The Historic Camden Foundation is a private 501(c)3 non-profit museum whose mission is to protect, educate, and celebrate Camden’s extraordinary Colonial and Revolutionary War history.

Our 107 acres sit atop the original 18th-century property of the city’s founder Joseph Kershaw and the fortified Revolutionary War-era town occupied by British General Cornwallis and Lord Rawdon’s men from 1780-81. Visit the site to learn about the prolific Kershaw, Camden’s importance to the war’s Southern Campaigns, and Colonial life in the backcountry. Explore the reconstructed Kershaw-Cornwallis House and recently rehabilitated c. 1800 McCaa’s Tavern, as well as exhibits in other period structures. Join us for tours, programs, and events! See our Admission & Tours page and our events calendar to plan your trip.

HISTORIC CAMDEN EXCHANGE

Stop by the Historic Camden Gift Shop to shop these products and more!

South Carolina Irish by Arthur Mitchell

Andrew Jackson by Sean Wilentz

Who Was Andrew Jackson? by Douglas Yacka

Gadsden flag

Betsy Ross flag

Liberty flag

Camden Battlefield and Longleaf Pine Preserve

Historic Camden is excited to announce that we have recently assumed ownership of 476 acres of the Battlefield of Camden. The Battlefield is hallowed ground for the hundreds of men who died in this significant battle that took place August 16, 1780. Historic Camden is dedicated to telling the story of this fascinating battle, preserving and studying the archaeological evidence of the site, restoring the Longleaf Pine forest that existed during the 18th century, and providing a space for a variety of outdoor recreational activities. Visit the Camden Battlefield page for more information!     

Both the original Historic Camden campus and the Battlefield are on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic Camden is a National Park Service affiliate.

*clicking the Pine Swag image will open the order form

Latest News

Update on the Historic Camden Horticulture and Trade Program

By:  Southwick C Briggs II

Founder:  Hemp Earth & Lime Co & CI Labor Readiness Training Co.

The City of Camden has a long history of brickmaking and now visitors to Historic Camden will be able to get their hands and feet muddy making bricks at the new colonial brickyard.  The brickyard is just the first step in a series of trade and horticultural hands-on exhibits designed to understand, interpret and demonstrate the tools and manufacturing processes used within the context of an 18th century non-plantation, semi-subsistence society like the colonial town of Camden.  Colonel Camden was the only multi-functioning, South Carolina, inland settlement during the Colonial period.

Hand-making bricks is just the beginning of the story for visitors to the brickyard.  The brickyard will be hosting all kinds of interesting hands-on workshops, starting in early July, with a 2-day fun “Do it Yourself” workshop on how to build an 18th century wood-fired earthen oven. Great for making pizza!  The brickyard will also be available on Friday evenings for fun social and team building events.

Visitors to the new colonial brickyard this summer will also have an opportunity see how relevant the past is to properly train young men and women for the future.  Journeyman Richard French has spent more than twenty years working as a highly paid refractory mason, working all over North America.  This summer French will be spending six weeks at Historic Camden’s new colonial brickyard passing along his knowledge of bricklaying and refractory masonry to young men and women taking their first steps as apprentice bricklayers.

As French explained on a recent visit to Historic Camden, “Bricklaying and refractory masonry are ancient professions passed down from one generation to another through a formal apprenticeship. The basic bricklaying skills I learned at the International Masonry Institute over 20-years ago and am now passing on to a new generation of bricklayers are the same skills taught over 250 years ago in colonial Camden.

French feels the advantage of a 21st century pre-apprentice bricklayers program being taught at Historic Camden’s new colonial brickyard, is that student will be exposed to the history and fundamentals of brickmaking, bricklaying and refractory masonry in its purest form.  Something he wished he had experienced as a young apprentice.

The pre-apprentice readiness training program was created by Historic Camden to provide underemployed and unemployed young men and women, that have graduated from youth development programs like “YouthBuild”, with the opportunity to work for large commercial and industrial companies as apprentice bricklayers or certified support labor at a living wage with ample opportunity for advancement within those companies.

The new colonial brickyard is just the first step in a series of trade and horticultural hands-on exhibits coming to Historic Camden.  For example, in the near future, a portion of the Bradley house will be transformed into an 18th century potworks throwing room displaying a working reproduction of an 18th century Staffordshire potter’s wheel, that would have been used by John Bartlam, a Staffordshire master potter from England.  Bartlam moved to Camden in 1772 and was the first potter in Colonial America to manufacture porcelain.

Demonstration and workshops will be offered by Marti Wallace, a local Camden art teacher and potter.  And with the help our new colonial brickyard pre-apprentice masonry students we will be building a reproduction of an 18th century bottle kiln which would have been used by John Bartlam to wood-fire is pottery.

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.

Camden’s Roots: A Look Back At The Earliest Years

By Lance Player

Staff Member – Historic Camden

The Catawba and Wateree River Basins

Many people are aware of Kershaw County’s vast and significant history, but what they may not know is how far back that history actually extends. Camden is often cited for its pivotal role in America’s infancy, playing host to a variety of key events. In 1730, upon the request of King George II, Governor Robert Johnson proposed the Township Act. This act, put into effect by the Colonial government, called for the establishment of eleven townships throughout South Carolina’s interior. Soon after, the Fredericksburg Township (now Camden) was established and was situated along the Wateree river. It wouldn’t take long before seven families took offers of land grants, making them Camden’s first settlers but not the area’s earliest inhabitants.

One of the famed Adamson Mounds

One of the famed Adamson Mounds

Archaeological evidence confirms that people inhabited Kershaw County dating back roughly 12,000 years. The earliest people-group, the Paleo-Indians, were a group of hunter gatherers. They left behind a significant number of projectile points, common knives and scrapers, along with other valuable aritifacts. In the period that followed came the Archaic Indians, some 8,000 years ago. An innovative people, they designed various advanced tools and weapons such as the atlatl. Around 5000 B.C. people began to place more focus on horticulture, thus gaining prominence. This change came with the introduction of the Woodland Indians and their shift towards greater stability and more permanent settlements. Then, around 950 C.E. a new group emerged, the Mississippian Indians. A people-group originally indigenous to the west, they relocated, settling throughout areas in the east. Among those areas was the Wateree River Valley in Kershaw County. There, they built famed mounds such as the Chesnut and Adamson mounds, which present-day scholars suggest belonged to the powerful chiefdom of Cofitachequi.

Hernando de Soto

In May of 1539, Spanish Conquistador, Hernando de Soto began his exploration of the Southeast region of the United states in what is now known as Florida. De Soto was contracted by the King of Spain to explore and determine areas suited for settling. A year later, during his exploration of Florida, he heard rumors of gold and silver further north. With this newfound information he would travel north into what we now know as South Carolina. His journey led him into what is present-day Camden, where he had hoped to find gold, silver and other riches. Instead, he encountered the Cofitachequi, who were hospitable and gifted de Soto with food aplenty and freshwater pearls. Unfortunately, De Soto became greedy and took more pearls and then kidnapped their leader, the lady of Cofitachequi. The leader would find herself fortunate, as she managed to escape captivity. Though she escaped, she did not escape alone, and would flee with an African slave who was a member of de Soto’s expedition and is now sometimes referred to as her husband. De Soto would continue his expedition, traveling through the Southeast before falling ill and dying in Mississippi in 1542. He would be succeeded by Louis de Moscolo, who would lead the remaining members of the expedition into Mexico in 1543 where their journey would reach its end.

Much of Camden and Kershaw County’s prestigious and storied history was shaped by its early inhabitants and the events that took place. While it may be true that Camden is often looked upon as a Colonial town, it is much more than that. Kershaw County is host to a multitude of events, people and locations that culminate in a history that reaches back in time almost 12,000 years. While a great deal has been uncovered, one can imagine what we have yet to discover. You may look around and set your eyes upon history that spans thousands of years and a number of bygone periods, but often it is what lies beneath our feet that can be the most awe-inspiring.

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