The Battle of Camden, Death of DeKalb. Engraving
after a painting by Alonzo Chappell. National
Gates preferred the eastern route and ordered his
men to march on August 13, 1780, arriving at Colonel Rugeley's plantation some
thirteen miles north of Camden two days later.
He had nearly 4,000 troops but two-thirds of these were green, untried
militia. Lord Cornwallis, hearing
of Gates' movements left Charleston, arriving in Camden on the same day that
Gates did. By moonlight, both
armies moved out, meeting in the early morning hours in Gum swamp in the
vicinity of Sanders Creek. Skirmishing
broke out, but the actual attack took place at daylight.
A small band of 50 men advanced on the British, who
counter-attacked with bayonets and drawn swords.
At this, the Virginia and North Carolina militia panicked, broke, and ran
- many without having fired a single shot.
What was to have been attack turned to a complete rout, with
"Butcher" Tarleton in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile, the Delaware and Maryland regiments
held, led by de Kalb, whose horse had been shot from under him -- and here the
British concentrated their attack. The
gallant German fell with eleven wounds, dying in Camden three days later.
The British buried him with full military honors.
General Gates covered himself with something less
than glory by joining the fleeing militia, never stopping until he reached
Charlotte. Gates was never to live
down the disgrace of his flight.
The American losses were enormous, nearly 1000 men killed and
1000 captured, besides numerous transport and ammunitions confiscated.
The British lost less than 350 men.
For the Americans, this was the most disastrous battle of the Revolution.
In 1954 the Kershaw County Historical Society
placed a marker on the Flat Rock Road indicating the site of the Battle of
Camden. A stone monument erected by
the Hobkirk Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution indicates the spot where
Baron de Kalb fell. Another marker
states that 2,000 acres of the Battle of Camden site were designated a National
Landmark in 1961. It remains an
uninterpreted site otherwise.
This site may be reached by going north from
Historic Camden for about seven miles on Highway 521, then take a left fork onto
Flat Rock Road. The marker and
monument are located 2.2 miles from the fork on the right.
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