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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Letter from [Charles Magill] to Magill (his father) [Extract]
Magill, Charles
August 1780
Volume 14, Pages 584-585

-------------------- page 584 --------------------
MAJOR McGILL TO HIS FATHER.

No date___probably August, 1780 (the battle of Camden having been fought on the 16th August, 1780.)

Field of Battle within eight miles of Camden.

In the Evening of the 15th Inst. a council of Genr'l officers were unanimously of opinion that our Army should move within five miles of Camden, to an advantageous post, with a swamp in our front, fordable only at the road, and no other within seven miles on each side. At ten O'clock the Army moved in the following order: Colo. Armand's Corps, about seventy Horse in front; Colo. Porterfield with 50 men belonging to our Reg't and 150 Militia upon Armand's right flank, about two Hundred yards off the road; Maj'r Anderson with a party of No. Carolina Militia upon Armand's left Flank, in the same order. Colo. Armand's orders were, should the Enemy's Horse attack him, to stand their charge, and Porterfield with the other Light Infantry to flank them. Genrl Smallwood's Brigade in front, Genl Gist's followed, the No. Carolina Division, under Genrl. Caswell next, and in the rear the Virginia Brigade, commanded by Genl. Stevens. After marching in this order nigh five miles, about half after two in the morning, the British Horse made a most violent onset, Huzzaing all the time, but were bravely repulsed by Porterfield with considerable loss. The Enemy's Light Infantry next came up; the Virginia Militia, or the Greatest part that were with Porterfield, took to their heels, and left the men belonging to our Regt. to stand the Attack of the whole light troops, which to their Honour they did for about five minutes, in which a warm and incessant fire was kept up. Colo. Porterfield then ordered a retreat, and in turning his horse about had his Leg shattered by a musket ball, which struck him upon his shin Bone. After some time the firing ceased, our line was formed, and Half an Hour before sunrise the Enemy advanced. Our Army Drawn up in the same order as in their march, only that Gist's Brigade was on our right, Smallwood's being formed in the Rear as a Corps Du reserve. Immediately on the Enemy's driving in our Party in Front, Genl. Stevens was ordered to advance & attack their right,

-------------------- page 585 --------------------
and Gist with his Brigade to attack their left. The orders were immediately complied with; but upon the first fire the whole line of Militia broke and ran, the firing upon our right had begun. I was there with Genl. Gates, who perceiving the militia run, Rode about twenty yards in the rear of the line to rally them, which he found impossible to do there; about half a mile further, Genrl. Gates and Caswell made another fruitless attempt, and a third was made at a still greater distance with no better success. Genl. Smallwood or Stevens advancing to the attack, advanced to support him, and on the militia's giving away, occupy'd the ground where the Right of Stevens and the left of the No. Carolina Militia were drawn up. This made a Chasm between the two Brigades, through which the Enemy's Horse came and charged our rear. The men to their Immortal Honour made a brave defence, but were at last obliged to give ground, and are allmost all killed or taken. Gist's Brigade behaved like heroes; so did Smallwood's, but they being more to our left afforded us no opportunity of seeing them. Upon Genl. Gates' Riding to stop the Militia, Gist's Brigade charged Bayonets, and at first made the Enemy give way, but they were reinforced. We owe all our misfortune to the Militia; had they not run like dastardly cowards, our Army was sufficient to cope with theirs, drawn up as we were upon a rising and advantageous ground.

[Extract of Major McGill's letter to his Father, copied at my desire by George Neite.]