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Painting the Battle of Hanging Rock
Boyd Saunders
Boyd Saunders at work

An entertaining as well as an informative program is anticipated when the Kershaw County Historical Society hosts a special event this Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Council Room at the County Government Center in Camden, 515 Walnut St.

The Society’s program, “History Made Art -- Painting the Battle of Hanging Rock,” is open to the public and guests are welcomed.

Speaker Boyd Saunders of Chapin is gifted not only as an artist in many fields, but also as an exceptionally good storyteller. That picture emerges from those who know him, as well as from a new book about him recently published by the University of South Carolina (USC) Press-- A View from the South: The Narrative Art of Boyd Saunders, written by Thomas Dewey II.

At the meeting, Saunders will largely focus his remarks on the two years (1998-2000) he spent researching and painting The Battle of Hanging Rock.

The painting, 7-1/2 feet wide, hangs in the S.C. State Museum in Columbia, part of its permanent art collection. Exhibited on the fourth floor in the Cultural History section on the Revolutionary War, it is part of an interpretative display that entices viewers to further study. One wall of the display is an enormous enlargement of the contemporary map of the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, Camden.

The Battle of Hanging Rock was fought in the area of the modern Lancaster-Kershaw county boundary on August 6, 1780, only two months after the British occupied Camden and just 10 days before the Battle of Camden.

Posted beside Saunders’ painting in the State Museum, a commentary quotes Lord Cornwallis reporting to his British superiors the area backcountry was “in an absolute State of Rebellion.”  The commentary also states:

“The Battle of Hanging Rock was one of the first American successes after the British captured Charleston in May… Patriot militia commanded by Gen. Thomas Sumter launched an early morning attack on the King’s forces. The 600 Americans, including 35 Catawba allies and a few slaves, initially overwhelmed 1,400 American Loyalist and British troops… At the end of four hours, an estimated 200 British and 20 Americans lay dead. Many more were wounded.”

How did artist Saunders learn about the battlefield details to reveal in his painting? Saturday’s audience will hear (and see) his story with rare exposure to the artist’s personal collection of original, non-digitized slides of his process of researching and creating his work.

One of the resource persons who Saunders said was very valuable to him, Kip Carter, plans to attend the program. A Revolutionary expert, Carter, who lives near the Hanging Rock battlefield and who has studied the historic event extensively.

In A View from the South, Saunders’ biographer Dewey notes that the artist, a Tennessee native whose mature career brought him to Columbia, is exhibited world-wide. He is also noted as a printmaker, sculptor, illustrator, author, and professor emeritus of art at USC.

Dewey points in Saunders’ works to “intriguing tales that reveal his heartfelt devotion to the people and places of the American South.” Beautiful full-color reproductions create a lovely book for display as well as for reading. Subjects of his art range widely, including scenes, horses (he was a rider), and illustrations of the writings of Nobel Prize author William Faulkner, whom he knew and admired.

At the meeting, Camden booksellers Books-on-Broad will handle sales of the book for USC Press so that copies may be purchased for complimentary signing by the artist. Also Comporium of Lancaster, will have art prints of the painting, sized for framing, which may also be purchased and signed. The book cost is in the range of $35 plus tax; the print, about $90 total.

Sociable mingling with refreshments and conversation will follow the program, and purchases and signing will be available at that time.