Francis Marion was a war hero in the American Revolution commonly referred to as the swamp fox by the British because of his tactics. He was born in 1732 and is considered as one of the forefathers of the modern guerrilla warfare. His ambitions in the earlier youth years were to become a sail but shortly after reaching twenty five years of age, he embarked on the military career whereby together with his brother they were recruited in the French and Indian war by Captain John Postell. This was at around the year 1757 and the war was aimed at driving the Cherokee away from the border.
He served as a lieutenant under the leadership of William Moultrie in the campaign against Cherokee. It is this very war that saw the development of guerrilla war tactics in Marion notably through the use touches to burn down Indian cabins (Towels, 2002, 12). He was to be commissioned later as a lieutenant colonel by the continental congress in 1776 and three years down the line he participated in the siege of savanna. The following year and under the leadership Benjamin Lincoln, Marion participated in drilling militia.
In the siege of Savanna, his guard routed a guard of Tories in which he quickly retreated to the Blue Savanna and prepared for an ambuscade on the remaining Tories. This was followed by a sudden charge that saw the dispersion of the Tories and an increase of the number of men under Marion. After the capturing of Charleston by the British in the year 1780, the American troops pulled out of the southern Carolina. However, Marion remained with a small number of poorly equipped men and he started to train them in guerrilla tactics in preparation for an attack on the British army.
While still living off the land, he and his man began harassing the British army. This they did by staging surprise attacks on the British troops capturing small groups of the troops, rescuing the American prisoners and sabotaging the communication and supply networks of the British troops. He later withdrew his army to a swamp country far from the knowledge of the British army. With the help of General Nathaniel, he successfully led his army at the battle of Eutaw Springs which saw the British army retreating to Charleston (Cornelius, 2000, 35). He later joined General Horatio Gates shortly before the start of the battle of Camden.
However, it turned out that the general had no confidence in him thus he sent to take the command of Williamsburg Militia operating in the Pee Dee area with the orders of undertaking scouting missions and to impede the flight of the British army that was expected after the war. He thus missed the Battle of Camden but was able to recapture some of the Maryland prisoners and to capture some of the British troops returning from the Charleston battle. The freed prisoners however never joined his militia the reason being that they thought the war to be already lost.
However, Marion proved to be a good and well able leader in the ways that he led his army. On the other hand, the men under him commonly referred as the Marion’s men were exceptional unlike the other continental troops in that they supplied their own horses, their own arms and even food besides the fact that they operated under a no pay system. History has it that most of the supplies of the Marion’s men were obtained locally from the British through invasion and capturing of their supplies or from the local loyalist to the British army.
It is also recorded in history that Marion never subjected his men to the frontal warfare but rather surprised the British troops through repeated quick attacks and in the same quick moves withdrawing from the battle field. His intelligence gathering gave him an advantage over the British in that he enjoyed patriot loyalty of the majority in the battle areas especially in Williamsburg area. He was also good in evading the British as he always liked to travel along swamp paths.
Moreover, after the destruction of any British supply captured, Marion and his men were known to give the owner’s receipts for them and this prompted much the recovery of the receipts by the new state government after the war hand ended (Simms, 1846, 43). In the year 1782 as history has it, Marion absence as a state senator made his brigade to grow disheartened and to conspire to deliver him to the British. It was in the same year that he put down a loyalist uprising along Pee Dee leaving his brigade to return to a plantation he already owned.
Many of the attacks planned by Marion happened at night and in this regard, he used to surprise the British troops with quick and calculated attacks. His guerilla tactics earned him the nick name ‘’swamp fox’’ for he was hard to capture and always evaded the British through quick attacks and equally quick withdrawal from the battle field into the swamps. He was a master of surprise to the British troops and one of his favorite strategies was to retreat when pursued and this he did at his own pace until he reached a stream running through the swamp.
He would then conceal his men on either side of the stream in wait for the British troops in case they arrived and tried to ford the water. On the other hand, if the British troops tried to cross Marion and his militia would move to another area deep into the swamps making the British troops tired of the cat and mouse game. He inflicted many casualties on the enemy side largely as a result of his quick tactics and use of short range riffles. In this regard, history has it that part of the Marion’s men used fight while mounted on sabers while a great number of them used to walk on foot to attack the enemy (Rankin, 1973, 27).
It is also recorded that Marion and his men would ride for more than fifty miles through the night just to attack the enemy in their ignorance and fade back in the earlier hours of the morning leaving behind many casualties and taking with them prisoners and recaptured American prisoners. He was well known of tricking the British troops through the use of force information and through the use of loyalties in the land. Moreover, Marion always made sure that his force was perceived as being smaller by the British troops in an effort to swoop in and attack them.
For example, in the Cherokee war, he deliberately sent a small number of his men to attack the Indians and then to retreat at the pretence of panicking so that the Indians would follow them and be lured at a short range of the rest of the Marion’s force. Though most of his fights and attacks were successful, there still remain incidences of losing the battle to the British. These incidences however saw to it that Marion and his men his men inflicted a number of casualties however few they were, breaking the spirit of the British troops and bringing in more men into his militia.
In fact, as history has it, Marion would increase the number of his troops every time he worn a war (Towels, 2002, 19). After the war, the Tories involved were willing to change sides as long as they were not punished. It was Marion who negotiated a treaty with Tory leaders allowing a great number of the Tories to live with no penalties and as neutrals in their homes and this led to a full pardon of the Tories and full citizenship but this was dependent on their willingness to volunteer in the state militia for six months.
After resigning from the army, Marion settled in Pond Bluff where he found that most of his property was destroyed by the British. He married his cousin at the age of fifty four and it was until later that the senate of the South Carolina awarded him with a seat in the assembly. For the rest of his life, Marion served as a commandant at Fort Johnson. Marion died at the age of sixty three but the excitement of the revolutionary war was always evident in him through out his retirement days (Weems, Horry, 1852, 15).
Simms Gilore. The Life of Francis Marion. London, H. G. Langley, 1846, pp. 43 Rankin Hugh. Francis Marion: The Swamp Fox. New York, Crowell, 1973, pp. 27 Towels Louis. Francis Marion: The Swamp Fox of the American Revolution. Rosen Publishing Group, 2002, pp. 12, 19 Weems Mason & Horry Peter. The Life of General Francis Marion. New York, J. Allen, 1852, pp. 15 Cornelius Kay. Francis Marion: The Swamp Fox. New York, Facts on File, 2000, pp. 35