Revolutionary War Reenactment - The Battle of Camden
Camden, S. Carolina - Aug 20+21, 2005
135 photos, 2 panoramic by Wes Mayhle of AZITWES
The Battle of Camden, SC
written in 2005 - updated in 2010 - edited in 2015
This American Revolution reenactment chose me. My plans to visit a Civil War Reenactment, the week before this one, were dashed when my van broke down. I was unwilling to let the month of August go by without posting a new reenactment on my website. So, I looked for the nearest event to my Florida home. This American Revolution reenactment stood out. It was the 225th anniversary of the battle - I had not been to a Rev-War event - and it was closer to me than some others.
I drove straight through to Camden, SC ... a short 7.5 hour trip. After a short nap on the road and a $9 shower at a truck stop, I arrived Saturday morning. It was hot already. I had somehow found a place warmer than my home in Florida. Thinking I had driven quite a ways to get here, I was chagrined to hear the first reenactor I met say he had come from the Tampa area - another 2 hours further than me.
I photographed their morning inspections/formations (see page4). The event featured two Saturday battles for the public which were a dress rehearsal for the reenactors. I photographed the 11AM battle (see page5 and 6). The heat was unbelievable. I found my hotel room, cranked up the AC and changed into dry clothes. That was a mistake because as soon as I left the hotel I immediately soaked my fresh clothes. With the second Saturday battle set for 3PM I made a few laps around the campsites (see page7) and then waited on the battlefield. Just minutes before the battle I began to feel weak and dizzy. As soon as my vision began to blur, I sat down. The combination of water lost by sweating and the lack of proper sleep had decided I didn't need photos of that battle. I recovered and wandered around but most activities were cut short by the intense heat.
Late that night I drove to the actual battlefield where the reenactors were to have their nonpublic battle, Sunday morning. It was 9 miles north of town under the cover of tall pines. It was close to midnight when I stopped and viewed the historical marker at the battlefield and my mind suddenly remembered stories told of ghost soldiers hitching rides with nighttime visitors at Gettysburg. I didn't stay long.
The next morning, up early, I was unsure if I would be allowed to photograph the action because the night before I had tried, but never received, permission or an invitation. I arrived at the actual battlefield very early, parked far away, and was very determined. Let me take this opportunity to share an observation. Of all the thousands of reenactors I have been around and talked to - All have been very friendly, courteous and kind. The only negative people I have encountered in my travels have been a small handful of event staff. Not many, just a few. Police and city officials I have encountered have all been friendly and professional. I spend considerable time and a few dollars in this hobby and have enjoyed the cooperation and praise I have received. That being said - I was unsure of being allowed to photograph Sunday mornings battle. My fears were not realized and I did photograph the reenactment held in the morning light on part of the original battlefield. They turned out to be some of the finest I have taken so far and that's why I put them first in the order (see page1, 2 and 3). Supposedly, this reenactment will not be held for another 25 years. So until then, here are 137 photos.
2010 update - I didn't mention it when I first posted this but ... the staff, primarily the director of the site, later posted the most derogatory things about event photographers on the internet including a threat to sue me and wondered (in print) if she could have me arrested and brought to Camden for justice. What a twit. She is gone now. Good riddance. Reenactors don't need friends like that.
-what follows has been adapted from www.battleofcamden.org 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.
Aftermath - 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.
Go to our US Civil War page to learn more about the war.