How did a small band of guerilla fighters successfully challenge the British Army? They had a smart and sly leader. Francis Marion’s familiarity with the bogs and byways of rural South Carolina, his uncanny ability to surprise and outwit the British, and the hit-and-run tactics of his irregulars continually foiled British operations in the back country and earned him the nickname, “The Swamp Fox.”
Born in South Carolina around 1732, Marion started his military career fighting against the Cherokee Indians in the French and Indian War. He most likely learned about guerilla tactics from his adversaries. He became a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress in 1775 and was commissioned a captain in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, serving in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in 1776. In 1780, during the British occupation of Charleston, Marion slipped away to the swamps, gathered a group of guerrillas, and led bold raids against enemy outposts. Although outnumbered by British troops, Marion’s unkempt militia moved furtively and rapidly over swampy terrain, a landscape familiar to them but alien to their foe. British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was so frustrated in his mission to destroy Marion, he declared, “as for that ‘damned old Fox,’ the Devil himself could not catch him.” Marion’s small company coordinated effectively with the Continental Army and gained recognition for actions at Great Savannah, Tearcoat Swamp, Georgetown. Fort Watson, Fort Motte, and Eutaw Springs.
After the war, Marion served in the senate of South Carolina. He died at his estate, Pond Bluff, in 1795.
DATE OF BIRTH - DEATH
c. 1732 - February 27, 1795
For more information on the life of Francis Marion, visit Battlefields.org.