The following links give in depth information on the proper conduct of a staff ride.

Staff Ride Abstract

Staff rides began with the Prussian Army in the mid-1800s and with the US Army in the early 1900s as a way to further the development of officers. They began to gain popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and today, both the US Army and the US Marine Corps use Staff Rides extensively and define them the same way:

"A staff ride consists of systematic preliminary study of a selected campaign, an extensive visit to the actual sites associated with that campaign, and an opportunity to integrate the lessons derived from each. It envisions maximum student involvement before arrival at the site to guarantee thoughtful analysis and discussion. A staff ride thus links a historical event, systematic preliminary study, and actual terrain to produce battle analysis in three dimensions. It consists of three distinct phases: preliminary study, field study, and integration."

A staff ride is a group exercise in which each participant gives a briefing on plans, orders, events, decisions, and individuals. They frequently take on the persona of one of the primary participants in the battle. Afterwards, his/her colleagues question him/her about that participant's view of what has occurred on the battlefield at that point.

Crucial concepts addressed in a staff ride should include the nine principles of war: mass, objective, offensive, surprise, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, and simplicity. These should be covered at each stage of the battle.

Both the Army and Marine Corps determine that "staff rides have often been confused with other exercises that involve the terrain. A tactical exercise without troops (TEWT) uses terrain and hypothetical scenarios, but not history, as a teaching vehicle. A historical battlefield tour is a visit to the site of a battle but involves little or no preliminary systematic study on the part of the student. While a historical tour can stimulate thought and discussion, it is limited by the lack of student preparation and involvement."

In a recent article about the 223rd battle anniversary that appeared in the Charlotte (NC)"Observer" reporter Joe DePriest wrote about the Texas National Guard. On January 17, they concluded "a 12-month Cowpens study from the standpoint of leadership and small unit action. 'There are a lot of lessons we can learn that are relevant today,' said Col Jeff Johnson of Fort Worth, commander of the Second Brigade, 49th Armored Division. 'Daniel Morgan is key. His personal involvement turned the battle.'" Mr. DePriest also noted that author Robert Morgan said that the battle of Cowpens "is studied in military academies and war colleges worldwide 'as an especially fine example of what tactical genius, a little luck and a lot of courage can do.'"