The Battle of Camden

GREENE perceived that the possession of the interior of South Carolina depended on the posts at Camden and Ninety-Six, and he resolved to capture them. Lord Rawdon was in command at Camden with a force nine hundred in number, and strongly intrenched When Greene relinquished the pursuit of Cornwallis, he marched directly against Rawdon, and arrived within a mile of his intrenchments on the 19th of April, 1781. The works were too strong for Greene's force to assail, and the latter were not numerous enough to invest them and begin a siege; so he withdrew to Hobkirk's Hill, a well-wooded eminence northward of Camden, and encamped within a mile and a half of Rawdon's intrenchments, where he awaited expected reinforcements under Sumter. There, on the 24th, he heard of the capture of a post at Wright's Bluff, below Camden by Marion and Lee, and was impatient to fall upon Rawdon, for he was informed that almost five hundred troops were marching up the Santee to reinforce the latter. That night a drummer deserted to the enemy, and informed Rawdon of the weakness of Greene and his expectation of reinforcements immediately. Rawdon's provisions were almost exhausted he saw no chance for success in battle excepting in an immediate surprise and attack. So he prepared to fall upon Greene early in the morning of the 25th.

At dawn Greene's cavalry, who had been on duty all night, were dismounted, their horses were unsaddled, and they were taking refreshments preparatory to a few hours repose. Some of the other soldiers were washing their clothes, and Greene and his staff were at a spring on the eastern slope of Hobkirk's Hill, at breakfast. Rawdon had sallied out with his whole garrison, and by marching unperceived along the margin of a swamp, had gained the left flank of the Americans. Greene, partially surprised, quickly formed his little army in battle-line. His cavalry were immediately remounted. The Virginia brigade under General Huger, with lieutenant-Colonels Campbell and Hawes, formed the right; the Maryland brigade (with Delaware troops under Kirkwood), led by Colonel Williams, with Colonel Gunby and Lieutenant-Colonels Ford and Howard, occupied the left, and the artillery under Colonel Harrison were in the center, on the road. Washington's cavalry were directed to make a circuit through the woods and fall upon the rear of the enemy, and North Carolina militia were held as a reserve. In this position Greene prepared to receive the non-coming Rawdon. As the British troops moved slowly up the slope, with a narrow front, the regiments of Campbell and Ford were ordered to turn their flanks, and Gunby's Marylanders to assail their front with bayonets, without firing. The battle now opened with great vigor, the Virginians led by Greene in person. The artillery hurled grape-shot with deadly effect, when the British line wavered, and the Americans felt sure of gaining a victory. At that moment Captain Beatty, commanding a company of Gunby's veterans, was killed, and his followers gave way. Unfortunately an order followed for the whole regiment to retire, when the British broke through the American center, pushed up the brow of the hill, and forced Greene to retreat. Washington, meanwhile, had succeeded in capturing about two hundred of the British soldiers, whose officers he quickly paroled; and in the retreat he carried away fifty of the captives. The Americans were chased a short distance, when Washington, turning upon his pursuers, by a gallant charge checked them. Greene saved all of his artillery and baggage, rallied his men at Rugeley's crossed the Wateree River above Camden, and took a strong position to rest before marching on Ninety-Six. The loss of each was less then two hundred and seventy. This defeat was unexpected to Greene, and disconcerted him at first, but his genius and courage were equal to the occasion.

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