January 24th, 2011
Total Distance for today: 40 miles
Total Distance for Tour: approx. 828 miles
LOCATION: Greenville, SC
The Strategy of a Rebel
My Couchsurfing host from Sunday night had a friend over, Mason, who turned out to be quite a history buff, and he enlightened me about the significance of the battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781. It was a decisive victory in the American Revolutionary War. Incidentally, Cowpens, SC is where Monday’s skate began.
I won’t give you the full recap of the battle, as it’s actually rather complicated, but you can check it out on wikipedia. Suffice it to say that the Americans in Cowpens faced a superior British force in terms of size and training, but they had one very important advantage on their side: strategy. The British commander, Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton West, had enjoyed a pretty impressive career, even at the young age of 26, with multiple decisive victories and exploits under his belt; however, he was a bit arrogant.
The American commander, Daniel Morgan, and his inferior force used Tarleton’s arrogance and his conventional approach against him. Morgan took advantage of Tarleton’s predictability by luring him in with multiple “fake” retreats. He then struck decisively from multiple unexpected sides. Long and short of it, Tarleton’s force was reduced to rubble through many casualties and even more surrenders.
Few would argue with the assertion that non-conventional guerrilla warfare played an essential role in the ultimate American triumph in the Revolutionary War (that and some help from the French!). What is striking to me is that the British could certainly have used similar tactics, but their pride and arrogance forbade them to. Also, their rigid command structure made it virtually impossible. There was a certain method to how wars were fought, and bi-gum, that’s how they were going to do it.
We can learn something from our Yankee rebel forefathers: Sometimes, great success requires a non-conventional approach. It will almost certainly require you to adapt and use new strategies. It requires each person, not just those at the top, to think strategically on his feet. It also will almost certainly require you to do things that are uncomfortable. Sounds fun to me. What more could a rebel ask for? 😉