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Battle of Camden remembered on 234th anniversary

Posted: August 24, 2014 1:59 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The clash between British and American armies on Aug. 16, 1780, was one of the largest and bloodiest field battles of the American Revolution. The battle, which pitted forces led by Major Gen. Horatio Gates against those of Charles, Lord Cornwallis, started badly and ended worse--with an estimated loss of Patriot lives between 500 and 800, many of whom lie in shallow unmarked graves at the Battle site nine miles North of Camden, South Carolina. 
Baron de Kalb suffered mortal wounds--all in the front--and is interred in Camden.  The victory convinced Lord Cornwallis, whose headquarters was the garrison now occupied by Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, that his strategy should be conventional engagements with the enemy, rather than the ever-growing guerrilla forces.
This fatal assessment and the his view that Lord George Germain’s “Southern Strategy” (mobilize Loyalists and reestablish Royal Authority and continue British control of the Colonies) was attainable sowed the seeds for American victory at Yorktown 14 months later.
On Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, representatives of five Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Chapters joined with Historic Camden and the Col. Joseph Kershaw Chapter to honor Baron de Kalb and the fallen patriots with a public commemoration ceremony and wreath-laying at the battle site, which included three “officer’s volleys” by militia led by Dr. Kip Carter in period dress. 
Wreaths were laid by the following Chapters and Compatriots:
1.  Battle of Eutaw Springs:  James Wyrosdick
2.  Cambridge Chapter:  Dr. Ted Morton
3.  Col. Matthew Singleton Chapter:  Robert Spaiin
4.  The Gov. Paul Hamilton Chapter:  Wayne Coursar
5.  MG William Moultrie Chapter:  John L. Ramsey and Hal Lefferts
6.  The Col. Joseph Keshaw Chapter:  Miles Gardner with John Schlueter (son-in-law of the late Frank Lachicotte).
 Incoming Col. Joseph Kershaw Chapter President, Judge Bill Funderburk, introduced the chapters and presided over the wreath-laying.  Dr. Bill Vartorella read a letter from Francis Marion, who had been “reassigned” by Gen. Gates and missed the battle.  The “Swamp Fox’s” letter, written on the retreat from the Camden area to Lynch’s Creek, related “Gen. Gates is defeated with great loss, he was obliged to retreat . . . which obliges me also to retreat.  . . . . Genl. De Kalb, is killed, Dubesan wounded, the particulars have not come to hand.” 
Carter and two others in period dress “shook out” three rounds in an “officer’s salute” to Baron de Kalb and the fallen patriots.  Following a benediction by Dr. Ted Morton, the roughly 30 persons present, including Historic Camden representative Davey Beard, made “an orderly retreat” to the Kershaw House for the installation of new Col. Joseph Kershaw President, Judge Bill Funderburk, by Douglas Doster, followed by a moving eulogy to recently-deceased member Frank Lachicotte by John Ramsey.  Ms. Shannon Schlueter responded for the family; the Chapter and Historic Camden presented the family with Battle of Camden commemorative challenge coins. 
Joanna Craig, executive director of Historic Camden, updated the gathering on the status of the initiative to make the Battle of Camden and Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site a joint National Battlefield or National Park.  At the reception that followed over sandwiches and lemonade, a George Washington toast “to the memory of those heroes who have fallen for our freedom” was led by Vartorella, followed by John Ramsey’s toast to Frank Lachicotte. 
Next year is the 235th anniversary of the Southern Campaign.  Historic Camden, the Col. Joseph Kershaw Chapter, the State Society, and the National Society Sons of the American Revolution--along with the American Legion nationally--have formally supported an initiative to the U.S. Congress/National Park Service for protection of both the Battle of Camden Site (a National Historic Landmark) and Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site as either a joint National Battlefield or National Park. This is ongoing.Historic Camden is preparing for a large commemoration next year, akin to the 225th, which included, among others, a Consul-General of Great Britain.

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