"Charge the rascals!" An Irish Officer describes the Battle of Camden, 1780
The following letter was written by an officer serving in the British army, commanding an Irish regiment during the Battle of Camden, which was a British victory during the Southern Campaign. The battle was fought on August 16, 1780.
Extract of a Letter from an Officer of the Volunteers of Ireland, to his friend at Glasgow, dated Camden, Aug. 25.
You will have the particulars of this affair from the General's account, much better than I can describe: I shall therefore, only inform you, it was the most glorious day for Britain that ever happened in America. We had not 1500 regular troops, and the enemy were upwards of 6000, besides 3000 militia thrown between us and Charlestown, to cut off all possibility of our retreating.
The battle began first with the 33rd regiment and the advance of the enemy, which consisted of 700 men and one piece of artillery; these feel in with each other unexpectedly; for the enemy had begun their march to attack us within an hour of the time we began our to attack them, and neither knew any thing of the other, as we lay twelve miles distant. The 33d soon drove them back, and took their ammunition waggon. As their position was not known, the General chose to halt till day-light should discover it. Day was near three hours off, and all that time we remained among the dead and dying, in anxious suspense for the morning. As soon as it arrived, we advanced, and the enemy at the same instant.
The enemy surpassed us in artillery, and threw in horrid showers of grape; this chiefly fell on ours and the 33d regiment (they having the post of honour), who were cut off amazingly. I commanded a company, and lost more than half the number I took to the field, and the company next me lost two thirds. For half an hour the event was doubtful, and then a general charge with bayonets put them entirely to the rout, just at the close of which I received my wound, which would not have prevented my continuing, had not Lord Rawdon (who just rode up) insisted on my withdrawing. Our regiment was amazingly incited by Lord Cornwallis, who came up to them with great coolness, in the midst of a heavier fire than the oldest soldier remembers, and called out. "Volunteers of Ireland, you are fine fellows! Charge the rascals—By heaven, you behave nobly!" At that time we wanted something to encourage us. Nothing could equal the pursuit. Sometimes you would see 30 or 40 of our men close at the heels of 200 or 300 of theirs; and yet they never once faced about or fired a shot....