In honor of President George Washington’s visit to Camden in May 1791, the Col. Joseph Kershaw Chapter of the South Carolina Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SCSSAR), in conjunction with State Society President Wayne Cousar, will host a wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. May 25.
The commemoration will be held at Camden’s 18th century town square (corner of Broad and Bull Streets) where Washington was welcomed by Intendant (mayor) Joseph Kershaw. After narrations of Kershaw’s address and President Washington’s reply and other dramatic readings, there will be a second wreath-laying with historical readings at the SAR Revolutionary War Memorial Park near the original burial site of Patriot Baron de Kalb. Light refreshments will be served. Comfortable shoes are recommended and those needing lawn chairs are asked to provide their own. The Old Armory Steakhouse in downtown Camden will be the lunch venue. Guests who show their ceremony program will be entitled to the special $10 lunch menu offered for the occasion.
Interestingly, the occasion, which falls on the exact day of the week when Washington came 225 years ago, is but one of the pages in our nation’s history that Camden claims.
"It is important for us to remember the unique place Camden holds in Revolutionary War History," Bill Vartorella, Senior VP SCSSAR and descendant of a branch of George Washington's family said. "In addition to the Battle of Camden site, we have a sealed Colonial archeological site, several contemporary homes and a legacy of famous combatants and visitors -- Baron DeKalb, Kosciusko, Greene, Lafayette, and Washington--just to name a few. In a very real sense, the outcome of War was decided in the South at its numerous battles, including Camden. President Washington knew this and paid tribute to many of the battlefields while on his Tour of the South."
At the onset of his presidency in April 1789, Washington had decided a tour of the fledgling nation would benefit the administration of his office. Not only could he gain knowledge of the "face of the country," but he could determine the speed at which the country "is recovered from the ravages of war." He could also explain to the inhabitants the benefits of the new union and newly ratified Constitution and discern their support of the new government.
His tour of New England completed by mid November 1789, Washington soon received invitations to visit the South, including one from South Carolina’s Governor Charles Pinckney. With the ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina in late 1789 and assorted administration demands completed, Washington made plans to visit all of the Southern States as promised. To avoid the southern states famed "warm and sickly months," Washington started his journey in Philadelphia on March 21, 1791. Estimating travel time of approximately three months to cover some 1,700 miles, the robust itinerary included visits to towns and cities along the eastern coast from Maryland to Savannah, Georgia. His return route from Augusta, Georgia would cross South Carolina’s middle region, North Carolina and end in Virginia. So precise was the former surveyor in charting his route, anticipating his rate of progress and mileage, and duration of visits, he arrived at his destination on June 4, well ahead of schedule.
Wanting people to see him as a public servant rather than monarch-like, Washington dressed mostly in civilian dress, often of black velvet. He soon learned that people really wanted to see him in his commander’s uniform, leading him to sometimes stop and change from his coach-traveling clothes into his uniform and then mount his beloved white stallion Prescott and follow the coach into town.
No matter the length of stay, Washington’s visits drew crowds of excited admirers of all ages; Revolutionary War veterans flocked to finally meet their former commander-in-chief. As he liked to rise early and be on his way before sunrise, some stops were limited to a day and overnight; others were longer.
Setting out at 4 a.m. on May 25, Washington headed towards Camden from Columbia. He noted that morning in his diary: Breakfasted at an indifferent house 22 miles from the town, (the first we came to) and reached Camden about two o'clock, 14 miles further. The Road from Columbia to Camden, excepting a mile or two at each place, goes over the most miserable pine barren I ever saw, being quite a white sand, & very hilly.
He arrived at the Wateree River around noon. At the river’s edge stood throngs of cheering people who joined the caravan as it headed into Camden.
For further information, please contact Bill Vartorella at email@example.com.