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

The remains of America’s first veterans who died at the 1780 Battle of Camden during the Revolutionary War have been discovered less than six inches below the surface.

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

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

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

Researchers discovered the remains of 14 soldiers who died during the 1780 Battle of Camden that took place in South Carolina.  Approximately 13 of the corps were American and one fought for the British Army

Researchers discovered the remains of 14 soldiers who died during the 1780 Battle of Camden that took place in South Carolina. Approximately 13 of the corps were American and one fought for the British Army

The Battle of Camden was the worst defeat the Americans experienced in the field and 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 Carolina interior of the South: Camden was the oldest and largest city of the time.

Camden (located by the star) is an inland city in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the state

Camden (located by the star) is an inland city in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the state

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

The Battle of Camden was one of the worst defeats experienced by the American army during the War of Independence. 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.

The news of his arrival quickly spread to Cornwallis, who prepared 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 positioned on the right of the line.

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

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

Gates placed the veterans of the Maryland and Delaware lines on the right, but Cornwallis died just the same, but since they were facing opposite directions, Gate’s left had the more inexperienced Virginia soldiers.

The Virginia group, however, fled immediately upon seeing the British extend their bayonets, leaving the rest of the Americans in a position to quickly collapse.

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

Doug Bostick, CEO of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust (SCIAA), said in a statement: “These young men proved their loyalty in an intense battle for freedom. They are truly America’s first veterans.

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

The team discovered other artifacts while exhuming the remains, including 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 archaeologist James Legg has conducted research at Camden Battlefield for over 40 years and led the field team on site.

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“People visit battlefields like Camden, Cowpens and Kings Mountain every day and often don’t consider walking through unmarked cemeteries. The dead are still there,” commented Legg.

“The work we are doing honors their sacrifice by shedding light on details not yet documented in the historical record and providing them with decently marked graves for the contemplation of battlefield visitors.”

Although the Battle of Camden gave the British Army an advantage in the south, it all began to crumble a few months later when the country’s patriots united to attack the British Army’s supply trains, specifically those of Cornwallis.

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

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

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

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

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