The Battle of Camden
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
American Wars - War of independence
The Battle of Camden doesn’t refer to a battle at Camden market in London; it actually refers to a battle in the American Revolutionary War between the British and Americans in north Camden, South Carolina. This battle happened on the 16th August in the year 1878.
This battle pitched the commander Lord Charles Cornwallis on the British side against Horatio Gates of the American side. This battle ended up being the undoing of one of these commanders, but which one?
Prior to the Battle of Camden
In 1878 the British were in a quandary, the reasons for this were the huge defeat at Saratoga and more worryingly the fact that the French joined in the war on the American side.
This quandary resulted in a huge change in tactics as the British decided to move its strategy to the south. This new strategy saw the British gain victories in South Carolina and Georgia.
This advance worried the Americans so they decided to march south to Camden, South Carolina where they could put up a stand and stop the British advance any further into the Carolina’s.
The Battle of Camden
Gates arrived at the battlefield first and formed his men into three columns, the central column and the left and right flank columns. These columns were supported by 7 guns to the rear of the columns. The American position would pitch their untested soldiers against the British elite and the stronger regulars against weaker British forces, a test of will by trading one side of against another.
The British shaped up in two lines, the left flank and the right flank. The British included the much feared Tarleton's Legion who only numbered 450 but were the special forces of the day.
Dawn approached and both sides marched towards each other in slow and deliberate movements, this stopped when the right line of the British opened fire on the American left flank causing the left flank to suffer. This volley of fire then proceeded into a full on bayonet charge that made the American left wing literally disintegrated in minutes.
The American right then started an advance on the left flank before being beaten back to the British, after this the Americans countered and nearly broke through the British lines. The British managed to steady their left and stop the potential catastrophe, this surge in British resolve caused the American right to flee. Rather than chase the British turned its attention to the American central line where a massive bayonet charge started, the Americans however managed to steady their line and fight fiercely.
The British used a decisive move to end the battle and sent the feared Tarleton's Legion cavalry division to the rear of the Americans and attack from behind. This move then caused the Americans to disperse and flee from the field.
The British won a huge victory while only losing 68 men, the Americans ended up with 9000 killed or wounded and 1,000 captured as prisoners. A massive loss to the Americans with the British hardly affected.