The British Chase Patriot Francis Marion and are Ambushed by “The Swamp Fox” Himself
You can no longer see the actual site of the Battle of Wyboo Swamp. It is buried under the waters of man-made Lake Marion, less than a mile from here. During the Revolutionary War, a quarter-mile causeway extended from the nearby Santee River Road over the muck and mire of the swamp. That low strip of land became a battleground in an engagement between British Lieutenant Colonel John Watson and Patriot Brigadier General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox.” Marion earned his moniker after Tarleton chased him for 20 miles at Ox Swamp, but could never catch him.
Lord Francis Rawdon, Field Commander of the King’s forces in South Carolina, was intent on catching and stopping Marion. He ordered Colonel Watson into the backwater bogs to chase down Marion’s militia. However, Marion’s scouts learned of Watson’s movements and the Swamp Fox placed his men in an ambush position on the Santee River Road at Wyboo Swamp. Watson’s Loyalist cavalry rode right into Patriot horsemen, and the two armies faced off on the causeway in a series of effective charges and countercharges. After a thunderous salvo by two British cannons, Marion felt his force was too small to sustain an open fight and ordered a retreat down the river road. Gavin James was the last Patriot to pull out and momentarily held the causeway alone. While avoiding a barrage of enemy fire, the undaunted private used his musket as a lance and killed three of Watson’s men.
Small but relentless attacks by Marion, like this encounter at Wyboo Swamp, served to keep the British on edge as they struggled to keep their hold on rural South Carolina.
March 6, 1781