“There Never Was a More Compleat Victory”:

Gates, Cornwallis and the Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780

© John Maass, 2000


“In the deepest distress and anxiety of mind, I am obliged to acquaint your Excellency with the defeat of the troops under my command.”[1]  So wrote a mortified Major General Horatio Gates, the commander of the American army in the Southern Department to Samuel Huntington, the President of the Continental Congress.  This somber letter, penned on August 20, 1780 from Hillsborough, North Carolina, went on to give details of the complete debacle of arms four days earlier, a few miles north of Camden, South Carolina.  The hour-long battle, which included the loss of almost the entire Patriot army and most of its arms and equipage, was nothing less than an utter disaster for the American cause in the southern theatre, a cause already shaken by the surrender of the South’s largest city, Charleston, to the British only three months before.  What started in the early Spring of 1780 as a promising effort by a small contingent of Continental troops to relieve the besieged Charleston, ended shamefully with the capture of most of these valuable regulars, the death of their valiant commander, and the rout of Gates’ entire army.  While the superior quality of the veteran British regiments partially account for the success of the King’s troops that day, Gates’ poor strategy, questionable decisions and an improper deployment of the army led directly to what one patriot ruefully termed “that unhappy affair.”[2]


The opposing armies that came to blows in the piney woods near Camden on August 16, 1780 arrived there as a result of the British strategy to reclaim control of their southern colonies in America.  The capture of Savannah in December, 1778, and the failure of a Franco-American attempt to retake the city in October, 1779, encouraged the British high command on both sides of the Atlantic to concentrate their war effort in the South. Furthermore, Royal Governors James Wright of Georgia and William Campbell of South Carolina, as well as many Loyalists residing in England, persistently urged the home government to launch an expedition to recover this region.  The American Secretary, Lord George Germain, and the ministry in London, as well as General Sir Henry Clinton, the King’s commander in America, were convinced of strong local support for the Crown in the Carolinas.  The southern Loyalists, they believed, were “a mighty reservoir of untapped military strength,” simply in need of a British military presence to help them regain and restore Royal government to the their errant subjects.  By 1779, the military struggle in the northern colonies had reached an inconclusive, frustrating stalemate.  Germain and his ministers came under increasing political and financial pressure to achieve success in America, and with potent Loyalist support presumably waiting for assistance in the South, the major British war effort was directed there.  Once plans were finalized, Clinton sailed from New York with over eight thousand men on December 26, 1779 and arrived at North Edisto Inlet, South Carolina on February 11, 1780.  The army landed unopposed the next day thirty miles south of Charleston, and after marching his soldiers and artillery train across the Ashley River, Clinton began the city’s siege on March 29th.  Thus began the British attempt to conquer South Carolina.[3] 


On April 5, 1780, General George Washington, with the consent of Congress, ordered Major General Johann, Baron de Kalb to proceed south from New Jersey with the Maryland & Delaware Continentals and the 1st  Continental Artillery Regiment to assist in the defense of the besieged Charleston.[4]  The infantry of this detachment consisted of the 1st Maryland Brigade, under Brigadier General William Smallwood and the 2nd Maryland Brigade under Brigadier General Mordacai Gist, which included the veteran Delaware Regiment.[5]  This force of approximately fourteen hundred infantry became the nucleus of Patriot forces in the south once Charleston surrendered in May.[6]  “I could hardly rely on any but the Maryland and Delaware Regiments of my Division with a small number of artillerymen and Col. Armand’s Legion,” de Kalb wrote to Horatio Gates in mid-July.[7] His title fictitious, de Kalb was a soldier of fortune, not of nobility but a son of a Bavarian peasant, with prior service in the French army commanding a German regiment.[8] Hoping for a quick march to Charleston, this “selfless patriot” led his small army south from Morristown, New Jersey on April 16, 1780.[9] 


De Kalb’s men marched through Virginia by way of Petersburg, and on June 6, after entering North Carolina, the Baron received the unwelcome news of the capitulation of Charleston, which fell on May 12, 1780.[10]  With the city’s garrison captured and the militia dispersed, Clinton soon ordered his redcoats to fan out over South Carolina to subjugate the remaining rebels and encourage Loyalist support.  Mindful of Washington’s continued threat on the Hudson, Clinton left for New York on June 8 with three thousand troops.  In command of Charleston, he left his capable, aggressive subordinate General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, “the best British general in North America during” the war, according to historian John Keegan.  Washington concluded that with the surrender of Charleston, the presence of de Kalb’s regulars would help sustain the resistance of the militia, so he directed the Baron to proceed southward.[11]  De Kalb’s command reached Hillsborough on June 22, after a difficult march. Heat and ticks were oppressive, and supplies were exceedingly scarce.  The path his army traversed was desolate, and exhausted of its few means of subsistence.  The situation led him to plan to move further west “to avail himself of the fertile and friendly counties of Mecklenburg and Rowan,” and to receive much-needed supplies from the Moravian settlements of Wachovia.[12] 


On June 30, de Kalb and his famished regiments left Hillsborough, marched south and reached the Deep River on July 6, at Wilcox’s Iron works.  “We were very much distressed for want of provisions,” wrote a Delaware soldier.[13]  Even de Kalb complained of shortages, and noted “the greatest unwillingness in the people to part with anything.”[14]  The Baron pushed his men to Coxes’ Mills on the Deep River on July 19, where the soldiers camped at Buffalo Ford for two weeks.[15] Though supplies were still wanting, his army received reinforcements here and in the days ahead.  While de Kalb remained on the Deep, he was joined by Lieutenant Colonel Otho Holland Williams, Inspector-General of the Maryland Line, who in a few weeks would serve as the army’s Deputy Adjutant General, and Major Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, soon to become Gates’ aide-de-camp.[16] Armand's Legion joined the army on the march, a mixed unit of sixty foot and as many horse, led by Charles Tufin Armand, Marquis de la Rouerie.[17]  Lieutenant Colonel Charles Porterfield was ahead of the main army near the South Carolina line with a small detachment of Virginia State troops, while Major General Richard Caswell, in command of several thousand North Carolina militia, operated in the Cross Creek area.  Caswell declined to join de Kalb; he preferred independent command and hunting Tories, despite de Kalb’s request that the Carolinians link up with him.  General Edward Stevens led a smaller brigade of Virginia militia, several days march behind de Kalb’s Continentals, and struggling to catch up.[18] 
                        While de Kalb continued south, Congress officially appointed Gates to the southern command on June 14, 1780, to replace Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who had surrendered Charleston.[19]  “While I live,” Gates wrote, “I shall be happy to execute the command of Congress.”  Although an experienced former British officer, and the “Hero of Saratoga” in 1777, Gates’ elevation to command was against Washington’s wishes.[20]  Others, however, were encouraged by the news.  North Carolina Governor Abner Nash regarded his state as “highly favored by Congress, in having [Gates] appointed to command-in-chief in these Southern States.”[21]  Gates was a popular leader, exuded confidence and “few officers could rival his talents in organization and administration.”[22]  He arrived at the army’s camp near Coxes’ Mill on July 25th,[23] and almost immediately made questionable decisions and issued ill-considered orders.  To the surprise and concern of many of his officers, he rashly “ordered the troops to hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment’s warning.  The order was a matter of great astonishment to those who knew the real situation of the troops.”  Gates assured the famished soldiers “that plentiful supplies of rum and rations were on the route, and would overtake them in a day,”[24] although he “had not at this time one day’s provision to serve out to his army.”[25]  He also imprudently failed to ensure the refurbishment of two depleted Continental cavalry units then refitting at Halifax, despite soon having to face the superior British dragoons in country ideal for cavalry operations.  Gates neglect of the mounted arm also deprived himself of reconnaissance scouts.[26]  Additionally, Gates found himself under enormous pressure from local civil and military leaders to take the offensive in “order to bolster quickly the sagging morale of the patriots.”[27]  A letter from militia General Thomas Sumter to Gates in late July about the need to reach South Carolina quickly in order to “forestall the collection of enemy troops at Camden” probably played a large role in Gates’ campaign planning.[28]  Sumter reported to Gates that there were but seven hundred enemy soldiers at Camden, the large British inland supply base on the Wateree River.  It made for an inviting target, and Gates decided to march toward that objective.[29]


Gates had two available routes to reach the Camden area as he commenced his advance into South Carolina in the predawn hours of July 27, his men still “living chiefly on green apples and peaches.”[30]  The westerly course, favored by de Kalb, headed towards Rowan and Mecklenberg counties, where provisions were more plentiful, then turned directly south to Gates’ objective.  From here, Gates could establish a secure line of supply behind his army, especially in case of retreat.[31]  The alternate path led south and was more direct by fifty miles, though it crossed through a hostile Tory country of pine barrens, traversed numerous watercourses, was thinly populated, and provisions along the way were scarce.  “Barren, abounding with sandy plains, intersected by swamps, and very thinly inhabited,” it arrived at Camden via Buffalo Ford and Lynches Creek, where the British maintained an advanced post.[32]  Gates impetuously decided to advance on the more direct road to Camden, despite its disadvantages and the contrary opinions of his officers.[33]  His plan was to unite with Caswell to his front, and to avoid dispiriting the troops by marching away from their foe, which he feared would be the result of taking the alternate route.[34]  Although most of his subalterns protested Gates’ choice of routes, he refused to alter his plan, and ordered the army to advance directly south.[35]


The American army’s approach to Camden was trying. “The extreme want to which the army was exposed was productive of serious ills,” and with “the troops’ substituting on green corn and unripe fruit for bread, disease ensued, which reduced considerably our force." According to one soldier, the fatigued men were “often fasting for several days.”[36] On August 3, Gates implored Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson to forward supplies. “Flour, Rum, and Droves of Bullocks should without delay be forwarded to this Army,” Gates begged, though a lack of wagons made transportation difficult.[37]  While they suffered, the weary men trudged on, and covered 17 to 18 miles per day, often in a mutinous mood.  “At this time we were so much distressed for want of provisions,” one Delaware soldier wrote, “that we were fourteen days and drew but one half pound of flour.”[38]  “Green peaches substituted for bread,” and some hungry soldiers “plucked the green ears [of corn] and boiled them with the lean beef which was collected in the woods, [and] made for themselves a repast which was attended with painful effects.” The officers even used their hair powder to thicken their soup.[39]  Two days march behind Gates’ army was the Virginia militia under General Stevens, who informed Gates on Aug 1 that his march was slowed considerably due to lack of supplies.  Stevens put his men on half rations which “has caused great murmuring and has been a pretext for desertion. Militia will not be satisfied with what Regular troops would think themselves well off with.”[40]  Despite these hardships, Gates urged Stevens to hurry his men forward to join him and he also hoped to link with Caswell’s militia.[41]


Despite worsening supply difficulties, Gates pressed on into South Carolina, toward Camden. By August 3, the Patriots crossed the Pee Dee River at Mask’s Ferry, and were met there by Lt. Col. Porterfield and his one hundred Virginians.[42]  “Avaricious of fame,”[43]  Gen. Caswell, with the North Carolina militia, initially refused to join either de Kalb or Gates, but after his command suddenly faced the threat of imminent British attack at East Lynches Creek, Caswell prudently decided to join forces with Gates and his regulars on August 7.[44]  Gates bypassed the enemy position on the southern bank of Lynches Creek, commanded by Colonel Francis, Lord Rawdon, and turned west, which forced Rawdon on August 11 to withdraw to his base at Camden.[45]  “In order to preserve a communication with Sumter,” British officer and historian Charles Stedman wrote, “[Gates] moved to his right up the north side of Lynches Creek, and took post at Rugley’s Mills, intending to advance from thence, by the Waxhaw road, to Camden.”[46]  Gates’ troops arrived at Rugley’s Mills, also known as Cleremont,[47] on the main road from Camden to Charlotte, on August 13.  Stevens and his seven hundred ravenous Virginians, “very much fatigued,” joined him there late the next day.


With more supplies at this camp, and bolstered by his reinforcements of Virginia militia, Gates made his final plans. He felt confident enough to detach a force of a hundred Marylander troops, three hundred militia and one brass cannon to join Sumter on the west side of the Wateree, to assist Sumter in an attack on a British supply train reported to be approaching Camden.  Gates’ decision to weaken his forces in the face of the enemy was risky and unwise, especially in the detachment of the well-trained Continentals.[48]  With the main army, he wrote “it was resolved to march to take a post in an advantageous situation, with a deep creek in front, seven miles from Camden.”[49]  Gates had no intention of attacking Rawdon’s garrison. Instead, Maj. Pinckney wrote, the American commander sought to occupy “a strong position so near [Camden] as to confine [British] operations, to cut off supplies & to harass him with detachments of light troops.”  Gates hoped to induce Rawdon “either to retreat or come out and attack us on our own ground, in a situation where the militia which constituted our principal numerical force might act to best advantage,”[50] and to support Sumter.[51]  Gates’ staff officers reconnoitered the ground to the south and “fixed upon a position at Sanders Creek” for the Americans to occupy, five and one half miles north of Camden, where the deep creek was passable only at the ford where the road crossed over it.  With the unanimous support of his officers, the American commander made plans to move south to this intended position.[52] 


While Gates advanced into South Carolina, the British were not inactive.  Twenty-five year old Lord Rawdon, commander at Camden, recognized Gates’ threat. He drew in his extended outposts and concentrated most of his troops at Camden, including four light infantry companies commanded by Capt. Charles Campbell, which he ordered to join him from Ninety Six.[53]  Camden’s defenders, many of whom were “very sickly,” and unable to bare arms,[54] included Rawdon’s own Volunteers of Ireland, "a tough, well-disciplined unit,” composed almost entirely of Irish deserters from the rebel army; the Royal Regiment of North Carolina, a newly raised loyalist regiment commanded by Lt. Col. John Hamilton;[55] a detachment of the Royal Artillery;[56] twenty-six pioneers; and several hundred displaced North Carolina loyalists of the upper Yadkin River area led by Colonel Samuel Bryan.[57]  Of all the regiments at Camden, the best were the veteran battalions led by Lieutenant Colonel James Webster, the 23rd Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers); the 33rd Foot, Webster’s own regiment; two understrengthed battalions of the 71st Highlanders; and Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s notorious British Legion, a hard-hitting, well led provincial force of horse and foot.[58]  Together, these troops numbered approximately twenty-three hundred men “of all ranks.”[59]    


Shortly before the battle, Lord Cornwallis arrived on the scene and took immediate and decisive action. While Rawdon scrambled to concentrate his scattered units, he prudently alerted his commander in Charleston of the danger posed by Gates. Cornwallis, a man of “zeal, vigilance and active courage,” set out for Camden on the evening August 10, and arrived early on the 14th, “after a most expeditious and painful journey.”[60]  His Lordship feared for the loss of British supplies, as well as the safety of the eight hundred ill soldiers convalescing there, should he evacuate the post.  “Seeing little to lose by a defeat and much to gain by a Victory,” he reported, “I resolved to take the first good opportunity to Attack the Rebel Army.”  He boldly “determined to march at ten o’clock on the night of the 15th, and to attack at day break.”[61]  “With most profound silence,” the British column shouldered their firelocks and marched north at the assigned hour, to attack Gates at Rugley’s Mills.[62]

Coincidently, Gates also began his southward advance at ten o’clock on the night of August 15, toward the sluggish Sanders Creek.[63]  He ordered the army’s sick and its baggage to retire north to the Waxhaws for safety, though few wagons were available for this purpose.[64]  Armand's Legion led the march, with light infantry flankers posted two hundred yards on either side.  They were followed by the Continentals, then Caswell's main body, with Stevens’ Virginians behind them.[65]  Gates sternly mandated that any soldier who fired musket without orders would be put to death instantly.[66]  Unfortunately, Gates judgment lapsed in several of his additional commands.  He imprudently distributed molasses from the hospital stores instead of the customary gill of liquor, which on account of the soldiers’ poor diet,  “served to purge us as well as if we had taken jalap, for the men were every movement obliged to fall out of the Ranks and evacuate.”[67]  His orders “for a night march, however well adapted to a trained army in an open country, were wholly unsuited to militia in a country filled with thickets and swamps.”  Gates’ directives were probably issued in hopes of taking up a desired position on Sander’s Creek in some secrecy, and perhaps to have time to entrench.[68]  Nevertheless, night operations even with experienced troops are always difficult, and Gates’ decision to move towards a powerful enemy in the darkness showed a lack of military prudence.  Even more surprisingly, Gates negligently failed to obtain an accurate assessment of his army’s strength.  Until just prior to the march, he assumed his army numbered seven thousand men.  Dubious of such a figure, his deputy adjutant general, Lt. Col. Williams, obtained an accurate troop return and informed his commander that the army actually numbered 3,052.  “These are enough for my purpose,” Gates cryptically replied, and began his advance.[69]


The patriot army set out the night of August 15 at 10 o’clock, in the direction of Camden,[70] expecting to meet no opposition.[71]  The silent column marched over four hours on sandy roads, through dark, airless forests of overhanging pines, before they reached a point between two murky branches of Gum Swamp, a tributary of Sanders Creek. Gates’ weary men traveled nearly five miles on their way to occupy a position on Sanders Creek, when they suddenly slammed head-on into the British advance,[72] at 2:30 on the morning of the 16th.[73]  “Colonel Armand’s party got hailed by an advanced party of the enemy,” wrote an American officer days later, “and answer was made directly on our side on which the enemy’s horse [cavalry] immediately charged furiously with a great deal of huzzahs.”  At first, the lead troops in Gates’ column held their own.  From the flanks, the light infantry fired upon the dragoons of the British Legion, which forced them to retreat with “considerable loss.”  Soon, however, the van of the main British column advanced, attacked the startled Americans and “after a fire of about five minutes drove [them] back upon our advanced guard and main body.”[74]  Disorder and commotion reigned in the American ranks as musketry rent the air.  Armand's Legion "shamefully turned its back, carrying confusion and dismay into our ranks."  The 1st Maryland, leading the march of Gates’ main troops, faced “a very hot fire,” according to one soldier, “and suffered very much.”[75]  The British pressed forward with their light infantry, and faced the crashing volleys of the Marylanders for “about five minutes, in which a warm and incessant fire was kept up.”  Webster’s redcoats blindly pushed forward, while “musketry continued on both sides near a quarter of an hour.”[76]  As shots echoed loudly in the darkness, Lt. Col. Porterfield, “in turning his horse about[,] had his Leg shattered by a musket ball, which struck him upon his shin bone.”  His men, however, were able to check the British attack and take several prisoners.  Although the firing soon ceased, this startling and chaotic melee unnerved many of the unseasoned men in the militia’s ranks, which “took some time to regulate,” wrote Gates.[77]  As soon as the firing had commenced, he quickly rode to the head of the column with his staff, and “remained there until the firing grew slack and the troops were beginning to be formed.”[78]


The sudden collision of the two forces “occasioned a halt of both armies.”[79]  The opposing commanders struggled to restore order within their nervous ranks and each seemed satisfied to await morning for further activity.  “I immediately halted and formed” the regiments, reported Cornwallis, and “the firing soon ceased.”  Tarleton noted that "except for a few occasional shots from the advanced sentries of each army, a silent expectation ushered in the morning."[80]  While the Crown forces “lay until daybreak” in readiness, Cornwallis discovered from rebel prisoners “that is was the whole Rebel Army on its march to attack us at Camden,” and from these captives, he also learned of Gates unwise detachment of troops to Sumter the day before.  Satisfied by this intelligence, his Lordship “resolved to defer attack ‘till day.”[81]  Gates meanwhile labored to regroup his units in the darkness after the unexpected meeting with the enemy.  From British prisoners secured that night, he and his commanders became aware of Cornwallis’ “intention to attack us in our Encampment at Rugley’s.”  Gates was incredulous; his “astonishment could not be concealed when he learned that both Cornwallis and Rawdon, with three thousand men, lay opposite him at a distance of six hundred yards.”[82]  He ordered his men to stand in readiness.  “The men stood under arms all night,” wrote a soldier of the Virginia militia, all surely expecting a battle at first light.[83]


In preparation for arranging the troops and planning the inevitable contest of the morning, the officers of both sides hurriedly scouted the wooded terrain to their front, which they no doubt assumed would be the battlefield, come daybreak.  After the bloody night engagement, both armies had recoiled and found themselves on ground known locally as Sutton’s farm.[84]  Gates had a slight defensive advantage in that his troops were situated “upon a rising and advantageous ground,” with a clear way of retreat.[85]  Nearly impassable swamps lay on each side of the field to ensure the safety of his flanks, although his left was not as well secured as the right, due to firmer ground there.  In the American rear, however, the dry terrain between the marshes widened. Such ground would be dangerous if they retreated, since the rebels would be vulnerable to flank attacks by Tarleton’s cavalry or light infantry.  The British position had weaknesses as well.  Behind Cornwallis was Gum Swamp and Sanders Creek, both hazards if the redcoats were forced to give ground.[86]  Cornwallis appeared unconcerned.  He "discovered that the ground the British army occupied was remarkably favorable to abide the event of a general action against superior numbers of the enemy,” wrote Tarleton.  With swamps to each side, “which narrowed the position so that the English army could not be outflanked,” his Lordship regarded the field favorable for the offensive.  This narrow front meant that “the Americans could not avail themselves of their superior numbers in out flanking us,” Sergeant Lamb of the 23rd Regiment wrote.[87]  Once the ground was reconnoitered, the armies were ready to deploy.


Just before dawn, Cornwallis posted his men with the Camden road bisecting his position. “The army was formed with all expedition,” wrote North Carolina Royal Governor Josiah Martin, who served as an aide to the British general that day.[88]  The British battalions moved smartly from column into line, and faced their foe in the growing light.  On his far right flank, Cornwallis placed the light infantry, followed next in line by the 23rd and then the 33rd regiments, the latter’s left flank resting on the road.  Lt. Col. Webster commanded this side of the line. On left side of road, from right to left, came the Volunteers of Ireland, the British Legion infantry, Hamilton’s Carolinians, and Bryan’s Loyalists, all commanded by Lord Rawdon.  The blue-coated Royal Artillery with several cannon were placed just to the left of the road, under the orders of Lieutenant John McLeod.  The second line of the British formation consisted of the two battalions of the 71st Regiment, the 1st Battalion on right of the road, the 2nd on left, each with one six-pound field piece.  “The [British] Legion cavalry remained in column,” wrote Tarleton, “on account of the thickness of the woods,” to the right of the main road, close to the 1st Battalion of the 71st . These dragoons had “orders to act offensively against the enemy.”  Tarleton’s secondary role was to act in defense of the British troops, “as opportunity offered or necessity required.”  Finally, Cornwallis put out a small picket party beyond his left flank to guard a seldom used path, which ran beyond the swamp.[89]


Meanwhile, Gates and his officers struggled to bring order to their nervous ranks. Shortly after the night affair ended, the harried American officers held a council of war, over which Gates presided.  After Gates solicited opinions as to what course should be adopted, General Stevens, an officer with considerable experience under Washington in the Continental service, replied “Gentlemen, is it not too late to do anything but fight?”  This succinct advice seemed to confirm for Gates and most of the other officers present that within such close range of the British regulars, they could not safely retreat, especially at night and in the presence of a formidable force of enemy cavalry.  Gates therefore resolved to remain in his position and await the morning’s developments, and with the aid of his ubiquitous deputy adjutant general, Otho Williams, began deploying his units.[90]


Gates’ arrangement of his forces was questionable, and led directly to what became the inexorable collapse of half his army. At Gates’ command, Gist’s 2nd Maryland Brigade of four hundred men moved to a post on the right, “close to a swamp,” with two field pieces placed on their right, at the edge of the marshy ground.  The twelve hundred men of North Carolina militia under Caswell were “in close order[,] two deep in the center” of the American line, straddling the road. These men made up three brigades, commanded by Generals Rutherford, Gregory, and Butler.[91]  Gates decided to deploy Stevens’ seven hundred Virginians on the far left of his line, though these were very inexperienced troops.  To shore up this weaker flank, the light infantry of Caswell’s militia, numbering approximately three hundred, along with Porterfield’s small corps were posted on the far left at the edge of the swamp, supported by Armand’s troop of sixty dragoons “to oppose the enemy’s cavalry.”  Several artillery pieces under Singleton’s command were wheeled up to the center of Gate’s line, and unlimbered on the road.  The reliable 1st Maryland Brigade under Smallwood was held as a “Corps du Reserve,” and to “cover the cannon in the road at a proper distance in the rear.”  These four hundred Continentals were two hundred yards in the rear of the Gist’s 2nd Maryland.  As a result of this configuration, all of the Continentals were on the right side of the patriot line, while the less-experienced, largely untried militia made up the center and left, and were unsupported by Gates’ regulars.[92]  Gates reviewed these dispositions and inspected the ranks with his aide, Major Pinckney. “Soon after the troops were formed,” Pinckney observed, “the General moved along their front, saying a few words of encouragement to them.”[93]   His men aligned, Gates posted himself a few hundred yards to the rear of the second line, and seemed “disposed to await events.”[94]  


Gates and the rest of the anxious combatants did not have long to wait.  “Half an Hour before sunrise the enemy advanced” to take their positions, according to Major McGill of Gates’ staff.  At sight of the British advancing in column at daybreak,[95]  Williams ordered Singleton’s artillery on the road to commence firing on the enemy two hundred yards distant.  He then hurried back to his commander to apprise him of the apparent attempt by Cornwallis to attack the Virginians on the left.  An impassive Gates “seemed disposed to wait events,” Williams noted, as “he gave no orders.”[96]  The enterprising Williams then obtained permission to advance on the redcoats on the left with "a band of volunteers, in order to invite the fire of the enemy before they were in reach of the militia.”  Williams intended “by a partial fire to extort that of the enemy” at forty or fifty yards distance and before Webster had completely deployed, thereby “rendering it less terrible to the militia,” and to “encourage the latter to do their duty."  The British, however, had already gone from column into line by the time Williams’ small force advanced, and their “experiment did not succeed.”[97]  Webster’s regiments quickly “displayed to their right” as the morning began to dawn, while Singleton’s barking field pieces “made a good fire upon their column.”  Once formed, Webster’s scarlet troops spied the rebels through the trees and hazy light.  “As soon as daylight appeared,” wrote fusilier Roger Lamb, “we saw at a few yards distance our enemy draw up in very good order in three lines.”[98]


Although Gates’ left wing consisted almost entirely of “green” militia, he took the extraordinarily risky decision to have them attack the enemy line, bristling with bayonets.  After Williams’ skirmishers were driven back to their main line, Gates’ left wing advanced when the British deployment on both sides of the road “was just made.”  He ordered to General Stevens and the light infantry to proceed “in good order and make the attack.”[99]  Major Pinckney recalled that this attack was intended to be made “while the enemy were [still] maneuvering,” before they were formed into line.[100]  Gates’ movement was clearly seen by the British, who observed the militia advancing against them “in a heavy column and very near the right of our line.”[101]  The Virginians attempted their assault “in good order within fifty paces of the enemy,” as Stevens sought to encourage and steel his untested men.  “My brave fellows,” he shouted, “you have bayonets as well as they; we’ll charge them.”  They moved forward “a few hundred yards,” Stevens wrote, and he “was flushed with all the hopes possible of success.”[102]  As soon as the Virginia militia moved forward, Gates commanded Smallwood’s reserve brigade to advance to support the left wing, and to occupy the ground just vacated by Stevens’ men.  At the same time, Gates sent his aide, Major Pinckney, to de Kalb on his right flank with orders “to advance slowly with [Gist’s] Brigade, to reserve their fire till proper distance, fire and charge Bayonets.”  These “orders were immediately complied with,” Major McGill reported.[103]


The impetuous Cornwallis was not idle as Stevens led his untrained men forward.  The King’s officers keenly observed Williams’ attempt to advance and draw their fire.  They mistook this maneuver for an ill-advised attempt by Gates to realign his troops while in close proximity to the veteran British foot regiments, poised for battle.  The rebels were “proceeding to alter their position,” Tarleton surmised, news of which was swiftly “reported to Lord Cornwallis, who instantly, in person, commanded Webster’s division to advance.”[104]  Cornwallis later recalled “[I] perceived that the Enemy were formed in two lines opposite and near to us, and observing a movement on their left, which I supposed to be with an intention to make some alteration in their order, I directed Lt. Col. Webster to begin the attack.”[105]  He then promptly sent the same order to Lord Rawdon, on the left side of the road. Cornwallis ordered that the “Enemy should be instantly attacked[,] which was executed in the moment with equal vigor and alacrity on the part of the troops,” wrote his aide, Governor Martin.[106]  Soon, the whole army was in motion, smartly advancing at the rebel line.  Cornwallis proudly watched his battalions step off to the attack, “which was done with great vigor.”  Almost immediately, fusilier Lamb stated, “the action became general along the whole line.”[107]


Webster’s powerful assault against Gates’ left could not have been more successful that hazy morning. The light infantry and the 23rd Foot “attacked with such impetuosity that [the Va. Militia] quickly broke.”[108] The devastating assault was “a skillful and sudden attack [which] threw the American left wing into a state of confusion, from which it never recovered.”  The British redcoats delivered a thunderous volley upon Stevens militia, then pressed forward while “huzzaing” with fixed bayonets.  “I had the honor of carrying one standard of colors belonging to the 23rd Regiment,” Sergeant Lamb wrote.  “I was near the center of the right wing. I had an opportunity of beholding the behavior both of the officers and privates; it was worthy of the character of the British troops.”[109]  Cornwallis was equally impressed by the spirit of the attack, delivered with the “cool intrepidity of experienced British soldiers.”  They “kept up an incessant fire, or made use of their bayonets as opportunity offered.”[110]  As Webster’s hardened veterans moved forward, the inexperienced Virginia militia, issued bayonets only the night before the battle and untrained in their use, quickly sized up their prospects and predictably broke for the rear, and refused to rally or heed the pleas of their officers.[111]


Once panic set in, the Virginia militia “ran like a torrent and bore all before them.”[112]  General Stevens bitterly reported that “on the first fire or two [the British] charged and the militia gave way, and it was out of the power of man to rally them or even small parties.”[113]  Some of the militia did not fire a single shot.[114]  “Upon the first fire the whole line of Militia broke and ran,” and Gates, “who perceiving the militia run, rode about 20 yards in the rear of the line to rally them, which he found impossible to do there.”  Williams reported with disgust that the frightened Virginians, and most of the Carolinians, “generally threw down their loaded arms and fled, in the utmost consternation.”[115]  One militia private at Camden, Garrett Watts, described the battle years later:

I was among the nearest to the enemy…we had orders to wait for the word to commence firing. The militia were in front and in a feeble condition. They were fatigued. The weather was warm excessively. I believe my gun was the first gun fired; not withstanding orders, for we were close to the enemy, who appeared to maneuver in contempt of us. I fired without thinking except that I might prevent the man opposite from killing me. I confess I was amongst the first that fled. It was instantaneous. There was no effort to rally, no encouragement to fight.[116]



Watts also recalled that “Officers and men joined in the flight. When we had gone, we heard the roar of the guns still."[117]  Once Steven’s brigade broke, they were followed by Armstrong’s light infantry and Porterfield’s men, posted to the far left, beside the swamp.[118]  Upon the disintegration of Virginia militia, most of Caswell’s men, holding the center of Gates’ position, quickly did the same.  “Except for one North Carolina militia regiment,” wrote a frustrated Governor Nash, “commanded on the occasion by Col. Dixon of the regulars, [the militia] behaved in the most shameful manner.”  This was the regiment of Lt. Col. Henry Dixon, posted next to Gist’s Marylanders.  Dixon had seen service under Washington in the Continental army, and along with the example of the 2nd Maryland, was responsible for keeping most of his unit in line.  Abner reported that the militia, although “drawn up in close order, two deep,” and “so much superior in numbers, gave way on the first fire, and fled with the utmost precipitation, notwithstanding every endeavor of their officers to keep them to the charge.”[119]  Smoke hung over both armies “in such a cloud, that it was difficult to see or estimate the destruction on either side,” wrote Tarleton.  This added to the difficulty the American officers faced in attempting to rally the fleeing multitude, a daunting task they futilely proceeded to undertake.[120]


The patriot officers made a determined, yet unsuccessful endeavor to rally the disordered militia. “Gen. Caswell and myself,” Gates reported, “assisted by a number of officers did all in our power to rally the broken troops, but to no purpose.”  Tarleton’s dragoons, “completed the rout of the whole of the militia, who left the Continentals alone.”[121]  Half a mile behind American lines Gates and Caswell “made another fruitless attempt” to rally the running men but could not achieve this end.[122]  Narrowly avoiding capture himself, Gates made a third attempt at Cleremont to stop the flood of refugees but had “no better success.”[123]  He later explained that “the militia pressing us forward, and the enemy’s cavalry pursuing, we were obliged to retreat” with the frightened left wing, “hoping yet that a few miles in the rear they might recover from their panic, and again be brought into order.”  The Virginians and Carolinians, however, were not to be stopped, and “had taken to the woods in all directions.”  They had fled so early in the contest “that very few [fell] into the hands of the enemy,” Gates admitted to Washington.  By this time miles from the battlefield, Gates assumed the rest of his army was also dispersed, and concluded with General Caswell to make for Charlotte, to the north. It was this decision to abandon the scene of action while the battle still raged that later earned Gates severe criticism and reproach. The powerless American commander sped off the battlefield, and left his Continentals to survive as best they could.[124]


The flight of over half of Gates’ army within the first few moments of the engagement would prove to be a mortal blow to the Patriot cause that day.  Not only did the entire left wing of the rebel position collapse, the flood of terrified men streaming to the rear discarded even their firelocks and ammunition.  The militia’s rearward sprint temporarily threw the Marylanders in reserve into disorder and completely carried away the American commander and most of his staff. Virtually the entire militia command structure was swept away by the panicked mob, and in vain were the attempts to stem the retreat.  The Continentals, however, were not infected by the sudden tumult on their left, and due to their “strict discipline and hard service, saw the confusion with but little emotion.”[125]  Indeed, the smoke was so thick in the hazy, humid air that de Kalb and many of his men remained unaware of the extreme danger they faced at this point by the oncoming British ranks, steadily advancing with bayonets fixed and leveled.[126]  With the untrained rebel militia dispersed, the battle transformed into a deadly contest of veterans, in which coolness, discipline and bravery would conquer.


On the American right flank, de Kalb and his Continentals were initially successful in battling Rawdon’s battalions.  Shortly after he had ordered the Virginia militia to advance, Gates sent Major Pinckney to find deKalb “and desire him to make an attack on the enemy’s left to support that made by General Steven’s on the [enemy] right.”[127]  He ordered this attack to be made “slowly, reserving its fire until close to the enemy, when it was to fire and charge with bayonet.”[128]  A Delaware soldier wrote “we advanced and began the attack from both cannon and small arms with great alacrity and uncommon bravery, making great havoc among [the British].”[129]  The 2nd Maryland “preserved perfect order,” an impressed Tarleton wrote, “and with small arms and artillery, continued a heavy and well-directed fire upon the 33rd Regiment and the whole of the left division.”  The Continentals pushed forward with charged bayonets, and forced the Volunteers of Ireland to give ground.[130]  Fifty prisoners and an enemy field piece fell to Gist’s Marylanders, in fighting Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delawares described as “very desperate.”[131]  Many of Rawdon’s men were “cut down by horrid showers of grape,” belching from Singleton’s cannon.[132]  “A dead calm, with a little haziness in the air, preventing the smoke from rising,” Cornwallis observed, “occasioned so thick a darkness that is was difficult to see.”  The action was “a very heavy and well-supported fire on both sides.”[133]  With the enemy wavering, DeKalb ordered a bayonet charge, dangerously unaware of the militia’s flight, obscured by smoke on his left.[134]


The armies poured volley after volley into each other in a desperate fight to prevail.  “The conflict was obstinate and bloody,” Jefferson wrote, after reading reports of the battle.[135]  Beside de Kalb’s regulars stood Dixon’s regiment of North Carolina militia, who were joined by their brigadier, General Gregory.  These men “acquitted themselves well; they kept the field while they had a cartridge.”  In the melee, Gregory was bayoneted to death, “and many of his brigade who were made prisoners had no wound except from bayonets.”  Likewise, “the Continental troops behaved well,” British Sergeant Lamb wrote admiringly.[136]  Cornwallis galloped over to his left to steady his own troops, and “with great coolness,” wrote an officer of Rawdon’s wing, called out “Volunteers of Ireland, you are fine fellows! Charge the rascals.”[137]  Soon the expertise of British arms began to tell.  The flight of the militia “gave them [the enemy] an opportunity of coming around us,” a Delaware soldier wrote.[138]  The Continentals were in a precarious position, which Cornwallis and Lt. Col. Webster were quick to exploit.


The disappearance of the militia, General Stevens lamented, “gave the enemy an opportunity of pushing their whole force against the Maryland line,”[139] and had disorganized the 1st Maryland Brigade in reserve, which stood directly in the path the Virginians took for the rear.  The left flank’s collapse, observed Captain Kirkwood, “gave the Enemy’s Horse an opportunity to gain our rear, their infantry at the same time gaining our flank.”[140]  Instead of chasing the fleeing rebels with his whole force, however, Webster wisely detached only his four light companies and part of Tarleton’s Legion in pursuit of the militia on the road to Rugley’s Mills.  Simultaneously, he wheeled the rest of his men to his left, against the 1st Maryland.[141]  The British onslaught hit Smallwood’s Continentals in their front and left flank, which again “threw the corps de reserve into disorder.”  The Americans were obliged to retire, but soon rallied and “with great spirit renewed the fight.” Meanwhile, under pressure from Rawdon, de Kalb sent word back to Smallwood to relive the 2nd Maryland at once.  Smallwood was not to be found, so Lt. Col. Williams commanded the reserve to advance instantly to de Kalb’s relief.  Webster’s attack, however, had firmly placed the 23rd and 33rd regiments in a gap of six hundred feet between the two Maryland brigades.  Despite two determined attempts to break the British line and assist their comrades, Webster’s troops, along with a charge by Tarleton’s horsemen, broke the 1st Maryland, and sent them fleeing from the field. Gist’s beleaguered 2nd Maryland became the sole remaining American unit on the field to face Cornwallis’ oncoming bayonets.[142]


While Williams struggled with Webster’s violent attack, de Kalb’s men were holding their own against increasing pressure from Rawdon.  The men of the 2nd Maryland “stood their ground manfully for the best part of an hour,”[143] and made several bayonet charges before they became exposed and isolated by the retreat of Williams’ reserve.  In fact, DeKalb and Gist were at first unaware that the other Maryland brigade was driven off the field behind them, and they received no orders from Gates or his staff to retire.  Soon, however, the increasingly heavy British firepower began to tell, as the hand-to-hand fighting and close range musketry continued. Webster’s panting redcoats, having finally dispensed with the American reserve, now turned against Gist’s regiments from the left and behind.  “They were quite round us before discovered, upon which we were obliged to retreat,” a Delaware sergeant recalled.[144]  Perceiving that American resistance was weakening and that de Kalb had no cavalry, “Lord Cornwallis pushed his dragoons upon them, and at the same instant, charged them with the bayonet.”[145]  The British general committed his entire force, including the 71st Regiment, in reserve.[146]  “Our line continued to advance in good order,” Cornwallis reported, “making use of Bayonets as opportunity offered, and after an obstinate resistance threw the enemy into total confusion.”[147]


De Kalb attempted one more desperate bayonet charge before Cornwallis’ final and decisive attack, but was overwhelmed.  The 2nd Maryland and Dixon’s Carolina militia “bravely stood and pushed bayonets to the last.”[148]  Gates later advised Washington of “the firmness and bravery of the Continental troops,” and that the “victory is far from being bloodless on the part of the foe.”[149]  “The men to their Immortal Honour made a brave defence,” wrote Major McGill, “but were at last obliged to give ground.  Gist’s Brigade behaved like heroes; so did Smallwood’s.”[150]  De Kalb fell with multiple wounds from musket ball and bayonet.[151]  Once the Continentals began to break, Cornwallis ordered “the cavalry to compleat the Rout, which was performed with their usual promptitude and gallantry.”[152] Tarleton’s slashing troopers charged into de Kalb’s weary ranks, and “completed their confusion.”  The Continentals could not withstand the final British assault, and "to the woods and swamps these gallant soldiers were compelled to fly,"[153] leaving General Gist and the survivors of his brigade moved off the field “by wading through a swamp on the right of the American position, where the British cavalry could not follow.”[154]  Gist was able to keep together about one hundred men, “who flying across a swamp on their right, through which they could not be pursued by the British dragoons, made good their retreat in a body.”  Major Anderson of the 3rd Maryland Regiment was the only other officer able to rally more than a handful of regulars and lead them through the swamps to safety.  Cornwallis was victorious, and in possession of the field, after a bloody battle of but forty-five minutes.[155]


For the Americans, the disaster was complete.  “As soon as the rout of the Americans became general,” Tarleton wrote, “the Legion dragoons advanced with great rapidity towards Rugley’s Mills; on the road General Rutherford, with many other officers and men, were made prisoners.”[156]  With the feared British Legion in pursuit, many of the refugees panicked.  The wagon drivers “cut loose the horses on which they were[,] and left the wagons.”[157]  After his Legion easily routed Armand’s cavalry near Rugley’s Mills, “the chase again commenced,” Tarleton recounted, “and did not terminate until the Americans were dispersed.”[158]  The road from the battlefield "was strewn with the wounded and killed, who had been overtaken by the [British] Legion in their pursuit,” wrote one witness.  “The number of dead horses, broken wagons and baggage, scattered on the road, formed a perfect scene of horror and confusion--arms, knapsacks and accoutrements found were innumerable: such was the terror and dismay of the Americans."[159]  Guilford Dudley, a North Carolina militia officer serving as a light dragoon, later confessed surprise that he “escaped with all of my arms and equipment.”  Most were not so fortunate.[160]


The pursuing British quickly gathered up both prisoners and materiel as they followed what was left of Gates’ army.  “Those [arms] that the enemy did not take are carried off by the militia,” Gates reported to Congress. Williams bitterly complained that “the greatest part of our baggage was plundered by those who first left the field,” including Armand’s command.[161]  Tarleton’s troopers, “in a pursuit of twenty-two miles,” managed to capture “many prisoners of all ranks, twenty ammunition wagons, one hundred fifty carriages, containing the baggage, stores and camp equipage of the American army.”  The Americans also lost eight brass field pieces, two traveling forges, two thousand stand of arms and 80,000 musket cartridges.[162]  The Carolinians fled in all directions, most of them taking the shortest route home.[163]  Unfamiliar with the region, most of the Virginia militia escaped back to Hillsborough, by the same route they took to reach Gates’ camp few days earlier.  A Virginian remembered:

There was no place designated, in the event of a defeat, at which we should rendezvous, we had lost all our baggage, and were destitute any Clothing. Separated from our officers and no means of Subsistence-under these appalling Circumstances, altho’ our term of service nearly expired, a Considerable number of the Company to which I belonged, determined to make the best of their way home.[164]


The British did not pursue with the main army; Cornwallis decided that “the fatigue of the troops rendered them incapable of further exertions on the Day of the Action.”  The main army fell back to Camden, while his Lordship moved forward to Rugley’s Mills with his light infantry, the 23rd Foot, and the Legion infantry. They were joined there later in the day by Tarleton’s mounted troops, who were returning from pursuing the enemy as far north as Hanging Rock.[165]


The magnitude of the British triumph was apparent to all.  “A glorious victory crowned the designs of the general and the exertions of the troops,” Tarleton wrote,[166] while young Lord Rawdon was so pleased with the bravery of his Volunteers of Ireland “that he ordered a silver medal to be struck off, and presented to several of his men who had signalized themselves in the action.”[167]  Cornwallis informed the British ministry that “the loss of so many brave men is much to be lamented, but the number is moderate in proportion to so great an advantage.”[168] The Americans were correspondingly distraught. John Marshall, serving with Washington in New Jersey, opined that “never was a victory more complete.”[169]  An embarrassed General Stevens advised Jefferson to “Picture it as bad as you possibly can and it will not be as bad as it really is,” and wrote  “For [the militia’s] rascally behavior they deserve no pity.”[170]  Gates too recognized the ignominious magnitude of the defeat: “As unfortunate generals are most commonly recalled, I expect that will be my case,” anticipating his eventual removal from command in December.[171]


The casualties were just as significant as the material loss for the Americans, particularly the wounded. Losses in Gates’ army have never been accurately determined given the chaotic nature of the defeat, and no official returns exist.  Most estimates list approximately nine hundred men killed and wounded, and nearly one thousand captured.[172]  Shortly after the smoke cleared, the wounded of both armies were collected by the Loyalist troops, and taken to Camden in wagons.[173]  Here they suffered greatly and “were very much neglected,” recalled a witness from Stevens’ militia.[174]  The day after the battle, Lt. Colonel Vaughan of the Delawares, in captivity at Camden, implored Gates to send at least two surgeons, “and if the medicine chests should not all be taken, some medicines be sent also” for their use.[175]  “We hardly have any Medicine, not an ounce of Lint, Tow or Digestine,” wrote American surgeon Hugh Williamson at the time, “not a single Bandage or Poultice Cloath, nor an ounce of meal to be used for Poultices.”  He concluded that the wounded “must soon perish if not soon relieved.”[176]  Several months later he advised the North Carolina Assembly of the deplorable state of the wounded captives.  “For eight or ten days after the battle our people suffered under great neglect,” Williams wrote, and “the suffering of our [wounded] were greatly increased by the want of Sugar, Tea, Coffee, Vinegar.”  Tellingly, of the 240 wounded Americans brought in to Camden as prisoners after the battle, only three were of the Virginia militia, indicative of their precipitous flight from the enemy early in the engagement.  In comparison, Caswell’s Carolinians suffered at least 63 wounded, most of which were captured.[177]  In contrast, the British suffered casualties of 324, of whom 69 killed, 245 wounded and 11 missing.  “The destruction fell principally on the center,” Tarleton stated, “owing to the well-directed fire of the Continentals, and the execution done by the American artillery.”[178]  "It was a hard-fought battle,” added a soldier of the 33rd, “and the victory not very cheaply purchased on the side of the British."[179]


The loss of American officers was particularly acute. DeKalb suffered eleven wounds, eight of them from the bayonet. He suffered for three days, and died on August 19th.  The enemy “buried him in Camden with all the honors of war.”[180]  Brig. Gen. Rutherford of the North Carolina militia, while attempting to rally his men, surrendered to a party of the British Legion, “one of whom, after his submission, cut him in several places.”  A musket ball shattered Maj. Pinckney’s leg bone, and he fell into enemy hands.  “I have hopes of retaining my leg,” he optimistically wrote in a letter to Gates from Camden.[181]  Porterfield, who suffered a leg broken by a musket ball during the surprise early morning encounter, was “without any surgeon to attend me.”  He was only once visited by a surgeon from the Maryland line, also a prisoner.  “The British officers at Rugley’s have treated me with the utmost attention and politeness,” Porterfield advised Gates, “and have furnished me with such necessaries as in their power.  I have to pray a surgeon will be sent to attend me for some time.”  Several days later, Porterfield died of his wounds.[182]


In contrast to the heroic and costly stand of the Continentals, General Gates’ actions after his militia broke for the rear earned him little praise.  As described above, Gates, Caswell and several of their aides hastily rode away from the fighting after attempts to recollect the militia failed.[183]  Gates “used the utmost expedition in getting from the lost field to” Hillsborough.[184]  He arrived at Charlotte the night of the 16th, and “thought proper, with the advice of his officers, to get by the assistance of the night through that part of the country to Hillsborough, where there had been left some detachment and artillery, and that most chiefly the militia had directed their course that way.”[185]  Caswell remained at Charlotte to collect militia and to organize some resistance to the enemy’s potential advance.[186]  For his swift ride away from the field, Gates won severe and immediate criticism.  “Was there ever an instance of a General running away as Gates has done from his whole army?” wrote Alexander Hamilton, “and was there ever so precipitous a flight?  One hundred and eighty miles in three days and a half.  It does admirable credit to the activity of a man at his time of life.  But it disgraces the General and the soldiers.”[187]  Not all observers were so harsh.  Gates’ chief engineer, Colonel John Senf, justified the retreat of Gates to Hillsborough:

No view was left to assemble any forces there [Charlotte], and if it was possible, there was no ammunition, no arms, no provisions, and in the middle of a disaffected country. The general therefore, thought proper, with the advice of his officers, to get by the assistance of the night through that part of the country to Hillsborough, where there had been left some detachments and arty, and that most chiefly the militia had directed their course that way it was therefore more problem to reassemble some of the scattered militia in that quarter and draw all the detachments together till other measures could be taken.[188]


At Hillsborough, which Gates reached on August 19, the North Carolina legislature had been called to meet, and here he hoped to regroup the militia and the remnants of his Continentals.  For “The Hero of Saratoga,” his southern campaign, and soon his command, was over.[189] 


Blame for the Patriot debacle at the battle of Camden primarily lies with the American commander, and his unwarranted trust in the militia.  Many of Gates’ contemporaries lost no time in condemning him for the defeat, and for his unjustifiable reliance on Caswell’s and Steven’s troops.  Perhaps the most biting criticism of Gates came from Alexander Hamilton, who wrote of him:

His passion for Militia, I fancy will be a little cured, and he will cease to think them the best bulwark of American liberty. His best troops placed on the side strongest by nature, his worst on that weakest by nature, and his attack made with these. ‘Tis impossible to give a more complete picture of military absurdity. It is equally against the maxims of war and common sense. Had he placed his militia on his right supported by the Morass, and his Continental troops on his left, where it seems he was most vulnerable, his right would have been more secure, and his left would have opposed the enemy.[190]



Gates’ eventual successor, General Nathanael Greene, scathingly wrote “No man but he in America has the faculty of taking and losing whole armies.”[191]  Other critics faulted the shameful performance of militia alone for the battle’s unfortunate outcome. Lt. Col. Otho Williams wrote to Hamilton of “the infamous cowardice of the militia” which “gave the enemy every advantage over our few regular troops whose firm opposition and gallant behavior have gained them the applause of our successful foes.  Our retreat was the most mortifying that could have happened.”[192]  Major McGill was equally bitter, writing that “we owe all our misfortunes to the Militia; had they not run like dastardly cowards, our Army was sufficient to cope with [the British].”[193]  Yet it was Gates who took the decision to place these untried militia regiments away from the support of the Continentals, a mistake that led to disaster.  Tarleton faulted Gates’ deployment, and declared the latter’s “mistake was in the disposition of his army before the action: If the militia had been formed into one line, in front of the Continentals, they wood have galled the British in the wood, when approaching to attack the main body.”[194] 


The Continental Congress reacted to the news of the defeat by voting on October 5, 1780 to replace Gates with General Nathanael Greene, and ordering a military court of inquiry to examine the cause of this crushing reverse of arms.  Gates favored an inquest into the affair, as he held himself to be largely blameless.  Though no such official investigation was ever held, and Gates eventually rejoined the army at Newburgh, New York,[195] most observers in his day--and many in ours--concurred with an appraisal penned by of one of the victors that day, Royal Governor Josiah Martin.  Camden, Martin concluded, “was in all its circumstances as glorious, compleat [sic] and critical as has been obtained by the Arms of Britain for Ages[;] it could receive no additional splendor.”[196]


[1] Gates to Samuel Huntington, August 20, 1780, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (microfilm, Federal Records Center, East Point, GA) Reel 174, Vol. 2, 234.

[2] Gov. Abner Nash to the Delegates of North Carolina, August 23, 1780, in Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London: T. Cadell, 1787), 149.

[3] This paragraph is based on Don Higginbotham, The War of American Independence (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971), 353-5; Mark M. Boatner, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1966), 206 and 1035-6; Piers Mackesy, The War for America, 1775-1783 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), 267-272; John Buchanan, The Road to Guilford Courthouse (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997), 29; and John S. Pancake, This Destructive War: The British Campaign in the Carolinas, 1780-1782 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1985),  25-30; 61-62. Pancake argues that part of Germain’s motivation in sending an expedition to South Carolina was an effort to avoid the fall of his ministry by obtaining what looked to be an easy conquest of that province.

[4] Robert K. Wright, The Continental Army (Washington: U.S. Army Center for Military History, 1989), 155; Christopher Ward, The Delaware Continentals (Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1941), 345. Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution  (New York: The Macmilliam Company, 1952), Vol. 2,712; Otho Holland Williams, “A Narrative of the Campaign of 1781,” 435, which appears as Appendix B in William Johnson, Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, Vol. 1, (Charleston: A.E.Miller, 1822) herein cited as Williams, Narrative. This is the most complete participant account of the entire campaign and battle.

[5] Ward, The War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 714; Henry Lee, The American Revolution in the South (originally published as Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department) (New York: Arno Press edition, 1969), 183; W. J. Wood, Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 178.

[6] Williams, Narrative, 435; Lee, The American Revolution in the South, 170.

[7] De Kalb to Gates, July 16, 1780 in Walter Clark, Ed., The State Records of North Carolina (Winston: M.I. and
J.C. Stewart, Publishers, 1896), Vol. 14, 601 (herein cited as N.C. Records.)

[8] Ward, The War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 712-713; Charles B. Flood, Rise and Fight Again: Perilous Times Along the Road to Independence (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1976), 264; Henry Lumpkin, From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981), 57.

[9] Betsy Knight, “Thomas and William Woodford: The Travails of Two Maryland Brothers Who served in the South During the American Revolution,” Maryland Historical Magazine 84 (1989): 380; William Seymour, A Journal of the Southern Expedition, 1780-1781 (Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1896), 3; Boatner, Encyclopedia, 570.

[10] Flood, Rise and Fight Again, 257; Paul David Nelson, Horatio Gates in the Southern Department,” North Carolina Historical Review 50 (1973): 258.

[11] H. L. Landers, The Battle of Camden, South Carolina, August 16, 1780 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1929), 3; John Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783 (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1988), 215; Hugh F. Rankin, “Charles Lord Cornwallis: Study in Frustration,” in George Washington’s Generals and Opponents, ed. George Billias (New York: Da Capo Press edition, 1994), 204; George W. Kyte, “Victory in the South: An Appraisal of General Greene’s Strategy in the Carolinas,” The North Carolina Historical Review 37 (July 1960), 321; Yates Snowden, ed., History of South Carolina  (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1920), Vol. 1, 381-2; Higginbotham, War, 357; Keegan’s quote is in John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft, Who’s Who in Military History (London: Routledge Press, 1996), 64.

[12] Seymour, Journal, 3; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 714; Johnson, Greene, Vol. 1, 294; Flood, Rise and Fight Again, 267.

[13] Seymour, Journal, 4; Williams, Narrative, 435.

[14] De Kalb to Gates, July 16, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 503.

[15] Landers, The Battle of Camden, p. 6; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 715.

[16] Robert Scott Davis Jr., Thomas Pinckney and the Last Campaign of Horatio Gates,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 86 (1985): 80.

[17] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 715; Williams, Narrative, 436.

[18] Lee, The American Revolution in the South, 171; George F. Sheer and Hugh F. Rankin, Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolution Through the Eyes of Those Who Fought and Lived It (New York: DeCapo Press reprint edition, 1987), 404; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 715; John Marshall, The Life of George Washington, (Philadelphia: Crissy and Markley, 2nd edition, 1854), Vol. 1, 342; Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, 215; Landers, Camden, 6.

[19] Hugh F. Rankin, The North Carolina Continentals (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971), 240. Rankin is a severe critic of Gates.


[20] Horatio Gates to Samuel Huntington, June 21, 1780, Horatio Gates Papers (microfilm, Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina) Reel 11, 655; Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 321; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 715; Kyte, Victory in the South, 322; Keegan and Wheatcroft, Who’s Who in Military History, 112.

[21] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 341; Nash to Gates, July 17, 1780, Nash to Gates, July 17, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 504.

[22] Don Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961), 105; Rankin, N.C. Continentals, 241; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 7.

[23] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 404-5; Snowden, South Carolina, 391; Lee, The American Revolution in the South, 171; Selby, The Revolution in Virginia,  215. Landers (in The Battle of Camden, 8) interprets a letter of Gates to conclude that he actually arrived on the night of August 24th.

[24] Landers, The Battle of Camden, 9; Johnson, Greene, Vol. 1, 294.

[25] Johnson, Greene, Vol. 1, 294.

[26] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 718-719; Capt. Anthony White to Gates, July 26, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 512; Nelson, “Gates in the Southern Department,” 264; Mackesy, War for America, 342; Lumpkin, Savannah to Yorktown, 59. White and Lt. Col. William Washington commanded these two dragoon units. For harsh criticism of Gates and the cavalry neglect issue see Edward McCrady, The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775-1780 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1901), 659 and Lee, The American Revolution in the South, 171-172.

[27] Paul David Nelson, “Gates as Military Leader,” in, The Revolutionary War in the South, ed. W. Robert Higgins (Durham: Duke University Press, 1979), 138; Flood, Rise and Fight Again, 287-88.

[28] Nelson, “Gates in the Southern Department,” 262-3.

[29] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 405.

[30] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 405; Ward, War of the Revolution,  Vol. 2, 718; Seymour, Journal, 4.

[31] Ward, War of the Revolution, 718; Lee, The American Revolution in the South, 172; James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, June 26, 1780, Papers of the Continental Congress, Reel 85, Vol. 1, 375-377.

[32] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 405; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 718; Williams, Narrative, 436. Lynches Creek is spelled in a variety of ways in 18th century accounts of the campaign; the version used in the text is the most common.

[33] Lee, The American Revolution in the South, 172; Ward, War of the Revolution , Vol. 2, 718; Lumpkin, Savannah to Yorktown, 59.

[34] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 342; Paul David Nelson, General Horatio Gates: A Biography (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1976), 224; Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 80-81.

[35] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 405; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 718-19; Williams, Narrative, 437.

[36] Frank Moore, Diary of the American Revolution (New York: Charles Scribner, 1860), Vol. 2, 310.

[37] Julian Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. 3, 549-550; 549-550.

[38] Ward, War of the Revolution , Vol. 2, 720; J. T. McAllister, The Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books reprint, 1989), 122.

[39] Rankin, North Carolina Continentals, 242; Williams, Narrative, 437. For an analysis of British supply problems in the Revolutionary War, see Edward Curtis, The British Army in the American Revolution (Ganesvoort, NY: Corner House, 1998).


[40] General Edward Stevens to Gates, August 1, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 519; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 11.

[41] “The Southern Campaign, 1780: Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 261-2. No author is cited for this very informative, lengthy article.

[42] Joseph B. Turner, ed., The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood (Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1910), 10 (cited hereafter as Kirkwood, Journal); “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 262; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2,  719; Williams, Narrative, 488.

[43] Johnson, Greene, Vol. 1, 294.

[44] Flood, Rise and Fight Again, 266; Williams, Narrative, 486-90; Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 96; Rankin, North Carolina Continentals, 242; Snowden, South Carolina, 391; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 16; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 245; 263. Caswell was the governor of North Carolina until April of 1780.

[45] Lee, The Revolution in the South, 178-9; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 721; Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 52; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 245; Tarleton, Campaigns, 99.

[46] Charles Stedman, The History of the Origins, Progress and Termination of the American War (London: J. Murray, Printer, 1794) Vol. 2, 205.

[47] Cleremont was the name of the plantation owned by Col. Rugley, a Tory.

[48] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 406; Landers, The Battle of Camden,19; Ward, Delaware Continentals, 34;  Lee,  The Revolution in the South, 179; Knight, “Thomas and William Woodford,” 380; Moore, Diary of the American  Revolution, Vol. 2, 311; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 302. This detachment was led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Woolford of the Maryland Line.

[49] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 302.

[50] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 84-85.

[51] Johnson, Greene, Vol. 1, 296; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 268; Alexander Garden, Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War in America (Charleston: A. E. Miller, 1822), 346. Garden served during the war with Lee’s Legion.

[52] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 343; Nelson, Gates, 229; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 270; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 23; Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596; Gen. Edward Stevens to Jefferson, August 20, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 558; Maj. McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[53] Flood, Rise and Fight Again, 276; Lee, The Revolution in the South, 170; Tarleton, Campaigns, 98-99;  Stedman, American War, Vol. 2, 205; Cornwallis to Germain, August 20, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 267.

[54] Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 51; Cornwallis to Germain, August 20, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 266.

[55] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 723; John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed, Revised Edition (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 120; Philip Katcher, Encyclopedia of British, Provincial and German Army Units, 1775-1783 (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1973), 101.

[56] Cornwallis to Clinton, August 6, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 261.

[57] Cornwallis to Clinton, July 14, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 256; Cornwallis to Germain, August 20, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 263; Lee, The Revolution in the South , 171.

[58] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 701; Boatner, Encyclopedia, 114.

[59] Henry Dawson, Battles of the United States (New York: Fry & Company, 1858), Vol. 1, 614; British Public Records Office Papers, microfilm, 30/11/103,  3; Tarleton, Campaigns, 137; Ward, Delaware Continentals, 342; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 722. The 23rd had three of its companies present at Camden, while the 33rd and 71st each had five companies there. Though Dawson’s study is almost 150 years old, it contains very detailed descriptions of each army’s battle order.


[60] Billias, Washington’s Generals, 197 (the quote is from Lord George Germain); Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 406; Tarleton, Campaigns, 100; Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 269; Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 53; Franklin and Mary Wickwire, Cornwallis: The American Adventure (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1970), 148-151. Rawdon’s letter reached Cornwallis in Charleston on August 9th.

[61] Lee, Revolution in the South, 180; Stedman, American War, Vol. 2, 205; Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 269-270; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 39.

[62] Tarleton, Campaigns, 104; Stedman, American War, Vol. 2, 205; Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 534. The British army left Camden in the care of Major McArthur and some militia, and a mounted detachment of the 63rd Regiment, with the sick numbering almost eight hundred.

[63] Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 161.

[64] Lee, Revolution in the South, 182; Tarleton, Campaigns, 143; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 721; Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596.

[65] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 343; Tarleton, Campaigns, 143; Major McGill to his Father, no date, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[66] Landers, The Battle of Camden, 26. Gates’ entire march order is published in Tarleton, Campaigns, 143-144.

[67] Seymour, Journal, 5;  Ward, Delaware Continentals, 343; Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 407.

[68] George W. Greene, The Life of Nathanael Greene, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1897), Vol. 3, 26; Nelson, “Gates in the Southern Department,” 267.

[69] Williams, Narrative, 493.

[70] Kirkwood, Journal, 11; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 276; Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 161; Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596. Thomas Kirkland and Robert M. Kennedy surmise there was a full moon that evening, based on meteorological records of 1780, in their study Historic Camden (Columbia: The State Company, 1905), Part 1, 158.

[71] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 723.

[72] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 407; Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[73] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 92; Tarleton, Campaigns, 105; Major McGill to his Father,  N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[74] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 276-7, Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[75] Seymour, Journal, 5.

[76] Tarleton, Campaigns, 105; Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[77] Lee, War of the Revolution, 182; Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584;  Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 344;  Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 303.

[78] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 93; Jefferson to George Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596.

[79] Jefferson to George Washington, September 3, 1780, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, p. 593-596.


[80] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 270; Tarleton, Campaigns, 105.

[81] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 270;  Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 49.

[82] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 723; Williams, Narrative, 495;  Gen. Edward Stevens to Jefferson, August 20, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 558; Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 344-5.

[83] Revolutionary War Pension Declaration of James Hopkins in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography,  20 (1912): 259-262. Kirkwood, Journal, 11.

[84] John C. Dann, The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 194-5; Harold Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), Vol. 2, 385; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 41.

[85] Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 585.

[86] Ward, Delaware Continentals, 345; Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 86; Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 407-408.

[87] Tarleton, Campaigns, 105; Roger Lamb, An Originally and Authentic Journal of Occurrence’s during the late American War (Dublin: Wilkinson and Courtney, 1809), 303. Sjt. Lamb served initially in the 9th Foot and was captured at Saratoga. He later escaped and joined the 23rd Foot.

[88] Martin toGermain, August 18, 1780, N.C.Records, Vol. 15, 54.

[89] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 270; Tarleton, Campaigns, 105-106; A.D.L. Cary and Stouppe McCance, compilers, Regimental Records of the Royal Welch Fusiliers (London: Royal United Service Inst., 1921), Vol. 1, 176; Lamb, Journal, 563.

[90] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345; Pancake, This Destructive War, 104; Williams, Narrative, 494. Buchanan incorrectly states that de Kalb advocated a retreat (Road to Guilford Courthouse, 162.) Rather, he assumed Gates would retreat, and was somewhat surprised when Gates did not.

[91] C. B. Alexander, “Richard Caswell’s Military and Later Public Service,” North Carolina Historical Review 23 (1946): 293; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 277. Alexander’s article demonstrates a complete failure to grasp the American deployment at Camden.

[92] Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596; Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345; Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[93] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 92.

[94] Rankin, North Carolina Continentals, 243.

[95] Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 54; Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, p. 584.

[96] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345; Williams, Narrative, 495.

[97] Williams, Narrative, 495; Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 46; Lee, Revolution in the South, 183.

[98] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 277; Lamb, Journal, 563.

[99] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 277; Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271; Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345; Hopkins, “Pension Application,” 259-262.


[100] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 93; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 303.

[101] Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 54.

[102] William Moultrie, Memoirs of the American Revolution, (New York: David Longworth, 1802), Vol. 2, 233-234; General Edward Stevens to Jefferson, August 20, 1780; Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 558.

[103] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 277; Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 93; Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584.

[104] Billias, George Washington’s Generals and Opponents’s, 222; Tarleton p. 107. Although Hugh Rankin’s essay  faults Cornwallis’ tactical impetuosity in George Washington’s Generals and Opponents’s, surely his Lordship’s aggressive tactics served him well at Camden.

[105] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271.

[106] Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 54.

[107] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107; Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271; Lamb, Journal, 303.

[108] Cary and McCance, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Vol. 1, 176.

[109] Tarleton, Campaigns, 110; Williams, Narrative, 495; Lamb, Journal, 304-305.

[110]  Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271.

[111] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 728; Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345.

[112] Jefferson  to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596.

[113] Gen. Edward Stevens to Jefferson, August 20, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 558.

[114] Williams, Narrative, 495.

[115] Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584; Seymour, Journal, 6;  Williams, Narrative, 495.

[116] Account of Garrett Watts in Dann, The Revolution Remembered, 194-195.

[117] Christopher Hibbert, Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes (New York: Avon Books, 1990), 277. Hibbert does not identify the writer.

[118] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 345.

[119] Lee, Revolution in the South, 184; Gov. Abner Nash to N.C. Delegates in Congress, August 23, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 60; Jefferson  to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 728.


[120] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107.

[121] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 303.

[122] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 277.

[123] Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 584; Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 346.

[124] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 303; Tarleton, Campaigns, 151.

[125] Landers, Battle of Camden, 47.

[126] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107; Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271.

[127] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 93.

[128] Landers, The Battle of Camden, 46.

[129] Seymour, Journal, 6.

[130] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107; Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 585.

[131] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 277; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 729; Kirkwood, Journal, 11.

[132] Wickwire, Cornwallis, 161.

[133] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271.

[134] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107; Ward, Delaware Continentals, 348.

[135] Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596.

[136] Lamb, Journal, 304; Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, published in Tarleton, Campaigns, 128; McCrady, South Carolina, 677.

[137] Wickwire, Cornwallis, 161-162.

[138] Seymour, Journal, 6.

[139] Gen. Edward Stevens to Jefferson, August 20, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 558.


[140] Ward, Delaware Continentals, 347; Kirkwood, Journal, 11.

[141] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107; Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596.

[142] Ward, Delaware Continentals, 347; Maj. McGill to father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 585; Ward, War of the Revolution,  Vol. 2, 729.

[143] Cary and McCance, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Vol. 1, 176-7.

[144] Seymour, Journal, 6

[145] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 346-7.

[146] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 729-30.

[147] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271.

[148] Gov. Abner Nash to N.C. Delegates in Congress, August 23, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 60; Col. John Banister to Col. Bland, September [?] 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 65.

[149] Tarleton, Campaigns, 151.

[150] Major McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 585.

[151] Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 730; Ward, Delaware Continentals, 348; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 249.

[152] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271.

[153] Tarleton, Campaigns, 107; Cary and McCance, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Vol. 1, 176-7; Lee, Revolution in the South, 184.

[154] Tarleton, Campaigns, 108.

[155] Stedman, American War, Vol. 2, 209; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880): 249; Seymour, Journal, 6; N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 49.

[156] Tarleton, Campaigns, 108.

[157] Jefferson to Washington, September 3, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 593-596.

[158] Tarleton, Campaigns, 108; Kirkland and Kennedy, Historic Camden, Part 1, 166.

[159] Hibbert, Redcoats and Rebels, 278.

[160] Dann, The Revolution Remembered, 214-216.

[161] Gates to Samuel Huntington, August 20, 1780, Papers of the Continental Congress, Reel 174, Vol. 2, 234; Otho Holland Williams to Hamilton, August 30, 1780, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 2, 385; Seymour, Journal, 6; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 731.

[162]  Tarleton, Campaigns, 108, 139-140; Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 49; Gov. Nash to N.C. Delegates in Congress, August 23, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 60.

[163] Landers, The Battle of Camden, 53.

[164] Hopkins, “Pension Application”, 259-262.

[165] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271; Stedman, American War, Vol. 2, 209.

[166] Tarleton, Campaigns, 110.

[167] Lamb, Journal, 306. [See merit medal].

[168] Cornwallis to Germain, August 21, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 271

[169] Marshall, Washington, Vol. 1, 347.

[170] Gen. Edward Stevens to Jefferson, August 20, 1780, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 3, 558.

[171] Landers, The Battle of Camden, 55; Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 275.

[172] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 75-79; Pancake, This Destructive War, 107; Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 170; Boatner, Encyclopedia, 168-169; Landers, The Battle of Camden, 61. Boatner and Landers give the most detailed speculation regarding American losses. Some of those captured obtained release by joining the British forces serving in Jamaica, while Francis Marion freed another 147 of the Camden prisoners of the Delaware & Maryland line en route to Charleston for confinement. See N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 771.

[173] Tarleton, Campaigns, 110.

[174] “Examination of William Allman of Colonel Stubblefield’s Regiment of Virginia Militia,” Sept. 20, 1780, Papers of the Continental Congress, Reel 174, Vol. 2, 257.

[175] Joseph Vaughan to Horatio Gates, August 17, 1780, Gates Papers, Reel 11, 1296.

[176] Dr. Hugh Williamson to Dr. Hay, British Physician General, August 24, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 62.

[177] Dr. Hugh Williamson to Thomas Ben bury, December 1, 1780, N.C Records, Vol. 15, 166-7.

[178] Tarleton, Campaigns, 109; Stedman, American War, Vol. 2, 209.

[179] Oressa M. Teagarden, ed., John Robert Shaw, an Autobiography of Thirty Years, 1777-1807 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1992), 32. Shaw was an enlisted man in the 33rd Regiment of Foot.


[180] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 409; “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880), 249; Kirkland and Kennedy, Historic Camden, Vol. 1, 191; Boatner, Encyclopedia, 571; Lamb, Journal, 304. Tarleton gives a complete list of Continental officers killed, wounded and captured in his Campaigns, 151-152.

[181] David Ramsay, History of the Revolution in South Carolina (Newberry, SC: W.I. Duffie, 1858), Vol. 1, 207; Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 80; Ward, War of the Revolution, Vol. 2, 731; Pinckney to Gates, August 18, 1780, Gates Papers, Reel 11, 1299; McCray, South Carolina in Revolutionary War, 677.

[182] Porterfield to Gates, August 20, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 568.

[183] Alexander, “Richard Caswell,” 294; Gates to Samuel Huntington, August 20, 1780, Papers of the Continental Congress, Reel 174, Vol. 2, 234.

[184] Otho Williams to Hamilton, August 30, 1780, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 2, 385.

[185] “Gates at Camden,” Magazine of American History 5 (1880), 278.

[186] Alexander, “Richard Caswell,” 294.

[187] Hamilton to James Duane, September 6, 1780, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 2, 420-1.

[188] Sheer, Rebels and Redcoats, 410.

[189] Nelson, Gates in the Southern Department, 270; Lee, Revolution in the South, 190; Buchanan, Road to Guilford Courthouse, 170-171.

[190] Hamilton to James Duane, September 6, 1780, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 2, 420-1.

[191] Greene to Nathaniel Peabody, September 6, 1780, The Papers of Nathanael Greene, ed. Richard Showman, (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1991), Vol. 6, 267.

[192] Otho Williams to Hamilton, August 30, 1780, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. 2, 385.

[193] Maj. McGill to his Father, N.C. Records, Vol. 14, 585.

[194] Tarleton, Campaigns, 109. This was exactly how Daniel Morgan deployed to face Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens, five months later.

[195] Davis, “Thomas Pinckney,” 75; Boatner, Encyclopedia, 170, 413; Nelson, “Gates in the Southern Department,” 270-272;  Keegan and Wheatcroft, Who’s Who in Military History, 112. Congress did publish its thanks to the army “for bravery and good conduct,” on October 14, 1780.

[196] Martin to Germain, August 18, 1780, N.C. Records, Vol. 15, 49.