The South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust (SCBPT) revealed the discovery of the Revolutionary War soldiers who had fallen during the Battle of Camden. They claim the 14 soldiers’ bodies had never been buried.
“These young men demonstrated their allegiance in an intense battle for liberty. They are truly America’s first veterans,” Doug Bostick, CEO of SCBPT said. “We have a responsibility to honor their sacrifice by ensuring their remains are protected in perpetuity and their stories of bravery are shared.”
The soldier’s remains were unearthed at beginning of September. They were found through the joint efforts of SCBPT, the Historic Camden Foundation, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Richland County Coroner’s Office, and the South Carolina Institute for Archeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina.
The skeletal remains of all 14 subjects were remarkably found at various locations throughout the battlefield. Some of the soldier’s bodies were less than a foot under the soil.
“People visit battlefields like Camden, Cowpens, and Kings Mountain every day and don’t often consider that they are walking in unmarked cemeteries. The dead are still there,” said James Legg an archeologist. “The work we are doing honors their sacrifice by shedding light on details that are not yet documented in the historical record and by providing them with decent marked graves for the contemplation of battlefield visitors.”
Due to what was found with each skeleton it is believed that 12 of the soldiers were Patriot Continental soldiers from Maryland and Delaware. Another body was most likely that of a North Carolina loyalist, and the last set of remains was a British soldier.
The Richland Coroner’s Office will begin inspecting the bodies in the coming months. The goal of future examinations will be to hopefully determine more about each soldier’s age, race, and even where they came from.
“As property owners, we are the caretakers and stewards of not only the resources we can see above ground but also to the rich history below ground,” said Cary Briggs, the executive director of the Historic Camden Foundation. The foundation owns a large portion of the battlefield.
“When these young men marched into the darkness on that summer night in 1780, they did so out of love for their country despite the consequences that may befall them. Our intent is to lay them to rest with the respect and honor they earned more than two centuries ago,” Briggs continued.
The Battle of Camden took place on August 16, 1780. It was a disaster for the Patriot soldiers who were easily defeated by British-led forces in a battle that nearly spelled doom for the American cause in the South.
The British forces, under General Charles Cornwallis’s command, faced off against the Patriots, who were being commanded by Major General Horatio Gates. The British forces included Royalists from North Carolina, and the infamous “Bloody Ban” Banastre Tarleton.
The battle took place in a pine forest just outside of Camden. During the bloody fight, about two-thirds of the American forces fled. The rest of the men, mainly men from Delaware and Maryland, remained to fight the British.
The battle ended in a rout for the Americans who had about 1,900 casualties. The British on the other hand had only sustained 324. Included in the American casualties was Major General Johann de Kalb. De Kalb was a Prussian who was given a commission in the army by American diplomats in France eager to get support for American independence.
De Kalb was wounded 11 times during the battle. He also sustained several stabbings with bayonets and died from his wounds days later. In the years after the war, the Prussian was honored with counties and towns named for him throughout the country.
Gate’s failure at Camden led to the rise of Major General Nathanael Greene. Later in the war Greene garnered the name of the “the Savior of the South.” He led the push against the British out of South Carolina in the years before the conclusion of the war in 1783, including the Patriot victory at Cowpens.