Remains of ‘America’s first veterans’ who died in the Revolutionary War are found in South Carolina


Remains of America’s first veterans who were killed in the 1780 Battle of Camden during the Revolutionary War have been unearthed less than six inches below the surface.

Researchers found a total of 14 individuals, 12 of the bodies are Patriot Continental soldiers from either Maryland or Delaware, one is a North Carolina Loyalist and the last served with the British 71st Regiment of Foot.

The large sample of remains, according to experts, is rare to come by and will reveal the ages, diets and health of soldiers during this epic war.

The bodies of Americans found at the site were also of those who stayed fighting during the battle, which was one of the worst defeats the army had experienced, while many of their fellow soldiers fled at the site of British bayonets. 

Researchers unearthed remains of 14 soldiers who died during the 1780 Battle of Camden that took place in South Carolina. Approximately 13 of the bodies were Americans and one fought for the British army

The Battle of Camden was the worst defeat Americans experienced in the field and it gave the British temporary control of the southern colonies, which included Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

At least 900 Americans died during the battle on August 16, with more than 1,000 captured.

After capturing Charleston, South Carolina in May 1780, British forces under General Charles Lord Cornwallis established a supply depot and fortress at Camden with the goal of taking control of the South Carolina backcountry – Camden was the oldest and largest town at the time.

Some of the remains were found just six inches below the surface, which suggests their final resting place is where they died while fighting

Some of the remains were found just six inches below the surface, which suggests their final resting place is where they died while fighting

Camden (located by the star) is a backcountry town in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the state

Camden (located by the star) is a backcountry town in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the state

The Battle of Camden was one of the worst defeats the American army experienced during the Revolutionary War. At least 900 were killed and more than 1,000 captured

The Battle of Camden was one of the worst defeats the American army experienced during the Revolutionary War. At least 900 were killed and more than 1,000 captured

The Americans, led by Major General Haratio Gates, marched into South Carolina two months later to free the state from British control.

News of their arrival spread quickly to Cornwallis who readied his soldiers for battle, meeting his adversary at Camden.

After a brief skirmish Gates formed his men for battle, but made a critical error in his deployment.

Under the custom of 18th Century warfare, the most experienced units were placed on the right of the line.

The Americans loss due to a mistake by their general who set up unexperienced soldiers against the most experience in the British army. Pictured is a recent image of the battlefield

The Americans loss due to a mistake by their general who set up unexperienced soldiers against the most experience in the British army. Pictured is a recent image of the battlefield

The team has discovered other artifacts while exhuming the remains, including musket flint (pictured), which ignited the fire of a small gun

The team has discovered other artifacts while exhuming the remains, including musket flint (pictured), which ignited the fire of a small gun

Gates positioned the veterans from the Maryland and Delaware Line on the right, but Cornwallis died the same, but since they were facing opposite directions, Gate’s left had the most inexperienced Virginia soldiers.

The Virginia group, however, immediately fled at the sight of the British extending their bayonets, leaving the rest of Americans in position to quickly collapse.

The Continental Regulars from Maryland and Delaware, however, withstood the onslaught, which is why researchers believe the remains belong to men from this group.

Doug Bostick, CEO, South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust (SCIAA), said in a statement: ‘These young men demonstrated their allegiance in an intense battle for liberty. They are truly America’s first veterans.

‘We have a responsibility to honor their sacrifice by ensuring their remains are protected in perpetuity and their stories of bravery are shared.’

The team has discovered other artifacts while exhuming the remains, including musket flint and musket balls.

Fragments of musket balls were also found, some of which were used by the French army that came to the aid of the Americans

SCIAA archeologist James Legg has conducted research on the Camden Battlefield for more than 40 years and led the onsite field team.

‘People visit battlefields like Camden, Cowpens and Kings Mountain every day and don’t often consider that they are walking in unmarked cemeteries. The dead are still there,’ remarked Legg.

‘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 decent marked graves for the contemplation of battlefield visitors.’

While the Battle of Camden gave the British army a leg up in the south, it all began to crumble just months later when backcountry patriots banded together to attack supply trains of the British army, specifically those under Cornwallis. 

Southern patriot militiamen proved their growing strength over loyalist forces at the decisive Battle of King’s Mountain in the North Carolina backcountry in October 1780, which gave America one of its first major victories in the south since 1778.

And from this battle, the Americans began taking back southern colonies one by one. 

In October 1781, Cornwallis’s army fell while under attack at Yorktown in Virginia against American troops led by George Washington and French troops were also by their side.

America’s cavalry had finally crossed the Atlantic from France, forcing Cornwallis to finally surrender on October 9.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk