The American Revolution in South Carolina

Brigadier General Francis Marion

Francis Marion was an American revolutionary war hero, nicknamed the "Swamp Fox" by the British because of his elusive tactics. Marion was probably born in St. John's Parish, Berkeley County, near Georgetown, South Carolina, about 1732. As a descendant of French Huguenots who settled on the Santee River, he received a country school education. Marion established himself as a planter in St. John's Parish after coming into a small inheritance.

Marion served in two campaigns in the French & Indian War (1756-1763). In 1761, he distinguished himself as a lieutenant of militia by defeating some ambushed Cherokees. Marion returned to St. John's and entered politics, championing the American colonies in their quarrel with England. In 1775, Marion was elected to the South Carolina Provincial Congress as a representative. This Congress authorized the formation of two regiments, Marion was commissioned as a Captain of the Second Regiment on June 17, 1775. He was promoted to Major on November 14, 1775. When William Moultrie was promoted to Brigadier General on September 16, 1776, Marion was promoted to Lt. Colonel under the also promoted Col. Isaac Motte, who took over the Second Regiment. On September 23, 1778, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel/Commandant over the SC 2nd Regiment in the Continental Army. In May of 1780, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charlestown to the British, but Marion was at home nursing a broken ankle.

In August of 1780, Francis Marion launched guerrilla warfare against the Loyalists along the Pee Dee and Santee rivers. Marion chased away three Loyalist groups. Turning upon the British, Marion cut their supply lines, outran Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton's dragoons, raided Georgetown, retired to Snow's Island, and then again raided Georgetown.

After the Continentals returned to South Carolina, Marion served as Brigadier General of part of the South Carolina Militia under Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army's Southern Department. Aided by Continental troops, Marion finally seized Georgetown. At the battle of Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781, he commanded the Militias of North and South Carolina and helped to drive the British back to Charlestown.

Marion was quiet and moody, yet humane and forgiving. He rose from private to brigadier general because of his intuitive grasp of strategy and tactics. Daring and elusive, he usually struck at night and then vanished into the swamps and morasses of the South.

Marion received thanks from South Carolina for leading the partisans. He represented his parish in the state senate and the Constitutional Convention. He voted for federal union. After marrying Mary Esther Videau in 1786, he lived at Pond Bluff, which he owned. He later died there on February 26, 1795.

Biography from Benson J. Lossing in his Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution [with minor edits]:

Francis Marion was born at Winyaw, near Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1732. He was so small at his birth, that, according to Weems, "he was not larger than a New England lobster, and might easily enough have been put into a quart pot." Marion received a very limited share of education and until his twenty-seventh year (1759), he followed agricultural pursuits.

He then became a soldier by joining an expedition against the Cherokees and other hostile tribes on the Western frontier of the Carolinas. When the Revolution broke out, he was found on the side of liberty and was made a captain in the second South Carolina regiment. He fought bravely in the battle of Fort Sullivan on Sullivan's Island.

He was afterward engaged in the contest at Savannah and from that period until the defeat of Gates near Camden in the summer of 1780 he was an active soldier. Soon after that affair he organized a brigade, having passed through the several grades to that of brigadier of the militia of his state.

While Sumter was striking heavy blows here and there in the northwestern part of South Carolina, Marion was performing like service in the northeastern part along the Pee Dee River and its tributaries. In 1781, he was engaged with Lee and others in reducing several British posts. After the battle of Eutaw, Marion did not long remain in the field but took his seat as senator in the Legislature. He was soon again called to the field and did not relinquish his sword until the close of the war.

When peace came, Marion retired to his plantation, a little below Eutaw, where he died on February 29th, 1795, in the sixty-third year of his age. His last words were, "Thank God, since I came to man's estate I have never intentionally done wrong to any man." Marion's remains are in the church-yard at Belle Isle, in the parish of St. John's, Berkeley. Over them is a marble slab, upon which is the following inscription:

"Sacred to the memory of Brigadier-general FRANCIS MARION, who daparted this life on the twenty-ninth of February, 1795, in the sixty-third year of his age, deeply regretted by all of his fellow-citizens. History will record his worth, and rising generations embalm his memory, as one of the most distinguished patriots and heroes of the American Revolution; which elevated his native country to Honor and Independence, and secured to her the blessings of liberty and peace. This tribute of veneration and gratitude is erected in commemoration of the noble and disinterested virtues of the citizen, and the gallant exploits of the soldier, who lived without fear and died with out reproach."

Click Here to view a replacement commission as Lt. Colonel/Commandant over the SC 2nd Regiment, which apparently Francis Marion asked the Contintental Congress for in late 1781 or early 1782. It is very likely that he had lost or misplaced his original commission and wanted a replacement for his records.

© 2008 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved