Fraser’s Highlanders, the reserve unit of the British Legion, whom Tarleton had thrown into the battle, came up hard against the Virginians. The Highlanders were yelling and their bagpipers were skerling. They smelled victory and wanted to overwhelm the rebels. They were roaring for the kill.
“The rebel line is crumbling!”
“Rout them!” cried an officer.
“At them, boys!” A sergeant waved his men on with his musket.
Victory was within their grasp. ‘Tarleton has done it again’ was the thought in each and every green and red uniformed man. The Highlanders in their green and blue plaid pants started to charge to Continentals believing them to be in full retreat.
Howard stopped. He cupped his hands and yelled, “Halt! About face! Volley fire, now!” Then upon order, as quickly as a summer thunderstorm bursts upon the scene, the Virginians and the Marylanders too, stopped, turned, formed a line, and fed a volley into the onrushing Highlanders. The legs went out of the first rank of the Frasers, as men tumbled head over heel wounded or dead.
Unseen, Pickens’ Militias had formed on the far right of our line. They then fired a volley into the flank of the Highlanders. The Highlanders faltered. Confusion reigned in the Fraser’s 71st Highlanders. They looked around: Continentals in front of them, Militia on their flank, and getting into their rear to surround them. Some of the Highlanders threw down their weapons and began to flee. Others threw down their weapons and asked for quarter. Then, as if the whole thing had been perfectly rehearsed, Washington’s dragoons fell upon the Highlanders, completely closing the circle. Horsemen with sabers flying hacked, cut, slashed, and thrust their way into the disorganized mob that was once the pride of the British army: Fraser’s 71st Highlanders. The Continentals lowered their muskets and showed the steel of their bayonets to the Frasers. Daniel and I surged forward, too. It was then that I felt my stomach churn with pain. I pulled my coat together to cover the blood. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that it was only buckshot from a buck and ball. The Highlanders now en masse surrendered. Anything white was held high up in the air. Weapons dropped to the ground like so many fall leaves in a strong gale.
In the distance near the road, Tarleton gathered his staff and what was left of his dragoons. “Men, we have to save the Legion! Follow me. Onward men, onward!” He thrust his sabre into the air and then slashed it down towards the surrendering Highlanders. Without looking to see if anyone was following him, Tarleton whipped his horse and galloped off to save his Legion.
Caught up in the heat of the moment, Lt. Colonel Campbell did something that was totally uncharacteristic for him. He spurred his horse. He joined the charge.
Washington and his remaining dragoons faced about and whipped their horses to meet Tarleton head on. Sabers clashed. Pistols fired. Within seconds, it was over. Tarleton’s cavalry were just too tired, too few, and too dispirited to beat Washington and his men.
Escaping back across the field was Tarleton, who was accompanied by Hanger and Campbell. They were riding back down the Green River Road. Tarleton turned to his men and yelled, “Retreat!” Some of the remaining dragoons joined them. They were close to the woods and in a few more seconds they would vanish from sight.
Daniel and I saw him at the same moment. “That’s Campbell!” We cried simultaneously. I went to my knee. My rifle barrel was waving up and down. I fought to level it to get a good, clean shot at Campbell. Daniel was standing straight up. His barrel was as steady as it could possibly be. We fired at the same moment. Two hundred yards away, an ounce of lead penetrated the skull of Lt. Colonel David Angus Campbell, who fell to the ground, instantly dead. I am sure that my shot felled the bastard. Daniel cried, “Go to hell, you demon!” Tarleton and the others escaped into the trees. The Battle of Cowpens was over.