In January 1780 Major General Clinton who had taken over as British commander-in-chief in America from Major General Howe took a force from New York and captured Charleston, the provincial capital of South Carolina. Storms caused substantial loss of guns and horses on the journey.
Clinton returned to New York leaving to Major General Cornwallis the task of capturing the rest of South Carolina.
On 18th May Cornwallis sent Colonel Banastre Tarleton with foot and light dragoons in pursuit of an American force commanded by Colonel Burford. Tarleton overtook Burford at Camden near the border with North Carolina and defeated him.
Cornwallis arrived at Camden which over the next few months became an important base of operations for the British and in which supplies were assembled.
In July an American army under Major General Horatio Gates had marched from the North and was threatening the British in South Carolina.
The British were commanded at Camden by Lord Rawdon, Cornwallis having returned to Charleston. Rawdon advanced from Camden to meet the Americans and took a position on a creek to the North-East of the town. On Gates’ approach Rawdon fell back to Camden.
On 14th August Cornwallis joined his troops in Camden with the determination to attack Gates. He made a night advance which collided with the Americans who were also advancing to make an assault.
The battlefield lay between two swamps which narrowed the front and secured the flanks. Cornwallis formed his army in two brigades, Colonel Webster on the right with the companies of Light Infantry, the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 33rd Foot and on the left Lord Rawdon on the left with the Irish Volunteers, Tarleton’s infantry and some loyalist provincial units. Two battalions of Fraser’s 71st Highlanders provided a reserve.
Gates drew up his army with the regiments of the Continental Army on the right under Gist, Kalb’s 2nd Maryland and a Delaware regiment, his centre under Caswell of N...