CAMDEN, S.C. (WSPA) — Beneath the hallowed ground, some of the country’s first veterans laid in shallow graves.
Historians and archeologists researching the Camden Battlefield say they found more than a dozen remains of soldiers who died in the Revolutionary War clash.
The discovery was made in September. Over the last two months, they worked carefully and quietly to unearth these soldiers.
“Our concern was to secure these bodies so collectors, animals or people would not desecrate these graves,” CEO of South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust Doug Bostick said.
Officials say the Battle of Camden took place on Aug. 16, 1780. The Continental Army suffered a major defeat against the British but the battle also spurred a change in leadership for the United States.
Bostick said the trust, the Historic Camden Foundation, the University of South Carolina, Richland County Coroner’s Office and others are working together on this project. He said it was an ‘awe-struck experience’ to watch the remains be excavated.
“It takes history to a new level,” Bostick said. “It’s been very surreal to experience this.”
Researchers say from the artifacts recovered they’ve determined 12 of the soldiers were part of the Continental Army. The patriots were from either Maryland or Delaware.
Another soldier was a Loyalist from North Carolina and the other was a British soldier who served in the 71st Regiment of Foot, Fraser’s Highlanders. The British soldier
“Two-hundred years ago veterans weren’t treated how they are today,” Former Kershaw County state Sen. Vincent Sheheen said. “After a battle, they were often forgotten. Part of what we’re trying to do…is make up for those past wrongs.”
Officials say they’ll learn a lot from these remains over the next few months. They’ll learn about their diets, country of origin, and maybe who these men were. Bostick said DNA from the remains could be used to potentially find descendants of the soldiers.
Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns said there is an important lesson we could all learn from these soldiers, especially on Veterans Day.
“We have the prospect to tell the story of why men fight,” Burns said. “Especially in the cause for liberty. We need to relearn that lesson and reacquaint ourselves with that history.”
Officials are planning re-interment ceremonies in April. Historic Camden Foundation Executive Director Cary Briggs said, “We’ll bury these soldiers properly.”