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Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox

General Francis Marion, known as “The Swamp Fox,” was a Revolutionary officer from Berkeley County, South Carolina. Even though he was a commissioned officer in the South Carolina Second Regiment, he also led a band of irregular fighters in the back- and low-country swamps of South Carolina fighting the British troops under Lord Cornwallis. He is generally credited as the Father of Guerilla Warfare, and is recognized as such at various War Colleges.

A man of diminutive stature, General Marion was a lifelong citizen-soldier and planter, living on his plantation, Pond Bluff, which now lies under Lake Marion in Central South Carolina. He fought as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War in the 1750s, The Cherokee Campaign of 1760, as a captain at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island on June 28, 1776, and as a lieutenant colonel at the Battle of Savannah on October 9, 1779. One interesting fact about his life is that he was carried out of Charleston in 1780 with a broken ankle suffered when he jumped out of a window to escape a Loyalist trap, thus avoiding the fall of Charleston under General Benjamin Lincoln and his 5,000 Continental Troops.

After Charleston had fallen and the Americans were driven from the field
at the Battle of Camden in August of 1780, General Marion and his band of irregulars, with whites and blacks, free and slave, along with friendly Native Americans, were the only organized fighting force in action in America, as General Washington’s army was at a stalemate outside of British occupied New York. (It is believed that Marion’s Band was the first integrated fighting force in America as well.) General Washington had then selected General Nathanael Greene to take over the Southern Administration to replace the disgraced General Horatio Gates. In order to buy time for Greene to come South, General Marion and his band harassed British positions between Camden, Georgetown and Charleston. Two particular “choke points” on the supply lines were on the Santee River near Charleston and the Black River near Georgetown. With so much success in these areas using such tactics, the British Command sent several officers after Marion, one of whom was the famous Colonial Banastre Tarleton who reportedly exclaimed after several unsuccessful capture attempts, “…as to this damned old fox, the devil himself could not catch him.” The name "The Swamp Fox" stuck.

Disrupting the supply lines, drawing forces away from the expected General Greene, an all-out harassment helped to ensure Patriot Victories at King’s Mountain, Cowpens, Eutaw Springs and the eventual surrender at Yorktown. Without General Marion, many historians feel that the British Plan to control the Southern Colonies and split the fledgling nation would have succeeded. Fortunately, the local populace was encouraged by the exploits of The Swamp Fox. The Cause of Independence and the American Experiment was saved because of such a great leader.

General Marion is now and has always been a National Hero. Second only
to George Washington in popularity in the century following the Revolutionary War, Marion has lent his name to 29 cities and 17 counties across America, a four year university, a National Forest, countless babies, one of two biographies from the famous biographer Parson M.L. Weems (the other being General Washington), the William Cullen Bryant epic poem "Song of Marion’s Men,” a feature length motion picture The Patriot, which starred Mel Gibson, a Wonderful World of Disney series in 1959-60 called “The Swamp Fox,” starring Leslie Nielsen and hosted by Walt Disney himself, and a small park on Capitol Hill in the city he helped to create that cries for a monument in his honor.