BATTLE OF CAMDEN, SYNOPSIS
by Charles Baxley
The Night Battle
On the night of August 15, 1780, the Southern Army under the command of Major General Horatio Gates left Henry Rugeley's residence headed south on the Old Waxhaw Road. At 2:30 AM the American Army met the British Army eight-tenths mile North of Gum Swamp. British Southern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis had arrived in Col. Lord Francis Rawdon's camp at Camden, South Carolina on August 13th to lead the British Army to battle. A short night battle was fought under a full moon and both sides pulled back.
The Day Battle
At dawn the ranks were in place and the battle commenced again. On the American left was Col. Charles Armand's Horsemen, Lt. Col. Charles Porterfield's Light Infantry, Virginia Militia led by B. Gen. Edward Stevens, and near the center of the road, N.C. Militia commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Caswell. On the American right, under the command of Major Gen. Baron de Kalb were the Delaware Regiment led by Lt. Col. David Vaughan near the road, and spread out to the far right, 2d Maryland Continentals under B. Gen. Mordacai Gist. The 1st Maryland Rgt. under B. Gen. William Smallwood was in reserve at the rear on both sides of the Old Waxhaw Road. The American Army had about twenty three hundred men spread across the sand facing about two thousand well-drilled soldiers of the British Army. The British right, under Lt. Col. James Webster, faced the American left with the Light Infantry near the swamp, the 23rd Reg. and near the road, the 33rd Reg., Lt. Col. Banastare Tarleton's British Legion Cavalry and half of the 71st Reg. were on the right of the road in reserve. Facing the American right, on the British left, were Rawdon's Volunteers of Ireland near the road, Tarleton's Infantry and the Royal N .C. Regiment (Loyalist) under Hamilton. Bryan's N. C. (Loyalist) Volunteers and the other half of the 71st Reg. were in reserve to the rear. Col. Lord Francis Rawdon-Hastings commanded the British left.
At first light, the American cannons opened and the British 33rd Regiment advanced into the Patriot militia with bayonets fixed. Most of the American militiamen on the American left flank from North Carolina and Virginia broke their positions and fled the battlefield. DeKalb's Continentals advances and pushed back the Loyalist Provincial troops, but the failure of the American left soon flanked DeKalb and forced the Continental's retreat. Gen. Gates joined in the flight and did not stop until he reached Charlotte. Some of the NC Militia remained and First Maryland moved to the far left through the retreating ranks and advanced engaging the British right. The American right led by Baron de Kalb held the hill and fought until they were either captured or forced from the field. The American right advanced through the Loyalists before they were surrounded by most of the British Army. A fighting retreat was made across a narrow stream to the rear where Baron Dekalb and some of his brave Continental troops made a final stand. Baron de Kalb received eleven wounds by musket and bayonets and died in Camden three days later.
The Battle of Camden was a tremendous field defeat for Gates' "Grand Army" by the British Southern Army. In writing of the Battle of Camden, Cornwallis stated that above 1,000 rebels were killed and wounded, and about 800 taken prisoners; that his army captured seven pieces of brass cannon, all the enemy ammunition, wagons, a great number of arms, and 130 baggage wagons; "in short, there never was a more complete victory." The British loss was reported as 300 killed and wounded, chiefly of the Thirty-third regiment and the Volunteers of Ireland. Among the Americans wounded were Major General Baron De Kalb and Brigadier General Rutherford. Baron De Kalb died of his wounds.
Source: CBB cd