The Battle of Camden
The battle of Camden, South Carolina was a stunning defeat for the American Army. However the battle of Camden did effectively remove the politically appointed General Hortio Gates, and place the new General Nathaniel Greene, a man Washington had hoped would replace him should anything befall the Commander in Chief.
Horatio Gates, the victor of Saratoga, had assumed command of the Army in the South, and things were going poorly. Gates a political appointee had little appreciation for the depravity and poor condition of the troops in the south. In addition, Gates also had a false sense of confidence when meeting the enemy.
Lord Cornwallis, had occupied Camden, South Carolina, a town thus named for Charles Pratt, Lord Camden. After gaining initial control of the seaports and the coastal towns (as with the capture of Savannah, and Charleston), the British forces moved into the “backwater towns” establishing a series of outposts, and reestablishing British rule. Lord Rawdon was to establish strong outposts at Camden, Cheraw, Hanging Rock, and Rocky Mount.
Lord Cornwallis, recalling his other troops from their outpost has assembled a garrison force of 2,200. He has also occupied the home of the local South Carolina Militia Col. J. Kershaw. His troops include the famed Tarlton legion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, a Riding Regiment, and Highlanders, all battle tested and strong.
Gates continues to recruit troops, with incentives of Rum for the troops, but dysentery and illness is prevent among the troops. When they arrive there is no rum, but only molasses, which makes the situation only worse. Gates however figuring that he has numerical superiority with his 7,000 troops (but he is mistaken, he has only 4100), figures he will engage Cornwallis. His aide pleads with him not to fight, as only 1/2 are able to fight at all.
On the 16th of August, Gates starts to march his troops down the road into town. At 02:30Hrs, the first shots of the battle are fired. Things are a bit confused so both sides retire on their ground, and await daylight.
Gates positioned his militia, 80% of them untested in battle, opposite the British seasoned regulars. He then placed his regular Marylanders and Delaware Continentals on the right, with a small detachment of Marylanders in reserve. Gates then positions himself in the rear, and waits.
The Virginia militia (some 50 volunteers) advance, and are immediately routed, running immediately to the rear. Seeing the running of their fellow militia, the North Carolina militia joins suit, leaving the Marylanders with no flank support.
The British eyeing the bigger prize, lets the militia run, and rolls up the Maryland flank. The British, then focus their attention to the Maryland reserves.
General Johann De Kalb (Baron De Kalb), and his seasoned Maryland line stood fast against the British troops lead by Lord Rawdon. De Kalb had suffered several wounds as well as the loss of his horse, but did not withdrawal or retreat. The Americans attacked from both flanks and in front, have no chance. De Kalb suffers several gunshot wounds and saber cuts, and is mortally wounded. Only a small number of Delaware and Maryland troops manage to retreat. They head to Hillsboro, but of the 4100, less that 700 make it to safety. 800 to 900 Americans are killed, and 1000 taken prisoner.
The British however have minor losses, 68 killed and 350 wounded.
As to General Gates, after his left wing falls, the turns to the rear and flees. The rides for 3 days before finally resting, in Hillsboro.