The Battle of Camden: A Memorial Day Tribute To My Ancestor, Jacob Speck


During the American Revolutionary War, almost every able-bodied man, who was not a part of the Continental Army, joined their local Militia to help protect the settlement in which they lived. Such was the case for Jacob Speck. On July 21, 1780, General Horatio Gates was at Camden, South Carolina commanding a force of 3,200 troops of which Jacob was a part of. The British general, Lord Charles Cornwallis, was also there with an army of 2,100. Even though Gates had Cornwallis outnumbered, most of the Americans lacked experience and training. The North Carlina Militia had never been tried. Gates was advised NOT to go into battle under the circumstances. But, he ignored the warning.

Just before dawn on August 16th, the British troops opened the battle as the right flank fired volley's into the militia regiments, causing a significant number of casualties. When the remaining militia looked up, they saw British troops advancing toward them with their bayonets drawn. The militia realized they did not have bayonets to counter the attack. Panic began to spread and most of the militia fled before the British regiments reached them. General Gates was among the first to run from the field, leaving his remaining troops on the field alone. Within a matter of minutes, the whole rebel left wing had evaporated.

Five years earlier, Jacob and Catherine Speck had gotten married. She was 16 at the time. Jacob Jr. was now four, Michael had just turned two and a third son, George, my 6th great-grandfather, was less than two months old. It is hard to imagine what Catherine must have thought or felt as she watched her husband leave home to defend their new settlement. It is even harder to imagine what she must have felt later. For you see...in that pre-dawn hour on that warm August 16, 1780 morning, when the smoke and dust from the cannon volley's had finally cleared, Jacob Speck lay dead on the battlefield.

God never closes one door without opening another. Before his death, He allowed Jacob to plant the seeds that would produce many future generations of Speck family members, including me.


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