You can get your Colonial fix without having to trek to Charleston or New Bern: Camden, just east of Columbia, is just 90 minutes from Charlotte, and only the last 1.4 miles are non-Interstate.
Camden, which dates to the mid-1700s, is South Carolina’s oldest inland town. A 107-acre chunk of old Camden is today’s Historic Camden ( www.historic-camden.net), an outdoor museum complex affiliated with the National Park Service.
Great news: Admission is free. (You can pay for a guided tour.)
Buildings include the restored and furnished 1785 John Craven House, the 1830 Cunningham House, the partly restored McCaa House (1795), a pair of log cabins and the reconstructed/furnished Kershaw mansion – which served as headquarters for Lord Cornwallis in 1780 during Camden’s 11-month British occupation; the redcoats were making a move to control the S.C. Upcountry.
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Two battles were fought in the vicinity. The Battle of Camden, the worst American battle defeat of the Revolution, was fought in August 1780, 9 miles north of Historic Camden. The following April, the Americans returned for a rematch. While the British won again, it was a costly victory that forced them to evacuate the town.
One of the major events here is the annual Revolutionary War Field Days, Nov. 1-2 this year. Roughly 500 re-enactors – frontiersmen as well as gents in wigs – will give you a taste of what life was like in Colonial/Revolutionary days, with military and civilian camps, artillery demonstrations, tactical demonstrations, a Colonial fashion show and Colonial games for kids. Free music? Fife and drum concerts.
Both days there will also be craft and trade demonstrations and a Suttler’s Row where items will be for sale.
Field Days admission is $6; $4 for ages 6-12.
Another special event ($5; $3 for kids) is Colonial Christmas in Camden, 2-5 p.m. Dec. 13. The Kershaw house will be decorated – 1700s-style – for the holidays; there will be refreshments and games including a scavenger hunt and yuletide customs to try.
Any time of year at the historic campus, you can also stretch your limbs on the .6-mile nature trail or try the Old Camden Trace, a 3.5-mile walk through Historic Camden.
In the 1880s, Camden became a destination for the earliest wave of wealthy snowbirds, attracted by warm winter weather and by race horses. Put money and thoroughbreds together and you’ve got steeplechase racing. This year, the 45th annual Colonial Cup will be staged Nov. 15 ( http://bit.ly/1lysfUK) at Springdale Race Course.
If you want to know about this equestrian sport, hurdle over to the National Steeplechase Museum ( www.steeplechasemuseum.org) on Camden’s Knights Hill Road.
Area info: www.cityofcamden.org. John Bordsen