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SAR, DAR commemorate the Battle of Camden

Posted: August 20, 2013 5:33 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Haley Atkinson/C-I

Revolutionary War historian David Reuwer spoke to the gathering of community members at Saturday’s Battle of Camden memorial ceremony at the battlesite on Flat Rock Road north of Camden.

A light rain joined a light crowd in helping to commemorate the 233rd anniversary of the Battle of Camden at the battle’s site Saturday on Flat Rock Road.

The memorial included a wreath-laying by members of the Colonel Joseph Kershaw Chapter of the Son of the American Revolution (SAR) and the Hobkirk Hill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The occasion also included a speech from Revolutionary War historian David Reuwer, who expressed concern with the low turnout.

“I’m troubled by how few people came out today to honor the 733 Americans who died in battle here,” he said.

The Battle of Camden took place Aug. 16, 1780, and is known as one of the worst defeats of Colonial forces during the Revolutionary War. It is also remembered as the battle that claimed the life of the valiant General Baron Johann de Kalb, shot 11 times during the battle and buried in Camden.

“You don’t have to go to Normandy to see a battlefield where hundreds of Americans died,” Reuwer said, gesturing to the forest directly across Flat Rock Road. “Just look across the street. That’s a cemetery over there where 733 American patriots died fighting for liberty.”

The crowd held silent for a moment as the rain continued to fall.

“I want to lower my patriotism,” Reuwer said emphatically, seemingly oblivious to the rain, holding neither umbrella nor raincoat. “Yes, I want to lower it from here (pointing to his head) to here (pointing to his heart.) I want the loss suffered at the Battle of Camden to ferment here.”

Several representatives stepped forward to present wreaths before the Baron de Kalb monument at the battle site, including Paddy Bell, regent of the Hobkirk Hill Chapter DAR. As regent, Bell is very concerned with achieving national park status for the Battle of Camden site and the Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site in Camden.

“It is a privilege to place this wreath in the honor and memory of those patriots who fought at the Battle of Camden, and who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty,” she said. “The DAR is committed to preserving and protecting the hallowed ground where they fought, died and now rest in as many as 800 unmarked graves.

“The Hobkirk Hill Chapter has championed the significance of the Camden Battlefield since erecting a monument there in 1909. Our dedication continues with support of the adoption of a resolution for the designation of that site and Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site as part of the National Park System. This we proudly do to defend the honor of our ancestors and the cause of liberty.”

The ceremony continued with Reuwer imparting the two lessons he takes from the Battle of Camden. The first lesson is that there is a difference between freedom and liberty.

“Today we talk about ‘freedom,’ but that’s not what DeKalb and his counterparts would have called it. They said ‘liberty’ in DeKalb’s time. Liberty is not the same as freedom. It’s freedom PLUS responsibility,” Reuwer said.

The second lesson, according to Reuwer, is about opportunity.

“Right now, we have the opportunity to remake Camden just as our forefathers did. I want to see this battle site remembered with 733 candles in papers bags lining the sides of this road honoring those Americans. I want to hear bells ringing by the thousands,” he said.

Reuwer’s hopes for Camden are closely aligned to Bell’s, as they and many others are working towards achieving national park status for the two sites.

Reuwer concluded by “challenging” all attendees to bring at least one other person out to the battle site on Flat Rock Road sometime this week to honor de Kalb and all the other fallen patriots.

“Don’t let their heroism, their bravery, be forgotten,” he said.

The Battle of Camden site is located eight miles north of Camden on Flat Rock Road off U.S. 521 North. Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site is located at 222 Broad St. in Camden. For more information, visit www.historic-camden.net or call 432-9841.

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