Little is known of his early life, but most historians agree that Morgan was born in New Jersey. When he was 16, he left home after a fight with his father and after working odd jobs in various places, he finally settled in frontier Virginia, near what is now Winchester, Virginia.
After the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, Morgan was chosen to command a unit from Virginia. Almost immediately, he took part in an ill-fated invasion of Canada. Along with Benedict Arnold, they launched an unsuccessful attack on Quebec. Forced to surrender, Morgan was among the 372 men captured and remained a prisoner until January 1777.
"Surrender of Burgoyne", painted by John Trumbull (1882). Daniel Morgan is portrayed in white just to the right of center.
In 1781, Morgan, along with forces under Andrew Pickens, defeated the British Colonel Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens. While I’ll skip the minute details of that Battle, consider this: Morgan's plan at Cowpens is widely considered to be the tactical masterpiece of the Revolutionary War. Additionally, it severely weakened the British forces and led to the ultimate British surrender at Yorktown, securing American independence. In 1790, Congress awarded him a gold medal in to commemorate his victory at Cowpens.
(By the way, if anyone has a Daniel Morgan commemorative medal that you don’t want, I’d love to have one. Its current estimated value is $81,000!)
(Left) The medal features Morgan to the right, his sword pointed groundward as a sign of humility, bowing as "America" places a wreath upon his head. The legend COMITIA AMERICANA DANIELI MORGAN DUCI EXERCITUS may be translated as "The American Congress to Commander of the Army Daniel Morgan." (Right) The main legend VICTORIA LIBERTATIS VINDEX translates as "Victory is the defender of liberty." Below, Daniel Morgan is shown mounted and leading the charge at Cowpens. The legend identifies the scene: FUGATIS CAPTIS AUT CAESIS AD COWPENS HOSTIBUS XVII JAN MDCCLXXXI or "The enemy put to flight, captured, or killed at Cowpens, January 17, 1781."
After the war, Morgan dabbled in farming, land ownership and politics. He died on his 66th birthday at his daughter's home in Winchester on his 66th birthday
Where’s the connection? Anyone from my hometown already knows the answer….In 1881 (on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens), a statue of Daniel Morgan was placed in the town square of Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it still stands to this day.
The statue of Daniel Morgan in downtown Spartanburg
“To the American Soldier who on the field of Cowpens, Jan 17, 1781, fought victoriously for the right of Self-Government and Civil Liberty. We enjoy the Result of their toil and sacrifice; let us emulate their fortitude and virtue.”
Connection #2: The painting referenced above ("Surrender of Burgoyne") can be found here in DC. It hangs in the Rotunda of the US Capitol.