Battle of Camden Staff Ride
And Camp Asylum Excavations
Sunday, March 16, 2014
At 0200 August 16, 1780, nearly 3,400 Americans under the command of General Horatio Gates were marching through a pine forest along a narrow country road attempting to reach tactically important ground close to the upcountry village of Camden, South Carolina. Suddenly they crashed into 1,300 British soldiers under the command of Lord Charles Cornwallis. The British were marching toward them along the same road hoping to surprise the Americans at dawn. Both sides were surprised as the shots rang through the forest. Both sides drew back and prepared for battle which began at dawn. At first light, an American artillery officer saw British regulars deploying through the gloom to his left. A round of canister flew into the British lines and the Battle of Camden began. It would end in one of the most complete defeats of an American Army in American military history.
Dr. Larry Babits in Continental Uniform at Camden batttlefield
Staff Ride: Fields of Conflict and Workshop participants will visit the battlefield on Sunday during the conference. The “staff ride” will be led by Dr. Lawrence Babits, Dr. Steven D. Smith, and James B. Legg.
PLUS!!! On the way to Camden we will visit the on-going excavations being carried on by Dr. Chester DePratter at a Civil War Period Prison Camp in Downtown Columbia.
In the Spring of 1864, the tide of war was turning against the South. Union General Ulysses S. Grant was advancing toward Richmond from the north, and General William T. Sherman was moving into Georgia on his March to the Sea. The large numbers of prisoners held in camps around Richmond were hastily shuttled to the south, with enlisted men going to Andersonville in Georgia, and officers to Camp Oglethorpe near Macon, Georgia. Within months these camps had to be abandoned as Sherman continued his advance. The officers were sent to Savannah, then Charleston, and on October 7,1864, they arrived in Columbia without any advance warning. The 1500 prisoners were placed in “Camp Sorghum” in an open field surrounded by guards in what is today West Columbia.
When the first prisoners arrived in Camp Sorghum, the prison contained no buildings and it had no surrounding wall. It was little more than a five acre clearing with a line of guards posted around its perimeter. The prisoners were forced to dig holes to live in, and food was in short supply. Winter conditions were harsh, but surprisingly few men died. Escapes were frequent, and in the two months the prison was in operation, hundreds of men escaped.
By early December, 1864, prison officials had found a place to move their charges. A walled enclosure on the grounds of the State Lunatic Asylum on the northern edge of Columbia was seen as the perfect alternative to the open setting of Camp Sorghum. Surrounded by a 12-foot high brick wall and with one barracks nearly completed, the new camp, Camp Asylum, was made home to around 1,200 officers. Some were housed in the new barracks building, while some of the men worked to build additional barracks, and many others resided in holes in the ground.
Camp Asylum operated from December 12, 1864 to February, 14, 1865, when the rapid approach of Sherman’s army toward Columbia caused the prisoners to be moved once again.This time they were transported to Charlotte, and then to Wilmington, North Carolina, and shortly thereafter the war ended and the prisoners on both sides were freed.
Schedule For Staff Ride
|Board Bus at Marriott||9:00 AM|
|Tour of Camp Ayslum||9:10 AM|
|Depart for Camden Battlefield||10:15 AM|
|Camden Staff Ride||11:30 AM|
|Depart for Camden Historic Site||1:00 PM|
|Lunch Camden Historic Site||1:30 PM|
|Depart for Columbia||3:00 PM|
|Arrive at Marriott||4:00 PM|
Attendees should wear clothing and shoes appropriate for hiking approximately 1 mile. However, for those unable to walk, much of the battlefield can be seen from the parking area.
Cost: Price of Camden battlefield site visit is paid for by your registration.
Artifacts from Camden Battlefield