A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade

Author: William Dobein James

Chapter IV.


The military history of this year, is not remarkable for any great events; but the most material of these happened in the brigade of Marion. As they are not altogether of a pleasant nature, it appears to have been the wish of many to bury them in oblivion, and therefore some of them have been suppressed, and others but slightly recorded. But, the correspondence gives dates and hints, which bring the whole to recollection; and it is the duty of the biographer to be impartial. It was hoped that he might have avoided saying any thing more about the dispute which arose between Cols. Peter Horry and Maham; but, as that dispute terminated in unhappy consequences, it becomes necessary that they should be developed. Gen. Marion was returned, at the elections which took place for the Jacksonborough assembly, a member of the senate for St. John’s, Berkley. Being about to take his seat, he gave the immediate command of the brigade to Col. Peter Horry,* subject to his future order. Of this order, all that is necessary to state here, is as follows: "You will take command of my brigade until I return. You will keep the guards at Cainhoy and Fogartie’s. Their orders are to prevent any boats or persons from going to or from town, without a written pass from me or yourself. Col. Maham’s corps will be ordered to Mepkin, to remain there until my further orders." As the enemy got most of their intelligence from persons, more especially women, going to and from town, this part of the order was very material. In the mean time application was made by Gen. Marion to Greene to decide this unhappy dispute between the colonels; and, in a conciliating letter, he decided it in favour of Horry. (16th Jan.) On the 18th of January, Gen. Marion writes to Horry: "I send you Gen. Greene’s letter in answer to mine, sent him as soon as I arrived here, and it is determined as I expected. You will keep the letter, and if the enemy should approach your quarters, and you find it necessary, you must call on Col. Maham’s troops and horse, as reinforcements; and I wish he may not be called upon for any other purpose." In a letter from Col. Maham to Horry, of the 20th of January, it is to be inferred that the latter had immediately called upon him for a return of his corps, and to submit to his orders; for he answers, "I cannot think of being commanded by an officer of the same rank. I think it proper not to make you any return of my regiment, and I shall not obey any order you may be pleased to send." It appears from a subsequent letter of Maham’s of the same date, that Gen. Marion had not written to him concerning the determination of Gen. Greene; but Gen. Marion’s order, both then and subsequently, was certainly sufficient to convince him he ought to submit. After this Col. Horry writes to Gen. Marion: "Col. Maham interferes with my command so much that I can scarcely act; he gave passes to several ladies to go to town without my leave, and they accordingly went in a boat, which boat has since returned, and the ladies have since come up." And again, "I assure you your presence is much wanted. Your brigade lessens daily." (31st Jan.) On the 3d of February, Marion answers: "I am surprised at Col. Maham’s interference with your command. I have written him positive orders not to do so in any respect whatever, and was in hopes Gen. Greene would have prevented such evils before this." But from a former letter of Gov. Rutledge, which is a philippic against Horry, and the subsequent determination of Gov. Matthews, it is evident that Maham had got the civil authority on his side, and he did not regard the general’s. And thus it is, when civilians interfere with military affairs that they invariably commit blunders. Having premised these facts, to show that in Marion’s absence there was naught but discord and dissention, we now proceed to state the consequences.

— * Marion’s letter to Horry, 10th January. —

Almost the whole of the warfare was henceforth carried on in St. Thomas’ and St. James’, Santee. About this time, Col. Richard Richardson commanded the post at Cainhoy. A British galley lay in the river Wando, which he watched, and patroled the road down to Daniel’s island by day, and returned into the woods and lay without fire by night. A fortnight after he was posted there, hearing of a party of British which had landed at Daniel’s island, he immediately sent out scouts to the causeway over to the island, and wrote for a reinforcement. In the morning Maham’s horse arrived, four troops in uniform, and fully equipt; but their colonel, who would have been ranked by Richardson, was not present, and they were under the command of Maj. Giles. The British took the Strawberry road, and about noon stopped at Bishop Smith’s, Brabant, about fourteen miles up the road. To the north of that plantation is a swamp of considerable width, with a causeway and bridge. Beyond the causeway, on the right going up, was a fence on a bank and a ditch behind it, with trees in front. Richardson passed the swamp above, and going down to the hill above this fence, immediately went to reconnoitre, but came back with a British troop and Capt. Campbell at his heels. He ordered a charge. At the commencement of the onset it was easy to be seen that Maham’s corps had not yet been trained. They charged in some disorder, but at first drove the British horse easily before them. At the bridge they met the British infantry, who gave them a volley. All was now confusion, horses and men wedged together upon a narrow causeway. The front striving to retreat, and the rear urging them on. The British horse being rallied, now came in to aid the infantry, and a total rout and scene of carnage ensued. Of Maham’s officers, Capt. Samuel Cooper rallied his men, and returning to the road, saved several lives and drove back a troop of black dragoons. In this affair the six months men particularly suffered. Being near the road when the rout commenced, they wheeled their lean horses and ran directly up it, consequently they were trampled down by both parties. Capt. Bennett, with twelve men, after having been pursued by a party of British, double his number, and stopped by an impassable creek, when inspiring his men with courage, and setting the example, they wheeled about and drove back the enemy. In the course of this day, G. S. Capers took three swords from the British in single rencounters, and Gen. Marion promoted him to a lieutenancy. It appears that the defeat might have been prevented if Richardson had posted his militia behind the fence described. Twenty-two Americans were buried on the causeway; how many were killed in the pursuit is not known. Of the British, Capt. Campbell was killed, and several of his men, but the number was not ascertained.

Gen. Marion had now taken his seat in the senate at Jacksonborough; but his presence, as will shortly be seen, was much more necessary in camp; but he could not get leave of absence, nor be spared without breaking up the house, for there were but thirteen senators present, which number was required as a quorum to do business. They were passing a new militia act, and one for raising the continental quota of troops for the state; and the confiscation act at that time and place was esteemed of greater consequence than the commanding of a brigade. But in all his letters dated from that place, Gen. Marion expresses the utmost anxiety to return to his command.

In the mean time Horry, by orders of Gen. Marion, took a position on the north side of Wambaw, a large creek emptying into the Santee. He lay in the angle formed by the two roads which pass from Lenud’s ferry road to Mr. Horry’s, about a quarter of a mile from the bridge. In his rear there was a wood. His new raised regiment, scarcely yet half completed, lay at Durant’s plantation about a mile above, under the immediate command of Maj. Benson. On the 23d of February, Horry had out patroles upon the Christ Church road, and scouts down in St. Thomas’. Thinking himself secure, and being sick, on the 24th he went over the river to his plantation, and left the brigade under the command of Col. M`Donald, contrary to Gen. Marion’s order, which was to leave it in such case under Maham. While Benson was at dinner, Capt. Bennett, who commanded the scouts in St. Thomas’, came in with intelligence that the British were approaching, but at that time of day he was an unwelcome messenger. Bennett proceeded down to head quarters at Mr. Horry’s, where M`Donald was also at dinner. He likewise would not believe the intelligence, because he said he had been down into Christ Church the day before; but he desired Maj. James who had just arrived in camp, and came for orders, to take command of his regiment. In less than half an hour after a firing commenced at Durant’s. M`Donald’s regiment was on the right towards Echaw, and two regiments of six months men on the left towards Wambaw. Maj. James immediately formed M`Donald’s regiment in the wood in the rear, and rode to the left for orders from the commanding officer present, Col. Screven; but when he arrived, Screven’s men had broke, and he was in the act of rallying them, but the attempt was vain. They ran over the bridge and threw off the planks. Maj. James returned to his own men, and as fugitives were now passing in numbers from Horry’s corps, he ordered a retreat to the bridge. As he brought up the rear and was on horseback, two British dragoons attempted in succession to cut him down, but he kept them in check with his pistols, and finally leaped a chasm in the bridge, supposed to be twenty feet in width. He by this means gained time to rally his men, and checked the British.

Thus Gen. Marion had not left his brigade more than six weeks, before it had dwindled away and had been defeated. On the part of Horry’s cavalry it was a complete surprise. Major Benson was killed, and what number of men cannot be ascertained, but he lost thirty-five horses.

The British were commanded by Col. Thompson, afterwards the celebrated Count Rumford. Maham having refused to cooperate with Horry, lay still at Mepkin; and Gen. Marion passing there on the 24th, took command of his corps and proceeded towards Wambaw; but the colonel was not present. On his way Gen. Marion was sorely vexed with the disagreeable news of the defeat of his brigade; but with such a fine corps as Maham’s was then he felt sure of beating the enemy should they appear. He proceeded down to Mrs. Tiddiman’s plantation, between Echaw and Wambaw, and there halted for provisions. (25th Feb.) There was a lane with a high fence on each side, leading up to the house, and the cavalry picketted in the lane. In front of the lane was an old field, and a little to the right a pond of water. Scarce half an hour had elapsed when the British appearing in the old field, displayed their columns and seemed to pause. Capt. John Carraway Smith commanded Maham’s corps; he drew up his men in solid column, and Gen. Marion having posted a small body of infantry to great advantage along the fence of the lane, ordered Smith to charge. He proceeded very well till he got to the edge of the pond, where an inclination to the left was necessary to reach the enemy, but in performing this evolution his men fell into disorder, and the enemy charged with a shout. All was now rout and dismay; but the British followed no further than the edge of the woods. Gen. Marion had rallied a troop there, and checked the pursuit. The loss was but little; Lieut. Smizer and three men only were killed; but the disgrace was great. Had this corps been well trained the enemy must have been beaten. Horry had thus lost a great part of his horses, and Maham’s corps was a second time shamefully defeated.

We have seen Count Rumford opposed to Gen. Marion with a degree of success, which perhaps he would not have obtained had the orders of the general been obeyed. It is well known that Count Rumford was a native of Massachusetts, and of the town there whence he took his title; also that he became after this a celebrated philosopher, and especially in economics; his writings have been of great use to the world. It is a pity that the career of such a man should have commenced in hostility to his native country. His life has been published, but we have not yet had the pleasure of reading it; and perhaps it may not contain the following anecdote. After his dashing success at the Santee he formed a grand scheme, which was no less than that of surprising Gen. Greene in his camp at Ashley hill. To effect this he must either have crossed Ashley river over Bacon bridge, at Dorchester, which was too well secured for a sudden attack of cavalry; or he must cross the river at Ashley ferry, ten miles from town. He determined on the latter, and put his four troops of cavalry in motion. When he arrived at the ferry it was ebb of tide, the water was running out as from a millsluice; the banks on each side were so miry as scarcely to support a crab — the river was at least one hundred yards wide, and there was not a boat. — He however ordered Major Fraser to lead on the first troop into the river and swim across. Fraser viewed him for some time with astonishment, suspecting him not to be in his sober senses. But finding he appeared so, he said to him, "Why, Sir, I am not in the habit of disputing, or hesitating to perform any order given by my commander; but this thing is utterly impossible." "How so," said Thompson, "it may be difficult but not impossible, and if we do not attempt difficult things we shall never be distinguished. Alexander swam across the Granicus, beat the Persians and immortalized himself." "And it would no doubt immortalize you," replied Fraser, "if you could swim the Ashley, and surprise Gen. Greene; but let us put the matter to the test. Here is Serjt. Allen, the best trooper and the best swimmer in the corps; and here is my horse that cost me one hundred guineas. Let Allen try it first; better that he than that all should be lost." The proposition was agreed to. Allen was mounted on the major’s charger, and was ordered to swim the river. — "I’ll try," said he, "since the colonel orders it — but the Lord have mercy upon me;" and having so said, he plunged into the river. As might have been expected, the current swept him a quarter of a mile below the landing on the opposite side; he attempted to land there, but the fine horse was swallowed up in the marsh, and Allen escaped with the utmost difficulty. — This was the last notice we have of Col. Thompson (Count Rumford) in this country: he was a burning meteor but soon disappeared.*

— * Count Rumford told professor Pictet, of Geneva, many years after,
that he had never been able to efface from his imagination,
the horrid spectacle of the dead and wounded upon these occasions.
— See Pictet’s Tour in England, p. 212. —

After the defeat at Wambaw, Gov. Matthews, having taken much pains to find out from Gen. Marion who was the best cavalry officer of the two, Horry or Maham, incorporated the two regiments and gave the command to the latter. The preference appears to have been extorted from Marion. The fact was that Horry, though said to be a good infantry officer, failed in one most essential requisite in the command of cavalry, and that was horsemanship. In several charges he made, it is said he was indebted to some one or other of his men for saving his life; yet possessing great personal bravery, his supreme delight was always to be at the head of cavalry. From the commencement of this narrative, his patriotism has been conspicuous: in fact, his property was wasted and his life often exposed in the cause of his country, and few men were more devoted to her than Col. Peter Horry. He now resigned, but as some consolation, Gen. Marion made him commandant of Georgetown, with full powers to regulate its trade and defend it from the enemy. It was from thence and Cainhoy, that Gen. Marion after long perseverance, got much clothing for Greene’s army. But Col. P. Horry, instead of leaving trade to flow into Georgetown as freely as the tides which passed before him, put it under such restrictions that the merchants soon began to murmur. About the 20th of April, there was an alarm excited among the civil authority of the state, that the British in Charleston had been reinforced and were about to attack Gen. Greene. Gov. Matthews immediately wrote to order Gen. Marion to his assistance. He lay at that time near Murray’s ferry; his men had been dismounted by an order from the same authority, and they now set out for Bacon’s bridge on foot for the first time. When they reached within eight miles, the alarm had subsided; but another had taken place, that the enemy had sailed for Georgetown, and the governor ordered Marion there. After a forced march of four days he arrived at White’s bridge; but there was no enemy near Georgetown. In this march of about one hundred and sixty miles, Marion’s men had but one ration of rice; all the rest were of lean beef driven out of the woods in the month of April. As Ganey’s party had been troublesome to the people of North Carolina, and had not observed the treaty of neutrality with Gen. Marion, made June 17th, 1781, a joint expedition was concerted between Gov. Matthews, of South and Gov. Martin of North Carolina, to subdue them.* Of this expedition Gen. Marion was to have the command. His very name was sufficient for the purpose intended. At Burch’s mill on Pedee, a treaty was signed, (June 1782) by which Ganey’s party agreed to lay down their arms as enemies of the state, to demean themselves hereafter as peaceable citizens, to deliver up all stolen property, to apprehend all who did not accede to the treaty now made, to take all deserters from the American army and deliver them up, to return to their allegiance and abjure that of his Britannic majesty. From this treaty, Gibson, who killed Col. Kolb, and Fanning and his party were excepted, but they escaped. Fanning was properly of North Carolina, but occasionally acted with Ganey, and was one of the most active men, and one of the most deliberate murderers of the whole party. But little defence had been made by the tories; only one skirmish took place, in which the general’s friend, Robert James, was wounded; and at the Bowling Green, between Great and Little Pedee, at least five hundred men laid down their arms to Gen. Marion. Thus ended an opposition to the country, which commenced more from the desire of plunder than from principle, and which, except with regard to sex, and some to age, had been carried on in the true spirit of savage warfare. Of Harrison’s party, many had gone with him to the British; with those who remained a species of warfare was waged even after the peace with Great Britain.

— * Capt. Crafton’s letter to Marion, 13th June, 1782. —

During Gen. Marion’s absence, Gen. Greene appears, from the correspondence, to have been very anxious for his return. After the adjournment of the Jacksonborough assembly, he had crossed the Edisto and encamped on the west side of Ashley river, sixteen miles from Charleston, and here the sufferings of his men had risen to the utmost extremity. They were often without rations, and when served, it was generally with lean meat without bread or rice, or bread or rice without the lean meat. They had as yet received no pay, and their clothes were so worn and broken, that they were as naked as the Caffres of Africa. Here, in a state of inaction, they became mutinous, and were plotting to deliver up their commander to the enemy. But it is surprising, that when mischief of any kind began to brew in such a situation, that only twelve should have been concerned in it, and it is honourable that none of those were native Americans.

About the 9th of July, Gen. Marion had returned to the Santee, and received orders from Gen. Greene to remain between that and Cooper river, as heretofore. The militia were now so far relieved, that, by law, they were obliged to turn out only one month in three; but were ordered, as we have mentioned above, to be dismounted, which discouraged them, and rendered their movements less rapid. The experience derived both from the history of the revolutionary and the late war, fully shows that the militia are effective only when mounted.

On the 25th of August, in this year, Lieut. Col. John Laurens was killed in a skirmish at Page’s point, on Combahee river. He fell in the flower of his youth, and yet had long been the admiration of both the contending armies. In history the parallel to his character is perhaps to be found only in that of the Chevalier Bayard: the knight without fear and without reproach.

During the remainder of the summer of 1782, Gen. Marion frequently changed his encampments from place to place, between Cooper and Santee rivers, with three objects constantly in view; to cut off supplies from the enemy, to prevent all surprises from their sudden irruptions, and to provide for his own men. — His scouting parties still penetrated into St. Thomas’ parish as far as Daniel’s island and Clement’s ferry. At the head of one of these Capt. G. S. Capers performed a gallant action. Having the command of only twelve men, he encountered a party of twenty-six of the British black dragoons, and cut them to pieces. They had at the time two or three of his neighbours in handcuffs as prisoners.

About the 25th of August in that year, Marion lay for some time at the plantation of Sir John Colleton, the first above Watboo bridge, on the south side of that creek. This with him appeared to be a favourite place of encampment. It had been deserted by the owner, who was attached to the enemy, and the mansion and two extensive ranges of negro and other outhouses were left open for himself and men. He occupied the mansion and his men the outhouses, on the west towards the bridge; on the back of the outhouses to the east, and directly in front of the dwelling, there stretched towards the road an extensive avenue of old cedar trees, the trimming of which had been neglected for some years; and their long boughs now descended nearly to the ground. While encamped in this situation, Gen. Marion heard of the approach of Major Fraser with the British cavalry, towards the Santee, in his rear. On this side there was nothing but an open old field for a mile. None but the officers now had horses, and he immediately ordered out a party of these, under Capt. Gavin Witherspoon, to reconnoitre the enemy. They had advanced but little way in the woods beyond the old field, when the reconnoitring party were met by Major Fraser at the head of his corps of cavalry, and were immediately charged. A long chase commenced, which was soon observed by Marion, and he drew up his men under the thick boughs of the cedar trees. As the chase advanced towards him it became more and more interesting. — When in full view, either Witherspoon’s horse had failed him, or he fell purposely in the rear to bring up his party, and a British dragoon was detached to cut him down. He advanced until nearly within his sword’s length, and was rising in his stirrups to make sure of his blow, but Witherspoon had eyed him well, and at the instant, Parthian like, he fired the contents of his gun into his breast. The good omen excited much animation, and the British, still advancing, attempted to charge upon the left, but were received on that side with a well directed fire, which caused them to break and fly in great disorder. Had Gen. Marion’s cavalry been present they might now have been cut to pieces; but scarcity of forage had induced him to quarter them at the distance of six miles. The enemy rallied and manoeuvred about in the old field for an hour, making several different feints of charging, but never coming in reach of Marion’s fire, whose men stood firm at their post. Capt. Gillies of the British, and nine men and five horses were killed. The number of wounded could not be accurately ascertained; but as the firing was only at the distance of thirty paces, and was made with the usual charge of heavy buckshot, the proportion of these must have been greater than that of the killed on the usual computation. (29th Aug.) On the next day, Gen. Marion called out Capt. Witherspoon in front of the brigade, and gave him thanks for his many public services, but more particularly for the deed of yesterday.

Here ended the warfare of Marion. Its close was as the last ray of the setting sun; in his progress through the day, at times shining brightly; at others clouded with darkness: but at eventide descending with cheerful brilliancy. Should the exploits performed, or the number of the enemy cut off, not equal the expectation of the reader, he is requested to recollect the lapse of time which has intervened, and how many circumstances must have escaped the memory of the writer, and particularly, that the loss of Col. Watson, with whom Marion had the most arduous of all his conflicts, could never be known. He will also bear in mind the patroles which went out nightly, and seldom failed to do some execution, which like a perpetual dripping corroded deeply into the force of the enemy. If the late Guerilla warfare in Spain cut off so many thousands of the French in detail, in a comparatively open country, how much more effect would such a warfare have in woods upon an enemy more weak in proportion and more slowly reinforced. Such a warfare is the one most fitted for militia and the most dreaded by regular troops. But on the other hand, should it be thought by some that the present narrative is too highly coloured, the eulogy of Gen. Greene, certainly the best judge of Gen. Marion’s merit, is here inserted, of which it may be remarked, that it was written before the latter had performed half of what is here related.

Extract of a letter from Gen. Greene to Gen. Marion.

"~Camp, before Camden, April 24, 1781.~

Dear Sir,

Your favour of the 21st has just come to hand. When I consider how much you have done and suffered, and under what disadvantage you have maintained your ground, I am at a loss which to admire most, your courage and fortitude, or your address and management. Certain it is, no man has a better claim to the public thanks than you. History affords no instance wherein an officer has kept possession of a country under so many disadvantages as you have. Surrounded on every side with a superior force, hunted from every quarter with veteran troops; you have found means to elude their attempts and to keep alive the expiring hopes of an oppressed militia, when all succour seemed to be cut off. To fight the enemy bravely with the prospect of victory is nothing, but to fight with intrepidity under the constant impression of a defeat, and inspire irregular troops to do it, is a talent peculiar to yourself. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than to do justice to your merit, and I shall miss no opportunity of declaring to congress, the commander in chief of the American army, and to the world, the great sense I have of your merit and services."

The letters of Gen. Greene show that he was an agreeable polished gentleman. Their style is easy, simple and correct; there is no search after ornament; they come at once to the point and show him to be much in earnest. His commands are always requests, and when he might well have used the language of reprehension, it is only that of persuasion and friendly admonition. His privations here were great, perhaps he had not even the comforts of a common soldier in the British army; yet he states them fairly, without uttering a word of complaint; hopes they will soon be remedied, and declares his unalterable perseverance in gaining the glorious prize constantly in his view — the independence of his country.

In reviewing the transactions of the present year, two things passed which are well worth notice. Gen. Alexander Leslie, now commander in chief of the British army, a gentleman of enlarged views and humane feelings, had before this time, as it appears, submitted certain papers to Gen. Greene, through Capt. Skelly, for his inspection, preparatory to a proposal for a cessation of hostilities; and on the 23d of May, writes again to Greene in substance as follows: "Believing that a treaty for terminating the war is now carrying on, I have therefore to inform you, that those papers were transmitted to him (Gen. Leslie) by his excellency Sir Henry Clinton. That such was the manner in which those important papers had reached him, that he held it a duty he owed the rights of humanity, the welfare of this country, and the sentiments of the legislature of his own, to propose a cessation of hostilities." Again, on the 13th of August, Leslie proposed, "That the garrison of Charleston should be permitted to receive rice and other provisions, for which a compensation should be made on terms of mutual advantage." Both these propositions were at once rejected by the civil authority of the state; because it was supposed that Leslie only intended to amass provisions for the support of the British forces in the West Indies, to carry on war to advantage with our allies the French. But this matter might easily have been adjusted by treaty, and the rejection of the offer was certainly another piece of blind policy in the civil authority. They had now no means of taking the town, and by acceding to the proposals, Greene’s army might have been clothed, the wants of the citizens sooner supplied, and much effusion of blood prevented.

Early in the month of January, in this year, the Jacksonborough assembly commenced its session. As might have been expected, it was entirely composed of those, who either in a civil or military capacity, had distinguished themselves in the late contest. In the senate we have seen there were but thirteen members, which was a bare quorum; and Gen. Marion could not be spared, for it would have broken up the house. In the house of representatives, there were but seventy-four members, of whom sixty formed a quorum. Both houses were therefore remarkably thin; but what they lacked in numbers they made up in spirit. They passed the well known confiscation law, avowedly to retaliate on the British for having acted in like manner to those who had adhered to the Americans; but privately with a view to enable the state to raise its quota of continental troops; for Gen. Marion, in a letter to Col. Peter Horry, of the 10th of February, states, that "Two regiments are to be raised, as our continental quota, giving each man a negro per year, which is to be taken from the confiscated estates. A number of large estates are down on this list, and others are amerced, which will give us at least a million sterling as a fund." And a clause in the act passed, enacts, "that there shall be set apart a sufficient number of slaves to raise the quota of continental troops required of this state." How far this law might be justified, on the plea of necessity and self-defence, is quite a different ground from that of retaliation. In the preamble to the law, the reason given for enacting it is retaliation upon tories for the injuries done to the property of the whigs by confiscations; but there appears to be no sound reason for passing the law as a retaliatory measure. Between rulers and subjects, or citizens, the duties of subjection and protection are reciprocal; but, in this case, the rulers were unable to protect the citizens, and therefore ought not to have expected from them such implicit subjection. It was only by a few daring spirits, and that generally in places remote from the enemy, that resistance was kept up; yet, under existing circumstances, it was not to be looked for from the timid more immediately in their power. But, as a measure of self-defence, the law was justifiable.

The governor and council, armed with the supreme power of the state, had impressed the horses, provisions and indigo of the whigs, for public services, and that proceeding had scarcely excited a murmur. These resources had now failed, and the war was to be carried on without money; then what good reason could be given for exempting from requisition the negroes and other property of the tories. In this point of view the case against them becomes the strongest of the two. Yet the clamour raised against the law at the time and after, was great; in the legislature their friends became numerous, and as each particular case was brought forward and considered, it was made an exception, and the act became a nullity. John Matthews was elected governor of the state, after Gen. Gadsden, for whom a majority of votes was first given, had declined serving. A bill was brought in to indemnify several militia officers who had been concerned in impressing indigo and other property necessary for public service. Gen. Marion’s name was at first inserted on the list, but when it came to be read in the senate, he rose and moved to strike it out; saying, if he had taken the property of any man improperly or unnecessarily, he was willing to make restitution. The bill passed into a law without the general’s name. Before the adjournment, the powers left with the governor and council, were as extensive as usual. Gov. Matthews appears to consider them in a letter to Gen. Leslie, (12th April) as equal to dispensing with parts of the confiscation act. The evacuation of Charleston took place on the 14th of December, 1782, but the militia were not permitted to be witnesses of the ceremony. The civil authority had interposed to exclude them as dangerous spectators, and Gen. Greene in his letter of the 22d of November, was so much hurt at it, that he takes particular pains to exculpate himself from any participation in that order. In this treatment, the militia shared the fate usually attending humble friends, who are seldom caressed by the great any longer than they can be subservient to their views or interests. Gen. Marion and his brigade were now to part forever. But as its movements had always been directed without pomp or parade, so its discharge was conducted with republican simplicity. In his favourite encampment at Watboo, and on the side of the cedar trees, he thanked his officers and men for their many and useful services, and bid them a friendly and affectionate farewell. Two years and a half had now elapsed since Gen. Marion first assumed his command; his appearance was not prepossessing, his manners were distant, but not repulsive, yet few leaders have ever been so popular among their men; none ever had more of their confidence. He had so much influence as to settle amicably many disputes among his officers, and even private men; and never was a duel fought by any of them while under his immediate command. His stratagems appeared intuitive. Did Gen. Marion march in person to the attack?* then the common conclusion was, the enemy is taken by surprise, or we shall fight them on advantageous ground.

— * Nil desperandum, Teucro duce. —

The revolutionary war raged no where more than it did where he commanded; in all this he had the head to lead and to plan, and the discernment to choose those who could best execute. His personal bravery was displayed on many occasions, but his own sword struck not the blow, it never was seen stained with blood; cool and collected, he was always the general, never the common soldier. In short the whole bent of his soul was how he should best provide for his men, how he could most annoy the enemy, and how he could soonest achieve the independence of his country. The characters of his officers will be best collected from the facts stated. In taking such wise measures as have been related for the defence of the lives and property of his friends, Gen. Marion could extend none of them to his own possessions. His plantation in St. John’s lay within a mile of the marches and countermarches of the British, and was subject to every species of wanton waste and depredation. One half of his negroes were taken away, and the other half must have been faithful, or they would not have remained. He had ten workers left, but plantation utensils, clothes for his people, household furniture, and stock of cattle and horses, were all to be purchased without a cent of money.* He expected to receive half pay, but even in this was disappointed. At a session of the legislature shortly after, a garrison was established at fort Johnson, and he was appointed commander, with a salary of about 500 pounds.** Yet, in despite of his recent and meritorious services, this moderate appointment became a butt at which they who are forever seeking popularity by recommending curtailments in useful and even necessary expenditures, soon levelled their shafts. His spirit could not easily brook such treatment, but his debts made it prudent to submit.

— * Marion’s letter to Col. P. Horry, 18th Jan. 1781. ** Act, 10th March, 1784. —

At this juncture, his merit and high reputation had made a favourable impression on the heart of Miss Mary Videau, one of his relations. She was observed to be fond of hearing his achievements spoken of in terms of high approbation; some of the general’s friends noticed it, and gave him a hint. He paid his addresses to her and was well received. They were soon after married, and he resigned his command at the fort. She brought him a handsome fortune, and as there was no great disparity, either in their years or disposition, she made him an excellent wife. She was in countenance the exact counterpart of the general. She partook in all his amusements, accompanied him in his journeys, and in his absence could not be better pleased than by hearing his praises. In short, nothing could have made this matrimonial connexion more happy, but its being more fruitful. They never had an heir. The general built a comfortable house of a single story, with one sitting room, but many chambers; its materials were of the most durable kind of cypress; but it received no coat either of paint or varnish. Here his friends were received with a hearty welcome and good cheer, and the stranger with kind hospitality. His planting interest was judiciously managed, and his property increased yearly. In the summer months he made excursions, into the upper country almost every year, for the benefit of his health. In these journeys he loved to renew former recollections. He had retained his marquee, camp bed and cooking utensils, and he always travelled as he had done in his brigade. To his wife nothing could be more pleasant, and she has often recounted these jaunts to her friends with delight. The old pot, kettle and frying-pan, tin plates, knives and forks were preserved as precious relics: the sumpter mules as friends. His faithful servant Oscar, who had accompanied him through all his difficulties, always received high marks of his favour. As to honours, Gen. Marion did not aspire higher than to a seat in the senate, which he continued to fill as long as he pleased, as a member for St. John’s. In May, 1790, he was a member of the convention for forming the state constitution; after which he declined all public duties. In politics he was a moderate federalist; such as were many great revolutionary characters. In May, 1794, the militia of the state were re-organized, and soon after Gen. Marion resigned his commission in the militia. Shortly after his resignation, at a meeting of the citizens of Georgetown, a committee of four was appointed to draw up an address to the general. These were William D. James, Robert Brownfield, Thomas Mitchell and Joseph Blythe. An address was prepared by the chairman (James,) and unanimously adopted. Copies were also directed to be distributed through the district. It is as follows:

"Dear General,

At the present juncture, when the necessity of public affairs requires the military of this state to be organized anew, to repel the attacks of an enemy from whatever quarter they may be forced upon us, we, citizens of the district of Georgetown, finding you no longer at our head, have agreed to convey to you our grateful sentiments for your former numerous services. In the decline of life when the merits of the veteran are too often forgotten, we wish to remind you that yours are still fresh in the remembrance of your fellow citizens. Could it be possible for men who have served and fought under you, to be now forgetful of that general, by whose prudent conduct their lives have been saved and their families preserved from being plundered by a rapacious enemy? We mean not to flatter you. At this time it is impossible for you to suspect it. Our present language is the language of free men expressing only sentiments of gratitude. Your achievements may not have sufficiently swelled the historic page. They were performed by those who could better wield the sword than the pen. By men whose constant dangers precluded them from the leisure, and whose necessities deprived them of the common implements of writing. But this is of little moment: they remain recorded in such indelible characters upon our minds, that neither change of circumstances nor length of time can efface them. Taught by us, our children shall hereafter point out the places and say to their children, here Gen. Marion, posted to advantage, made a glorious stand in defence of the liberties of his country; there, on disadvantageous ground, retreated to save the lives of his fellow citizens. What could be more glorious for the general commanding free men than thus to fight, and thus to save the lives of his fellow soldiers? Continue general in peace to till those acres which you once wrested from the hands of an enemy. Continue to enjoy dignity, accompanied with ease, and to lengthen out your days blessed with the consciousness of conduct unaccused of rapine or oppression, and of actions ever directed by the purest patriotism."

This address was presented to the general and gave him great pleasure; but as he had not latterly been much in the habit of using his pen, his answer was a verbal one, expressive of his sincere thanks.

On the 27th day of February, 1795, Gen. Marion died at his house in St. John’s parish. As his fame is yet but indistinctly known, and much of that through the medium of fable, the present attempt has been made to arrest its progress, to do honour to his memory, and to transmit his example to posterity.

Gen. Marion’s Epitaph.


Sacred to the Memory
~Who departed this life, on the 27th of February, 1795,~
In the Sixty-Third Year of his Age;
Deeply regretted by all his fellow citizens.

will record his worth, and rising generations embalm
his memory, as one of the most distinguished
Patriots and Heroes of the American Revolution;
which elevated his native Country
secured to her the blessings of

This tribute of veneration and gratitude is erected
in commemoration of
the noble and disinterested virtues of the
and the gallant exploits of the
Who lived without fear, and died without reproach.


Taken from the marble slab at Belle Isle, this 20th September, 1821, by Theodore Gourdin.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: William Dobein James, "Chapter IV.," A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade, ed. Morris, Charles, 1833-1922 in A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade Original Sources, accessed April 20, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DAKMBUPUKINGYRB.

MLA: James, William Dobein. "Chapter IV." A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade, edited by Morris, Charles, 1833-1922, in A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade, Original Sources. 20 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DAKMBUPUKINGYRB.

Harvard: James, WD, 'Chapter IV.' in A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade, ed. . cited in , A Sketch of the Life of Brig. GEN. Francis Marion and a History of His Brigade. Original Sources, retrieved 20 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DAKMBUPUKINGYRB.