(1754–1833) British army officer. Tarleton, born in Liverpool, parlayed his military skills and his daring and adventurous nature into a lieutenant colonelcy in the British Legion at the age of 23. His initial efforts during the Revolutionary War, in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, were successful, and he won much acclaim. He acquired a reputation for brutality after the battle of the Waxhaws (1780), when his troops were alleged to have continued firing at Continentals who had already laid down their weapons; he also was known for waging total warfare, burning property and destroying crops as he went. Tarleton suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Continentals, brilliantly led by Gen. Daniel Morgan, at Cowpens, on the northern border of South Carolina, on January 17, 1781. British casualties numbered 500; the Continentals lost 72. After the defeat, Tarleton continued as a commander, but his relationship with Charles Cornwallis never recovered. After the war, he returned to England, where he was promoted to general and served in Parliament, but he remained unpopular because of his image as a cruel and ruthless fighter and his self-indulgent lifestyle.
From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence.