Category: Great Roads

The are the best roads I have covered.

Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina 17 January 1781

On 17 January 1781, the outlook for the British Army in America changed forever. A British Legion (combined infantry and cavalry) led by one of the British star, young officers, Banastre Tarleton, met its match on this day with a mixed force of one-third Continentals and two-thirds militiamen, led by what can only be called a “Good Old Boy,” Daniel Morgan.

American General Nathaniel Greene commanded the southern army and knew he couldn’t withstand a full encounter with the British, so he instructed his forces to split up and conduct operations against isolated British outposts. General Daniel Morgan commanded one of these smaller units. Tarleton was well known to the American forces for “Tarleton’s quarter.” Tarleton had a reputation, at least partly earned, for total war. He did not mind burning provisions and communities who supported the patriot cause. He also was reputed to have refused quarter to Americans at Waxhaws (Buford’s Massacre) by refusing surrender and continuing to assault.

Morgan had decided to attack Fort 96. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton had set off to catch Morgan and prevent Morgan from disrupting the British / Loyalist forts and communities, like Fort 96. Tarleton had Morgan on the run and Morgan was attempting a ragged retreat when he decided to turn and face up to Tarleton in an area known a Cowpens (an open area of upland pasture) in northwestern South Carolina, near Gaffney. Tarleton had pushed his Legion hard through the night and they arrived at Cowpens ready to fight but tired.

Morgan had a plan to feign retreat after the intial exchange of rifle fire, knowing that Tarleton liked to take the initiative as fast as possible. When Morgan’s skirmishers fired and pulled back, Tarleton ordered his Legion forward to press the attack in hopes of a rout. Morgan had his skirmishers join his infantry line in fall back positions. What was planned and what just happened next is open to debate, but what is clear is that Morgan managed to envelope Tarleton’s Legion with infantry and cavalry and deliver withering fire into the British ranks whilst they were totally committed to a headlong rush. This may seem unusual, but much of the killing by the British Legions was by bayonet, so when they pressed the attack, they would have been mentally and physically committed to a bayonet charge. Taking heavy fire from an infantry line that was thought to have fled, whilst simultaneously having your flank rolled by cavalry might just make you want to drop your bayonet and run. That’s what Tarleton did with a handful of his command. Most of his force did not do so well with the majority being killed, wounded or captured.

Tarleton, 26 years old at the time, was rebuked and many older British officers felt it had been just a matter of time before the young rake’s risk taking had cost the British Army dear.

Motorcycle Ride

This is truly one of those perfect marriages of a great battlefield and a great ride. Here’s a beauty of a ride along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. It starts very near The Cowpens National Battlefield and makes it way through several state parks, lakes and geological sites.

Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina 15 March 1781

The early part of the American Revolutionary War was fought mostly in the North of the colonies, but after a series of defeats, the British decided to focus on the southern colonies in their persistent belief that Loyalist sympathies ran deeper there than the North. The British had built up a string of victories in the south by early 1781 by chasing down southern militias and defeating them one by one. General Washington sent one of his best Generals, Nathaniel Greene south to revive the Patriot effort. Greene had tried to separate his forces and hoped to catch the British off guard by making them attack him piecemeal. This had had some success, namely at Cowpens two months earlier, but it was getting harder and harder to avoid a major showdown with the British main force. After strategically retreating across South and North Carolina and preserving his force, Greene decided to turn and face his pursuer, Redcoat General Lord Cornwallis. Cornwallis was sure that if he could corner Greene’s force and inflict a decisive defeat on the Rebels, he could soon claim the American south for the British cause. The field for this critical battle was in the small hamlet of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina.

On the cold morning of 15 March 1781, Greene deployed his mixed militia and Continental Army force of approximately 4,500 in three lines in depth. The first line was North Carolina militia, the second Virginia militia and the final line was mainly Continentals. Cornwallis took his 1,900 British and German professional soldiers and attacked head on, breaking through the first line quickly, but with serious losses that he could ill afford. The second line held longer and bled the British further. However, the British broke through and finally reached the Continentals where a fierce give and take erupted with attacks and counter-attacks. The resulting mass of fighting men confused the situation to the point that Cornwallis felt that he needed to break up the two armies with grape shot fired into the middle of it. The artillery killed indiscriminately, but had the intended effect of separating the armies. At this point, Greene decided to pull away and save his force. Cornwallis stood victorious on the field, but strategically hamstrung.

From this victory, Cornwallis headed for the coast for re-supply for his depleted force. The condition of his army led him to begin his doomed Virginia campaign which would end later in the year with his surrender at Yorktown.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out this ride that leads to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park through the Colonial Heritage Byway.

Super Sausage Cafe and Other Cool Places

One of Britain’s coolest features for riders – cafes catering to bikers near great riding roads and tracks. This is the Super Sausage Cafe. I like the fact that Gareth Owens of the My Biking Life blog is documenting these.

Operation Cobra, the American Breakout of the Normandy Beachhead

On the 24th of July 1944, the German forces around St Lo, in Normandy, did not have a clue about the hell that was about to be unleashed upon them. Their dispositions looked like this:
German positions prior to Operation Cobra
To the west of St Lo, you can see the area that the Americans chose to breakout from the close hedgerow fighting that had so favoured the Germans for the months of June and July 1944.
Operation Cobra Map

The Allies delivered a devastating aerial bombardment on the German front lines in the area on 25 July 1944. The line did not immediately give way. This was due to the American infantry not pushing quickly at first. Who could blame them? They had just spent 2 months fighting in the hedgerows and had learned to be cautious. Additionally, the lingering shock of the bombardment, which also killed and wounded several hundred Americans was still wearing off.
However, the American Commander on the ground, General J. Lawton Collins, saw no need to delay and committed his exploitation forces on the morning of the 26th. This was risky, because if the Germans had managed to slow down the attack further, it would have meant an American traffic jam right on the front lines. Luckily, they couldn’t and the Americans pushed right through and found the German line disintegrating like it had not done for the Americans before in Normandy.
Thus began the great race from the beachheads to the German frontier that occurred over the next 2 months, including the liberation of Paris and most of the rest of France.

I rode through the breakout zone in 2008. The ride from Gavray to Avranches is an especially nice twisty rode

Ride Recommendation

Check out the Terre Liberte’ route of Cobra- La Percee (the Breakout). Here’s a Google map of part of the D7 route that I rode.

Trans America Trail

This looks very cool.

http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/travel/a31107/traveling-the-road-less-traveled/

Hells Canyon Byway Route

On my recent trip to follow the Nez Perce Trail, I rode the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. The route from Oxbow Dam to Joseph, Oregon along National Forest Road 39 (USNF-39) was especially cool. Don’t miss the short turn off to go up to the Hells Canyon Overlook for a panoramic view over the canyon. If you ever find yourself in the area, take a day and ride / drive the whole thing. You will not be disappointed.

The image above is one I took from a high point overlooking Hells Canyon National Recreation Area not far from the Hells Canyon Dam.

© 2017 Battlefield Biker

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑