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!