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Battle Of Camden

August 1780

Death of General De Kalb

Battle of Camden - A Klos Family Project - Revolutionary War General

When Cornwallis heard news of the gathering storm on the borders of South Carolina, he decided to join Lord Rawdon, who was stationed at Camden. He arrived there 13 August, and found to his dismay that many of the British troops were ill, and the whole force would amount to but little, he therefore planned to march forward and meet General Gates before the arrival of the Virginia troops, which were known to be advancing. 

General Gates was joined by Kalb, who commanded the Delaware and Maryland forces, and they decided to attack Camden. While the American army was approaching, Cornwallis struck his tents and marched toward Gugeley's. Neither party was aware of the close proximity of its opponent until the advanced guards met, about two o'clock in the morning. 

In the battle that ensued soon after sunrise, Kalb commanded on the American right and was driving his adversary, Lord Rawdon, before him, when the defeat of our left wing exposed his flank and rear to the assaults of Webster and Tarleton. Kalb was thus attacked on all sides, but remained during the whole encounter, fighting bravely to the last. Bareheaded and dismounted, with sword in hand, he engaged in one personal encounter after another, encouraging his men with his voice as well as his example, till he had received eleven wounds. His lieutenant, Hu Buysson, saved him from instant death, he died three days afterward, and was buried at Camden. 


From Rivington New York Gazette, of May 31.

NEW YORK, May 31.

The following particulars of the operations of the Royal Army before Charlestown, South Carolina, are extracted from a letter received by his Majestyship the Iris, from an officer of rank, dated May 14, which was two days after the garrison surrendered to General Sir Henry Clinton.

"The Roebuck, commanded by Sir Andrew S. Hammond, with Admiral Arbuthnot flag flying, led, and of course received the chief part of the raking fire in passing Sullivan Island. The ships got so near before the rebels perceived the Admiral intentions, that it was astonishing with what little injury they passed. Twenty seven killed and wounded was the whole loss of the squadron.

"The army carried on their approaches through the canal, first abbatis and even to the foot of their left work; when every thing in preparation for a storm, and the ships almost in motion, the enemy averted the intended blow by a letter from General Lincoln, acquainting Sir Henry Clinton that he would accept the terms he had two days before rejected.

"The Continental troops are prisoners, and the militia and inhabitants prisoners on parole, and to return to their own homes. The property of the inhabitants in town secured to them, but all the vessels at the wharfs are forfeited. The Providence, Boston and Ranger, three Continental frigates are of the number, a French frigate called the Adventure, and a number of other vessels, such as brigs, gallies, &c. have fallen with the town.

"Previous to the taking the town, information was received that so many drafts had been made from Sullivan Island, that the garrison was reduced to 200 men. The sort is so perfectly impregnable to ships, that the Admiral determined to attack it by storm with the seamen and marines. Two hundred men were landed in the night on the east end of the island, who took possession of an old redoubt, the same number were to be conveyed in boats from Mount Pleasant, under cover of the fire of the ships, when the whole being ready, and the ships in motion, the fort surrendered, the garrison became prisoners of war; this service hastened and brought on the surrender of the town four days after.

"Lord Cornwallis with the army will march tomorrow for Camden, and so on to the northward, and from what we learn of the disposition of the inhabitants, if the war is prosecuted with vigor in these southern colonies, rebellion will suffer a severe shock in the course of this summer."

Further particulars relating to the conquest of Charles Town, (the capital of South Carolina) received from his Majesty ship Iris, Capt. Hawker.

The garrison of Charlestown surrendered prisoners of war on the 12th May: The private property was allowed to be secure, except the shipping. The militia, who had taken the oaths of allegiance to the king, `tis said, went with Earl Cornwallis, for Camden. The garrison of Sullivan island being summoned by Capt. Charles Hudson, (Commander of his Majesty ship Richmond, with a body of seamen and marines, on the 8th of May) to surrender Fort Moultrie: The Commandant answered, it should be defended to the last extremity; but the officer carrying the refusal had proceeded but a little way on his return, when he was called back and told, that the storm which was threatened by Capt. Hudson most prove a very serious affair, and therefore his garrison had consented to submission; and we are informed a great quantity of silver plate was found in the fort on taking possession of it. The inhabitants of Carolina in general buried their plate in Charlestown, thinking it a safer depositum than risquing it under ground on their plantations, where, from the curious and nefarious disposition of their Negroes, resident on the spot, it should be discovered and stolen; and by preferring this method of concealment, they have all secured their effects, under the generous and merciful permission of Sir. Henry Clinton, their Conqueror. When the Iris left Charlestown, his Excellency the General had committed his dispatches for government to the care of Major Crosbie and Admiral Arbuthnot, those respecting the Royal Navy Department, to Sir Andrew Snape Hammond, who were embarked in his majesty ship Perseus, for London.

His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton detached the main body of the royal army on the 15th instant, under the command of Lieut. General Earl Cornwallis, to Camden, a principal town on Wateree, a branch of Santee river, about 100 miles distant from Charlestown, on the way to Hillsborough county, in North Carolina.

Extract of a letter from Halifax, North Carolina, to a gentleman in this city, dated August 12.

"General Gates is in possession of Camden by this time, I imagine, as he was near that place when Captain Watts left him advancing, and the enemy retreating, and hope shortly we shall be near Charlestown. We have had several skirmishes with the enemy, and have always been successful. We hear that there has been an embarkation lately from Charlestown of 1000 men for New York. I fancy they begin to be fearful of the French fleet attacking that place."


BALTIMORE, August 29.

An embarkation of troops lately took place at Charlestown, South Carolina, it is said, for St. Augustine, which, it is apprehended, will be shortly invested by the Spaniards.

We are assured, by good authority, that on the 16th instant, at 2 o, A.M. a bloody battle was fought within 8 miles of Camden, South Carolina, between His Excellency General Gates, at the head of about 3000 men, 900 of whom were regulars, and the British forces, under the command of Earl Cornwallis, consisting of 1800 regulars, and 2400 refugees, &c. The contending armies engaged each other with the greatest fury, and the prospect, for some time, was extremely favorable to the American troops, who charged bayonets on the enemy, which obliged them to give ground, and leave some of their artillery in the possession of our advancing troops. - But unfortunately, at this critical moment the premature flight of the militia terminated the conflict in favor of the enemy - an event which hath proved fatal to many of our brave countrymen of the regular troops, 4 of 500 of whom having been killed and taken - amongst whom are several valuable officers. The enemy loss hath been much more considerable. Lord Cornwallis, or some other British General, it is conjectured, is amongst the slain. - Notwithstanding this misfortune, General Gates, whose Head Quarters are at Hillsborough, is collecting a force much superior to his late army, and appears resolved to try the fortune of another day.

The Virginians have completed their quota of 5000 men, who are marching, in detachments of 500 men each, to reinforce General Gates.

About 300 cavalry, under the Colonels White and Washington, left Halifax, North Carolina, a few days ago, to join General Gates, at Hillsborough.

In justice to the South Carolina militia, it must be mentioned, that they greatly distinguished themselves in the late action.

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