Revolutionary War “Gaol” Site Acquired for Permanent Protection
Jennifer Howard (843-709-4192)
(Camden, S.C.) – The Liberty Trail, a joint project of American Battlefield Trust and South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, today announced the purchase and permanent protection of an intriguing and significant property in the footprint of the Revolutionary War Battle of Hobkirk Hill. Referred to as the “Gaol” property, it was the site of the first jail, built in 1771 in Camden by order of the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly. During the Battle of Hobkirk Hill, future president Andrew Jackson and his brother were held prisoner there. Legend holds that the Jackson boys bore a hole in the wooden wall to watch the Battle of Hobkirk Hill from their jail cell. The property was also the location of the north redoubt of the British fortification in Camden. When the British evacuated Camden, they burned the wooden jailhouse.
“Over the past several years, the significance of the battles in and around Camden have garnered international attention,” commented Rick Wise, interim executive director and CEO, South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. “This particular acquisition was not only significant to the battle, but also it holds an intriguing story that helps history truly come to life for site visitors. We’re grateful for the support of our partners in this project: Kershaw County, City of Camden, South Carolina Conservation Bank, American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, the Hobkirk Hill Society, Kershaw County Historical Society, and the Hobkirk Hill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.”
After the March 1781 Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Major General Nathanael Greene "determined to carry the war immediately into South Carolina.” The British control of the interior of South Carolina depended on their major posts in towns like Camden, Georgetown, Ninety Six, and numerous intermittent posts. Greene began his march on to Camden on April 7 and arrived on April 20. Green’s well-chosen camp was established on the crest of Hobkirk Hill.
In the ensuing battle on April 25, 1781 the Patriots lost 21 killed, 113 wounded, 47 captured, and 89 missing, suffering significantly less than the British, whose casualties were 39 killed, 210 wounded, and 12 missing, a significant loss the British could not replace. “The conflict was short and seemed once to promise us advantage, but we were obliged to retire…with no material loss. We are now within five miles of Camden and shall closely invest it in a day or two again,” Greene wrote to Francis Marion on April 26. The Battle of Hobkirk Hill was a tactical loss for Greene, but the British chose to abandon their post at Camden on May 10, resulting in a strategic victory for the Patriots.
In 2007, the National Park Service in its Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States ranked the Hobkirk Hill battlefield as a high priority battlefield needing protection.
“South Carolina’s Revolutionary War battlefields are remarkable resources,” said American Battlefield Trust President David Duncan. “Long overshadowed by other historical narratives, their significance to the war’s outcome is at last being understood and appreciated. By acting now to protect them, we ensure that the remain for future generations to enjoy and learn from.”
The purchase of this property was made possible through grants from the National Park Service, South Carolina Conservation Bank, and generous private donors.
“As South Carolina grows and welcomes new residents from around the world, the protection and interpretation of historic sites becomes increasingly important. Once these sites are lost, gone too are the stories they hold,” remarked Raleigh West, executive director, South Carolina Conservation Bank. “The Bank is honored to provide critical funding to protect properties that directly enrich the lives of every South Carolinian.”
The Liberty Trail will install park benches and interpretive signage and open the property to the public. A conservation easement ensuring that no development will ever take place on this site will be held by the Katawba Valley Land Trust.
About The Liberty Trail
The Liberty Trail—developed through a partnership between the American Battlefield Trust and the South Carolina Battleground Trust—connects battlefields across South Carolina and tells the captivating and inspiring stories of this transformative chapter of American history. For more information on The Liberty Trail, visit www.thelibertytrail.org.