HomeUSA newsRemains of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers excavated from South Carolina battlefield site

Remains of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers excavated from South Carolina battlefield site

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Investigators announced Friday that some of America’s earliest veterans have been found after archaeologists unearthed the skeletal remains and accompanying artifacts of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers.

The South Carolina Battlefield Preservation Trust announced the excavation and discovery of the remains of 14 soldiers who died in the gruesome Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780.

Archaeologists work at the Camden burial site.
(Sarah Nell Blackwell)

A team of archaeologists from the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, along with biological anthropologists from the Richland County Coroner’s Office and the University of South Carolina unearthed the skeletal remains and the artifacts that accompanied them from the soldiers.

“These young men proved their loyalty in an intense battle for freedom. They are truly America’s first veterans,” said Doug Bostick, executive director of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. “We have a responsibility to honor their sacrifice by making sure their remains are protected in perpetuity and their stories of bravery are shared.”

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An archaeologist holds a French musket flint found in one of the continental burials.

An archaeologist holds a French musket flint found in one of the continental burials.
(Sarah Nell Blackwell)

Flattened shot musket ball found at burial site in Camden, South Carolina.

Flattened shot musket ball found at burial site in Camden, South Carolina.
(Sarah Nell Blackwell)

According to the Trust, the remains, some less than six inches below the surface in seven separate locations on the battlefield, were located during the site investigation, carefully excavated and removed over a period of eight weeks beginning in September.

“This discovery is particularly significant to the history of our state and nation,” said Dr. Steven D. Smith, Research Professor at the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology and principal investigator for the project. “This is a rare opportunity to examine and analyze a large sample of Revolutionary War soldiers for information on their health and diet, age, gender, and to compare the forensic data with the historical record.”

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Archaeologists cleaning mainland burials at the site of the Battle of Camden.

Archaeologists cleaning mainland burials at the site of the Battle of Camden.
(Sarah Nell Blackwell)

Preliminary field examinations by the team show that 12 of the bodies are Continental Patriot soldiers from Maryland or Delaware, one is likely a North Carolina Loyalist, and one served with the British 71st Infantry Regiment, Fraser’s Highlanders.

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SCIAA archaeologist James Legg has conducted research on the Camden battlefield for over 40 years and led the field team on site.

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

Melted musket ball discovered at excavation site.

Melted musket ball discovered at excavation site.
(Sarah Nell Blackwell)

The Richland County Coroner’s Office assisted in the final steps of removal and transportation of the remains to offices in Columbia, South Carolina.

In the months that follow, the coroner’s officer will collect information on the war veterans.

“Over the next five months, we will collect data to uncover details such as age, race, and potentially the region of their birth, further telling the personal stories of these soldiers.” Bill Stevens, deputy coroner and director of anthropology for the Richland County coroner’s office.

Site of the Battle of Camden today.

Site of the Battle of Camden today.
(Sarah Nell Blackwell)

The Battle of Camden, also known as the Battle of Camden Court House, was a major victory for the British in the American Revolutionary War.

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British forces under Lieutenant General Charles and Lord Cornwallis defeated American forces led by Major General Horatio Gates outside Camden, South Carolina, strengthening British control in the Carolinas following the capture of Charleston.

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