The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Camden
Battle of Camden

The Battle: Arraying the Troops
Both Maj. General Horatio Gates and Lt. General Charles Cornwallis, having been surprised by the encounter, withdrew to plan and wait for dawn. Following the early morning skirmish, the element of surprise was now gone. It was learned from prisoners taken that the British force was 3,000 strong and commanded by General Cornwallis himself. General Gates immediately called a council of war with his officers to discuss what action to take. Although Maj. General Baron de Kalb had privately advised retreat, he said nothing at the council of war.

After a few moments of silence, militia Brig. General Edward Stevens declared that it was too late to do anything but fight. General Gates wanted to prove his worth as a skilled commander, so when no other advice was offered, he insisted on facing the British on open ground. Although both Gates and the British estimated the American forces to be nearly 7,000 men, the actual number was only about 3,000, nearly 2,000 of whom were inexperienced militia.

Before dawn broke, General Gates formed his men. The core of his force, 900 Maryland and Delaware regulars under General de Kalb, were arrayed to the right of the Waxhaws road. To the left the road, were placed 1,800 North Carolina militia. On their left were 700 Virginia militia. Colonel Charles Armand's cavalry was held in reserve behind the Virginians. Gates himself was stationed with the reserves some 200 yards behind the battleline.

When the British appeared on the field, Lord Rawdon commanded his own Volunteers of Ireland, as well as Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton's British Legion cavalry on the British left wing opposite of General de Kalb. Following European military custom, both General Gates and General Cornwallis had placed their most experienced troops on the right wing. As a result, Lt. Colonel James Webster commanded the most seasoned British regiments on the right wing opposite Gates' inexperienced militia. In hindsight it looks to be a recipe for disaster for Gates.

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