At the start of the Revolution, South Carolina's slaves numbered over 100,000, compared to 70,000 white inhabitants. Most slaves labored on coastal plantations-only 6,000 lived in the backcountry. Slaves in the Camden area helped to build and fortify the town's powder magazine in 1780. Later, when the British occupied the town, slaves constructed an elaborate network of defenses.
Many slaves hoped that the British would give them their freedom, and risked harsh retribution from rebel masters by assisting the King's army as spies, wagon drivers, and by gathering provisions. During the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, the British armed African Americans to help defend Camden.
Some slaves remained with their American masters. After the British forced Sarah Kershaw from her home in 1780, her slaves took great risks to provide her family with food.
"You will order one hundred able Negroes, furnished with spades to be collected from the plantations in your neighbourhood, and send them to Camden."