Francis Marion — “The Swamp Fox” — Ambushes British Troops in His Last Battle of the Revolutionary War
Despite British General Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown in October 1781, the war continued in South Carolina for more than a year. British troops still occupied the colony and peace negotiations between the countries were ongoing. (The Treaty of Paris ending the war was eventually signed on September 3, 1783.) In the summer of 1782, the British retained a shaky hold on Charleston, and the Patriots blocked trade to the city, making food scarce. To procure supplies, British Major Thomas Fraser led a foraging raid to Moncks Corner on August 28, 1782.
Fraser’s mission took a detour when he learned that the elusive Patriot commander Brigadier General Francis Marion was camped nearby at Wadboo Plantation. Fraser and his Royal Dragoons headed there from Moncks Corner on August 29. Alerted to Fraser’s imminent attack, Marion devised an ambush, hiding his men behind the dense cedars lining the avenue to the main house. He then sent Patriot Captain Gavin Witherspoon ahead to bait Fraser’s troops. This ignited a fight, during which Witherspoon brazenly killed a dragoon with his broadsword then fled toward the cedars. The dragoons charged up the avenue in pursuit. As they reached within 30 yards of the trees, the Patriots fired from their concealed positions. The volley caused several British casualties and startled a horse pulling the Patriots’ ammunition wagon, causing him to bolt. After a brief firefight in which neither side had the advantage, Marion, with no more powder or cartridges, withdrew.
A diverse group of Americans fought here: Fraser’s dragoons included former enslaved people who joined the British cavalry; Major Micajah Ganey and 40 of his troops were Loyalists who defected to the Patriots and fought with Marion. This was Marion’s last field battle. With the British poised to evacuate Charleston later that year, he felt that his fellow citizens had seen enough bloodshed. When asked to intercept further foraging activities by the British, he replied, "So far from offering to molest, I would rather send a party to protect them."
August 29, 1782