty hymnbooks are already included the song, among them the Baptist Hymnal, the Methodist Hymnal, and the Presbyterian Hymnal.  It has been recorded by Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Harlem Boys Choir.    It is a song of healing for the human spirit and the soul of America. 

Consider these words to this important hymn:

Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the listening skies

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun

Let us march on till victory is won

Stony the road we trod

Bitter the chastening rod

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died

Yet with a steady beat

Have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered

Out from the gloomy past

Till now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast

God of our weary years

God of our silent tears

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way

Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light

Keep us forever in the path, we pray

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee

Shadowed beneath Thy hand

May we forever stand

True to our God

True to our native land.

Our native land.


Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, a teacher, a pastoral counselor, and a retired pastor. He can be reached at

To watch The Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform Lift Every Voice and Sing, click here.


January 8, 2022

Over these past months, I have asked that each of us contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that unless these nonprofit organizations are called to mind, they are quickly forgotten. Please know that I respect your freedom to choose those that are meaningful to you. One way to measure the strength of our community is to observe how we respond to those in greatest need. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week, please volunteer, or donate, as you are able, to Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network, 899 S Pine Street, Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302 – (864) 597-0699.

Several years ago, I took a group of Boy Scouts who were working on the American Heritage merit badge to the Cowpens National Battlefield in northern Spartanburg County. For many, it was their first visit to the site. For me, it was a return trip to a place many in the Upstate of South Carolina take for granted, a place that proved to be the turning point of the American Revolutionary War. Many believe that the battle fought in the frozen red clay of Cowpens was the decisive engagement of the war.

I encourage you to read the book The Battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens: The American Revolution in the Southern Backcountry by Dr. Melissa Walker. Her detailed account is well-worth your time. The volume is available at fine bookstores, online booksellers, and public libraries.

Dramatic events led up to that fateful day at Hannah’s Cowpens – January 17, 1781.

By 1778-80, with a stalemate in the north, the British looked south, intending to assist Southern Loyalists in regaining control of colonial governments. Then they planned to push north to crush the rebellion, estimating that many of the local population would rally to the Crown.

The British captured Savannah on December 29, 1778, and then Charleston on May 12, 1780. General Charles Cornwallis took command of the British campaign in the south. On August 16, 1780, he crushed the Southern Continental Army under General Horatio Gates at Camden in one of the war’s bloodiest battles. These victories bolstered British confidence, leading them to believe that they would soon control the entire south and that Loyalists would flock to their cause.

The British didn’t expect so much opposition in the backcountry. The Scots-Irish came to the American colonies with a chip on their shoulders, already despising the British for injustices done to them in Northern Ireland. Many had been taken from their homes in Scotland and moved to Ireland to industrialize the country. When their products had proved superior to those made in England, they were heavily taxed. When they came to America, British colonists pushed these Scots-Irish to the frontier to serve as a buffer against the Indians. In the backwoods, they learned to fire long rifles and to fight from ambush. Underestimating these people became an Achilles’ heel for the British.

Lord Cornwallis’ attempt to raise Loyalist support was thwarted when Patriot militia defeated a greater force of British Loyalists in the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780. The men who had crossed the Appalachian Mountains to fight those British became known as the Overmountain Men.

The Scouts and I walked the trail through the battlefield, which was larger than five football fields. The terrain featured two hills dotted with trees. Since cattle grazed the land, it was devoid of undergrowth. The rutted Green River Road extended the length of the battlefield. For the first time in the war, a combined force of Patriot militia and Centennial Army soldiers defeated regular British Redcoats. On the tall granite monument near the visitors center, we noticed that the Spartan Rifles, under the command of Colonel John Thomas Junior, was among the militia units.

After Camden, General George Washington sent General Nathanael Greene to take command of the Southern army. Just two weeks into his command, Greene split his army, sending General Daniel Morgan southwest of the Catawba River to cut supply lines and hamper British operations in the backcountry. General Cornwallis countered Greene’s move by sending Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to block Morgan’s actions.

Tarleton was a brash twenty-six-year-old officer with an infamous reputation. He had proved ruthless at the Siege of Charleston and at the Battle of Camden. Tarleton won decisive victories at Monck’s Corner and at Fishing Creek. After his victory at the Battle of Waxhaws, he ordered the slaughter of American soldiers who had already surrendered. The nickname Bloody Tarleton was well deserved.

On Christmas Day 1780, General Daniel Morgan and his men were camped on the Pacolet River in the Upcountry of colonial South Carolina.

Lord Cornwallis thought that Morgan was planning to attack Star Fort at Ninety Six, South Carolina.

Tarleton and the legion marched in pursuit of Morgan, first to Ninety Six and then to the Broad River. Morgan received word that Tarleton was hot on his trail, so he moved north to avoid being trapped between Tarleton and Cornwallis.

By the afternoon of January 16, 1781, Morgan approached the Broad River, which was high with floodwaters. By nightfall, he reached Hannah’s Cowpens, a grazing area for cattle. When General Andrew Pickens joined Morgan’s camp, Morgan decided to stand and fight.

Camp was made between two small hills. Throughout the night, Morgan moved among the campfires and offered encouragement to his army.

Dawn at Hannah’s Cowpens on January 17, 1781, was clear and bitterly cold. Tarleton had marched his army since two in the morning. Hearing reports of Overmountain Men on the way, he urgently ordered formation on the Green River Road for the attack.

Tarleton pressed the attack, his line extending across the meadow, his artillery in the middle, and fifty dragoons on each side. Daniel Morgan formed his troops into three lines. Out front and hiding behind the trees were the sharpshooters. At the onset of battle, they picked off numbers of Tarleton’s dragoons, shooting especially at officers. The sharpshooters retreated 150 yards to join the second line, the militia commanded by Andrew Pickens. Morgan asked them to get off two volleys, then retreat to the third line made up of John Eager Howard’s Continentals another 150 yards to the rear.

Lawrence E. Babits, in his book A Devil of a Whipping, describes the scene. Morgan, the former rifleman, “walked behind and through the ranks everywhere, all the while cracking jokes and encouraging the men, and said, ‘Boys, squinney well, and don’t touch a trigger until you see the whites of their eyes.’”

The militia got off two volleys as the British neared; but, as they retreated, Tarleton sent his feared dragoons after them. As the militia dodged behind trees, William Washington’s Patriot cavalry thundered onto the field of battle. The British dragoons were surprised. They lost eighteen men in the clash.

The British regulars advanced in a trot, with beating drums and the shrill sounds of fifes. Morgan rode to the front and rallied the Patriot militia.

Now Tarleton’s Highlanders entered the charge toward the Continental line, their bagpipes adding to the confusion. John Eager Howard ordered the right flank to counter a charge from that direction. His orders were misunderstood as a call to retreat. Morgan spurred his horse on and ordered the retreating units to face about and then, on command, to fire in unison. The firing took a heavy toll on the British who, sensing victory, had broken ranks in a wild charge.

In return, this event and a fierce Patriot bayonet charge broke the British attack and turned the tide of battle. The militia and cavalry reentered the struggle, leading to the double envelopment of the British, who surrendered. Finally, Tarleton himself saw the futility of continuing. He and a handful of men fled back down the Green River Road. Tarleton escaped to tell the news to Cornwallis.

The battle, over in less than an hour, was a complete victory for the Patriot force. British losses were staggering: 110 dead, over 200 wounded, and 500 captured. Morgan’s losses were considerably less: twelve killed and sixty wounded.

Cornwallis and his weary army left the Carolinas and moved on to Virginia. At Yorktown on October 18, 1781, the British army surrendered to General George Washington.

Cowpens was a surprising victory and a turning point that changed the outcome of the entire war. Chief Justice John Marshall said, “Seldom has a battle, in which greater numbers were not engaged, been so important in its consequences as that of Cowpens.”

This month marks the anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. We are all indebted to those who fought there for our freedom. I encourage you to visit this historical place here in the Upstate. You will learn more about our American heritage. Take your children and grandchildren with you. It will be informative and unforgettable.

Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, a teacher, a pastoral counselor, and a retired pastor. He can be reached at