Historic Camden serves as a 107-acre historic park built upon the site of the 18th-century township of Camden. It features the magnificent Kershaw-Cornwallis House as well as many other smaller homes and cabins set up as miniature museums. It is home to the popular annual reenactment, Revolutionary War Field Days. Visitors can take guided or self-guided tours and enjoy a .6-mile nature trail.
Kershaw-Cornwallis House at Historic Camden
The Kershaw-Cornwallis house was reconstructed in 1977 on the home’s original foundations. Two hundred years earlier, town founder Joseph Kershaw built the Georgian-style home for himself. Hailing from Yorkshire, England, Kershaw came to this area in 1758 and named it for Lord Camden, ardent defender of Colonial rights. Within the span of a decade, Kershaw became a successful merchant and the town became a central trading hub. Learn more about the Kershaw-Cornwallis House.
Bonds Conway, believed to be Camden’s first slave to buy his own freedom, built this house in 1812. Originally located at 411 York Street, the Bonds-Conway House was moved to its current location on Fair Street when the building was purchased by the Kershaw County Historical Society in 1977. It has since been accurately restored.
Drakeford House at Historic Camden
Also located on the grounds of Historic Camden, the Drakeford House (dated 1812) was moved here in 1970 from a site 14 miles outside the city. It houses the Kershaw-Cornwallis House diorama, as well as other exhibits of colonial life in Camden.
Cunningham House at Historic Camden
The Cunningham House dates to 1830, when it was built as a wedding gift for Mrs. Joseph Cunningham. Today it serves as the Historic Camden Exchange, a gift shop to help support the living history park. In addition to souvenirs and local crafts, they also have a good selection of books on Camden’s history.
John Craven House at Historic Camden
Dating back to 1785, the John Craven House has been fully restored and features period furniture. It offers visitors a glimpse into late 18th century life in Camden.
McCaa House at Historic Camden
John McCaa’s House at Historic Camden was built circa 1795 and has been partially restored. Plans are in place to outfit it as an 18th-century tavern. The building originally served as Dr. McCaa’s office. Before being moved to Historic Camden in 1991, it was located on South Broad Street next to the Mills Courthouse.
Revolutionary War Field Days at Historic Camden
Each year lovers of military history converge at historic Camden to reenact two landmark battles waged here during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Camden, fought in August of 1780 and led by General Horatio Gates on the colonists’ side, ended with a sound victory for Lord Cornwallis and the British. Yet a few months later Gates had been replaced by General Nathaniel Greene, who defeated Lord Rawdon and his men at the battle of Hobkirk Hill in April of 1781. The British pulled out of Camden as a result. The below photos capture the realism depicted in these battle scenes at the Kershaw-Cornwallis House and its grounds.
Historic Camden – National Register Site
Historic Camden is listed in the National Register:
The district concerned was central colonial Camden and its adjacent outlying areas. During British occupation, Camden consisted of two city blocks of period homes and military barracks surrounded by a palisade log fence and further protected by five redoubt and three other fortified features (a house, a jail, and a powder magazine) which were placed strategically from 100 to 1000 feet outside the town itself. Because of war and fire, all original buildings in the district have been destroyed, and much of it remains open. At the time of nomination, extensive archaeological restoration of the powder magazine site (not the building itself) and the foundation of the fortified house (used as British headquarters for Lord Cornwallis and Lord Rawdon and the home of the town’s founder, Joseph Kershaw) have been effected without destroying their historical integrity.
Camden’s significance in the Revolutionary War is directly related to the British War Office’s decision of late 1779 to establish total control over the southern colonies. Camden served as the main British supply post from spring 1780 to spring 1781 and also proved to be their garrison for two major Revolutionary War engagements, the Battles of Camden and Hobkirk Hill. The fall of Camden was a pivotal point in the eventual defeat of the British.