Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Hammond Map

An account by Captain Samuel Hammond of South Carolina is one of the most important statements about how the American army was deployed at the battle of Cowpens. Unfortunately, it is also contradictory and confusing.

Hammond wrote of the evening before the battle:

"Orders had been issued to the militia, to have twenty-four rounds of balls prepared and ready for use, before they retired to rest. A general order, forming the disposition of the troops, in case of coming to action, had also been prepared, and was read to Colonels Pickens and McCall, Major Jackson and the author of these notes, in the course of the evening. No copy was ever afforded to either of these authors, before the battle, and the author of these notes has never since seen them, but in the, course of the same evening he made the following notes upon them, then fresh in his memory, and which was shown to Major Jackson and Colonel McCall, and approved by them as correct as far as they went. To show those concerned what would be their stations, the author drew out a rough sketch of the position set forth in the general order, and after the action, the rough sketch of the enemy's position was added. No perfect or accurate sketch of the enemy's position was ever drawn: this was only taken by the eye, not with mathematical instruments; and yet no opportunity has been afforded of correcting it. Nevertheless, this gives you a still better idea of the affair, than could be obtained without it.

"The order commenced in substance thus:

"As the enemy seems resolved to force us into action, the numbers and spirit of this little band of patriot soldiers seems to justify the general in the belief that they may be met with confidence, defeated and driven back. To prepare for which, the following order will be observed.

"The front line will be composed of that part of Colonel McCall's regiment of South-Carolina State troops, who have not yet been equipped as dragoons, under the command of Major Hammond; the Georgia volunteers, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Cunningham, and the North Carolina volunteers, under the command of Major McDowal, Colonel Cunningham will take post on the right, Major McDowal on the left of the line, southwest of the road, upon the rising ground beyond the valley in front, three hundred to three hundred and fifty yards in rear of this cantonment or camp, with the left resting upon the road. Major Hammond will take post on the left of the road, in line with Colonel Cunningham; supported on the left by Captain Donoly, of the Georgia refugees.

"The second line will be composed of the continental regiment of Maryland troops, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard; on the left of the second line, falling back one hundred yards in its rear, a continuation of the second line, or third line, will be formed, advancing its left wing towards the enemy, so as to bring it nearly parallel with the left of the continental troops, upon the second line. The Virginia militia, commanded by Major Triplet, with the South-Carolina militia, commanded by Captain Beaty, will form to the right of the second line; the left nearly opposite to the right of the second line, one hundred yards in its rear; the right extending towards the enemy, so as to be opposite to or parallel with the second line, The main guard will hold its present position, and be commanded as at present by Colonel Washington's cavalry, with such of Colonel McCall's regiment of new raised South-Carolina State troops, as have been equipped for dragoons, will be a reserve, and form in the rear of Colonel Pickens, beyond the ridge, one or two hundred yards, and nearly opposite the main guard, north of the road.

"This is not meant as a correct report of the general order, but as nearly so as the memory, influenced by such events, could be expected to retain. The sketch annexed will give you a further illustration of the important event.”

One problem with this statement concerns certain omissions. He named Triplett and Beaty as serving with a wing of troops to the right of Howard's Continentals, but he did not identifiy the troops serving to the left of the Continentals. He said that McCall's dragoons were to be held in reserve behind Pickens, but he didn't identify where Pickens was stationed.

There is also a contradiction in his statement about the placement of troops on the front line. First he said first that, "Colonel Cunningham will take post on the right, Major McDowal [sic] on the left of the line, southwest of the road." This would seem to indicate that both commands were to be southwest of the road, with Cunningham on the right and McDowell on the left. However, he then said that "Major Hammond will take post on the left [i.e., northeast] of the road, in line with Colonel Cunningham." If Hammond were in line with Cunningham, then Cunningham would have been on the left of McDowell, not on the right.

Confusion also arises from a comparison of Hammond's written accounts with the maps he allegedly drew. Here is the "sketch," in two parts, which was originally printed in Joseph Johnson's 1851 Traditions and Reminiscences Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South.

The first map seems to have the directional arrow pointing in the wrong direction (South rather than North). McCall's dragoons have disappeared. There is a "valley or ravine" running across the road in front of the American position that does not correspond with the actual terrain (see this post). There are also two second lines, each consisting of the same troops, but in different positions. Perhaps the intention was to show the position of these troops at two different points in time. However, in neither case do the wings on either side of Howard's continentals begin 100 yards behind the regulars as the text has them.

The second map has Hammond on the far right of the American line when the text has him on the far left.

Of the two, the textual description seems more reliable. It is more detailed than the maps, and seems to better reflect Hammond's recollection. (I wonder if the printer, in preparing the sketch for publication, did not err in attaching labels to the sketch). The textual description also meshes well with other descriptions of the American deployment, including that in Brigadier-General Daniel Morgan's after action report. The maps are considerably less consistent with other participant accounts.


Joseph Johnson's 1851 Traditions and Reminiscences Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South is the original source of Hammond's account.

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