After the surrender of Charleston in May, Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, left, and 270 mounted British troops covered 105 miles in 54 hours in pursuit of Colonel Abraham Buford and 400 Continentals en route to Hillsborough, North Carolina. He caught up with the Americans just south of the state line in an area known as the Waxhaws. Buford refused Tarleton’s summons to surrender and a brief skirmish-turned-slaughter ensued. British bayonets and swords quickly silenced Patriot pleas for “quarter” (surrender). Minutes later, 113 Continentals were dead; 203 were captured, most wounded severely.  Tarleton lost five men (12 wounded)…. and gained a reputation. Within days “Tarleton’s Quarters” became the battle cry of the Carolina patriots.

Zach Cantey

General Zachariah Cantey was born in Camden, the eldest son of John Cantey who came to the area from the low country in the early 1750s. In his late teens, Zach was among the many South Carolina militiamen who surrendered to the British after the fall of Charleston in May 1780. Sent home on parole, he later rejoined the rebel cause and served as  quartermaster under commander General Nathanael Greene. After the Revolution, Cantey became a successful merchant, served as State Senator from Kershaw County in 1804, and held the rank of general of the militia. 

Reprinted below is an extract about Zach Cantey upon his returned to Camden on parole. It is from a manuscript by a Judge James, which originally appeared in the July 28, 1824 edition of the “Southern Chronicle and Camden Aegis.” [Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library]. Not only does the tale relate the bravery of the young parolee, but also it gives added dimension to an event that occurred shortly afterwards 40 miles north of Camden. An event that changed the course of history: The Buford Massacre of May 29, 1780. 

At the time Col. Tarleton was in pursuit of Buford's regiment [May 1780] Major Cockrane commanded his legionary infantry. When he came to Camden he wanted a guide and was conducted by a well known Tory to General Cantey, then a youth of about seventeen years of age, who introduced the Major to him thus: "This is the young man who can guide you." Cantey, who was then in Kershaw's store, acting as his principal clerk, did not know what was meant. But Cockrane, speaking in broad scotch, which shall not now be imitated, soon informed him.

"I stand," said he," in need of a guide to pursue that rebel Buford and I have been told by Mr.__________that you would be a very good one." Cantey replied that he did not thank Mr._________for his recommendation. That he had only a few days since been take prisoner in Charleston and paroled. And he wished to keep it by remaining neutral. "Not thank Mr. ______for recommending you! Why young man it was intended as an honour to you, to be employed in his Majesty's service; besides you shall not be wanting.

Cantey again repeated that he had been paroled as a prisoner, and he meant to abide by it until exchanged. "Hoot, hoot, man! Speak of being exchanged and the country is conquerored. You will never be exchanged. Enter his Majesty's service like a man; and you shall be promoted; I'll see to that -- and here is gold." At the same time taking a guinea out of his purse. 

Cantey stepped back as if horror struck. "If that be not enough," said the Major," here is more," pulling out five or six pieces. "His Majesty pays those well who serve him faithfully." Cantey said that he did not doubt it; but if he gave his whole purse full, nay the whole store full, he could not think of serving the King by betraying his countrymen--"besides my parole." "I am your parole; it is not worth a bawbee and your countrymen are a damned pack of insolent rebels. Say you will go and get money and protection; or not, and be hanged like a dog." 

Cantey implied he would rather be hanged, and die an honest man. "Then you shall be hanged." Sergeant McNeal take this damned rebel and turn him out of doors and keep a guard over him." It was raining hard; the Sergeant and his guard stood in the piazza, and Cantey was turned out in the rain.  The Major now began to look about him, the store well supplied with wine, and the yard with poultry, he ordered dinner. After dinner was prepared he sat down to it. The sergeant beckoned Cantey and told him in a low voice to come with the piazza; it was still raining, and Cantey did so; but after Cockrane had swallowed his first bottle, he bethought himself of his prisoner, and stepping out found him in conversation with the Sergeant. He first cursed O Neil, and then Cantey, and ordered him again out in the rain.  But after several other times finding his prisoner's resolution unshaken, he gave him up and looked out for one whose conscience was more pliant!

After this Cantey was so much persecuted by the British in Camden, his father, an aged, man, and his Mother, joined in avoiding him to escape to the Americans.  His only objection was that from the plundering of the enemy, they were already reduced to poverty - and he expected if he went away they would be reduced to want their head. At length a friend sent him a horse, and he made his escape at night, having received the blessing of his parents. He joined Genl. Greene, who immediately appointed him Deputy Quarter Master, and he served him faithfully in that department.  After the war, Genl. Cantey lived at Camden honored and respected and died in the summer of 1822, universally regretted but more particularly so by the poor to whom his bounty had always been liberally and remarkably extended.


The following excerpts from Historic Camden Part One Colonial and Revolutionary about the assassination of an innocent Quaker youth give added dimension to the cruelty of Banastre Tarleton and his Legionnaires:

Two versions of this murder are given by historians.  Ramsay [David Ramsey. History of South Carolina] says that, two days after the annihilation of Buford’s regiment, one Tuck, a quartermaster of Tarleton’s Legion, rode with a party of dragoons to the residence of Wyly, and, calling him out, charged him with having gone as a volunteer to the defense of Charleston. This was frankly admitted, whereupon Tuck and his men fell upon the inoffensive and unarmed boy and put him to death, despite the fact that the poor fellow exhibited a certified copy of his parole.

James’s story [Life of Francis Marion] is that Samuel was mistaken for his brother John, the sheriff, whose crime was that he had superintended the execution of some men under the statues of the time against treason.  Tarleton sent a favorite lieutenant, who always charged by his side, named Hutt [presumably Capt. Christian Huck, who was later killed at the Battle of Huck’s Defeat/Historic Brattonsville], to kill John Wyly. Two men were left concealed behind the two large gateposts, while Hutt with the rest of his party broke into the house.  Wyly was commanded to give up his shoe buckles, and, while he stooped to obey, Hutt struck at his head with a sword. Receiving the blow on his hand, with the loss of  several fingers, Wyly sprang up and dashed for the gate, where he was dispatched by Hutt’s two accomplices.  Samuel Wyly’s body is said to have been drawn and quartered and set up on pikes by the roadside, as a warning to others. 


   Baron Johannes de Kalb 


         Baron de Kalb was born in Hüttendorf, Germany. He assumed the title of "Baron" for military advancement reasons (he was born Johannes Kalb) and served in the France army during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War.  In 1768, he was sent to American by the French as a secret agent to determine if the colonists were ready to take up arms against France’s enemy, the British. 

          In1776 de Kalb and nineteen-year-old Marquis de Lafayette met Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin in Paris.  They were offered commissions and the two set sail for America.  At first the Continental Congress refused to honor de Kalb’s commission.  Finally he was made an American general and he wintered at Valley Forge.  In 1780 he was served as second in command under General Horatio Gates at the Battle of Camden. 

          The Baron and his Continentals fought valiantly on the battlefield that steamy August morning. Finding de Kalb mortally wounded from eleven wounds, Lord Cornwallis addressed him:  "I am sorry, sir, to see you, not sorry that you are vanquished, but sorry to see you so badly wounded."  He ordered the Baron be brought to Camden in a wagon. 

          Baron de Kalb was 59 when he died in Camden three days later. Cornwallis ordered a full Masonic military funeral to be held to honor de Kalb, which he and his officers attended.  He was buried close to Meeting Street between several British soldiers.

          In 1825, de Kalb’s remains were reburied under a granite monument in front of Bethesda Presbyterian Church.  Lafayette, who was touring America as an honored guest of the nation, officiated at the ceremony.  The Marquis commented that he had received numerous invitations to towns across the nation. The most poignant and memorable one, however, was the one he had received from Camden to lay the cornerstone on his beloved mentor’s monument.

  General Horatio Gates 

       (c. 1727-1806)

            Born in Maldon, Essex, England in 1727, Horatio Gates enlisted into the British army at a young age.  He fought in the French and Indian War and also served in the expedition against Martinique. Resigning from the army, Gates returned to America in 1772 and settled in what is now West Virginia. 

           Gates joined the rebel cause at the beginning of the war, serving as a general and training American soldiers outside Boston. In 1776, he was given a command under General Philip J. Schuyler.  He later replaced Schuyler in the 1777 Saratoga campaign after his army, thanks to the brilliance Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan, overwhelmingly defeated the British under General “Johnny” Burgoyne.   

           Washington was not pleased when the Continental Congress, impressed by Gates’ win at Saratoga, appointed the general president of the board of war.  Washington’s suspicions were confirmed when a handful of his enemies, the so-called Conway Cabal, attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow he and make Gates commander in chief.  Gates’ role in the plot has yet to be determined.          

          In June 1780, the fifty-three year old general was appointed by Congress to command the Carolina campaign. His only battle, the Battle of Camden, was a disaster.  Gates’ actions, including abandoning his troops, led to the demands for an official investigation, which never occurred, and the relinquishing of his command to General Nathanael Greene.   

          Gates rejoined the inner core of Washington’s army in 1782.. He retired to Virginia the following year.  Later he freed his slaves and moved to New York, where he died in 1806.


   Banastre Tarleton 


          Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was the son of a Liverpool merchant.  Having burned through his inheritance, Tarleton purchased his commission in the British army.  Baby-faced in appearance, he was nonetheless fearless, daring and lighting fast in his tactics, Tarleton rose quickly within the ranks during his tour of duty in America.  He was just shy of age 26 at the Battle of Camden.

          Tarleton and his green-jacketed British Legion (recruited Loyalists from New York) left their mark on the Carolinas.  His actions in the environs of Camden included the slaughtering of Colonel Abraham Buford's Virginia Continentals  (Buford’s Massacre), annihilating the militia at Camden, and crushing Thomas Sumter at Fishing Creek.

           Tarleton met his match at Cowpens:  Daniel Morgan. Anticipating that Tarleton would attack in his usual manner, Morgan outwitted him and  "plucked out his plumes, and destroyed his force, horse and foot."  Tarleton returned to England after the war.  He rose to the rank of general, served in Parliament, married, and died at the age of 79.

   Lord Charles Cornwallis 


          Lord Charles Cornwallis was the first son of the 1st Earl Cornwallis.  When he was almost 18, he became an ensign in the 1st Guards and served in the Seven Year's War.  He then took his seat in the House of Lords.  Sympathetic to the grievances of the colonists, he voted against the 1776 Declaratory Act.

          Cornwallis served his king well in the War for Independence. He fought at the Battle of Long Island, pursued Washington's army across New Jersey, and insured the victory at Brandywine. Second in command to Sir Henry Clinton, he was barely in his forties when he took command of the British forces in the South after the siege of Charleston in April 1780.  

          After his win at Camden, Cornwallis boldly pursued General Greene and the Americans around the Carolinas.  Severely damaged by the Patriot victories at Cowpens and Kings Mountain and suffering from a costly win at Guildford Courthouse, Cornwallis marched his dwindling army to Wilmington, North Carolina and then Yorktown, Virginia.   On October 19, 1781, he surrendered to the French and American troops. 

          Cornwallis continued to serve the Crown after the Revolution, first as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland then as Governor-General of India, where he achieved a great military success at Seringapatum.  He died at Ghazepoor, in the Bernares in 1805.

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