Lesson Plan: Overview

The Old Folks Will Bless You and the Girls Kiss You

Grade Level: 4th
Major Young's Tombstone

Academic Standards

Standard 4-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the conflict between the American colonies and England.

4-3.4 Summarize the events and key battles of the Revolutionary War, including Lexington and Concord, Bunker (Breed’s) Hill, Charleston, Saratoga, Cowpens, and Yorktown.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

I. Use maps to observe and interpret geographic information and relationships.

K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships.

L. Interpret calendars, timelines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts.

P. Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps.

Essential Questions

1. From the Memoir of Major Thomas Young, how does he describe his life as a Revolutionary War soldier and the account of the Battle of Cowpens?

2. Why do you think the battle of Cowpens was such a turning point for the Revolutionary War?

Historical Background Notes

Major Thomas Young was a private Patriot militiaman in the Revolution. His memoir of the Revolution was first published in the October and November 1843 edition of Orion Magazine. He discusses many battles, but the one account I will focus on is the Battle of Cowpens. He accounts what took place the night before the battle and the day it occurred.

The morale the night before the battle was strong. Young states, “It was upon this occasion I was more perfectly convinced of Gen. Morgan’s qualifications to command militia, than I had ever before been. He went among the volunteers, helped them fix their swords, joked with them about their sweet-hearts, told them to keep in good spirits, and the day would be ours” (Young 1843).

Young describes January 17, 1781, the day of the Battle of Cowpens, as bitterly cold. He accounts what the battlefield looked like and the positions of the armies. At the end of the battle, he states, “The British broke, and throwing down their guns and cartouche boxes, made for the wagon road, and did the prettiest sort of running” (Young 1843).

His memoir also includes Young, his major, and seven or eight other soldiers capturing two British soldiers, two Negroes, and two horses after the Redcoats retreated. He even tells that he finds gold on one of the horses. He accounts that on returning the gold to camp, he comes face to face with British soldiers and after receiving sword wounds in the right arm, both shoulders, and the head, becomes a prisoner of war.

The Battle of Cowpens was a major turning point for the Revolutionary War.  The battle took place in what is now Cherokee County, South Carolina.  On January 17, 1781, General Daniel Morgan along with about 2,000 men was at Cowpens ready to fight against Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton’s army of 1,250 men.  Morgan had three hundred riflemen from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  Colonel Pickens led one thousand militiamen from the South Carolina upcountry and stationed them on the reverse slope and many were hidden from the British.   A third line of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia soldiers was to the rear. 

Because of excellent war strategy it was by far the Patriot’s best fought battle of the war.  It was a quick battle, only lasting between half and hour to an hour.  The British fought hard, but could not hold out against all the Patriot soldiers.  The battle cost the British 110 dead and only 12 patriots were killed in the battle.  The total number of British prisoners was some 530.  Cornwallis went after Morgan and then Major Greene to retrieve his soldiers and this in turn wore out the British.  The Battle of Cowpens sent a wave of hope throughout the southern states and helped changed attitudes many people had towards them.


Primary Sources

Young, Thomas, Major, (1764-1848), “Memoir”.  From Phil Norfleet’s website. Published in The Orion, October and November, 1843.

South Carolina Battle Location Map.”  History of the United States.  By M.P. Andrews, M.A., J.P. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia and London, 1914.

Secondary Sources

Edgar, Walter.  The South Carolina Encyclopedia.  Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 2006.

Fleming, Thomas J. Cowpens.  Washington:  Division of Publications National Park Service, 1988.


• Copies of Memoir of Major Thomas Young

• DVD: Cowpens: A Battle Remembered

• Dictionaries and thesauruses

PAST Handout

• Laptop

• LCD projector

• Web access

• Paper and pencil

•Cowpens journal entry evaluation rubric

•Revolutionary War-themed paper

Lesson Plans

The lesson should take five days to complete.

Day 1

1. Give historical background information on Major Thomas Young and Battle of Cowpens.  Show photo of Major Thomas Young’s tombstone.

2. Have students watch DVD:  Cowpens:  A Battle Remembered (approximately 34 minutes) to get a better sense of the conflict.

3. Discuss DVD and have students complete Cowpens National Battlefield Quiz which is included on the DVD. The quiz will be completed on paper and graded.

Day 2

1. Display South Carolina Battle Location Map. Discuss SC battles and where the Battle of Cowpens took place in respect to where we live.

2. Display Memoir of Major Thomas Young (1764-1848) and give each student a copy of the part of the memoir that is written the night before and the day of the Battle of Cowpens.

3. Display essential questions to the class to have them think about and discuss as they are in groups.

4. Split the class into groups of three. 

5. Have the students use the PAST handout to analyze the section of the memoir that takes place the day before the Battle of Cowpens and the day of the Battle of Cowpens.  Students may use dictionaries and thesauruses to look up any unfamiliar words.

Day 3

1. As a class, discuss ideas and answers to essential questions from the students analyzing the memoir the day before.

2. Students will pretend they are a soldier under the command of General Daniel Morgan.  They will complete an activity of writing a journal entry that contains events from the night before the Battle of Cowpens and the day of the Battle of Cowpens.

Day 4 and Day 5

1. Students should work and finish up their journal entry.

2. Give time at the end of class for students to share their journal entries.

Teacher Reflections

Reflective Summary

Student Assessment

Students will pretend they are a Revolutionary War soldier under the command of General Daniel Morgan and write a journal entry that contains events from the night before the Battle of Cowpens and the day of the Battle of Cowpens (January 16 and 17, 1781). The journal entry should include the emotions and feelings that were felt the night before the battle, what took place on both days, the conditions of the soldiers, the outcome of the war, and their opinion of the war. A rubric will be used to score the journal entries.

Examples of Students Work

Student PAST Handout

Student PAST Handout 2

Student Journal Entry

Student Journal Entry 2


Stacey Key
James M. Brown Elementary
Walhalla, South Carolina