The American Revolution in South Carolina


April 19-21, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Major General
Nathanael Greene
British Cdr:

Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon






Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Kershaw County

On April 19th, Major General Nathanael Greene's army marched to "Sands Hills," (Hobkirk’s Hill), within two miles of Camden, where he camped. By evening, his light troops then skirmished some of Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon’s forces, including some of the New York Volunteers, and the Volunteers of Ireland, outside the Camden fortifications (i.e., Logtown.) for the next couple of days.

Also on the night of April 19th, Major General Greene wrote to Lt. Col. Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee:

“We are within two Miles of Camden and shall march to LogTown in the morning which is within half a mile of their advance works.”

On April 24th, Major General Greene wrote to President Samuel Huntington in Philadelphia:

“We began our march from Deep River the 7th, and arrived in the neighborhood of Camden the 19th. All the Country through which we past is disaffected, and the same Guides and escorts were necessary to collect Provisions and forage, as if in an open and avowed Enemies Country. On our arrival at Camden we took post at Logtown, about half a mile, in front of their Works, which upon reconnoitering were found to be much stronger than had been represented, and the garrison much larger…Our force was too small either to invest or storm the Works, which obliged us to take a position a little distance from it.”

Capt. Robert Kirkwood:

"19 [April] Marched within 4 miles of Camden, took Eleven of the Enemy prisoners....15 [miles] This evening Genl. Green gave me orders if possible to take possession of Logtown, which was in full view of Camden & if I could take it, to mentain it until further orders, Leaving Camp about 8 at night, arrived before the town between 9 & 10 and about 12 Oclock got full possession of the place, A scattered firing was kept up all night, And at sun rise next morning, had a sharp schirmage, Beat in the Enemy, About two hours afterwards had the Very agreeable Sight of the advance of the Army. 20th. This day Col. Washington with my Infantry went Westerly round Camden, Burnt a house in one of the Enemys Redoubts on the Wateree River; took 40 horses and fifty Head of cattle and returned to Camp....4 [miles].”


"On the nineteenth April, 1781, we encamped before Campden, after a march of one hundred and sixty-four miles. We took this day eleven of the enemy prisoners, who were straggling through the country. The same night Captain Kirkwood, being detached off with his infantry, in order to take post before Campden, accordingly having arrived there about ten o'clock, drove in their picquets and took his post near the town till morning."

Camden had become the most important British post outside of Charlestown. After Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis seized the sleepy town in 1780, the British constructed four redoubts at the four corners of the town. A large stockade was built in the center, surrounded with high walls. A fifth redoubt was built a little north of the town on the Salisbury Road to defend the jail. Lord Cornwallis set up his headquarters at Joseph Kershaw's abandoned large house, and he had defensive works built around it as well.

At this point in time, the town was garrisoned with the 23rd Regiment of Foot and the 33rd Regiment of Foot, the Volunteers of Ireland, a small group of cavalry, the Royal North Carolina Regiment, the Prince of Wales Volunteers, and a detachment of artillery. The stores and churches in the town were used to house the British soldiers. Executions of those considered guilty of treason or breaking parole occurred so often "they were regarded with mute astonishment. If words found utterance, the inquiry was not 'who," but "how many are to be hanged today?"

Major General Nathanael Greene had been in North Carolina pursuing Lt. General Charles, Lord Corwallis, who was then heading to Wilmington. Major General Greene made a snap decision to swerve his troops back into South Carolina to see if he could catch Camden asleep, and to see if Lord Cornwallis would follow him. If Lord Cornwallis did not follow, then it would be a strong signal to the Patriots that Lord Cornwallis had given up on the posts in South Carolina and Georgia.

On April 7th, Major General Greene sent all the heavy baggage to Oliphant's Mill, located at the head of the Catawba River in Rowan County at that time, in case he needed to retreat. To head off any other reinforcements, Major General Greene ordered SC Brigadier General Andrew Pickens to focus his attention on the British at Augusta and at Fort Ninety-Six. Lt. Col. Henry Lee had already been ordered to join forces with Brigadier General Francis Marion and to conduct operations against Lt. Col. John Watson Tadwell-Watson and Lt. Col. Welbore Ellis Doyle along the Pee Dee River. At this same time, SC Brigadier General Thomas Sumter was in North Carolina recruiting men to fill three regiments, and hoping to meet Major General Greene at Camden.

Major General Greene knew that he would be marching fast and hard through Loyalist-dominated Carolina, so he sent the wounded, spare weapons, and women and children to Salisbury, North Carolina along with part of his baggage train.

When Lord Cornwallis learned that Major General Nathanael Greene have stopped pursuing and had moved towards South Carolina, he decided to let the state fend for itself. He did send a warning notice to Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon, but it never arrived.

Major General Greene's route took him through the pinewoods and sandhills of the two Carolinas. Most of the inhabitants were Loyalists who kept Lord Rawdon informed about Major General Greene's movements. He traveled one hundred-thirty (130) miles in thirteen days, then was delayed for four days at the Pee Dee River for want of boats. Since leaving Guilford Court House on March 15th, his army had marched over three hundred-ten (310) miles in thirty-three days.

The men were nearly starved until Zachary Cantey, Major General Greene's assistant commissary, arrived with bacon and corn that had been hidden in the swamps at his father's plantation. A few thin beeves were slaughtered for the men, but there was not enough for them all. Cantey advised Greene to move to the north side of Camden, near Hobkirk's Hill, where the Militia would assist him in finding more food.

At 10 p.m. on April 19th, Capt. Robert Kirkwood and his Delaware Continentals advanced towards Camden under the cover of darkness. By midnight, he had full possession of Logtown, but the firing continued all night. At sunrise on the 20th, there was a sizeable skirmish again, but Capt. Kirkwood beat in the pickets. From his position he was able to see the advance works of the British army in Camden. The next day, Major General Greene arrived near Logtown, a half mile from the British works in Camden, and set up his camp.

Major General Nathanael Greene soon realized that to assault the British fortifications at Camden would be suicidal, so he withdrew his army one mile to the north on a slightly higher ridge known as Hobkirk's Hill. On April 21st, Capt. Robert Kirkwood (DE) and Lt. Col. William Washington (VA) conducted a diversionary raid into Camden. They burned one house, captured forty horses, and captured fifty head of cattle.

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