New Exhibit at the Archives

August 31, 2018

The Camden Archives & Museum just opened a new exhibit - "...make no Doubt we shall carry this post..." The History and Archaeology of Fort Motte.  The question everyone has asked is "Why do an exhibit on a fort in Calhoun County?  What does that have to do with Camden?"

The answer - everything! 

The siege of Fort Motte took place during the American Revolution.  Partisans under General Francis Marion and Continentals under Lt. Col. Henry Lee laid siege to the fort in May 1781.  Located on the Congaree River, the fort guarded British supply trains coming up from Charleston and heading for British garrisons at Camden, Ninety-Six and other posts in the interior of South Carolina. 

In the spring of 1781, the British Army had been in control of South Carolina since the fall of 1780.  Two American armies had been defeated in 1780, one in May at the surrender of Charleston and one in August at the disaster of the first Battle of Camden.  A third American army soon arrived and victories at Kings Mountain in October and at the Cowpens in January 1781 kept the American cause alive in the southern colonies.  During the same period, Francis Marion and his partisans never stopped fighting the British.  Their hit and run tactics kept the British occupation forces tied down in their fortified outposts.

The British had established a number of these outposts to maintain control of the state.  Some, like the occupied town of Camden, housed large garrisons and others were small fortified outposts that guarded the supply routes from Charleston to the interior.  All of these posts were integral to the British maintaining their control of our state.

After the Battle of Guilford Court House (March 1781), Nathanael Greene’s American army marched into South Carolina determined to force the British out of the state.  What followed was a war of “posts” – small detachments under Marion, Lee, and General Thomas Sumter attacked the outposts while General Greene attached the larger garrisons like Camden and Ninety-Six. 

Fort Watson on the Santee fell to Marion and Lee on April 23rd.  Greene’s army fought the British at Camden in the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill on April 25th.  Although the Continental’s lost the ground, they continued to threaten the British garrison at Camden.  Within just a few weeks, Marion and Lee took Fort Motte, Sumter’s forces took the post at Orangeburg, and Lee’s Continentals defeated the British at Fort Granby. 

On May 8th, Lord Rawdon, commander of the British garrison at Camden, abandoned the town and began the British retreat back to Charleston.  These battles, which took place in April and May of 1781, were the beginning of the end for British control of South Carolina.

So – why an exhibit on Fort Motte?  Because “…make no Doubt we shall carry this post…” The History and Archaeology of Fort Motte" illustrates how the fort's capture was a strong link in the chain of British defeats that led to the end of British occupation of the state.  

...and it gives us the opportunity to pull out some of the wonderful artifacts that we have in our collection from the Battle of Camden!