General Joseph Martin Chapter
Cumberland Gap, TN
Cumberland Gap Patriot
Andrew McClary , Revolutionary war soldier at the
battle of Camden, was born on March 24, 1754 in Pennsylvania. On
November 7 1777, McClary married wife Elizabeth. From this union they
had 5 children.
Sometime before 1780, McClary moved to orange county NC. In July 1780, McClary joined an expedition with the NC militia to join up with Horatio Gates, the new Southern Commander of the Continental army. In July, 1780, gates formed an army in North Carolina and marched them to Camden threatening the British hold on South Carolina. Lord Rawdon, British Commander of the forces in South Carolina went out to meet Gates, But Gates forced Rawdon to retreat back to Camden, and put up defenses around the city. On August 14,1780, Cornwallis arrived in Camden to take over the British army.
When Gates heard of Cornwallis arrival , Gates ordered Thomas Sumter to disrupt the British line of Communications and harass the British army whenever he could. Sumter failed to do so, and Cornwallis was able to find out about Gate's approach to Camden.
Even though Gates's army outnumbered Cornwallis's troops, they were in no condition to fight a battle two days later on August 16,1780. For days they had traveled without hardly eating anything. The night before the battle, Gates fed his men uncooked meet which gave them a bad case of food poisoning the night before the battle Most of Gates's army spent most of the night throwing up including McClary
On August 16,1780 Gates arrived on te field of Battle at Camden with Cornwallis waiting on him. the NC Line which McClary was apart of was placed in the center of the line. They should have been placed on the left with the Virginia Continentals, the bravest and most experienced of the Continental soldiers. The NC line should also have been placed into a single line instead of separate lines in front of or beside the Continentals
Gates ordered the NC line to fix bayonets. The only problem was they were inexperienced, and didn't know how. Cornwallis saw the lapse that occurred, and ordered a bayonet charge. since most NC militia had never seen a bayonet charge, fled without firing a shot including McClary. Gates seeing his men flee fled with them. Gates rode 60 miles before his horse fell down from exhaustion
Only one NC company under the command of Col. Henry Dixon stayed and fought with the Continentals this NC Line fought like ferocious lions. They held back 2 Bayonet charges by the British army. Baron Dekalb, the new commander of the Continental army after Gates had fled the field , ordered a bayonet charge against the British. This maneuver is only done when you have a large army in reserve, not a small army that Dekalb had to fight with. Dekalb then ordered his men to assault the British rear. This maneuver is considered many historians to be the bravest maneuver ever performed by the Continentals during the Revolutionary war.
Dekalb was shot several times during this maneuver and kept fighting until he fell to the ground. The British were getting ready to bayonet Dekalb, when Cornwallis rode up and ordered them to stop. Cornwallis ordered Dekalb taken to his personal physician and placed in a British field hospital. Dekalb died 3 days later. Cornwallis later said " Dekalb was the bravest General he had ever faced on the field of battle".
To summarize, Gates made 3 mistakes during the Battle of Camden:
1. Sumter was unable to disrupt the British line of Communication preventing a surprise attack by Gates
2. Gates should have placed the NC militia near or beside the Continentals for support.
3. Attempting to have the NC militia fix bayonets when they had not been trained to do so.
This was the only battle McClary would participate in. McClary would fight Tories for the next several months in SC and Georgia. McClary was discharged in Georgia. McClary went back to Orange county. In 1808 McClary moved to Claiborne county. McClary died on November 23, 1833
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