Battle of Cowpens
January 17, 1781: Brigadier General Daniel Morgan led his Continental Army to a decisive victory over the British in the American Revolution. The Battle of Cowpens, at a pasture north of Spartanburg, was a surprising victory and a turning point that changed the psychology of the entire war—"spiriting up the people", not only those of the backcountry Carolinas, but in all the Southern states. Americans were encouraged to continue fighting what had been to that point a losing war, and the Loyalists and British were demoralized. Its strategic result—the destruction of an important part of the British army in the South—was incalculable toward ending the Revolutionary war.
Federalism vs. States Rights
The United States began operating in 1789, following the ratification of the Constitution. The national debt amounted to $75,463,476.52 by January 1, 1791. In that same month, Founding Father and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed an excise tax of 25% upon spirits distilled within the United States. Distilled spirits were the first product taxed by the U.S government.
Whiskey was an important cash and barter crop in Pennsylvania, which lacked both economic infrastructure and good roads. Without any means to get their grain to market, farmers found the most profitable use of grain was to ferment and distill it into alcohol. Hamilton’s tax effectively eliminated any hope the farmers had of making a profit. Adding insult to injury, many larger distillers based in the east paid their tax all at once with a flat upfront fee, while smaller farmers could not afford the flat fee and ended up paying a higher tax per gallon.
In an act of tea-party politics, farmers in Pennsylvania led riots in river towns, roughing up tax collectors. In July, 1794, Federal Marshall John Neville arrived to serve writs to distillers who had not paid their excise tax. Farmers protested and burned Neville’s house to the ground.
The Whiskey Rebellion threatened the stability of the United States and forced President George Washington to personally lead the United States militia westward to stop the rebels. With General Daniel Morgan by his side, President Washington ordered 12,950 militiamen to serve in an expedition to put down the “Whiskey Rebellion”. Morgan commanded 4,800 of these militiamen. This was also the first and only time in United States history that a sitting president donned a uniform to command troops in battle.
It was also the first time that the federal government attempted to enforce order in a U.S. state. The result was anticlimactic. Some of the rebels were imprisoned, some headed west and others hid in the Appalachians. By the time the first troops reached Pittsburgh in October, 1794, the ringleaders of the “Whiskey Boys” had already fled down the Ohio River. Federalized militia restored law and order, and the federal government proved that it could and would enforce the law.
To this day, July 16 has been commemorated as Whiskey Day.
To read more: http://www.ttb.gov/public_info/whisky_rebellion.shtml