The Swamp Fox - Francis Marion's Alter Ego
Francis Marion earned the nickname the Swamp Fox from the British because he would attack them quickly and then vanish through the difficult terrain of southern swamps.
Marion participated in several important battles and played an important role in the Southern Department of the American Revolutionary War.
South Carolina’s Francis Marion was a young boy of 15 when he took to the sea. For many boys of the 18th century, this was an exiting career choice which contained the promise of adventure and wealth.
On his very first trip, however, Marion’s ship sank.
Luckily, Francis and the crew survived. Unluckily, their lifeboat floated on the ocean for about a week before being rescued.
He would never return to the sea.
Marion returned to work on the family plantation. Ten years later, a new opportunity for adventure presented itself in the French and Indian War.
Marion joined the British Army and fought, primarily against the Cherokee, under William Moultrie.
When the American Revolution began, Francis was recruited by Moultrie to fight for the Patriots. Marion was present for the Continental's victory at the Battle of Fort Sullivan.
He was also a part of the failed attempt to drive the British out of Savannah, Georgia.
After returning to Charleston, Francis broke an ankle. He returned to his plantation to recuperate and, in doing so, was not present when Charleston was captured and many of his compatriots were taken prisoner.
Marion, still hobbling around due to his injury, cobbled together a small force and began harassing the British.
He brought his men to meet Horatio Gates, then Commander of the Southern Department. Gates had a bad taste for Marion and used every opportunity to get rid of him. This was usually done by sending Marion out on scouting missions.
During one of these missions, Marion missed the disastrous Battle of Camden. He was fortunate because so many of the Americans were killed and the Patriots were humiliated.
The one redeeming note about this battle is that Gates was replaced by Nathanael Greene. Greene’s leadership of the Southern Department would eventually play a great role in the American’s victory.
The Swamp Fox
It was around this time that Marion acquired his nickname: The Swamp Fox.
This was due to his ability to lead his men through swampy marshlands at such a frenzied pace that the Brits could not keep up. Francis instituted a system of guerrilla warfare, surprising the redcoats with quick encounters then escaping through the swamps.
The Swamp Fox soon recieved a promotion to Brigadier General and his troops became known as 'Marion's Men.'
The tactics provided him ample opportunity to gather intelligence for the Continental Army. They had the added bonus of getting under the skin of the enemy.
Halting The British
Marion, working with Henry Lee, moved through the Carolinas during the winter of 1781. They took several Forts and were able to ruin communications between segments of the British Army.
He subsequently joined the main force of General Greene in the Battle of Eutaw Springs. Although this fight was a draw, it prevented the British from gaining any additional territory in their last-ditch effort to get the upper hand in the war.
The Battle of Yorktown ended the Revolutionary War later that year.
Francis Marion was elected to the South Carolina State Assembly and retired from the battlefield. He continued in this position for most of the remainder of his life.
During his time in the war, the Swamp Fox provided much needed assistance to Major General Greene. Marion’s efforts led to the Southern Department’s success in the Carolinas and, in turn, American victory in the Revolution.
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To learn more about Francis Marion, I recommend the 'Swamp Fox' by John Oller. Although fairly unknown today, Marion is one of those Founders who've had tons of books written about them. I chose the 'Swamp Fox' because it was written recently and therefore considers all of the evidence of past historians. Also, I've read it the most recently and it is freshest in my mind. If you buy through our link to Amazon, we will get a tiny commission but your price does not change. So, thanks for the support!