Cowpens Flag


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.

    The Cowpens Flag.


      The Cowpens Flag, also known as the 3rd Maryland Flag, is thought to have been flown at the Battle of Cowpens by a member of the 3rd Maryland Regiment.

      It is one of the first American flags to feature the stars and stripes.

      Design and origin

      The Cowpens Flag features the 13 red and white stripes and dark blue canton seen on the American flag today. However, it only features 13 stars in the canton, representing the original Thirteen Colonies of the United States. 12 of the stars are arranged in a circle, with the final five-pointed star in the middle.

      In 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which defined how the American flag was to look. It specified that the United States flag had 13 blue and white stripes, and 13 white stars on a blue background in the canton.

      However, because the Flag Resolution did not specify how the stars were to be arranged, it led to a number of different designs being created. This included the Cowpens Flag, and the Betsy Ross Flag, which had all 13 stars arranged in a circle, with no star in the center.

      Betsy Ross flag.
      Betsy Ross flag.


      According to some reports, the Cowpens Flag was flown by the 3rd Maryland Regiment under the command of General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens, in South Carolina, on January 17, 1781.

      The flag was supposedly carried by William Batchelor, a Standard-Bearer for the regiment.

      His family kept the flag after the war, and donated it to the Maryland Society of the War of 1812 in 1894. However, the authenticity of the flag was questioned, it was determined by J. Appleton Wilson, a renowned architect and researcher for the society, that the flag was actually flown during the War of 1812 by Joshua F. Batchelor, the son of William, and veteran of the Battle of North Point.

      After a later investigation in the 1970s, contemporary historians now believe that this copy of the flag was made in about 1840, due to the type of fabric used.

      But was another, earlier copy of this flag flown at the Battle of Cowpens?

      Technically, the 3rd Maryland Regiment did not feature at the Battle of Cowpens, as it had been disbanded after American defeat at the Battle of Camden six months prior. However, its members continued fighting in the war, and many of them would have ended up under the command of General Morgan, where they could have continued using their flag.

      It is thought that the first American flag made under the Flag Resolution was not produced until 1782. Also, military units were not authorized to create American flags until the mid-1800s, although many still did so in an unofficial capacity.

      Therefore, historians are split on whether or not this flag actually featured at the Battle of Cowpens.

      Today, the flag donated by the Batchelor family is held by the Maryland State Archives.

      Historical significance

      The Battle of Cowpens was a very significant Patriot victory during the American Revolution. It helped turn the tide of the war in South Carolina, and is marked by significant bravery and smart tactics from General Morgan and his men.

      The British sent some of their best soldiers to the battle, led by Banastre Tarleton, a highly respected commander. Despite this, Morgan was able to outmaneuver the British, and led his men to a decisive victory – marking the end of British dominance during the Southern Campaign.

      Whether or not this flag actually featured at the battle, it remains an iconic symbol of American resistance during the war, especially in South Carolina, due to the importance and low probability of American victory at Cowpens.

      The Cowpens Flag features in the iconic The Spirit of ’76 painting by Archibald M. Willard, completed in 1876, although some people mistakenly believe it features the Betsy Ross Flag.

      Spirit of 1776 painting.

      Today, the 3rd Maryland Flag is used on the crest of the USS Cowpens, an American Navy cruiser commissioned in 1991.

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