At the start of the American Revolution, Camden was located here, just south of the present city. It was home to at least thirty families, a Presbyterian church, and a Quaker meetinghouse. With its court house, stores, artisans, and grist mills to grind the wheat produced by local farmers, Camden was the political and economic center of the surrounding region. Joseph Kershaw and others made their fortunes doing business in the town.
Camden's importance increased during the Revolution because of its location along the Great Wagon Road. Troops and supplies moving overland had to travel through Camden or take a longer route west of the town. Roads to Cheraw, Augusta, Georgia, and Cross Creek, North Carolina, also passed through Camden.
After the British occupied South Carolina, Camden became their main supply base in the southern backcountry, as well as the starting point for their intended invasion of North Carolina. The farms in and around Camden fed the British garrison. Camden was also a vital link through which supplies and reinforcements from Charleston were shipped to the Loyalists who lived farther west along the Broad and Saluda rivers and around Ninety Six and to the British units supporting them.
Camden was equally important to the Americans. If they could retake the town, North Carolina would be secure from invasion and the Loyalists in western South Carolina would be cut off from British support. The British would no longer have the chance to subjugate the other southern states and would be forced to withdraw to the coast. These factors made Camden the strategic key for both sides in the Southern Campaign.
In addition to being the scene of two major Revolutionary War battles, Camden was at the center of the bloody fighting that raged through the South from 1778 to 1781. The town's strategic importance was demonstrated when the British were forced to evacuate Camden in May 1781 following the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill. General Nathanael Greene was then able to drive the British and Loyalists from the backcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. These successes ultimately led to the British evacuations of Savannah (July 1782) and Charleston (December 1782).
"The whole interior Country had revolted." Lord Rawdon to Colonel Balfour, British Commandant of Charleston, following Rawdon's evacuation of Camden