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Heroes of the old Camden District, South Carolina, 1776-1861. an Address to the Survivors of Fairfield county, delivered at Winnsboro, S. C., September 1,1888.

by Col. Edward McCrady, Jr.
It is no disparagement of the rest of the troops of the State, in the late war, to say that the Sixth, Twelfth and Seventeenth Regiments, which were raised mostly from the districts of York, Chester, Lancaster, Fairfield and Kershaw, that constituted the old Camden district at the time of the Revolution, were pre-eminent for their gallantry and soldierly qualities and esprit de corps; nor is this to be wondered at when we recollect that the people of this section, from which these regiments were formed, are perhaps the most homogeneous of the State—a people possessing in a marked degree all those qualities which go to make brave men and good soldiers.

This old town of Winnsboro has been twice the headquarters of an invading army, once burned, and twice ravaged by an enemy. In each instance the excuse was that its inhabitants were in rebellion; but as they ultimately succeeded in the first, history has been so kind as to substitute the term ‘Revolution’ for that of ‘Rebellion’; as they failed in the second, it has left them to that

foul dishonoring word,
     Whose wrongful blights so oft has stained
The holiest cause that tongue or sword
     Of mortal ever lost or gained.

But whether ‘Rebellion’ or ‘Revolution,’ so it has happened that twice this section of the State from Camden to the North Carolina line has been trodden by a devastating foe, whose march has been marked by burned homesteads and blackened chimney-stacks left standing alone amidst the ruins around them. In both instances these invasions followed the fall of Charleston and disaster to our arms elsewhere. The first, however, ultimately ended with the surrender [4] of the British under Cornwallis at Yorktown and the independence of the United States. The latter culminated at Appomattox and ended in the loss of our cause and the failure of the Confederate States. In the first, the invaders found the men of the country present to resist if not repel, and were repaid in some degree at least for their vandalism. In the latter, the men—the descendants of those who rose upon the British—were far away fighting in Virginia; while their families were burned out of their houses by the enemy who had penetrated their rear—having failed to overcome them in front.

Colonel Chesney, the able English military critic, comparing these two invasions of this section, is inclined to attribute Sherman's success in the late war to the Federal navy rather than to any greater skill or better conduct on Sherman's part than that of Lord Cornwallis. He thinks that it was the French fleet under Count de Grasse which compelled Cornwallis' surrender, and that had it not been for the command of the ocean by the Federal navy, which gave Sherman communication at Wilmington, the result to him might have been different. He says1: ‘Such a free communication as the Federal fleets had along the coast of the revolted States during the Civil war was equally needed in Cornwallis' case—without it, Sherman's overland march from Savannah made eighty years afterwards might have had little better issue than that of Cornwallis through the same district. With such aid the modern commander “established his fame, as the elder for lack of it came nigh to ruin his.” ’

But, however interesting the consideration of this subject would be, it is not that to which I would invite your attention this morning. I would talk to you to-day rather of the character and conduct of the people of this section in these two wars, than linger to think what might have been had we been able to get those vessels afloat for which we spent so much money in England and France. I will not stop now to discuss professional theories of the grand tactics by which Sherman's march ended in victory and Cornwallis' in defeat. My theme to-day is a homelier one.

The Rev. Dr. Foote in his sketches of North Carolina-claiming that to that State belongs the imperishable honor of being the first in declaring that independence which is the pride and glory of every American, and giving an account of the declaration for independence by the people of Mecklenburg county, the first public declaration, [5] it is claimed, by the constituted authorities of a State, May 27th, 1776—asks who were the people of Mecklenburg, and whence did they come? What were their habits and the manners by which they were characterized? What were their religious principles? These questions are quite as interesting to us to-day as they were when Dr. Foote discussed them forty years ago; for you, my comrades, the survivors of this county, belong to the same people who rose upon Cornwallis when he thought that by his victory at Camden he had put an end to the cause of liberty in South Carolina—to the same people, who at Hanging Rock, Cowpens and King's Mountain, avenged Tarleton's slaughter of Bufort's men at the Waxhaws and the destruction of Sumter's force at Fishing Creek—to the same people who lit again the lamp of liberty, the light of which had been put out at Charleston, and kept its feeble rays alive during the disastrous time from Gates' defeat at Camden to the surrender at Yorktown of Cornwallis. You belong to the same people, and the names which your forefathers had made honorable in the successful war of the Revolution you have rendered still more honorable in the unsuccessful war of Secession.

The State of South Carolina was peopled by two distinct tides of immigration. The Englishmen and the Huguenots had come into the province by the sea, and had pushed their way into the interior, following the courses of the rivers, but their settlements did not extend beyond the points we now know as Camden, Columbia and Hamburg. The upper country, which lay beyond the Sandy Ridge, once described as the desert and which we now call the Piedmont section, was settled later by a different class of people.

It was eighty years after the first settlement on the coast that parties of Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania and Virginia began to come down to this province—a movement which was greatly accelerated by the defeat of Braddock in 1755, which left the frontiers of those States exposed to the incursions of the Indians.

These new immigrants were a peculiar and remarkable people. They were brave, energetic, industrious and religious. They were frontiersmen who carried the rifle, the axe and the Bible together. They were a people who, while clearing the forests and defending themselves from massacre, found time to teach their children. The meeting-house and the school-house, rough structures it is true, were built together. The extent of their instruction was, no doubt, limited, but the children were taught to speak the truth and to defend it, to keep a conscience and to fear God—the foundation of good [6] citizens and great men. They did not dispute that the liberties of the subject might consist with royal authority, but the religious creed of these immigrants was made part of their politics, and they held that no law of human government ought to be tolerated in opposition to the expressed will of God. They claimed the right to choose those who should frame their laws, contending that rulers as well as the meanest subjects were bound by law. These principles, brought with them to America and modified by experience, were the republican principles of the Scotch-Irish who settled this section of the State.2

I have dwelt upon the eminently religious character of these people because it was this trait which perhaps led them to take the part they did in the Revolution. It is true that some of them, notably those in Mecklenburg led by the Alexanders, Brevards, McKnitts and others, who joined in the famous declaration of independence, were foremost in resistance to British rule. But these people generally were rather disposed to side with the Loyalists. The very isolation of their position and condition had kept them out of the contentions which had been growing up between the colonists on the coast and the mother country.

Granville's trade laws, the enforcement of the restrictions placed upon colonial commerce for the protection of English manufactures, and the attempt to enforce the regulations against smuggling in violation of these laws, which so roused the patriotism of New England, had not perceptibly affected them. The Stamp Act and the tax on tea had not pressed upon them. In fact, they probably knew of and cared little for these things living upon their own resources, unaccustomed to ask or receive protection or assistance from the government on the coast, whose authority theoretically extended over them, they felt little attachment to it, while their loyalty induced them to stand rather to the government abroad, whose exactions and oppressions they had not felt. Except, therefore, where the American or Irish influence predominated, the sentiments of these people favored the cause of the Loyalists.3


as Judge Johnson, in his Life of Greene, says, ‘fortunately the enemy were too confident in themselves or had too much contempt for their opponents to act with moderation or policy.’ As the dissenters of New England had the reputation of having excited the war, dissenters generally became objects of odium to the enemy. [7] Hence their meeting-houses were often burnt or destroyed. One of them in Charleston was converted into a horse stable, and in the Waxhaws their minister was insulted and his house and books burnt, and war was declared against all Bibles which contained the Scotch version of the Psalms. ‘Great,’ says this writer, ‘were the obligations of the American cause to the licentiousness and folly of the British commander.’

It was amongst these people that on the 29th May, 1780,

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