WINCHESTER — In an effort to document the full story of Revolutionary War Gen. Daniel Morgan, the Fort Loudoun chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) marked his grave site in Mount Hebron Cemetery on Friday evening before a crowd of roughly 100 people.
Sara Boppe, registrar of the local chapter of the DAR, said the group tries to preserve history and document the service of patriots from the American Revolution. The chapter includes women from Frederick County, Clarke County, Warren County and Winchester.
The local DAR has 175 members, who helped raise $9,134 to place a brass plaque on the monument by Morgan’s grave and to hold the ceremony. Kathy Birch, the chapter’s treasurer, said the expenses ended up costing $7,264.
The plaque lists the military titles he held during his lifetime, as well as his birthplace and place of death. Sharon Strickland, the chapter’s public affairs officer, said the plaque was designed to give observers the full picture of who Morgan was, since there was much information missing from the existing monument and grave. She said his grave had been broken in pieces, though it was put back together as best as possible. However, much of the marking on the grave was either incomplete or unreadable, according to Strickland.
Midway through the ceremony, rain began to fall, but most of the audience stayed put as Boppe told the crowd Morgan’s life story, including his involvement in the French and Indian War, his imprisonment by the British after the failed invasion of Quebec, and his victory at the Battle of Saratoga.
“It showed patriotism at its best,” Strickland said of the crowd withstanding the rain. “We can put up with a little bit of rain. [Revolutionary War soldiers] put up with Valley Forge.”
Boppe described Morgan and his recruits as skilled hunters and fighters that had the instincts and stamina to survive long periods in harsh elements with little provisions.
Morgan’s finest hour, according to Boppe, came in the early morning of Jan. 17, 1781, at Cowpens, a popular pasturing area for cattle in the South Carolina upcountry. It was there that Morgan used the terrain to his advantage and placed his soldiers — grouped in three lines — downhill to achieve victory against British Lieutenant Col. Banastre Tarleton. At the outset of the battle, the sharpshooters on the front line picked off Tarleton’s dragoons before retreating.
“The British surged forward, thinking they had what they perceived to be a scant line of skirmishers on the run, only to be met with the withering fire of the second line, with the third line moving forward to continue the onslaught,” Boppe said.
Morgan’s men mistook an order to turn and face the enemy as a signal to retreat, but Morgan was able to use the confusion to his advantage and ordered his men to turn around to fire again.
“The British, believing they had won, broke ranks and charged only to soon find themselves surrounded by both gunfire and American soldiers,” Boppe said. “The British surrendered, with Morgan stating that he gave them a ‘devil of a whipping.’”
The victory at Cowpens was considered one of the most decisive American victories. Morgan retired not long after the battle after suffering from sciatica that made it too painful to sit on his horse. Morgan died on July 6, 1802 at his daughter’s house surrounded by family.
“He was a really great war hero who a lot of times outside of Winchester is forgotten about,” Boppe said. “We know he’s great and I’m sure people in Cowpens and Saratoga know he’s great. But he’s one of those people that doesn’t have that notoriety that he deserves.”
— Contact Josh Janney at firstname.lastname@example.org