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The Patriot Film Fact or Fiction: Battles

Battle of Camden:
This is the battle that Gabriel Martin and Benjamin Martin watch in dismay from the window of the abandoned plantation. The battle was a rout as shown in the movie. Benjamin Martin even criticizes Maj. General Horatio Gates for his strategy in facing the British in traditional military style. General Cornwallis and Colonel Tavington, who was inspired by Banastre Tarleton were shown on the battlefield.

However, the movie depicts a force of mostly Continental regulars (blue coats) being routed. In truth, about two-thirds of General Gates' force had been comprised of militia. As a result, the movie is incorrect when the movie depicts Continental regulars fleeing. It was the militia that formed the left and middle of the line that fled quickly, although some units of regulars did follow the militia in fleeing.

Gates' error was in lining up his most skittish troops, the militia, on the left against General Cornwallis' most experienced troops. Military tradition of the time dictated that the most experienced and celebrated troops would line up on the right. So Gates had his most experienced Continental regulars on the right as was tradition, but that left the militia to face a bayonet charge from the most battle-tested troops that Cornwallis had.

The Continental regulars led by Baron de Kalb at the right of the line continued fighting on, because the smoke of the battlefield was so think that they were unaware that their flanks were unprotected. It was a still day with no breeze to clear the smoke away from the field. Obviously, if the visibility were that bad on the field itself, then no one would have been able to survey the battle from a distance, as Gabriel and Benjamin do in the movie.

The wounded and demoralized men that Gabriel and Benjamin see as they make their way to Colonel Burwell's tent are the casualties from Camden. Burwell himself refers to Gates' last being seen riding hard to the north with his officers trying to catch up, which was the case in reality. Gates was said to have ordered a retreat and quickly started riding north, not stopped riding for thirty miles. He then continued on north to Charlotte, North Carolina, when he realized that the army could not be reformed.

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