2018 Visit to Camden Battlefield and Efforts to Restore It Holistically

Continentals and British forces meet in the night on the Great Wagon Road north of Camden, SC

Another spot myself (SF1), Captain1776 and Malibu were able to visit was the American Revolutionary War battlefield of Camden located about 7 miles north of the existing city.

What we learned at a spot just south of modern Camden at the educational center that shares what happened here in 1780 was that the non-profit organization called Historic Camden Foundation, whose mission:

.. is to protect, preserve, and celebrate Camden’s extraordinary Colonial and Revolutionary War history.

Our 107 acres sit atop the original 18th-century property of the city’s founder Joseph Kershaw and the fortified Revolutionary War-era town occupied by British General Cornwallis and Lord Rawdon’s men from 1780-81. Visit the site to learn about the prolific Kershaw, Camden’s importance to the war’s Southern Campaigns, and Colonial life in the backcountry. Explore the reconstructed Kershaw-Cornwallis House and recently rehabilitated c. 1800 McCaa’s Tavern, as well as exhibits in other period structures.

We learned from a trustee of that organization (who was cleaning up from RevWar Weekend, complete with re-enactors that is held the first weekend of each November) is the multi-generational effort to restore the battlefield holistically, down to having exactly the same species of trees that this battle was fought under on that hot August day back in 1780:

Camden Battlefield and Longleaf Pine Preserve:

“Historic Camden is excited to announce that we have recently assumed ownership of 476 acres of the Battlefield of Camden. The Battlefield is hallowed ground for the hundreds of men who died in this significant battle that took place August 16, 1780. Historic Camden is dedicated to telling the story of this fascinating battle, preserving and studying the archaeological evidence of the site, restoring the Longleaf Pine forest that existed during the 18th century, and providing a space for a variety of outdoor recreational activities…”

We saw first hand the progress to date as we hiked though a small part of the battlefield:

The long needle pines will take many years to exceed 100 foot plus height that was the case back in 1780 that made for a canopy over the men who fought for liberty and freedom back then:

What a special effort toward remembering how two armies along the Great Wagon Road happened to stumble on each other, and how humbling it is to know that this low-point of the American Colony’s (all 13 of them) effort to drive away the British Empire from oppressing them and their lively-hood gave way to other efforts in the South Carolina colony by Marion and other militia units later that fall of 1780 to shine brightly in restoring the patriotic spirit in this region, as well as throughout the colonies.


1780OCT – War Amongst Us, What is that Like?

I do believe it is easy for those insulated from war to have no clue as to the short and long term impact of war on people and society. Many of the politicians, generals and admirals remain out of harms way while giving orders to troops on the ground, in the air and on the oceans treating all of this like a video game. At the end of the day they return to their suburban Northern Virginia homes have been able to compartmentalize their day’s decisions that negatively impacted hundreds if not thousands of men and women not counting tens of thousands innocent men, women and children and the lands and societies they have to deal with on a daily basis. American foreign policy is the root negative issue in most parts of this globe while free market forces are solving poverty and other societal issues worldwide in a positive light.

Returning to the 1780 South Carolina colony that is seeking independence in federation with 12 other American colonies from British rule, if one only reads and understands the dates, stats and facts of the various expeditions the British regulars, American Continentals, and militias on both sides accomplished, one misses understanding what it was like for the average family that endured this 7 or 8 year war that was not regulated to far away fields of battle but took place ‘amongst’ us [movie “The Patriot” clip]:

To learn a “Tier 1” only history about a regional conflict only exposes the tip of the iceberg.  Tier 1, if done right should tease readers and listeners to ask questions about Tier 2, a deeper insight into the daily life of the people involved and how it changed the communities involved.

Americans learn Tier 1 in this history classes in schools, Tier 2 requires one to invest the time to seek out deeper understanding, the ability to enter that period of time IN CONTEXT to fully adsorb what was won and what was lost. In the movie “The Patriot”, only the positives were communicated:

The feel good ending to this movie can only allow reality to counterbalance this by investigating, CSI if you will, how free American colonists were before and after the war. While Benjamin Martin (fictitious character that was the combination of three South Carolina militia leaders Pickens, Sumter and Marion) seems to be doing much better, Francis Marion would tell you differently, and that would be even BEFORE the end of this war!

One of the richest insights can be gained by a read of John Oller’s 2016 book “The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution“.  I have included a few clips below that related directly to the posts I have had about October 1780 recently (here, here and here):

With the quieting of the Tory threat east of Camden, Marion sat at Ami’s Mill pondering his next move. On October 4 he confessed to Gates that he had suffered many fatigues over the previous few weeks but had managed to surmount them. He had never had more than sixty or seventy men with him of all ranks, and sometimes as few as a dozen. In some cases he had been forced to fight against men who had left him to join the enemy; he regretted that he had no authority to punish them. If he had a hundred men from Gates’s army, he thought, he could “certainly pay a visit to Georgetown” and attack the British garrison there. But Gates had answered none of his letters—

So early in October, Marion felt very alone after the three wins his militia had in late September that kept the British distracted from rolling up the colonies towards Virginia and eventually toward Washington’s Continentals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey while British General Clinton totally controlled the port of New York with his troops. It had been a stalemate in the north for months now.

Marion also felt the shift in what his leadership skills had to adjust to in commanding Continental regulars who obey verses volunteer militia that could quit at anytime ESPECIALLY if a command was given that the men did not agree with. I contend that this keeps leadership personnel honest and weeds out “management” personnel who are only worried about the status quo and their own position in the politics of things.

Brilliantly, Marion makes yet another bold move ..

Marion decided to make a little probing incursion against Georgetown anyway. He heard that Micajah Ganey, the Tory whose force he had bested at the Blue Savannah, was in Georgetown to reinforce the British garrison there. On October 9 Marion entered the city unmolested with forty men on horse and, once inside, issued a rather audacious demand to the garrison commander to surrender.

So if you have been reading my Tier 1 posts, you thought that Francis Marion and the men that remained with him took three week off from the conflict when in fact, they did venture into “British occupied territory” to harass the Redcoats!

While the British did not surrender …

Before leaving, however, and to show the enemy he was a force to be reckoned with—or just to show off—he took his men on a little parade through the town. They made off with a few horses and some of the enemy’s equipment and captured several notable Tory military men whom Marion immediately paroled to their homes. If nothing else, Marion served notice that if the British wanted to hold the second-largest population center in South Carolina, they would need to keep men and resources tied down there. “This damned Georgetown business,” as the British called it, would prove an unwelcome distraction for months to come.

Marion again attempts communication in his chain of command:

Marion reported to Gates on his little foray, saying he wished to hear from him as soon as possible, for he had received no word from him in a month. As Marion explained, this lack of information forced him to act with extreme caution lest he fall into the enemy’s hands. He closed by asking Gates to excuse his “scrawl,” as he had no table to write on in “this wild woods.” (Sometimes he lacked even paper to write on, which placed a premium on brevity.)

So here you get a little insight into JUST Marion’s world (Tier 2), not even his neighbors miles away near the St. Mark’s district closer to Kingstree, the shopkeepers in Georgetown or anywhere else in South Carolina.

If you wonder why Marion might have targeted Georgetown, you do know that as a teenager he attempted being a sailor and sailed out of Georgetown decades before right? Oh that Tier 2 knowledge sure does help with the context of things. You will find that Marion has a heart for the strategic importance of this port and what it would mean to the patriot cause. However, he was well aware of his limits and would not place his few men in harms way for his dream.

I do hope you are now even more curious about what made this militia leader tick .. if so, welcome aboard!