Archiver > NCMILITARY > 2001-08 > 0997900429

Subject: August 16, 1780
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 14:33:49 -0400

Tomorrow is the 221st Anniv of the Battle of Camden, SC in which the NC Militia
under Gen. Richard Caswell fought.

The Battle of Camden

In an effort to win back control of the two southern colonies, the Continental
Congress appointed General Horatio Gates to take command in the South and
recapture Charleston. He relieved Baron Dekalb of command of the American
Army in North Carolina and marched south in the summer of 1780. It was a long
and difficult trek in the summer heat. Recognizing that Gates' objective was
Camden the British gathered forces from around the colony. Cornwallis himself
brought forces from Charleston. Despite this gathering of forces the British
were still numerically inferior. They were however superior in trained and
disciplined troops as the American numbers included largely inexperienced and
ill-prepared militiamen. On the night of August 15, 1780, both armies were
maneuvering for position, expecting to join battle on the following day. By
chance they met in a swampy area six miles north of Camden. The advance
elements of both armies exchanged lively musket fire for about fifteen minutes
before they discontinued firing and waited for dawn. Sunrise found the two
opposing forces astride the Waxhaw Road (present day Flat Rock Road) with swampy
land to the left and right. The British had their backs to Sanders Creek, but
in the dim light could be seen advancing on the American right. Colonel Otho
Williams tried to rally his Virginians on the right wing, but the sight of the
disciplined charge of the British regulars was too much for the inexperienced
militiamen. They dropped their blankets and muskets and ran for the rear. The
North Carolina militia in the center seeing the British advance and that they
were about to be flanked, turned and followed their fellow militiamen. This
left the Maryland and Delaware Continentals under Brigadier Gist alone in the
field. General DeKalb called on his reserves, Smallwood's Brigade of
Marylanders, but their commander could not be found. He had fled the field.
Colonel Otho Williams took command of the Marylanders and tried to get them into
the line that had been vacated by the militia units. But the British had
already poured into the gap between the two brigades and overwhelmed the
Marylanders in a desperate battle. The 1st Maryland Brigade was then routed,
leaving only DeKalb and Gist with his brigade of Maryland and Delaware
Continentals. The valiant Continentals fought hard, once breaking through the
line of Redcoats to take 50 prisoners. Having no orders from General Gates,
Dekalb and Gist kept on fighting not knowing that they were alone in the field.
They fought on for another hour. Dekalb's horse was shot out from under him and
the general was wounded, but still he stayed his ground. The fighting was
close, with sabers, swords and bayonets. It was 600 Americans against 2000
hardened British regulars.. The end was swift. General Dekalb lay on the
ground losing blood from eleven wounds when Tarleton's cavalry returned from the
chase and fell upon the tight little circle of Americans. This battle was a
defeat for the cause of Independence. General Gates, who had fled the field
early in the battle, was never to command another army in battle. The British
were in firm control in South Carolina.
In 1954 the Kershaw County Historical Society placed a marker on Flat Rock Road
indicating the site of the Battle of Camden. A stone monument erected by the
Hobkirk Hill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution indicates the
spot where General DeKalb fell.

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