Sunday, October 28, 2007

Francis Marion (1732–1795)

Francis Marion was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army and, later, Brigadier General in the South Carolina Militia during the American Revolutionary War. He became known as the "Swamp Fox" for his ability to use decoys and ambushes to disrupt enemy communications, capture supplies, and free prisoners. His strategic use of guerrilla tactics helped set in motion the decline of open battles in the conflict. Before the Revolutionary War, he was a sailor.
Marion is considered one of the fathers of modern guerilla warfare, and is credited in the lineage of the U.S. Army Rangers.
When Charleston fell on 12 May 1780, Francis Marion escaped capture because he had broken an ankle in an accident and had left the city to recuperate. Following Gen. Isaac Huger's defeat at Moncks Corner and the Waxhaw Massacre of Col. Abraham Buford's men by British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and his Green Dragoons, Marion organized a small troop, at first consisting of between 20 and 70 men—the only force then opposing the British Army in the state. At this point, he was still nearly crippled from the slowly-healing ankle.
He joined General Horatio Gates just before the Battle of Camden, but Gates sent him to take command of the Williamsburg Militia in the Pee Dee area, asking him to undertake scouting missions and impede the expected flight of the British after the battle. Marion thus missed the battle, but was able to intercept and recapture 150 Maryland prisoners, plus about twenty of their guards, who had been en route from the battle to Charleston. The freed prisoners, thinking the war already lost, refused to join Marion and deserted.
However, with his militiamen, Marion showed himself to be a singularly able leader of irregulars. Unlike the Continental troops, Marion's Men, as they were known, served without pay, supplied their own horses, arms, and, often, their own food. All supplies that were not obtained locally were captured from the Loyalist forces.
Marion rarely committed his men to frontal warfare, but repeatedly surprised larger bodies of Loyalists or British regulars with quick surprise attacks and equally quick withdrawal from the field. After the surrender of Charleston, the British garrisoned South Carolina with help from local Tories, except for Williamsburg, which they were never able to hold. The British made one attempt to garrison Williamsburg at Willtown, but were driven out by Marion at the Battle of Mingo Creek.
The British despised Marion and repeatedly tried to neutralize his force, but Marion's intelligence-gathering was given advantage by overwhelming Patriot loyalty in the Williamsburg populace.
Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, sent to capture Marion, despaired of finding the "old swamp fox", who eluded him by travelling along swamp paths. Tarleton and Marion were sharply contrasted in the popular mind. Tarleton was hated because he burned and destroyed homes and supplies, whereas Marion's Men, when they requisitioned supplies, or destroyed them to keep them out of British hands, gave the owners receipts for them. After the war, most of the receipts were redeemed by the new state government.
Once Francis Marion had shown his ability at guerrilla warfare, making himself a serious nuisance to the British, Gov. John Rutledge (in exile in North Carolina) commissioned him a brigadier-general of the South Carolina state troops.
When Gen. Nathanael Greene took command in the south, Marion and Lieutenant Colonel Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee were ordered in January 1781 to attack Georgetown, but were unsuccessful. In April, however, they took Fort Watson and in May, Fort Motte, and succeeded in breaking communications between the British posts in the Carolinas. On August 31, Marion rescued a small American force trapped by Major C. Fraser with 500 British. For this, he received the thanks of the Continental Congress. Marion commanded the right wing under General Greene at the Battle of Eutaw Springs.
In 1782, during his absence as State Senator at Jacksonborough, his brigade grew disheartened and there was reportedly a conspiracy to turn him over to the British. But in June of that year, he put down a Loyalist uprising on the banks of the Pee Dee River. In August, Francis Marion left his brigade and returned to his plantation.
(Source: Wikipedia)