Being a loyal subject of the Crown today I ponder the history of loyalty. I would not always have been so had I lived in other years. In the 1640s I would have been for Parliament, Puritans and Cromwell and I still do not condemn the execution of the Man of Blood. But what about our American colonies? Would my loyalties have been with King George? Presbyterians in Scotland had a noble but unsuccessful history of rebellion against the Stuarts. I think that in 1745 Scotland's Presbyterians were with the Hanoverian crown against the Stuart pretender whose army was in the main Irish and Roman Catholic highlanders. Suppressing the Jacobites was a just war. The American colonists? Opinion in Britain was divided. Most Anglicans were with the king but some like John Newton wavered. Most non-conformists in England may have been with the colonists. On which side would I have been? It is my consistent habit to refuse to answer hypothetical questions, but here is a clue. I am first a Christian, then a Presbyterian and then English.
by Rev. David T. Myers
When Lord Cornwallis brought his British army into the southern colonies, it was the Presbyterian colonists of that part of the infant nation which met him and his forces in every county and town with their Bibles, their Psalm books, and their rifles. Sending a fierce cavalry officer in Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who rarely gave quarter, into western South Carolina, with a picked force of 1100 men, they came up against the smaller American forces at a grazing ground on the Broad River called the Cowpens.
Commanding the American militia and Continentals was Brig. General Daniel Morgan, a Presbyterian elder. In charge of the second of three lines of American soldiers was Presbyterian elder Andrew Pickens. The majority of the militia were from the Presbyterian congregations of South Carolina and Virginia. It was almost entirely a Presbyterian army. All through the night, the elders prayed with the men to ask God to give them the victory.
At sunrise on January 17, 1781, the charge of the British forces began. Moving with fifty yards, the American forces, as they were commanded to do by Morgan, fired two volleys, and retired to the second line. The second line of American riflemen fired three volleys, taking down all the British officers, and retired to the third line of American troops. This was composed of battle hardened Continental troops of the American army. As they, along with the retiring militia, charged the British troops, American cavalry attacked both flanks of the British forces. The latter retreated with a tremendous loss of men killed, wounded, and captured. A full one third of Cornwallis’s soldiers were out of action, and the battle of Cowpens was over. An American victory was given in answer to the prayers and courage of Presbyterian riflemen from the southern states.
Words to Live By: “The Lord is a Man of War; the Lord is His name.” Exodus 15:3 (Amplified) It has been a much discussed topic down through the years since our American Revolution as to where Christian Presbyterians should have been as involved as they were in it. But the issue really which should be discussed is whether it was a just war. If it was, then Christians must support it. If it was not, then Christians have no place in it. That is the question then. Was the American Revolution a just war? Our American Presbyterian ancestors thought it was, and so supported it and indeed fought in its battles. We need to do the same examination with conflicts today.