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Local attorney sees modern parallel to historic land battle

ELKINS — A longtime local attorney sees parallels between the current political situation in America and an important battle in the Revolutionary War in which one of his direct ancestors played a part.

The Battle of Cowpens was fought Jan. 17, 1781 — 240 years ago on Sunday — near Cowpens, South Carolina. American forces under the command of Brigadier General Daniel Morgan clashed with a much larger contingent of British soldiers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Banastre Tarleton.The battle — a major victory for the U.S. — was depicted in the 2000 movie “The Patriot,” starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger.

Tarleton led more than 1,100 British soldiers into the battle, while historians believe Morgan’s soldiers numbered closer to 800.

Among the Americans was Major Francis Triplett, the “sixth-generation grandfather” of Elkins attorney George Triplett.

“He commanded three companies in the regiment under Daniel Morgan,” George Triplett said of his ancestor. “He had 160 men under his command, three companies from Virginia.”

At the time Tarleton was notorious for his behavior during the Battle of Waxhaws in 1780, in which his troops ignored the Americans’ white flag of surrender and massacred many American soldiers.

“Tarleton was such a vicious, cruel man,” George Triplett said. Leading into the Battle of Cowpens, he “marched his army for four days. The last two days they had nothing to eat. They slept about two or three hours. He marched them in the rain, the mud, the freezing streams and severe weather, 14 hours at a time.”

During the battle, the British troops advanced in line formation, as was the tradition. Morgan, however, used the terrain of the area to his advantage, placing his troops on hills and in strategic areas to counter the British.

The battle was a route, with Tarleton’s forces suffering almost 30% casualties, and about 55% of his troops were captured or missing, historians say. Tarleton himself and about 200 British troops escaped.

By contrast, only 25 of Morgan’s troops were killed and 124 wounded.

“What they credit this victory to was what we call post-traumatic stress disorder, or battlefield fatigue,” George Triplett said. “Tarleton’s army was full of crack troops, but after what he put them through, they couldn’t stand up against these mountain fellas.”

George Triplett said the battle holds a lesson for the modern American political scene.

“Today you’ve got the impeachment going on, but there’s something far greater. That’s the coronavirus,” he said.

“The coronavirus is more deadly, and we need to be looking at it like that, which is related to Tareleton being vicious, wanting to kill all the American soldiers. The Americans captured over 600 British soldiers, and they wouldn’t kill them. They fed them, and Major Triplett escorted them back to Wilkes County, North Carolina.”

Now that Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election has been confirmed, Democrats should concentrate on battling COVID-19 instead of seeking revenge on Donald Trump through impeachment, George Triplett said.

“We all need to keep our priorities straight and not get obsessed with revenge,” he said.

The longtime Elkins attorney said he is proud of the part his ancestor played in the historic 1871 battle.

“That was a huge moment that helped shape this great country of ours,” George Triplett said.

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