Though in itself indecisive, the Battle of Hobkirk Hill marked the beginning of the British withdrawal from the interior of South Carolina.
Following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina, Major General Nathanael Greene chose not to follow Lord Cornwallis and reentered South Carolina in April of 1781. His plan was to force a British withdrawal from their interior outposts to Charleston. On April 19 his army of some 1,200 Continentals and 250 militia took up a position on Hobkirk Hill, a mile and a half north of Camden.
Francis Lord Rawdon, who commanded the British outpost at Camden, chose to attack the encroaching Americans on April 25. He approached Greene’s camp through thick woods and on a narrow front in hope of achieving a surprise. Rawdon’s leading forces struck the American picket line at about eleven o’clock in the morning, and the American pickets fought well enough to give Greene time to muster and deploy his forces. Assessing the situation, Greene noted the narrow front of the British column and proposed to launch a double envelopment. But Rawdon quickly brought up his second line and extended his flanks to counter the maneuver. More critically for Greene, the veteran First Maryland Regiment fell into disorder and its commander, Colonel John Gunby, ordered an abrupt withdrawal to reform his unit. The move affected the other units and the American advance faltered, forcing Greene to order a general retreat.
The Americans fell back three miles to the old Camden battlefield and the British were left in possession of the hill. They did not stay there. Rawdon withdrew into his fortification at Camden. Indeed, despite five hundred British reinforcements that arrived two weeks later, Rawdon abandoned his exposed position and began a slow retreat toward Charleston on May 10. Though in itself indecisive, the Battle of Hobkirk Hill marked the beginning of the British withdrawal from the interior of South Carolina.
Conrad, Dennis M., and Richard K. Shannon, eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. Vol. 8, 30 March–10 July 1781. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
Kirkland, Thomas J., and Robert M. Kennedy. Historic Camden. 2 vols. 1905. Reprint, Camden, S.C.: Kershaw County Historical Society, 1994.
Lumpkin, Henry. From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.