The American Revolution in South Carolina

Parker's Old Field

August 16, 1780

Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Col. Charles Porterfield (VA)
British Cdr:

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton






Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Kershaw County

On the afternoon of August 15th, Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis sent out Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to gain intelligence on Major General Horatio Gates's Patriot army. He intercepted a Patriot patrol and brought back three prisoners. They told Lord Cornwallis that their unit was to join Major General Gates as he marched on Camden that night. Lord Cornwallis ordered his army to march north at 10 p.m., to gain surprise against Major General Gates.

The two fairly large armies surprised each other around 2:30 a.m. on a slight rise near Saunder's Creek called Parker's Old Field. The British Legion hailed Lt. Col. Armand's Legion, then spotted Lt. Col. Porterfield's light infantry on their flank by the light of the moon. A single pistol shot rang out from Lt. Col. Armand's lead horseman, who promptly rode back to the security of the Light Infantry, 300 yards to the rear.

Lt. Col. Charles Tuffin Armand rode over to Lt. Col. Charles Porterfield and whispered, "There is the enemy, Sir. Must I charge him?" Lt. Col. Porterfield replied, "By all means, Sir." Armand rode back to his troops in the road, but it was too late.

Lt. Col. Tarleton's Legion charged first. He "came on at the top of his speed, every officer and soldier with a yell of an Indian savage - at every leap their horses took, crying out 'charge, charge, charge' so that their own voices and the echoes resounded in every direction through the pine forest."

Lt. Col. Armand's men held their ground and emptied their pistols at the charging British Legion. Then, they drew their sabres and rode at their enemy. Lt. Col. Armand ordered his right flank to come up on line instead of retreating. He knew that Lt. Col. Porterfield's light infantry was on their flanks and would protect them.

As desired, the infantry on both sides rose to expectations and caught Lt. Col. Tarleton's British Legion in a cross fire and forced them to withdraw. The Virginia Militia had never been in a fight before and fled back to the main body on the road. Lt. Col. Armand's Legion withdrew with them causing confusion for a few minutes. Disorder reigned throughout the entire MD 1st Regiment, but Lt. Col. Porterfield's Light Infantry stopped any possible British advantage. After about twenty minutes of disorganized battle, both sides fell back to regroup.

Lt. Col. Porterfield, with his horse reigned directly at the enemy, received a terrible wound in his left leg, a little below the knee, which shattered it to pieces. Falling forward to the pommel of his saddle, he directed Capt. Drew to order retreat, which was done in an even tone. The Patriots instantly fell back obliquely from the road, which was wholly secluded from the enemy. Lt. Col. Porterfield was eventually removed from the battlefield, after his horse fell and those around him were still being fired at.

Back on the road, Major General Horatio Gates learned that his men had just stumbled upon the main British force under Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, whom they thought was still in Camden waiting for their arrival. Major General Gates retreated and took up a defensive position across the Charlotte Road, deciding to wait until morning to commence his attack.

Meanwhile, Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon came down the road and dismounted to inspect a dead Patriot. He suspected that they might be Continentals due to the way they were fighting and their clothing proved him to be correct. He informed Lord Cornwallis of his findings and advised him that they were on good ground to fight a larger force, since the swamps on each side proted their flanks. Lord Cornwalls also decided it best to wait until morning to launch HIS attack.

Great minds think alike. The Battle of Camden began, in earnest, at day-break.

Known Patriot Participants 

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Lt. Col. Charles Porterfield - Commanding Officer

VA State Troops, Light Infantry led by Lt. Col. Charles Porterfield, with Capt. Thomas H. Drew and 200 men

NC Light Infantry (a temporary unit of NC Troops) led by Major John Armstrong with 68 men

Armand's Legion of Horse & Foot detachment led by Lt. Col. Charles Tuffin Armand, with Lt. Chevalier Georges, chevalier de Fontevieux and 60 men


Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton - Commanding Officer

British Legion led by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton with 20 mounted infantry and 20 cavalry, with Lt. Jeremiah Donovan

71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders) Light Infantry Company led by Capt. Charles Campbell with 70 men

16th Regiment of Foot Light Infantry Company led by Lt. John Skinner with 78 men

23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) detachment led by Capt. Forbes Champagne

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