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Camden Battlefield Site

The Battle of Camden took place on 16 August 1780, about six miles north of the modern-day City of Camden, South Carolina.  Many historians consider this battle to be the worst defeat ever suffered by an American Army.

The British forces were commanded by Earl Cornwallis and numbered slightly over 2100 men.  All of the British troops were seasoned veterans.  In addition to Cornwallis, British leadership included two excellent wing commanders, Lord Rawdon and Lt. Colonel James Webster.  Also, the British cavalry force consisted of the entire British Legion, commanded by the much feared Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

The American forces were commanded by General Horatio Gates and numbered in excess of 4100 men, of whom about 1800 were militia (mostly from North Carolina and Virginia).  The core of Gate's army consisted of about 1400 troops, mostly Continentals, commanded by the Baron de Kalb.

During the first part of the battle both sides held their ground reasonably well.  However, suddenly the Virginia militia panicked and fled the field, followed closely by the North Carolina Militia.  Even General Gates left the field soon after the militia departed.  Only the American Continentals continued to fight, led by the indomitable de Kalb.  However, gradually the troops of Rawdon and Webster forced the Americans to give way.  At the end of the battle, de Kalb was mortally wounded and died three days later in the City of Camden.

American losses were substantial.  Of the 4100 troops who began the battle, only 700 troops rejoined General Gates at his new headquarters in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  Over 1000 Americans died in the battle and most of rest were wounded or just simply deserted and went home.  Conversely, the British losses were relatively light - 68 killed and 256 wounded.

As you might expect, since this was an American defeat, there is no elaborate visitors center, building reconstructions or park walking trails complete with signs and placards.  The battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens were much smaller affairs but were American victories - hence the National Park Service has established very elaborate visitors facilities at those sites.

The only official recognition given the disastrous Battle of Camden is a small, isolated roadside affair containing three small markers!

 

Site of the Battle of Camden - showing two of the three markers!

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