History of Kershaw County

Historic Camden 1

Kershaw County is located in one of South Carolina’s most historic regions, where more than a dozen fierce Revolutionary War battles raged approximately two centuries ago. 

In 1732, English traders and farmers moved to the area from the Charleston coast, nearly 50 years before those famous battles.  They established Camden, considered the oldest inland city in the state.  It was named for Charles Pratt, Lord of Camden.

Because of its position in the Carolinas, the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780 became a crucial encounter in the southern theater of The Revolutionary War.  Even though Congress moved troops from several states to protect this area, it was not enough.

British General Charles Cornwallis had already established an outpost in the area.  On August 16, 1780, Cornwallis attacked and routed the American forces under the command of General Horatio Gates approximately 6 miles North of Camden.  As a result, some 1,000 American soldiers lost their lives and another 1,000 were captured during the battle.

Also of note is the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill near Camden, fought on April 25,1781 after which the British soldiers set fire to Camden as they departed.

That battle and the others that occurred in the surrounding area are remembered today through the 107 acre Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site. The outdoor museum complex offers visitors a glimpse of life during the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods in Camden and Kershaw County.

The history of the area literally comes alive during the first weekend of November each year with The Revolutionary War Field Days.  Activities during the festival include a reenactment of the Battle of Camden, living history demonstrations, traditional craftsmen and a period fashion show.

The county’s history, however, is not confined to The Revolutionary War.  Kershaw County also produced six Confederate Generals:

  • Joseph Brevard Kershaw (1822 - 1894)
  • James Chesnut (1815 - 1885)
  • James Cantey (1818 - 1873)
  • Zack Cantey Deas (1819 - 1882)
  • John Bordenave Villepigue (1830 - 1862)
  • John Doby Kennedy (1840 - 1896) --  who also served as lieutenant governor of South Carolina from 1880-1882.