CAMDEN, a town and the county-seat of Kershaw county, South Carolina, U.S.A., near the Wateree river, 33 m. N.E. of Columbia. Pop. (1890) 3533; (1900) 2441; this decrease was due to the separation from Camden during the decade of its suburb “Kirkwood,” re-annexed in 1905; (1910) 3569. It is served by the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Air Line and the Southern railways. Camden is situated about 100 ft. above the river, which is navigable to this point. The town is a winter resort, chiefly for Northerners. Cotton, grain and rice are produced in the vicinity, and there are some manufactories, including cotton mills, a cotton-seed oil mill and planing mills. Camden, first known as Pine Tree Hill, is one of the oldest interior towns of the state, having been settled in 1758; in 1768 the present name was adopted in honour of Lord Chancellor Camden. The town was first incorporated in 1791; its present charter dates from 1890. For a year following the capture of Charleston by the British in May 1780, during the War of Independence, Camden was the centre of important military operations. It was occupied by the British under Cornwallis in June 1780, was well fortified and was garrisoned by a force under Lord Rawdon. On the 16th of August Gen. Horatio Gates, with an American force of about 3600, including some Virginia militia under Charles Porterfield (1750–1780) and Gen. Edward Stevens (1745–1820), and North Carolina militia under Gen. Richard Caswell (1729–1789), was defeated here by the British, about 2000 strong, under Lord Cornwallis, who had joined Rawdon in anticipation of an attack by Gates. Soon after the engagement began a large part of the Americans, mostly North Carolina and Virginia militia, fled precipitately, carrying Gates with them; but Baron De Kalb and the Maryland troops fought bravely until overwhelmed by numbers, De Kalb himself being mortally wounded. A monument was erected to his memory in 1825, Lafayette laying the corner-stone. The British loss in killed, wounded and missing was 324; the American loss was about 800 or 900 killed and 1000 prisoners, besides arms and baggage. On the 3rd of December Gates was superseded by Gen. Nathanael Greene, who after Cornwallis had left the Carolinas, advanced on Camden and arrived in the neighbourhood on the 19th of April 1781. Considering his force (about 1450) insufficient for an attack on the fortifications, he withdrew a short distance north of Camden to an advantageous position on Hobkirk’s Hill, where on the 25th of April Rawdon, with a force of only 950, took him somewhat by surprise and drove him from the field. The casualties on each side were nearly equal: American 271; British 258. On the 8th of May Rawdon evacuated the town, after burning most of it. On the 24th of February 1865, during the Civil War, a part of Gen. W. T. Sherman’s army entered Camden and burned stores of tobacco and cotton, and several buildings. (See American War of Independence.)
See also T. J. Kirkland and R. M. Kennedy, Historic Camden (Columbia, S.C., 1905).