As taken from John Robert Shaw: An Autobiography of Thirty Years, 1777-1807 Edited by Oressa Teagarden. Ohio University Press, Athens 1992. Chapter 2, pp-30-32We remained at Monk's Corner until the capitulation of general Lincoln, after which we marched for Camden under the command of general Cornwallis and Lord Rawdon, with 1,500 effective infantry and 150 cavalry. When we arrived at Camden, a detachment was ordered to Ninety Six; but it fell to my lot to continue to Camden, where I fell sick for the first and last time…
While we continued at Camden we fared pretty well; Only General Gates advanced to disturb our repose; and having encamped at a place called Ruggles, about 13 miles from Camden, he sent us word that "he would eat his dinner in Camden or in hell the next day." His forces were vastly superior to ours, at least in numbers, being computed at 5,000 to 6,000 men; the greater number of these consisted of militia, on whom little dependence could be placed.
Having received intelligence that general Gates had encamped in a bad situation, Lord Cornwallis mustered his troops and harangued them in words nearly to this effect
Now my brave soldiers, now an opportunity is offered for displaying your valor, and sustaining the glory of British arms; -- all you who are willing to face your enemies; -- all you who are ambitious of military fame stand forward; for there are eight or ten to one coming against [us]; let the men who cannot bear the smell of gunpowder stand back and all you who are determined to conquer or die turn out.Accordingly we all turned out except a few who were left to guard the sick and military stores. We marched out of Camden about 10 o'clock at night, August 15, 1780; in being the intention of our general to surprise the enemy in his quarters at Ruggles.
But in this we were disappointed, for Gen. Gates had set out about the same hour, in hopes to surprise us at Camden. We came up with their advanced party about seven miles from Camden, when the light troops and guards advanced on each side necessarily engaged each other in the dark. In this blind encounter, the American cavalry being driven back in the van, occasioned some disorder in their ranks; and having thus repelled them, we were eager for general engagement; but Lord Cornwallis finding the enemy were on bad ground, was unwilling to hazard in the dark the advantages which their situation would afford him in the light.
We then lay on our arms until daybreak, when both armies formed their lines, and approached within 100 yards of each other, and the Americans gave the first fire, which killed and wounded nearly one half of our number. We returned the fire and immediately charged them with the bayonet. The action became general along the lines, and was supported with great obstinacy. The haziness of the morning prevented the ascent of the smoke, which occasioned such a thick cloud that it was difficult to observe the effects of a well supported fire on both sides.
It was discoverable, however, that the British troops were pushing forward, and the Americans giving way; and after an obstinate resistance, for about three quarters of an hour, the latter were thrown into confusion. We then opened to the right and left and let Tarleton's light horse pass through — Victory declared in our favor.
We took 900 prisoners and more are said to have been killed and wounded, but the precise number probably never ascertained. All their artillery amounting to 10 or 11 brass field pieces, with about 2,000 stand of arms, six stands of colors and all their baggage wagons, to the number of 150, fell into our hands. - The whole body of militia (which constituted, as I observed, the greater part of General Gates force) with the exception of only one North Carolina regiment, took to their heels the first fire, and though their general did all in his power to rally the, he could not persuade them to make a single stand, and so getting to the woods as fast as they could, they totally dispersed, leaving the continental regular troops to oppose the whole force of the British army.
It was a hard-fought battle, and the victory not very cheaply purchased on the side of the British; for even in one regiment (the 33d to which I belonged) not less than 116 out of 240 were killed and wounded. The whole loss may be estimated between 300 and 400 killed, wounded, and missing; among these were several brave officers.