Edward Stevens letter to Thomas Jefferson 20 August 1780

Transcribed by Holley Calmes from Library of Congress images:
Page one,   Page two,   Page three,   Outside

Carolina Spinkes[1] August 20,1780


This is the first Opportunity that I have had since our unfortunate affair of the 16th Instant between Rugeleys Mill & Camdon[2] to advise you of it. But as I am told Genl Gates has got to Hillsborough I presume he has done it before now.

Our Army moved from Rugeleys on the Night of the 15th Inst at about Ten O’Clock with an intention to take post on a Creek about 6 Miles from Camdon, where the Enemy had collected all their force. They under the Command of Lord Cornwallis moved out of Camdon about 9 O’Clock and our advanced party's of Cavalry and Infantry fell in with each other five Miles from Rugesleys between 10 & 12 O’Clock. This occasioned a halt of Both Armeys as our meeting at this time was unexpected to both Parties; for from some Prisoners that was taken I am informed they moved out with an intention to attack us in our Encampment at Rugesleys & if what they say with respect to their numbers be true, Genl Gates has been greatly Deceived. We formed and remained on the ground till about day Break when we advanced a few Hundred Yards and fell in with each other. I was flushed with all the hopes Possible of Success as our left where I was had gained such an Advantagee over the Enemy in out flanking their Right, but alas on the first Fire or two they charged & the Militia gave way, and it was out of the powers of Man to rally them or even small parties. This gave the Enemy an Opportunity of pushing their whole

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force against the Maryland line, who was not able to stand them long & in a very little time the whole was in the utmost Confusion and the greatest Panick prevailed that ever I had an Opportunity seeing before, a more compleat Defeat could not possible have taken place without a General[3]   loss of ____[4] and all the Artillery which amounted to Eight or Ten pieces all the Ammunition the Military Chests, all the Waggons and Baggage of the whole Army is taken, in short picture it as bad as you possible can and it will not be as bad as it really is. We had to retreat through a Country of upwards of a 100 Miles which may be truly said to be inhabited by our Enemies & before any large party of ours could be collected the Inhabitants rose in numbers, took and disarmed the Chief of our men. I am now where scarce a Friend is to be found.[1] We are still in such a dispersed situation that I cant pretend to say what may be the loss of our men but with respect to the Militia themselves, it matters not, for from their Rascally Behavior they deserve no pity their Cowardly Behavior has indeed given a Mortal Wound to my Feelings. I expect that near one half of the Militia will never halt till they get Home. And from what I have already seen I think I may venture to say that out of those who may be Collected there will not be more than one fourth of them that will have their Arms. many of the Rascals[?] you may depend have thrown away their Arms with an expectation of getting Home by it. I am doubtful it will be a very difficult matter to collect any number of the Militia of this State together again, tho if any thing else could be done it had better, for Militia I plainly see wont do. If Virginia don’t accord[?] herself, I fear this State will be

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in the same Predicament as the South which I think is for a time firmly fixed to the British Government, and through Choice of a very great part of the Back Inhabitants. I am just told that Colo Sumpter who was detatched with 800[?] or 1000 men upon the Waterree the Evening of our defeat met with the same fate as we did.

I am, &c

Edward Stevens


Copy of a Letter from Edward Stevens to Governor Jefferson dated August 20th 1780.

By John Robertson

  1. Spinks is 12 miles west of Deep River, per H. L. Landers, The Battle of Camden, S.C., August 16, 1780

  2. Camden. Stevens consistently spelled it Camdon.

  3. Other transcriptions of this are possible. See page two of the original. The interpretation I give is that Stevens said they could have had no more complete defeat if they had not had a general in command. It will require learning of Stevens' attitude toward Gates in his other writings before it can be firmly concluded that he is making such a comdemnation of Gates in this letter.

  4. Unreadable. Both O.H. Holland and Guilford Dudley name Captain Anthony Singleton of Virginia as commanding the artilliery. Dudley tells us that he was wounded. This does not appear to refer to Singleton, although it would not have been unexpected if it had.