The British Use a Clever Delaying Tactic to Elude “The Swamp Fox”
Despite the “closed road” sign, you may park and then walk a short distance to the bridge and look to your right into Halfway Swamp. A sawmill operated here until 1945, when the local power company appropriated some of the Elliot family’s land to build Lake Marion. Now the Elliots’ descendants rent boats for touring the adjacent cypress swamp that served as the setting for an unusual skirmish between Patriot commander Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox,” and British Major Robert McLeroth on December 12–13, 1781. McLeroth and his 64th Regiment were escorting some 200 recruits from Charleston to Camden when Marion, with about 700 men, surprised them at Halfway Swamp, shooting their pickets — the advance guard — and blocking their path.
McLeroth waved a flag of truce to protest the shooting of the pickets, which he asserted was contrary to the laws of civilized warfare. Marion responded that as long as the British continued to burn and pillage the South Carolina countryside, he would keep shooting pickets. McLeroth proposed that they settle their differences on an open field. Marion accepted the curious challenge, choosing 20 Patriots to face 20 British soldiers in a bizarre mass duel. But as the partisans came within 100 yards of the British line, the deadly game was called off. The British suddenly retreated. It later became evident that McLeroth was simply buying time as he waited for reinforcements. McLeroth deceived Marion again that evening and slipped away toward Singleton’s Mill. Marion’s men were able to intercept British troops there, but the Patriots fled quickly after learning that the Singleton family had smallpox. Clearly more cunning than “The Swamp Fox” in this engagement, McLeroth continued north.
December 12–13, 1781