THE British had succeeded in defeating most of the American troops in South Carolina by 1780, and had laid waste much of that state, confiscating plantations, burning houses, and hanging such as they termed traitors without giving them any form of trial. The city of Charleston surrendered to Sir Henry Clinton, the American General Gates was defeated at the battle of Camden, August 16, 1780, and General Sumter at Fishing Creek August 18, 1780. After that there was only one organized American force in South Carolina, "Marion's Brigade," as it was called. This was a band of troopers led by General Francis Marion, a native of South Carolina, whose ancestors were Huguenot refugees. At first his troop contained only twenty men, but more joined his band, and for three years they carried on irregular warfare, harassing the British forces more than regular soldiers could have done.
Marion's men defeated a large body of Tories at Briton's Neck without losing a single man, and soon after beat the enemy twice by sudden attacks when the Tories were unaware of armed men being near. Marion managed to escape General Tarleton by disappearing into a swamp after a chase of twenty-five miles. This won the daring leader the name of "Swamp Fox," by which he was known all through the countryside.
After the battle of King's Mountain more recruits joined the band. In December, 1780, Marion tried to capture Georgetown, but failed. His nephew, Gabriel Marion, was taken prisoner, and as soon as his name was learned he was executed. The "Swamp Fox" led his band back to a well-hidden island known as Swan Island, and made many sorties through the everglades and forests. Again and again he attacked the British along the Santee and Pedee Rivers. He was never cruel to prisoners, and won a high name for his leadership as well as for his own bravery.
Marion's men succeeded in capturing Georgetown on their third attempt, and fought in the battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1781, which practically ended the British occupation of that part of the United States of America.
Marion has always been one of the most popular heroes of the revolution, and the "Swamp Fox" well deserved his fame. He was a gallant leader, and the British and Tories admitted that, although he fought them by stealth, he was never a treacherous foe.
|This analysis of "Song of Marion's Men" is reprinted from Historic Poems and Ballads. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.