Instructor: maj farmer, msg webster cdt armelino, Anthony M. Jr

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Instructor: MAJ Farmer, MSG Webster

CDT Armelino, Anthony M. Jr.

Principles of War Paper

Due: 23Feb2006

The US Army developed a series of general guidelines for conducting war operations and operations other than war in FM 3-0 Operations, Chapter 4. These encompass nine separate areas relating to the strategic, operational and tactical levels of war. Brigadier General Daniel Morgan of the Continental Army uses two of the principles of war during the Battle of Cowpens against Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton during the Revolutionary War. Gen. Morgan uses the principles of mass and maneuver thereby defeating the British with minimum American casualties.

Overview (Battle of Cowpens)

Gen. Morgan and Col Tarleton both have approximately 1100 troops. Morgan has approx. 450 untrained militia which he places in the front lines of his formation and orders then to shoot twice then run around behind the formation to the left and reform back on the right. Behind the militia he places approx. 450 trained Maryland and Delaware Continentals to be the main assault force once the militia run. Hiding behind a hill to the rear are the remaining force of highly trained Cavalry. They have been told to attack from the direction the militia runs to after they have run by.

Col. Tarleton force marches his 1100 highly trained troops over a long distance prior to the battle. His men as well as he are tired and ill tempered and want to smash the untrained enemy before them. Tarleton sets up his troops in a typical infantry formation with infantry in the center, dragoons on the side, Highland regiment and cavalry in the reserve. He begins the battle by sending his whole line in to attack.


The principle of mass is to “concentrate the effects of combat power at the decisive place and time (FM 3-0, 4-39).” There are two different types of mass. Massing in time allows for combat power to be used against multiple attackers. Massing in space allows for the concentration of combat forces to attack in one unified attack against a single target. “Whether to concentrate or divide your troops, must be decided by circumstance (Art of War, pg 35-16).” Gen Morgan decides to use mass in space by unifying all of his units to attack the British in one main assault.

The battle: Col Tarleton sends in the whole of his Army to attack what he believes to be a line of untrained militia that are known for running and dying. Morgan’s militia does as ordered, shoots twice and runs making Tarleton believe that his enemy is on the run. Sensing victory, Tarleton send his troops in to crush any resistance left. He does not know that a line of trained and rested Continentals and cavalry are waiting for him. When his troops run into the Continentals from the front, the cavalry swing in from the left and at the same time the militia that had originally run had completed a loop around the back of the battlefield and were now attacking from the right, boxing in Tarletons’ troops and crushing them. The Continentals charge with bayonets and the cavalry overrun Tarletons’ remaining troops. Gen. Morgan effectively utilized the principle of massing in space by combing his combat power into one main attack, which effectively crushes his enemy in one quick and decisive blow while sustaining minimum casualties. All of his troops where at the right place at the right time. By doing this effectively he is even able to encourage Tarletons’ cavalry to quit fighting and run. In the end, Morgan only loses 70 of his original 1100 men while 930 of Tarletons’ men are dead, wounded or captured.


FM 3-0 describes maneuver as placing the enemy in a disadvantageous position through the flexible application of combat power. Basically, you must move your Soldiers across the battlefield in the best possible manner to throw your enemy off balance. The goal is to force the enemy to “confront new problems and new dangers faster than they can deal with them (FM 3-0, 4-43).” To do this you must effectively deploy combat resources and troops to put the enemy at a disadvantage and keep the enemy that way. Gen. Morgan effectively does this with his troops.

Gen Morgan uses the principle of maneuver efficiently during the previously mentioned battle. He does this by moving his militia around the back of the battlefield out of sight of his enemy and sending them to a vulnerable flank of his enemy. Morgan also sends in his cavalry immediately following the militias “retreat” to attack the unsuspecting infantrymen Tarleton sent in to pursue them. Gen Morgan could have easily maneuvered his troops in a different manner and lost more of his men or even lost the battle but he didn’t because he effectively utilitized the principle of maneuver.

The only thing I think Gen. Morgan could have done better with this battle would be to have chosen a better place to have it. He had a large amount of time to settle in his troops and rest but instead he decides to settle for a place that he could not retreat from. This would involve the principle of security though. The location he chose left him nowhere to retreat to if the battle didn’t go as planned. If his enemy overran him he would be completely destroyed. He could have done a better job selecting a site that would allow him a plan of escape if all did not go as planned.

Overall Brigadier General Daniel Morgan effectively utilitizes the principles of mass and maneuver. They are both very similar and go hand in hand. Much like the Army 7 core Values. He deployed all of his combat power into one singular attack that crushes his enemy by using the principle of mass. Morgan also uses the principle of maneuver and flanks Tarleton from two vulnerable sides at the same time and obliterates him in one massive attack. The fact that Morgan could use a group of lesser trained troops and destroy a battle hardened group of British Soldiers is evidence of his ability to use the principles of war.

Works Cited

Decisive Battles of the American Revolution, Joseph B. Mitchell pages 175-179

FM 3-0 Operations

The Art of War, Sun Tzu page 35 line 16

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