Tearcoat Swamp

A Surprise Patriot Attack on Loyalist Recruits is a Blow to the British

If you are driving a few miles south of the present-day town of Turbeville, you might cross the path Patriot Colonel Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox,” took to Tearcoat Swamp in October 1780. Marion was on his way to surprise British Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Tynes and his Loyalist militia at their camp there. The British command had pinned their hopes on recruiting Loyalists who would fight — and win — for the Crown in the South. Tynes was ordered to call up Loyalist militia from the Santee region and provide them with arms, ammunition, food, and training. He gathered the spirited but undisciplined troops at Tearcoat Swamp.

Marion, who relentlessly pursued the British in rural South Carolina, was informed of Tynes’s location and was intent on disrupting his recruitment efforts. He led 150 partisan soldiers across the Pee Dee River and descended on Tynes’s encampment between the swamp and the Black River after dark, when the unsuspecting Loyalist troops were relaxing by their campfires. After midnight on October 25, Marion made his move. Dividing his men into three columns — left, right, and center — he struck from all sides, completely routing the green soldiers. The panicked Loyalists bolted into the swamp, as Marion’s men fired at their backs. In the short skirmish, six Loyalists were killed and 14 were wounded. The Patriots did not lose a single man. Marion's soldiers captured 80 horses, muskets, baggage, food and ammunition, further depleting an already tenuous British supply line. Some of Tynes’s shaken troops later emerged from the wetland and joined up with Marion’s partisans. The defectors inspired the bog’s humorous moniker “Turncoat Swamp.”

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Tearcoat Swamp

October 25, 1780