General Daniel Morgan was an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He commanded backwoods riflemen during several engagements, including the Siege of Boston and Battle of Quebec. In 1782, he led American forces to victory at the Battle of Cowpens.
Biography of Daniel Morgan
Daniel Morgan was a General in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and led American forces to a key victory at the Battle of Cowpens. Morgan served in the Virginia Militia during the French and Indian War. He was part of the British force that was led by Edward Braddock and defeated at the Battle of Monongahela. Early on, Morgan developed a reputation as a fierce fighter and bold leader and served in the militia again during Pontiac’s Rebellion. When the American Revolutionary War started, he gathered riflemen from Virginia and marched to Cambridge to join the American forces at the Siege of Boston. When Congress made plans to launch a campaign against British forces in Canada, Benedict Arnold was selected to lead an army through Maine to attack Quebec from the east. Morgan and his men joined Arnold’s Expedition. When they reached Quebec, they joined the main Northern Army, under the command of General Richard Montgomery. On December 31, 1775, the Americans attacked Quebec. However, bad weather and poor execution on the part of the Americans led to disaster. Montgomery was killed and Arnold was badly wounded. Morgan was in command of the American forces when they were forced to surrender at the Battle of Quebec. Morgan was captured and later released in a prisoner exchange. In 1777, he was given command of the Provisional Rifle Corps and he was sent to help General Horatio Gates stop the British advance that was part of the Saratoga Campaign. Morgan led his men at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm and the Battle of Bemis Heights, which forced the British, under the command of General John Burgoyne, to stop their advance into New York. Soon after, Morgan and his men helped capture Burgoyne’s army. After Saratoga, he joined Washington for the Philadelphia Campaign but saw little action. He retired in 1779 but was asked to return to service when Gates took command of the Southern Department. At first, Morgan refused, but after Gates lost at the Battle of Camden he decided to return and was commissioned as a Brigadier General. Two months later, Gates was replaced by General Nathanael Greene. Greene divided his forces and Morgan led a portion through the South Carolina backcountry. British forces chased after him, and Morgan drew them into a trap at the Battle of Cowpens. The Americans won the battle and dealt a significant blow to the British forces in the south. Morgan retired from the army and lived in Virginia, but returned to service briefly in 1794 to help lead a large army that ended the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania.
This painting by Frederick Kemmelmeyer depicts fighting at the Battle of Cowpens. Image Source: Wikipedia.
5 Things to Know About Daniel Morgan
- Morgan was born around 1735 in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and he died on July 6, 1802, in Westchester, Virginia.
- In 1757, a British officer hit Morgan with the flat of his sword. Morgan responded by knocking the officer down. Legend has it that Morgan received 500 lashes for retaliating.
- Morgan and his men were backwoodsmen, who were experts at sharpshooting with their rifles, which were much more accurate than the muskets used by many New England militiamen. Their skill took a significant toll on the British during the Battles of Saratoga.
- At the Battle of Quebec, the American forces were trapped in the city with no escape. However, Morgan refused to surrender to the British. Instead, he gave his weapon to a French priest.
- When Morgan was away from the army, he was a farmer, and he called his farm “Soldier’s Rest.”
Daniel Morgan is important to United States history because of his bravery and leadership during key moments of the American Revolutionary War. His backwoods experience and fighting skills were a good match for the guerilla warfare strategy that Nathanael Greene used in the Southern Campaign. Morgan used his knowledge of the enemy and his own men to lay a trap at the Battle of Cowpens that was perfectly executed and gave the Continental Army one of its most important victories of the war.
Learn More About Daniel Morgan
- Daniel Morgan (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)
- Daniel Morgan (American Battlefield Trust)
- Men of the Revolution: Daniel Morgan (American Heritage)
- Daniel Morgan (National Park Service)
Video of Daniel Morgan
This video from the American Battlefield Trust discussed the career of Daniel Morgan.