Remains of soldiers excavated at Revolutionary War battleground in Camden

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Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 10:10 AM EST
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CAMDEN, S.C. (WIS) - A team of archaeologists uncovered the remains of multiple revolutionary war soldiers from the Battle of Camden.

The South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust announced on Veterans Day the discovery of 14 soldiers at the site. The trust acted on behalf of the Historic Camden Foundation and contracted the South Carolina Insitute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The team of archaeologists included members of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, biological anthropologists from the Richland County Coroner’s Office, and USC.

The battle on Aug. 16, 1780, was a victory for the British on the southern front of the Revolutionary War. The rout happened after Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates marched into South Carolina intending to free the area from British occupation.

As Gates approached Camden, the British commander Charles Cornwallis took to the field against him.

Changes in leadership after the battle altered the course of the war. This led to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Green being promoted to command in the south. The British army was eventually pushed back and evacuated from Charleston, SC in Dec. 1782.

“These young men demonstrated their allegiance in an intense battle for liberty. They are truly America’s first veterans,” said Doug Bostick, CEO, of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust.

An initial examination led the teams to believe that twelve bodies are Patriot Continental Soldiers from Maryland or Delaware. One is likely a North Carolina Loyalist and one served with the British 71st Regiment of Foot, Fraser’s Highlanders.

Many of the remains were discovered less than six inches below the surface at seven sites across the battlefield. They were removed from the ground over an eight-week period that started in September.

University of South Carolina Research Professor and Principal Investigator Dr. Steven D. Smith described how the continental soldiers were found in mass graves, while the British soldier appeared to be ceremonially buried.

“[It was] a hot August day and the losers weren’t there to bury their dead and the winners were, the British, and I don’t think they took much time in digging graves,” he said.

Bostick described finding some soldiers being found face down.

SCIAA archaeologist James Legg led the onsite field team, “The work we are doing honors their sacrifice by shedding light on details that are not yet documented in the historical record and by providing them with decently marked graves for the contemplation of battlefield visitors.”

The Richland County Coroner’s Office said it is one of only two offices in the state with forensic anthropologists. Dr. Bill Stevens the deputy coroner said the team will work over the next five months to identify the soldiers and gather information on them.

Smith said information is limited, but it does appear two soldiers were teens.

Planning is underway for reinterment ceremonies for April 20-22 in 2023 in Camden.

Bostick said, “When these young men marched into the darkness on that summer night in 1780, they did so out of love for their country despite the consequences that may befall them. Our intent is to lay them to rest with the respect and honor they earned more than two centuries ago.”

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