Francis Marion

 

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Francis MarionMarion, FRANCIS, military officer; born near Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1732; died February 29, 1793.

At the age of sixteen, while on a voyage to the West Indies, the vessel in which he sailed foundered at sea, and he was rescued only when several of the crew, who, with himself, had taken to the boat, had died of starvation. Working on a farm until 1759, that year he joined an expedition against the Cherokees. In 1761 he was made a captain, under Colonel Grant. He led the forlorn hope in the battle of Etchowee, and was among the few who escaped death. On the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, Marion was elected to the South Carolina Provincial Congress; became a captain of Provincial troops; served as major in defence of Fort Sullivan; and was lieutenant-colonel of his regiment at Savannah in 1779, and at the siege of Charleston. Appointed a brigadier-general in 1780, he began his famous partisan career with only sixteen men.

Francis Marion's HomeHe had gathered many partisans to his standard while Cornwallis was carrying out his reign of terror in South Carolina. "Colonel Marion," wrote Cornwallis, "so wrought on the minds of the people that there was scarcely an inhabitant between the Santee and Pedee that was not in arms against us." Some parties even crossed the Santee and carried terror to the gates of Charleston. One of the earliest of Marion's great exploits was near Nelson's Ferry, on the Santee, on August 20, 1780, two days after Williams's exploit at Musgrove's Mill. At dawn on that day a British party, with 150 prisoners of the Maryland line, captured from Gates near Camden (see GATES, HORATIO), were crossing at the great savanna, near the ferry, on the route from Camden to Charleston, when Marion and his men sprang upon the guard, liberated the prisoners, and captured twenty-six of the escort.

Marion and his brigade achieved victory after victory over bands of Tories and British among the swamps of the Santee, and late in October they pushed forward to assail the British garrison at Georgetown, on Winyaw Bay, for the purpose of obtaining necessary supplies. This was an unusual and serious undertaking for them. The garrison was on the alert, and in a severe skirmish with a large party near the town Marion was repulsed. He then retired to Snow's Island, at the confluence of Lynch's Creek and the Pedee River, where, in a most secluded spot, he fixed his camp and strengthened its natural defenses. It was chiefly high river swamp, covered with forest trees and abounding with game. From that swamp fastness the partisan sent out or led expeditions which, for many weeks, accomplished marvelous results by celerity of movements, stealthiness of approaches to the enemy, and the suddenness and fierceness of the blows. It was in allusion to these movements that Bryant wrote in his Song of Marion's Men:

" A moment in the British camp—A moment--and away,
Back to the pathless forest,
Before the break of day."

The British became thoroughly alarmed, and the destruction of Marion's camp became, with them, an object of vital importance.

Tarleton was employed by Cornwallis in searching out partisan corps, such as Marion's and Sumter's. He performed the orders of his general with fidelity. When, on one occasion, he set out to pursue Marion, Cornwallis wrote (November 5, 1780) : "I most sincerely hope you will get at Mr. Marion." On that march Tarleton and his corps set fire to all the houses and destroyed all the corn from Camden to Nelson's Ferry; beat the widow of a general officer because she would not tell where Marion was encamped, and burned her dwelling and wasted everything about, not leaving her even a change of raiment. All along the line of their march were seen groups of houseless women and children, who had enjoyed the comforts afforded by ample fortunes before the destroyer came, sitting around fires in the open air. Marion, on the contrary, although equally alert, was always humane. In September, 1780, a band of 200 Tories were sent to surprise him. With only fifty-three men, he first surprised a part of his pursuers and dispersed them, capturing some who had committed great outrages; but he would not allow a prisoner to be hurt. At Black Mingo Creek, on the 28th, he made a successful attack on a guard of sixty militiamen, and made prisoners of those under its escort. At that time the British were burning houses on the Little Pedee. He allowed his men to return to protect their families and property, but would not permit them to retaliate. He wrote afterwards: "There is not one house burned by my orders or by any of my people. It is what I detest, to distress poor women and children."

After the war he married a wealthy lady of Huguenot descent (Mary Videau), and in time became a State Senator. In 1790 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention. Small in stature, reserved, and very modest, he was exceedingly captivating in manner. His residence was at Pond Bluff, on the Santee, near Nelson's Ferry. It was built by himself soon after his marriage, and there he and his young wife dispensed most generous hospitality. He died February 27, 1795.

 

 

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