Historic Camden: Commemorating the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Camden

During this past year, you have been walking and reading with me on a journey through stories of Camden’s colonial backcountry settlement, the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution and the Kershaw House as the 1780 British Forward Operating Base.

On August 15, 2020 our RevWar Days commemorated both the Battle that took place in our County on that day 240 years ago and we celebrated the hardworking colonial townspeople that continued to work the land and toil for their freedoms. We are grateful to have incredible artisans today, demonstrating the crafts which sustained this City during those early times.

Iron Forge      Pottery Maker    Brickyard   Colonial Garden

In addition, to educate our visitors, we engaged the stories of the British Occupation of the Kershaw House through artifacts, cannon demonstrations and talks.  Thank you to all who participated and visited our site. We look forward to more celebrations of Camden and Kershaw history. Mark your calendars for November 7th and the 50th Anniversary events celebrating Historic Camden Foundation’s legacy of preservation and South Carolina’s Liberty Trail

I want to share our opening remarks from the Battle of Camden Commemoration given by our Board Chairman, Bob Giangiorgi.

Thank you for joining Historic Camden Foundation for the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Camden. We are proud to be the stewards of this battlefield and through it will create a greater appreciation of America’s remarkable story.

 

I would like to focus our thoughts on an inspirational group who joined this Battle, giving the full measure here 240 years ago.

In April 1780, Washington chose Major General Johann DeKalb and his Maryland and Delaware troops to march south. In early May the foreign born DeKalb became the senior American officer in the South. Congress decided to place an American in charge and selected Horatio Gates. DeKalb agreed to continue in command of the Maryland and Delaware troops, and to serve as the second-in-command to the new southern commander, bringing him to this property in August 1780.

 

John Beakes apply describes the battle in his biography of DeKalb. “On the morning of August 16, 1780, Major General DeKalb rose and prepared for combat, as he had done many times over the past thirty-seven years. His strength, fitness, and imposing presence had served him well throughout his career, and brought him home safe from earlier engagements. Yet forty-five minutes later after the opening fire at Camden, the American army would be routed, deKalb’s Maryland and Delaware divisions would be shattered, and his giant figure would be brought low by three bullet wounds and eight cuts from swords and bayonets.  Captured and treated with the greatest respect by his British foes, his life slowly ebbed away over the next three days.”

DeKalb, his troops and all those who fought and died on this land are why the Daughters of the American Revolution preserved this spot in 1909. And why Historic Camden Foundation protects our grounds and creates experiences to learn about their lives given to the American Revolutionary cause.

 

Let us consider those lives given as we join Major General Julian Burns in prayer.

Historic Camden Happenings

By: Virginia Zemp – Executive Director

The “New Normal” we are all experiencing has changed everything we do this year and will impact our plans for the near future. Preparing for the Visitor Center, Historic Camden Foundation had already started to make some exciting changes to share our colonial history and create a greater appreciation for America’s story.  

Our ability to show our buildings, experience the colonial way of life and engage the Revolutionary War story, continues to highlight an historic will to fight and survive.  Enhancing spaces with exhibits will allow visitors and locals alike to revisit the remarkable sites we protect. To meet the safety of staff and visitors, SC Department of Commerce Approval Process for Gatherings and Events provides a planning and protocol process, which Historic Camden Foundation will follow.  The City of Camden ordinance for masks and distancing will be adhered to on all Historic Camden properties.

Exhibits tell a deeper story with artifacts and living history, encouraging participation of visitors in Kershaw County’s extraordinary story.  In the Kershaw Cornwallis House, the exhibits are planned to be movable and retractable for rental and event opportunities. We have added artifact content to our guided tours.  Throughout August and September, the first floor features a Native American Exhibit loaned from the USC Native American Studies in Lancaster.

Share a Little of that Human Touch:  The Prehistory of South Carolina”

Discover over 12,000 years of Camden and South Carolina history beginning with the Paleoindian Period to the iconic Chiefdom of Cofitachequi. The exhibit displays decades of anthropological research and rare Native American artifacts. In addition, the Camden Archives have graciously loaned us their Native American artifacts from the “Collection of Lewis F. Anderson.” 

The exhibit was produced and funded by Humanities SC, USC Lancaster Office of the Dean, USC Office of the Vice President for Research, and USC Lancaster’s Native American Studies Center. Special thanks to Chris Judge of USC Lancaster as well as Katherine Richardson and Rickie Good of the Camden Archives. 

Historic Camden is a National Park Service Affiliated site, comprised of 100+ acres, much of which holds archaeological artifacts safely underground. We protect our spaces while continuing to encourage events, festivals and visitation as an economic development opportunity for the City. Under the current COVID guidelines, we will safely hold events and plan for the future, revising and pivoting as necessary to provide an enjoyable experience. Join us August 15th for the opening of our Joseph Kershaw Horticulture and Trade Program. 10am to 4pm to see how our spaces are being enhanced to tell your story.

A Staff Ride

**The following letter (bold/italicized) accompanies the article that follows**

Department of the Army

UNITED STATES ARMY CENTRAL  1 GABRESKI DRIVE

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, SC 29152

Staff Ride Participants

Welcome to USARCENT’s Battle of Camden Staff Ride.

This will be a terrific day as we all walk some hallowed and sacred ground. We will have time to reflect on the powerful events of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. This staff ride is a vehicle to deepen our understanding of strategic and operational challenges, to build our USARCENT team, and to explore the conditions of the counter insurgency.

We look forward to your insights and your thoughtful analysis of this pivotal engagement, as well as how we can apply lessons from our history to today’s fight. The attached Battle Book will give you the background necessary to understand this battle.

Please focus your thoughts and analysis and be prepared to discuss COIN doctrine as well as how our priorities relate to this and the current fight: Readiness, Protect the Force,

Communicate, Transitions. Also expect that you will be able to address issues relating to your directorate, for instance the G2 discuss the intelligence issues in a COIN fight, the G4 discuss logistics, the Surgeon discuss medical issues etc.

As we discuss these points, make sure you remember that staff rides give us a point of view of something important in history. To make the best use of history, we must learn the lessons and apply them—if applicable—to the situation we find ourselves in today.

I look forward to walking the ground at Camden with you, building our team, and discussing the challenges we face in the CENTCOM AOR.

Michael X. Garrett

Lieutenant General, U.S. Army

Commanding


HISTORIC CAMDEN FOUNDATION IS PROUD TO ASSIST TODAY’S MILITARY!

Excerpt from US Army Central BATTLE BOOK 9/27/2017 with permission:

This Staff Ride is a vehicle to deepen our understanding of strategic and operational challenges…

Precis (Overview):

Three years after Lexington and Concord, the American Revolution was at a stalemate. The British had the best trained and equipped Army in the world, but they were static in large cities with limited resources due to manpower shortages—the entire British Army only had 60k troops in 1778 and 1/2 of those were in the Colonies. Additionally, there was no joint command—naval and land forces operated independently. The government also had to deal with a huge budget deficit and divided political support. More importantly, France’s declaration of war in 1778 made the colonies an economy of force mission, secondary, particularly for the navy, to defending the West Indies and the home island. The British were undergoing American fatigue.

Hoping for a different outcome with a different approach, the British implemented a “Southern Strategy”: seizing the initiative in the Southern Colonies to capitalize on the supposed large population of Loyalists. The plan was to occupy Savanah, then Charleston, thus pacifying South Carolina and provoking the long-hoped for Loyalist uprising. Then maneuvering through North Carolina and Virginia, thus subduing the rebellion from South to North.

When Charleston SC succumbed to a siege in May 1780, the Brits captured the 5500 man Rebel Army—the greatest loss of the war. The rebellion was in disarray, on the verge of logistical collapse. Rebels across the state surrendered and all active resistance ended. However, after initially giving liberal parole, Lt. Gen. Clinton, Commander-in-Chief for North America, ordered all citizens to sign a loyalty oath and fight for the crown. Furthermore, he didn’t restore civil authorities, but installed a military government.

Clinton returned to New York City leaving his second in command, Lt. Gen. Cornwallis, with ~8,000 troops to occupy SC and GA as well as NC—total population of 500k and approximately the size of Iraq. The British/Loyalists quickly won a series of small battles, including a pursuit and “massacre” by their most aggressive and successful commander, Lt. Col. Tarleton. They occupied fortified outposts (Forward Operating Bases and Combat Outposts) along the coast from Savannah to Georgetown, and in an arc across central SC from Augusta to Camden.

Cornwallis led the occupation of Camden, then returned back to the main base at Charleston to command the Southern theater and attend to administrative duties. He left the capable Lord Rawdon in command of the interior posts. However, the British victories and occupation did not end the rebellion in South Carolina; instead their actions stirred up the ongoing brutal civil war between Loyalists and Rebels. Both sides employed information operations, and when the Rebels won several small battles, the rebellious spirit was kept alive and the Loyalist population was cowed into neutrality.

A small Continental Army force of 1,400 regulars was in Virginia moving south when Charleston fell, thus escaping that disaster. This force was both a dilemma and an opportunity for the British. As long as the rebels had a nucleus of regular troops, the occupied areas could never be properly garrisoned or pacified as British logistics and lines of communication remained a weakness throughout the campaign. Conversely, the Rebel army was a center of gravity that the British regulars were best suited to defeat.

Rebel Maj. Gen. Gates assumed command of the “Army of the South” in late July, and this force became the nucleus of a 4,000 man militia and Continental army. Within a week, Gates, ignoring advice from subordinates who knew the area of operations, immediately began marching into SC via a direct, unsustainable route, preparing to fight conventional forces in a conventional manner using mostly irregular troops.

Moreover, Gates ignored readiness, bungled transitions, communicated poorly, disregarded logistics, snubbed cavalry, and marginalized partisans. As his precipitous flight from the battlefield would show, he also lacked physical courage. All this contributed to the complete defeat at Camden, the second largest rebel defeat of the war, and the second loss of an army in SC in three months.

The Battle of Camden marked the high water mark for the British in the South. At this point, there was no longer any rebel Army in the South (only 700 rebel soldiers were able to regroup in NC after the battle), and Brits seemed to control the entire state. However, only one year after this conventional victory, the Rebels would engage again at Camden, the British would have compressed all forces remaining in SC into Charleston, and Cornwallis would be under siege at Yorktown.

Preserving Camden Connections

By Virginia Zemp

Executive Director – Historic Camden

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Pine Forest, image from HCF

Connected to Camden by DNA, terra ferma or physical presence, my life and heart are interwoven with yours. I have enjoyed being welcomed home- when in fact I have been a transient visitor until now. At the same time, the care I have for this piece of ground is more powerful than I realized.

How each of us are connected to this place provides strings of its relevance. I have been encouraged and energized by stories involving peoples from so many different areas of the world. Either way our connections flow, they are all relevant to the story of this place.

Kershaw County and the City of Camden are leading a pathway for telling our cultural and historical story. Cultural organizations, along with Historic Camden, and individual citizens add unique pictures. Together, we want to engage ourselves and visitors in the important role we have played in our families, our towns, the community and United States history. Envisioning and preserving these roles is the mission of our generation!

Historic Camden will be enhancing our story of backcountry settlement, the hardships and triumphs of indigenous peoples and immigrant colonists. These connections provide teaching opportunities in perseverance and critical thinking. Our historic reactions to nature, disease and societal change, relate a timeline of why South Carolina has grown to become the cultural patchwork it is today.

Kershaw & Company Mercantile Mark, image from HCF.

Preservation of encounters along the pathway of the Great Wagon Road, connects Camden to the nation’s story. The wealth of information on colonial trade and harnessing natural resources continues to be more accessible through records and technology. These records enrich the value of learning and enhance our preservation efforts. Historic Camden’s archaeology and architectural assets provide context to those written records.

The recent talk at the Robert Mills Courthouse, “Why is the American Revolution Still Relevant” was held in conjunction with our 49th Annual Rev. War Field Days. Our uniquely Camden story continues to be significant because as noted in the introduction to the talk, “ In 1775, all people on this earth were subjects. Whether to a czar, a czarina, king, queen, duke, duchess or doge, every mere citizen was a subject”. As we move into our 50th Anniversary, highlighting the spirit of liberty, through preservation efforts, continues to be the goal of the Historic Camden Foundation.

Colonial flags at Battle of Camden Commemoration, image from HCF ***Permission granted to use son in this picture.

HCF Is Vested In The Battle Of Camden Site and City Of Camden Visitors Center

By Virginia Zemp

Executive Director – Historic Camden

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: We mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor…

HCF IS VESTED IN THE BATTLE OF CAMDEN SITE and CITY OF CAMDEN VISITORS CENTER

Doug Bostick is the Executive Director of the South Carolina Battleground Trust. He has worked for 25+ years to mark, preserve and interpret South Carolina’s hallowed grounds reflecting battles fought in both the American Civil War and the American Revolutionary War. Historic Camden Foundation caught up with Doug on the Liberty Trail during their newly announced Battle of Hanging Rock initiative.

  • Your work on the SC Revolutionary War battlegrounds has moved into a new, exciting and accessible phase for the Liberty Trail- How will the technology help engage visitors?

DB: The South Carolina Liberty Trail will utilize technology in a variety of ways. First, on the battlefields itself, we will utilize on-site interpretive signage such as the signs that currently mark the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill. Additionally, on-site interpretation will be enhanced by cutting-edge digital offering. Some battlefields will include augmented reality interpretations where visitors can “see” the battle. Other battlefields will use GPS-triggered beacons to offer audio presentations of the personal stories of combatants.

All of the sites on the Liberty Trail will be connected by an engaging interactive mobile tour APP that will connect all of our battlefields. The APP will offer driving directions, itinerary-building features, dining and lodging options, and recommend other nearby historic sites, recreational and cultural activities.

2) I am fascinated with the archaeology and science behind your research on these sites- Tell us about your comparison of historical maps to current conditions?

DB: Historic maps are very helpful in our research, but we augment these resources with modern technology that allows us to confirm the maps and, in some cases, correct the maps. Battlefield archaeology allows us to confirm the battlefield footprint and even determine where each army stood or advanced by where they were shooting. Other artifacts allow us to confirm or document the various regiments that were engaged.

LiDAR is a near infrared light technology that provides us with a great look at the raw topography of the land unencumbered by trees and underbrush. These surveys allow us to spot historic roadbeds and see geographic features often written about in contemporary battlefield reports.

GZ: There are so many discoveries to be found all over the state. Thank you for educating us in the possibilities.

3) The Battle of Camden site preservation started in 1909 by the DAR with the placement of the DeKalb Monument. The opportunities SCBT and ABT have invested with Historic Camden’s 700 acres will give an in-depth look at this turning point in the Revolutionary War-  Give us a glimpse of some of the panel stories.

DB: In a broad view, Camden was a devastating defeat for the Patriot cause, but the response to this loss created an important turning point in the war. Patriots lost many good men in this battle, but none were more keenly felt than the loss of Baron de Kalb. The upcoming battlefield interpretation will, in part, focus on his service to the cause of Liberty. Additionally, we have focused much of our time in documenting the stories of individual participants, both Patriot and British, in the battle. Traditionally, battle interpretation focuses on the officers and commanders. While we will certainly interpret the decision-makers, we are also readily focusing on the junior officers, the sergeants, the privates, and the militia that served on both sides. There is a wealth of personal stories related to the Battle of Camden that has survived.

4) The new Visitors Center on Broad Street will guide visitors to the battle site and add engagement of the Revolutionary War Southern Campaign. How will this new exhibit interface with the statewide Liberty Trail as well as encourage tourism in Kershaw County?

DB: The new Visitors Center will serve as a Gateway to not only the Battle of Camden and the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, but to the entire Liberty Trail. We are working on a key exhibit within the Center that will propel visitors to visit the battlefield itself. Once they visit the battlefield site, an effective combination of traditional interpretive signage and stories delivered through new technologies will provide visitors with a stimulating and engaging experience.

GZ: The Kershaw Cornwallis House and grounds have their own unique story to tell with regard to colonial trade and Rev War military strategy.  HCF looks forward to engaging the importance of our location’s impact on the story of Kershaw County.

5) The stories of those who fought and died in Camden are integral to the South Carolina Revolutionary War story and the national story of independence. How will our collaborative efforts get these stories out for the 250th Anniversary?

DB: We are focusing on a broad cross-section of stories of the people tied to this battle … a British sergeant in the 23rd Regiment of Foot who was captured by General Gates’ men at Saratoga, escaped, and then faced Gates again at Camden with much different results. We will tell the stories of multiple African-American soldiers in the North Carolina militia; the stories of women driving the wagons in the Quartermaster corps; soldiers who lost their lives in the battle and others who were captured and served long terms as prisoners-of-war in brutal conditions. There is also a little understood story of Americans fighting Americans. Many of the “British” troops at the Battle of Camden were actually American-born Provincial soldiers choosing to fight for the King.

GZ: HCF has added a visual display of flags of the 13 colonies, flying at the front entranceway to the main office.  This display is to remind passersby that the 7000 individuals who stood on that hallowed ground on August 16, 1780 came from all over the colonies and the world. Some fought as loyalists, some as patriots, many didn’t fight but attended to their troops. Their stories are intertwined forever in the American story of liberty.

GZ: Thank you Doug, the SC Battleground Trust and the American Battlefield Trust for celebrating our extraordinary story with us!

Recollections Add Depth To History

By Virginia Zemp

Executive Director – Historic Camden

RECOLLECTIONS ADD DEPTH TO HISTORY

Scholars study archival records to develop the history of an event or place.  In South Carolina, we are fortunate to have saved, preserved and made accessible an immense number of records- government, corporate and personal! These records provide details which ultimately are reviewed in new light as each generation considers their impact on current discussions.

Repositories like Camden Archives and Museum; SC Archives and History Department; The South Caroliniana Library; SC Historical Society, continue to protect our Revolutionary War veteran stories. These papers and letters are the basis for Historic Camden’s exhibits and are integral to the building of a narrative for the Battle of Camden site.

Thomas Pinckney, injured at the Battle of Camden wrote the following:

I will first notice; which is that the movement in the night of 15th of August was not made with the intention of attacking the enemy, but for the purpose of occupying a strong position so near him as to confine his operations, to cut off his supplies of Provisions, from the upper parts of the Wateree & Pedee
Rivers, & to harass him with detachments of light Troops, & to oblige him either to retreat or to come out & attack us upon our own ground, in a situation where the Militia which constituted our principal numerical force, might act to the best advantage.
THOMAS PINCKNEY LETTER TO WILLIAM JOHNSON; SC Historical Magazine, Vol. X, No. 8 (August 1886), pp. 244-253.

Published materials and transcribed records form a pathway to discover individual stories. The palisade wall surrounding the town in 1780 as well as the redoubt positions were detailed in records of the Continental Congress.  Archaeology studies verified the accuracy of this drawing.

IMAGE: Plan of Camden, May 12, 1781, adapted from the Nathaniel Greene Papers, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, Washington DC- additionally showing HCF properties in 2018..

Thank You to these important institutions and their resources for helping Historic Camden Foundation tell the unique story of Kershaw County.

Resources of quality information are discoverable through published books and treatises as well as internet sources. www.carolana.com/SC/Revolution/ has compiled information on The Camden District Regiment of Militia, established February 1775, noting Commanders, Miscellaneous Players and Known Privates.  You can discover a synopsis of where and when they fought.

 

The Camden District Regiment of Militia

Month & Year Established: February 1775

Commanders: Col. Richard Richardson, Col. Joseph Kershaw,

Col. Thomas Taylor

Misc. Players: Jacob Bethany – Commissary

Jesse Goodwyn – Commissary

John Hamilton – Commissary

William Meyers – Asst. Commissary

Isaac Raiford – Comm. General

Timothy Rives – Commissary

Henry Sanders – Commissary

John Wyche – Asst. Commissary

Today’s Veteran recollections are being saved!

Under the same premise that individual stories are imperative to a better understanding of history, the United States Congress created the Veterans History Project (VHP) in 2000 as part of the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. VHP collects, preserves and makes accessible the firsthand remembrances of U.S. military veterans from World War I through the more recent conflicts.

Beginning in February, Historic Camden Foundation will collaborate with the National Society of the Colonial Dames in South Carolina (NSCDSC) and VHP to begin taking oral histories of our local veterans.  The NSCDSC will provide volunteers to video the discussions and coordinate the proper methods for Library of Congress inclusion.  Historic Camden Foundation is proud to support this effort on its site. For further information, please contact Virginia Zemp at 803-432-9841.

Camden Militia 1775- Known Privates / Fifers / Drummers / Etc. – Captain Unknown:  Andrew Allison; Edward Andrews; George Antse; John Armstrong- Wagon Master William Ashley;

John Baker; John Barnet; Andrew Barnett; Andrew Baskin; Ulrick Beard; Benedict Best; John Blake; William Boyd; Joseph Bradley; William Brewer; David Brown; Isaac Busby; Jasper Bush;

Greenberry Caps; Henry Cato; Reuben Cook; Robert Cook; Adam Coon; Lewis Coon; Lot Cornelius; John Countryman; Abiah Croft; Godfrey Cromer; Jacob Cromer; William Croskry; Peter Curry;

Henry Dancer; William Daniel; George Davidson; Joseph Davies; Reynolds Dill; Robert Duke;Samuel Dunlap;

Henry Eady; John Elder; Matthias Elmore; Josiah Evans; Caspar Faust, Jr.; John Faust; Richard Featherston; Casper Foust; Casper Foust, Jr.; William Foust; John Funderbuck;

Thomas Gaston; James Gibson; John Gillespie; John Glazier; Howell Goodwyn; Jesse Goodwyn;  William Goodwyn;

Henry Hagood; Lewis Hagood; John Hamilton; Adam Hamiter; John Harbirt; Victor Harris; John Harvison; Arthur Hicklin; John Hicklin; William Hirons; Thomas Hodge; Archibald Hood; James Hood; Daniel Horton; Henry Horton; John Horton; James Howard; Arthur Howell; Matthew Howell; William Howell;  James Hoy;

John Ingram; William Ingram; John Jackson; Barnet Johnston; David Johnston; John Jones; Samuel Jones;

Peter Kelly; David Kennedy; John Kennington; John Killingsworth; Berry King; George King; John King -Wagoner Christian Kinsler; William Kirkland; Zachariah Kirkland; Robert Kirkpatrick;

John Lake; Titus Lang; Nicholas Latner; Samuel Littlejohn;

Robert Marshall; Patrick McDonald; Peter McGrew; Wright McLemore; Thomas McMeans; George McWhorter; Buckner Miles; William Miller; Daniel Monaghan; John Jett Mothershead; Michael Muckenfuss; John Murff; David Myars;

Edward Narramore; John Nealins; William Nealins; William Nettles; John Nisbett; William Nisbett; William Norris – Wagoner; William Owens; John Parr; James Pearson; Noah Phelps; Barnaby McKinney Pope;

Dennis Quinlin; Charle Raley, Jr.; Henry Rivers; Green Rives; Henry Rives; John Rives; William Rives; Thomas Roach; William Robertson; Nicholas Robinson – Wagoner; Hugh Rodgers; William Rolleson – Wagoner; Moses Ross;

John Salisbury; Pettigrew Salisbury; Andrew Sanders; Samuel Sealy;  Howell Sellers; George Smith; Stephen Smith; John Snelling; Charles Spradley; Reuben Starke; Kemp T. Strother;

John Taylor; Jacob Theus; Williamson Threewits; Jesse Tillman; John Trusdale; Jacob Turnipseed;  John Turnipseed;

Jonathan Welsh; William Welsh; Joseph West; Nathan White; Joseph Whitener – Express Rider; Edward Williams – Express Rider; John Williams; Rednal Williams; Rolling Williamson; Robert Willis; Thomas Wise; Drury Wyche; John Wyche;  George Yarborough; Lewis Yarborough; William Yarboro.