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Francis Marion

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Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox)

Francis Marion (circa 1732 - February 26 or February 27, 1795) was an American Brigadier General in the American Revolutionary War. He became known as the "Swamp Fox" for his ability to use decoy and ambush tactics to disrupt enemy communications, capture supplies, and free prisoners.

Marion was probably born at Winyah, near Georgetown, South Carolina, of Huguenot ancestry. In 1759 he settled on Pond Bluff plantation near Eutaw Springs, in St. John's Parish, Berkeley County, South Carolina. In 1761 he served as a lieutenant under William Moultrie in a campaign against the Cherokees. In 1775 he was a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress; and on June 21 was commissioned captain in the 2nd South Carolina regiment under W. Moultrie, with whom he served in June 1776 in the defence of Fort Sullivan (aka Fort Moultrie), in Charleston harbor.

In September 1776 the Continental Congress commissioned Marion as a lieutenant-colonel. In the autumn of 1779 he took part in the siege of Savannah, and early in 1780, under Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, was engaged in drilling militia.

After the capture of Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780 and the defeats of Gen. Isaac Huger at Moncks Corner, South Carolina and Lt. Col. Abraham Buford at the Waxhaws (near the North Carolina line, in what is now Lancaster County, South Carolina), Marion organized a small troop, which usually consisted of between 20 and 70 men—the only force then opposing the British in the state.

Governor John Rutledge made him a brigadier-general of state troops, and in August 1780 Marion took command of the scanty militia, ill-equipped and ill-fed. With this force he was identified for almost all the remainder of the war in a partisan warfare in which he showed himself a singularly able leader of irregulars. On the August 20 he captured 150 Maryland prisoners, and about a score of their British guard; and in September and October repeatedly surprised larger bodies of Loyalists or British regulars.

Col. Banastre Tarleton, sent out to capture him, despaired of finding the "old swamp fox," who eluded him by following swamp paths. When Gen. Nathanael Greene took command in the south, Marion and Colonel Henry Lee were ordered in January 1781 to attack Georgetown, but they were unsuccessful. In April, however, they took Fort Watson and in May Fort Motte, and they succeeded in breaking communications between the British posts in the Carolinas. On August 31 Marion rescued a small American force hemmed in by Maj. C. Fraser with 500 British; and for this he received the thanks of Congress. He commanded the right wing under General Greene at Eutaw Springs.

In 1782, during his absence as State Senator at Jacksonborough, his brigade deteriorated, and there was a conspiracy to turn him over to the British. In June of the same year he put down a Loyalist uprising on the banks of the Pedee river; and in August he left his brigade and returned to his plantation.

He served several terms in the South Carolina State Senate, and in 1784, in recognition of his services, was made commander of Fort Johnson, practically a courtesy title with a salary of $500 per annum. He died on his estate in 1795.

There has been some controversy about Marion's personality, especially in connection with the Hollywood movie The Patriot (2000), which is based largely on his biography. Historian Christopher Hibbert said that Marion was "a wily and elusive character, very active in the persecution of the Cherokee Indians and not at all the sort of chap who should be celebrated as a hero. The truth is that people like Marion committed atrocities as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the British."

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