If you are looking for the well-known cantilevered rock formation for which the Battle of Hanging Rock is named, head about a mile southeast of here — but first stop to explore this historic ground where Patriots attacked a British outpost on August 6, 1780, during the American Revolutionary War. As part of their Southern Campaign, the British seized Charleston in the spring of 1780, established bases throughout South Carolina, and used rural routes as communication conduits to recruit Loyalist support, as well as to ferry troops and supplies to key locations. The Patriots systematically raided these outposts to harass the enemy, attract new militia to their cause, and boost morale. These objectives led Patriot Brigadier General Thomas Sumter’s army to confront British Major John Carden’s troops at this spot on that sweltering summer day centuries ago. Later in the war, such tactics would become part of Patriot Commander Nathanael Greene’s overall strategy to wear down the British Army and push them back to the coast.
Carden’s garrison at Hanging Rock was located at the crossroads of the Catawba River Road and the Great Waxhaw Road, north of Camden. It was unprotected by fortifications and manned by about 1,100–1,400 local Loyalist militiamen and Provincials. The troops occupied three separate camps. Sumter’s Patriot force of 800 was also composed of militia units from North and South Carolina as well as 35 warriors from the Catawba Nation. After a surprise sunrise assault, Sumter took two of the three British camps, but was unable to hold his ground despite inflicting heavy losses. His men plundered the enemy camps and withdrew. Although Sumter’s men failed to take the garrison, the battle was a Patriot victory. The partisans proved their mettle and humiliated their opponents.