Nathanael Greene to Samuel Huntington, President of Congress.
I had the honour to write to Your Excellency the 2d instant, April, to inform you that we were encamped before Camden, having found it impossible to attempt to storm the town with any hopes of success; and having no other alternative but to take such a position as should induce the enemy to sally from their works. To this end we posted ourselves on an eminence about a mile from the towns near the high road leading to Wacsaws. It was covered with woods, and flanked on the left by an impassable swamp. The ground between this place and the town is covered by a thick wood and shrubbery. ln this situation we remained constantly on the watch and ready for action at a moment's warning.
On the morning of the 25th, about eleven o'clock, our advanced pickets received the first fire from the enemy and returned it warmly. The line was formed in an instant. General Huger's brigade to the right; Colonel Williams' Maryland brigade to the left; the artillery in the center; Colonel Read with some militia, formed a kind of second line; Captain Kirkwood, with the light infantry, was posted in our front, and when the enemy advanced he was soon engaged with them and both he and his men behaved with a great deal of bravery; nor did the pickets under Captains Morgan and Benson act with less courage or regularity.
Observing that the enemy advanced with but few men abreast, I ordered Lieut.-Col. Ford, with the 2d Maryland Regiments to flank them on the left, while Lieut.-Col. Campbell was to do the same on the right. Colonel Gunby, with the Ist Maryland Regiment, and Lieut.-Col. Hawes, with the 2d Virginia Regiment, received orders at the same time to descend from the eminence and attack in front; and I sent Lieut.-Col. Washington at the same time to double the right flank and attack the rear of the enemy.
The whole line was soon in action in the midst of a very smart fire, as well from our small arms as from our artillery, which, under the command of Colonel Harrison, kept playing upon the front of the enemy, who began to give way on all sides, and their left absolutely to retreat; when, unfortunately, two companies on the right of the 1st Maryland Regiment were entirely thrown into disorder; and, by another stroke of fortune, Colonel Clunby ordered the rest of the regiment, which was advancing, to take a new position towards the rear, where the two companies were rallying. This movement gave the whole regiment an idea of a retreat, which soon spread through the 2d Regiment, which retreated accordingly. They both rallied afterwards, but it was too late. The enemy had gained the eminence, silenced the artillery and obliged us to draw it off.
The 2d Virginia Regiment having descended the eminence a little, and having its flank left naked by the retreat of the Marylanders, the enemy immediately doubled upon them and attacked them both on the flank and in front. Colonel Campbell's regiment was thrown into confusion, and had retreated a little. I therefore thought it necessary for Colonel Hawes to retreat also. The troops rallied more than once; but the disorder was too general and had struck too deep for one to think of recovering the fortune of the day, which promised us at the onset the most complete victory; for Colonel Washington, on his way to double and attack in the rear, found the enemy, both horse and foot, retreating with precipitation towards the town, and made upwards of two hundred of them prisoners, together with ten or fifteen officers, before he perceived that our troops had abandoned the field of battle. The colonel, upon this occasion, and indeed his whole corps acquired no inconsiderable share of honour.
We then retreated two or three miles from the scene of action without any loss of artillery, wagons or provisions, having taken the precaution to send away our baggage at the beginning of the action. The enemy have suflfered very considerably; our forces were nearly equal in number; but such were the dispositions that I had made that, if we had succeeded, the whole of the enemy's army must have fallen into our hands, as well as the town of Camden....