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How the Irish saved Camden ... twice
Tom Oblak (Web).jpg
Tom Oblak

Is having an Irish Fest in Camden culturally relevant? Yes, it is! The Irish have had a significant presence in and around Camden since the mid-17th century. Twice, Irish soldiers prevented an army intent on capturing Camden from doing so. Many Irish emigrants settled in this area and Irish workers made commerce improvements.

Starting in the 1750s, through the 1770s, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians came to settle and homestead in the greater Camden district area. In 1772, the Rev. William Martin lead about 400 Irish families to emigrate from Ireland to South Carolina, with some families settling nearby.

Depending on whose side you were on during the Revolutionary War, you can take this as a good or bad set of circumstances. Camden was garrisoned by the British Loyalist Regiment, the “Volunteers of Ireland.” The regiment was raised in Philadelphia in 1777 and went to New York City with the British Army in April 1778. The regiment was placed on the roles of the British Army on 2 May 1779. They were commanded by Lt. Col. Francis Rawdon-Hastings, an Irishman, who had been given permission to form a British Provincial regiment from Irishmen loyal to Britain. In 1780, after the British captured Charleston and established Camden as a key supply point in the Midland, the town was fortified and the Volunteers of Ireland became the principle defenders. Camden came under threat of attack twice by American Patriot forces during the year the British were in Camden. In the two major battles, the Battle of Camden on Aug 16, 1780, and the Second Battle of Camden at Hobkirk Hill, on April 25, of 1781, the Volunteers of Ireland were key to the British Victory and saved Camden from being taken. Of course, it’s important to note, when the British evacuated Camden during the first part of May 1781, Lt. Col. Rawdon gave the command to burn the town down. It is worthy to note, Sergeant Thomas Hudson, of the Volunteers of Ireland, received a decoration for heroism, one of only two such decorations given to a soldier of the British Army during the Revolutionary War in America.

In the 1820s, Irish Catholics represent many of the workman who built the Wateree Canal and lock system in the vicinity of the current Wateree Dam, improving commerce from above the rocky shoals to below the dam, to further up river.

Camden has a lot of Irish history to be proud of, or not, depending on your views on a couple of historical events, but we can recognize the contributions as significant. So, don’t miss Irish Fest Camden on Saturday, March 2, at its new location at Historic Camden from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. featuring live Irish music, Irish fare and beer, a kids zone, Highland Games competition, Revolutionary War displays and demonstrations, and much more. Admission is $10; children ages 2 to 12, $5. Proceeds benefit Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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