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DANIEL MORGAN AND THE BATTLE OF COWPENS
    Turning the Tide in the American Revolution…and
           Lessons for Modern Organizations
            By Gary Vaughan, glvconsulting.com



•    In 1781 American General Daniel Morgan
     defeated a superior British force at the
     Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina.
•    His total victory set the stage for winning
     the American Revolution at the Battle of
     Yorktown ten months later.
•    Morgan, known as “the Old Wagoner”, was
     a colorful character, and he had been a
     leader of Virginia rifleman under General
     George Washington.
•    Morgan’s challenge in the South was to
     overcome a string of American defeats.….
• Morgan faced a formidable foe: the fearful
  and “Bloody” Banastre Tarleton, who led a
  disciplined army of British regular and
  Loyalist troops.
• In January 1781, Tarleton’s force of some
  1,100 men was in hot pursuit of Morgan’s
  motley army of roughly the same strength.
• In rolling terrain near the Cowpens, South
  Carolina, Morgan waited and carefully
  arranged his forces…
     Picken’s militia and sharpshooters in
      the front ranks, but with orders to fall
      back after the first volleys;
     then Howard’s disciplined regulars in
      support;
     and, finally, Colonel William
      Washington’s regular and militia
      horsemen mounted on the wings.
• At dawn, the advancing British charged the
  American militia. After a few volleys, the
  militia fell back in good order behind the
  Continentals.
• The exhausted but exuberant British
  Highlanders lunged after the retreating
  rebels. Morgan then sprung his trap…
• The Continental regulars’ gave withering
  volleys and decimated the British ranks.
  Few redcoat officers could rally their troops,
  given Morgan’s personal exhortation to his
  militia the night before to “aim for the
  epaulettes.”
• The American regulars then charged the
  British, while Washington’s cavalry
  enveloped the redcoats on the flanks.
• The British were almost annihilated,
  suffering 110 dead, 200 wounded and 500
  captured, while Morgan lost only 12 killed
  and 60 wounded!
What does this little known Revolutionary War
battle teach us about leadership, change and
collaboration for modern organizations?.....
LESSONS FROM THE BATTLE OF COWPENS
        Insights on Leadership, Change and
                  Collaboration



Leadership: General Morgan and his “middle
management” team (Howard, Washington,
and Pickens) ensured excellent planning and
execution during the battle. Morgan took
charge personally, spending hours the night
before, exhorting his rag-tag militia to “give me
two [volleys], my boys, and then go home
heroes to your wives and sweethearts.”

Lesson: Morgan “knew what he was doing”
and communicated this assurance to his
troops. Knowledgeable, consistent and
committed leadership (and feedback from
followers) is needed at all levels to effectively
champion and implement change in modern
organizations.
LESSONS CONTINUED……




Change: By painstaking deployment and
encouragement, Morgan changed his troops’
attitude about the prospects for victory. He
reversed the tide of the patriots’ defeat in the
Southern theatre. And he set the stage for
Washington’s later victory at Yorktown, and
winning the Revolution.

Lesson: Change management projects,
properly led and coordinated, can also
transform modern organizations and
revolutionize results. Just as at Cowpens,
proper planning, timing and communicating
can achieve extraordinary change and
outcomes for your organization.
LESSONS CONTINUED……




Collaboration: Morgan closely matched his
troops’ different abilities to his plan for
defeating the British: militia (with a poor
reputation for fleeing in disorder) were asked
to fire two volleys and retreat; more
disciplined regulars were to support the militia
and advance in formation; and the cavalry
were given free rein to gallop into the British
exposed flanks.

Lesson: Given proper technical deployment,
focus on relevant business processes, and user
training and support, collaboration software
can leverage the strength of today’s dispersed
and diverse workforce. These user-driven,
web-based workspaces can provide both the
team structure and fluid interaction that
Morgan used in orchestrating and then
unleashing the energies of his troops at
Cowpens.

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Change Management Lessons from the Battle of Cowpens

  • 1. DANIEL MORGAN AND THE BATTLE OF COWPENS Turning the Tide in the American Revolution…and Lessons for Modern Organizations By Gary Vaughan, glvconsulting.com • In 1781 American General Daniel Morgan defeated a superior British force at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina. • His total victory set the stage for winning the American Revolution at the Battle of Yorktown ten months later. • Morgan, known as “the Old Wagoner”, was a colorful character, and he had been a leader of Virginia rifleman under General George Washington. • Morgan’s challenge in the South was to overcome a string of American defeats.….
  • 2. • Morgan faced a formidable foe: the fearful and “Bloody” Banastre Tarleton, who led a disciplined army of British regular and Loyalist troops. • In January 1781, Tarleton’s force of some 1,100 men was in hot pursuit of Morgan’s motley army of roughly the same strength. • In rolling terrain near the Cowpens, South Carolina, Morgan waited and carefully arranged his forces…  Picken’s militia and sharpshooters in the front ranks, but with orders to fall back after the first volleys;  then Howard’s disciplined regulars in support;  and, finally, Colonel William Washington’s regular and militia horsemen mounted on the wings.
  • 3. • At dawn, the advancing British charged the American militia. After a few volleys, the militia fell back in good order behind the Continentals. • The exhausted but exuberant British Highlanders lunged after the retreating rebels. Morgan then sprung his trap… • The Continental regulars’ gave withering volleys and decimated the British ranks. Few redcoat officers could rally their troops, given Morgan’s personal exhortation to his militia the night before to “aim for the epaulettes.” • The American regulars then charged the British, while Washington’s cavalry enveloped the redcoats on the flanks. • The British were almost annihilated, suffering 110 dead, 200 wounded and 500 captured, while Morgan lost only 12 killed and 60 wounded!
  • 4. What does this little known Revolutionary War battle teach us about leadership, change and collaboration for modern organizations?.....
  • 5. LESSONS FROM THE BATTLE OF COWPENS Insights on Leadership, Change and Collaboration Leadership: General Morgan and his “middle management” team (Howard, Washington, and Pickens) ensured excellent planning and execution during the battle. Morgan took charge personally, spending hours the night before, exhorting his rag-tag militia to “give me two [volleys], my boys, and then go home heroes to your wives and sweethearts.” Lesson: Morgan “knew what he was doing” and communicated this assurance to his troops. Knowledgeable, consistent and committed leadership (and feedback from followers) is needed at all levels to effectively champion and implement change in modern organizations.
  • 6. LESSONS CONTINUED…… Change: By painstaking deployment and encouragement, Morgan changed his troops’ attitude about the prospects for victory. He reversed the tide of the patriots’ defeat in the Southern theatre. And he set the stage for Washington’s later victory at Yorktown, and winning the Revolution. Lesson: Change management projects, properly led and coordinated, can also transform modern organizations and revolutionize results. Just as at Cowpens, proper planning, timing and communicating can achieve extraordinary change and outcomes for your organization.
  • 7. LESSONS CONTINUED…… Collaboration: Morgan closely matched his troops’ different abilities to his plan for defeating the British: militia (with a poor reputation for fleeing in disorder) were asked to fire two volleys and retreat; more disciplined regulars were to support the militia and advance in formation; and the cavalry were given free rein to gallop into the British exposed flanks. Lesson: Given proper technical deployment, focus on relevant business processes, and user training and support, collaboration software can leverage the strength of today’s dispersed and diverse workforce. These user-driven, web-based workspaces can provide both the team structure and fluid interaction that Morgan used in orchestrating and then unleashing the energies of his troops at Cowpens.