On 20 Apr 2023, a Bearer Party from 2 SCOTS deployed to Camden, South Carolina, to lay to rest an unknown Scottish soldier from the 71st Highlanders (Frasers Battalion) who was fatally wounded in the Battle of Camden almost 250 years ago and had since lay in a shallow grave in a quiet and peaceful forest just 20m from a well-used road. The South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust (SCBPT) organised three days of ceremonies to honour and lay to rest the remains of thirteen Revolutionary War soldiers (one British and twelve American) excavated on the Camden Battlefield in 2022. The SCBPT had previously requested that soldiers from the SCOTS were given the privilege of taking part in the historic event due to the antecedent links with 71st Highlanders. In an event that gained significant and global media attention, thirteen soldiers were given full military honours, including firing party and a F16 and Apache fly past and were laid to rest as 5000 people of all ages looked on. Col Alcuin Johnson, The British Embassy representative, attended the ceremony and commented that “Remembering our fallen is a fundamental part of life in the military, regardless of when the conflict may have taken place, I feel humbled to be able to represent both the British Defence Staff in the United States and the British Army at this important ceremony. It is an honour and a privilege.”
The Battle of Camden took place on 16 Aug 1780 and was a major victory for the British in the Southern theatre of the American Revolutionary War. Under the command of Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, the British Forces charged the numerically superior U.S forces led by Major General Horatio Gates and gained a hard-fought and bloody victory. To lay a soldier to rest in the Battlefield were he courageously fell, added areal sense of significance to the members of the 2 SCOTS Bearer Party.
For over 2 years, the Richland County Coroner office has been painstakingly working to prepare the remains of the fallen so that they could be laid to rest in a permanent burial site and also to understand as much about these young men as they could. The soldiers’ age, injury sustained, Regiment and burial positions have all been pieced together to give us a better understanding of who they were.Previous field work and artefacts recovered during the 2022 excavations indicated that remains were those of twelve Continental soldiers of the Maryland and Delaware regiments, one British Loyalist of a North Carolina regiment who will be laid to rest in a separate ceremony and one 71St Highlanders.
The people of South Carolina were given the opportunity to pay their respects to all thirteen soldiers over the course of three days. On 20 Apr, a procession of thirteen Humvees drove past the Camden Military Academy, and all the local schools in the area. Hundreds lined the streets and looked on in silence as the Humvees gracefully rolled through the town. The procession then stopped outside the State House before heading to Fort Jackson. Members of the Army lined the roads to pay their respects and an Artillery Gun Salute was fired.
In an event that is unprecedented, soldiers who once were sworn enemies on the Battlefield were ceremoniously laid to rest side-by-side and with the upmost respect show from both the Americana and British Soldiers involved. The event brought Camden to a stand still and the 2 SCOTS Bearer Party are very aware that they took part in a historic moment in time that will remain one of the highlights of their careers.