Part 3 out of 6
near the head of the Waccamaw. There may have been a motive,
other than the desire for safety, which led Marion to choose and retain
this position. The borders of North Carolina swarmed with Tories,
chiefly descendants of the Scotch, who constituted, on frequent
subsequent occasions, the perplexing enemies with whom our partisan
had to contend. It is not improbable, though history does not
declare the fact, that he chose the present occasion for overawing
the scattered parties, who were always stretching with lawless footsteps
from Cape Fear to the Great Pedee. It was while he lay at this place,
that the venerable Judge James, then a boy of sixteen, had the honor,
for the first time, to dine with Marion. It was in the absence
of Major James, the father of the boy, who was one of the volunteers
sent back to South Carolina. The artless description which the Judge
has given us of this event, so characteristic of Marion,
and of the necessities to which he was habitually compelled to submit,
will better please than a much more elaborate narrative.
"The dinner was set before the company by the General's servant, Oscar,
partly on a pine log and partly on the ground. It consisted of lean beef,
without salt, and sweet potatoes. The author had left a small pot
of boiled hominy in his camp, and requested leave of his host to send for it,
and the proposal was gladly acquiesced in. The hominy had salt in it,
and proved, though eaten out of the pot, a most acceptable repast.
The General said but little, and that was chiefly what a son
would be most likely to be gratified by, in the praise of his father.
We had nothing to drink but bad water; and all the company
appeared to be rather grave."
That the party should be rather grave, flying from their homes
and a superior foe, eating unsalted pottage, and drinking bad water, was,
perhaps, natural enough. That this gravity should appear doubly impressive
to a lad of sixteen, in a presence which he was taught to venerate,
was still more likely to be the case. But Marion, though a cheerful man,
wore ordinarily a grave, sedate expression of countenance.
Never darkened by gloom, it was seldom usurped by mere merriment.
He had no uproarious humor. His tastes were delicate, his habits gentle,
his sensibilities warm and watchful. At most a quiet smile
lighted up his features, and he could deal in little gushes of humor,
of which there was a precious fountain at the bottom of his heart.
That he was capable of a sharp sarcasm, was also generally understood
among his friends. Horry remarks, that few men ever excelled him at retort.
But he was singularly considerate of the sensibilities of others,
and had his temper under rare command. His powers of forbearance
were remarkable. His demeanor, whether in triumph or despondency,
was equally quiet and subdued. He yielded to few excitements,
was seldom elevated by successes to imprudence -- as seldom depressed
by disappointments to despondency. The equable tone of his mind
reminds us again of Washington.
It was while Marion remained at White Marsh, that one of his captains,
Gavin Witherspoon, whom he had sent out with four men, achieved one of those
clever performances, that so frequently distinguished the men of Marion.
He had taken refuge in Pedee Swamp from the pursuit of the enemy,
and, while hiding, discovered one of the camps of the Tories
who had been in pursuit of him. Witherspoon proposed to his four comrades
to watch the enemy's camp, until the Tories were asleep.
But his men timidly shrunk from the performance, expressing their dread
of superior numbers. Witherspoon undertook the adventure himself.
Creeping up to the encampment, he found that they slept
at the butt of a pine tree, which had been torn up by the roots.
Their guns were piled against one of its branches at a little distance
from them. These he first determined to secure, and, still creeping,
with the skill and caution of an experienced scout, he succeeded
in his object. The guns once in his possession, he aroused the Tories
by commanding their surrender. They were seven in number, unarmed,
and knew nothing of the force of the assailant. His own more timid followers
drew near in sufficient time to assist in securing the prisoners.
There was another Witherspoon with Marion, John, a brother of Gavin,
and like him distinguished for great coolness, strength, and courage.
Both of the brothers delighted in such adventures, and were always ready
to engage in them, -- the rashness of the attempt giving a sort of relish
to the danger, which always sweetened it to the taste of our partisans.
The return of the various scouting parties which Marion sent out,
soon set his little brigade in motion. The intelligence which they brought
was well calculated to sting his soldiers, as well as himself,
into immediate activity. The medicine which the British had administered
to the country they abandoned, had not been suffered to lose
any of its bitterness. As had been feared, the Tories had laid waste
the farms and plantations. The region through which Major Wemyss had passed,
for seventy miles in length and fifteen in breadth,
displayed one broad face of desolation. It had been swept by sword and fire.
Havoc had exercised its most ingenious powers of destruction.
On most of the plantations the houses were given to the flames,
the inhabitants plundered of all their possessions, and the stock,
especially the sheep, wantonly shot or bayoneted. Wemyss seems to have been
particularly hostile to looms and sheep, simply because they supplied
the inhabitants with clothing. He seldom suffered the furniture
to be withdrawn from a dwelling which he had doomed to be destroyed:
Presbyterian churches he burnt religiously, as so many "sedition-shops".
It was fortunate for the wretched country, thus ravaged,
that the corn was not generally housed; it was only in part destroyed.
Had the Tories played the same game in the cornfields of the patriots,
that Grant's men had done in those of the Cherokees, as recorded in
an early page of this volume,* the devastation would have been complete.
They had not limited their proceedings to these minor crimes. They had added
human butchery and hanging to those other offences for which vengeance
was in store. The wife and children of one Adam Cusack, threw themselves
across the path of Wemyss to obtain the pardon of the husband and the father.
The crime of Cusack was in having taken arms against the enemy.
Their prayers were in vain. But for the interference of his own officers,
the ruthless Briton would have ridden over the kneeling innocents.
This was not the only savage murder of the same description
which this wretched people had to endure. But such atrocities
were sharp medicines, benefits in disguise, good against cowardice,
selfishness, double-dealing, and deficient patriotism.
They worked famously upon the natives, while they proved the invader
to be as little capable of good policy, as of ordinary humanity. They roused
the spirit of the militia, whet their anger and their swords together,
and, by the time that Marion reappeared, they were ready for their General.
He asked for nothing more. He re-entered South Carolina by a forced march.
Travelling night and day, he hurried through the Tory settlements
on Little Pedee, a space of sixty miles, on the second day of his journey.
At Lynch's Creek he was joined by Captains James and Mouzon,
with a considerable body of men. He was prepared to give them
instant employment. Major Wemyss had retired to Georgetown,
but Marion was advised of a large body of Tories at Black Mingo,
fifteen miles below, under the command of Capt. John Coming Ball.
Marion was in expectation, every moment, of additional troops,
but he determined not to wait for them. He found his men
in the proper mood for fight, and at such times small inequalities of force
are not to be regarded. He resolved to give the humor vent,
and at once commenced his march for the enemy's encampment.
He found the Tories strongly posted at Shepherd's Ferry,
on the south side of the Black Mingo, on a deep navigable stream,
the passage of which they commanded. There was but one other approach
to them, about a mile above their position, through a boggy causeway,
and over a bridge of planks. It was nearly midnight when Marion's troops
reached this pass. While the horses were crossing the bridge,
an alarm-gun was heard from the Tory camp. Celerity now became
as necessary to success as caution, and Marion ordered his men
to follow him at full gallop. When they reached the main road,
about three hundred yards from the enemy, the whole force,
with the exception of a small body acting as cavalry, dismounted.
A body of picked men, under Captain Waties, was ordered down the road
to attack Dollard's house, where the Tories had been posted.
Two companies, under Col. Hugh Horry, were sent to the right,
and the cavalry to the left, to support the attack, Marion himself
bringing up the reserve. It so happened, however, that the Tories
had taken the alarm, and having withdrawn from the house,
had chosen a strong position in an old field near it. Here they encountered
Horry's command, on the advance, with a fire equally severe and unexpected.
The effect was that of a surprise upon the assailants.
Horry's troops fell back in confusion, but were promptly rallied
and brought to the charge. The battle was obstinate and bloody,
but the appearance of the corps under Waties, suddenly,
in the rear of the Tories, soon brought it to a close.
Finding themselves between two fires, the enemy gave way in all directions,
and fled for refuge to the neighboring swamp of Black Mingo.
So warmly contested was this affair, that, though soon over,
fully one third of the men brought into the field were put `hors de combat'.
The loss of Marion was proportionably very considerable.
Captain Logan was among his slain; and Captain Mouzon and Lieut. Scott
so severely wounded as to be unfit for future service.
The force of the Tories was almost twice as great as that of the Whigs.
They lost their commander, and left nearly half their number,
killed and wounded, on the ground. But for the alarm given
by the tread of Marion's horses, while crossing the neighboring bridge,
the Tories would most probably have been surprised. At any rate,
the affair would have been settled without subjecting the brigade
to the severe loss which it sustained. After this event
Marion adopted the precaution, whenever about to cross a bridge by night,
with an enemy near, to cover the planks with the blankets of his men.
But he generally preferred fords, where they could possibly be had,
* See ante, pp. 50-52 [End of Chapter 4].
This victory was very complete. Many of the Tories came in,
and joined the ranks of the conqueror. Those who did not,
were quite too much confounded to show much impatience in taking up arms
against him. His uniform successes, whenever he struck,
had already strongly impressed the imaginations of the people.
His name was already the rallying word throughout the country.
To join Marion, to be one of Marion's men, was the duty which the grandsire
imposed upon the lad, and to the performance of which,
throwing aside his crutch, he led the way.
We have already shown why the force of Marion was so liable to fluctuation.
The necessity of providing for, and protecting destitute families,
starving wives and naked children, was more imperative
than that of a remote and fancied liberty. These cases attended to,
the militia came forth, struck a few blows, and once more returned
to their destitute dependents. The victory over the Tories of Black Mingo,
was, from this cause, followed by a more than usually prolonged inactivity
of our partisan. His men demanded a respite to go and see their families.
He consented, with some reluctance, for the business of the campaign
was only beginning to open itself before him. They promised him, as usual,
to return in season; but remained so long absent, that, for the first time,
he now began to doubt and despair of them. This feeling was not natural
with him. It was probably only due now to some derangement of his own health,
some anxiety to achieve objects which presented themselves prominently
to his mind. He had probably heard of the advance of General Greene,
who, having succeeded to Gates, was pressing forward with fresh recruits,
and the remnant of the fugitives who survived, in freedom,
the fatal battle of Camden. A laudable anxiety to be active at such a time,
to show to the approaching Continentals that there was a spirit in the State
which they came to succor, of which the most happy auguries
might be entertained, prompted his morbid impatience at the long delay
of his absentees. There were other causes which led him to feel this delay
more seriously now than at other times. The Tories were again gathering
in force around him. Under these circumstances, and with these feelings,
he consulted with his officers whether they should not leave the State
and join the approaching army of Greene. Hugh Horry counselled him
strenuously against it. His counsel was seconded by the rest.
They prevailed with him. It was fortunate that they did so;
for the great efficiency of Marion was in the independence of his command.
While the matter was yet in debate, the militia began to reappear.
He had not sufficiently allowed for their exigencies,
for the scattered homes and hiding-places of famishing hundreds,
living on precarious supplies, in swamp and thicket.
How could he reproach them -- fighting as they were for love of country only,
and under such privations -- that country yielding them nothing,
no money, no clothes, no provisions, -- for they were nothing but militia.
They were not enrolled on the Continental pay list. That they should seek
the field at all, thus circumstanced, will be ever a wonder
to that class of philosophers who found their systems upon
the simple doctrine of human selfishness.
True to their chief, he rejoiced once more in their fidelity;
and, marching into Williamsburg, he continued to increase his numbers
with his advance. His present object was the chastisement of Col. Harrison,
who was in force upon Lynch's Creek; but his progress in this direction
was suddenly arrested by his scouts, who brought him tidings
of large gatherings of Tories in and about Salem and the fork of Black River.
In this quarter, one Colonel Tynes had made his appearance,
and had summoned the people generally, as good subjects of his majesty,
to take the field against their countrymen. It was necessary
to check this rising, and to scatter it before it gained too much head;
to lessen the influence of Tynes and his party, over those who were doubtful,
and afford the friends of the patriots an opportunity to come out
on the proper side. There were other inducements to the movement.
Col. Tynes had brought with him from Charleston, large supplies
of the materials of war and comfort -- commodities of which the poor patriots
stood grievously in need. They hungered at the tidings brought by the scouts,
of new English muskets and bayonets, broad-swords and pistols,
saddles and bridles, powder and ball, which the provident Colonel
had procured from Charleston for fitting out the new levies.
To strike at this gathering, prevent these new levies, and procure
the supplies which were designed for them, were controlling objects
to which all others were made to yield. The half naked troops of the brigade
found new motives to valor in the good things which the adventure promised.
Tynes lay at Tarcote, in the forks of Black River, and, as Marion was advised,
without exercising much military watchfulness. The head of his column
was instantly turned in this direction. Crossing the lower ford
of the northern branch of Black River, at Nelson's plantation, he came upon
the camp of Tynes at midnight. A hurried, but satisfactory survey,
revealed the position of the enemy. No preparation had been made for safety,
no precautions taken against attack. Some of the Tories slept,
others feasted, and others were at cards -- none watched.
Marion made his arrangements for the attack without obstacle or interruption.
The surprise was complete, -- the panic universal. A few were slain,
some with the cards in their hands. Tynes, with two of his officers,
and many of his men, were made prisoners, but the greater number fled.
Few were slain, as scarcely any resistance was offered,
and Tarcote Swamp was fortunately nigh to receive and shelter the fugitives,
many of whom shortly after made their appearance and took their places
in the ranks of the conqueror. Marion lost not a man.
The anticipations of his people were gratified with the acquisition
of no small store of those supplies, arms and ammunition,
of which they had previously stood in so much need.
These spirited achievements, however small, were so cleverly executed,
so unexpectedly, and with such uniform success, as to occasion
a lively sensation through the country. Hope everywhere
began to warm the patriots of the State, bringing courage along with it.
The effect upon the enemy, of an opposite temper and tendency,
was quite as lively. Cornwallis, whom we have already seen
urging Tarleton to the pursuit of our partisan, frankly acknowledged
his great merits, and was heard to say that "he would give a good deal
to have him taken."* His language to Sir Henry Clinton,
in a letter dated from his camp at Winnsborough, December 3d, 1780,
of a different tone, indeed, was of like tenor. It spoke for
the wonderful progress and influence of our hero -- a progress and influence
not to be understood by the reader, from the meagre account
which we are enabled to give of the battles, skirmishes and happy stratagems,
in which his men were constantly engaged. Cornwallis writes, --
"Col. Marion had so wrought on the minds of the people,
partly by the terror of his threats and cruelty of his punishments,
and partly by the promise of plunder, that THERE WAS SCARCELY AN INHABITANT
BETWEEN THE SANTEE AND PEDEE, THAT WAS NOT IN ARMS AGAINST US.
SOME PARTIES HAD EVEN CROSSED THE SANTEE, AND CARRIED TERROR
TO THE GATES OF CHARLESTON."
* Moultrie's Memoirs.
Where his lordship speaks of the successes of Marion, his great influence
over the people, and the audacity with which they urged their progress
through all parts of that section of country, which had been yielded
to his control by Governor Rutledge, his statement is true to the very letter.
It sums up very happily the results of his activity and conduct.
But, when his lordship alleges cruelty and threats, and the hopes of plunder,
as the means by which these results were produced, we meet his assertion
with very flat denial. All the testimonies of the time, but his own,
show that, in this respect, he wandered very widely from the truth.
No single specification of cruelty was ever alleged against the fair fame
of Francis Marion. His reputation, as a humane soldier, is beyond reproach,
and when questioned, always challenged and invited investigation.
The charge made by Cornwallis was urged by Lt.-Col. Balfour,
commandant of Charleston, in a correspondence with General Moultrie.
The latter answered it in a frank and confident manner,
which showed what he thought of it. "I am sorry," he writes to Balfour,
"to hear that General Marion should use his prisoners ill. IT IS CONTRARY
TO HIS NATURAL DISPOSITION: I KNOW HIM TO BE GENEROUS AND HUMANE."*1*
He adds elsewhere: "General Marion always gave orders to his men
that there should be no waste of the inhabitants' property,
and no plundering."*2* Marion had lived in the family of Moultrie,*3*
had repeatedly served under him, and if any man knew thoroughly
his true disposition, the hero of Fort Sullivan was certainly that man.
But the testimony of all who knew him was to the same effect.
Indeed, the gentleness of his nature made him a favorite wherever known.
Touching the lessons and hopes of plunder, which his men are said
to have received, this scarcely requires any answer. We have seen,
and shall see hereafter, the state of poverty and privation in which
the brigade of Marion subsisted. A few little facts will better serve
to show what their condition was. During the whole period in which
we have seen him engaged, and for some months later, Marion himself,
winter and summer, had slept without the luxury of a blanket. He had but one,
on taking command of the "Brigade", and this he lost by accident.
Sleeping soundly, after one of his forced marches, upon a bed of pine straw,
it took fire, his blanket was destroyed, and he himself had an escape
so narrow, that one half of the cap he wore was shrivelled up by the flames.
His food was hominy or potatoes; his drink vinegar and water,
of which he was fond. He had neither tea nor coffee,
and seldom tasted wine or spirits. And this moderation was shown
at a time when he held in his possession a power from Governor Rutledge,
to impress and appropriate whatever he thought necessary to his purposes.*4*
The charge against him of cruelty and plunder is perfectly absurd,
and rests on the vague assertions of an enemy, who specifies no offence
and offers no sort of evidence. It was but natural that such charges
should be made by an astonished and disappointed foe --
natural that the conqueror should ascribe to any but the right cause
the reluctance of a people to submit to a monstrous usurpation,
and their anxiety to avail themselves, by the presence of a favorite leader,
of a principle and prospects to which their affections
were really surrendered. Could the British commanders in America
have really been brought to admit that the affections of the people
were not with their sovereign, the war must have found a finish
much sooner than it did. Their hopes were built upon this doubt;
and hence their anxiety to show the coercive measures of the chieftains
by whom this control, adverse to their wishes, was maintained
over the minds of the people. The great influence of Marion
was due to other acts. It was by the power of love, and not of terror,
that he managed his followers. They loved him for himself,
and loved his cause for their country. His rare command of temper,
his bland, affectionate manner, his calm superiority,
and that confidence in his courage and conduct, as a leader,
without which militia-men are never led to victory, --
these were the sources of his influence over them, and of their successes
against the enemy. It was through these that he "carried terror
to the very gates of Charleston." We shall see indeed, that, under Marion,
the militia were never conducted to defeat.
*1* Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 174.
*2* Moultrie, vol. 2, p. 236.
*3* MS. Memoirs of General Horry.
*4* James' Memoir, p. 122.
Whatever may have been the causes of his victories, first over the minds
of his people, and next over their foes, the British found it necessary
that his influence should be restrained, and his farther progress arrested.
Cornwallis, as we have seen, was willing to "give a good deal
to have him taken." Tarleton is affectionately invoked to this pleasant duty,
by the sincere hope that he would "get at Mr. Marion." This,
however desirable, was no easy matter. Marion was a very "will o' the wisp"
in military affairs, almost as difficult to find, at times,
by his own followers, as by the enemy. He was the true model of a partisan
in a country, like ours, of swamp and thicket; leading the pursuing foe,
like Puck, "through bog and through briar," till he wearied out his patience,
exhausted his resources, and finally laid him open for defeat.
He seldom lingered long in any one spot, changing his ground frequently,
with Indian policy; his scouts, well chosen, were always on the alert;
and, by constant activity and enterprise, he not only baffled pursuit,
but deprived retreat of its usual mortifications. The employment which
he thus gave his men, not only hardened them against every turn of fortune,
but kept them always in good spirits.
Tarleton rose from a sick bed to undertake his capture.
He had been confined for some time in Charleston with fever.
The first moment of convalescence was seized upon for carrying into effect
the wishes of Cornwallis. He concerted his plans before he left the city.
His legion, which was at Camden, were instructed to meet him,
while with a troop of horse he set forward for some point upon the Wateree.
From this point he was to descend the Wateree in quest of our partisan.
His plan of pursuit, as furnished by his own pen, will be seen hereafter.
Marion was not unadvised of his progress, but, either from the rapidity
of Tarleton's movements, or some error in the report of his scouts,
he failed of success in the object which he aimed at.
This was the capture of Tarleton, while, with his troop of horse,
he was on his way to join the legion. With this object he pressed his march
for Nelson's Ferry on the Santee, and placed his men in ambush
in the river swamp. He arrived too late. Tarleton had already crossed
fully two days before. Marion passed the river in pursuit,
advancing with some earnestness on the footsteps of his foe, still under
the impression that Tarleton was only in command of the small troop
with which he had marched from Charleston. But the British commander
had already effected the junction with his legion, and was at hand
in greater force than our partisan dreamed of. At night, having reached
a strong position in the woods, Marion was taking his usual precautions
for making his camp. He was suddenly struck with a great light,
seemingly at the plantation of General Richardson. This awakened
his anxieties, and led him at once to suspect the presence of his enemy
in that quarter. The progress of the British was thus usually distinguished
when they reached a settlement of the patriots. The suspicions of Marion
were soon confirmed by the arrival of Colonel Richardson,
from whom he learned that Tarleton was really at the plantation,
the fires of which he saw, in force with his whole legion,
and two field-pieces. The strength of the British was double his own,
and, to increase his anxieties, it was discovered that one of his men, --
probably one of the late converts, who had joined the ranks
after the defeat of Tynes, -- had deserted to the enemy.
In command of a force so superior, and in possession of a guide
well acquainted with the country, Tarleton was too strong to be withstood.
The position of Marion was no longer safe. He at once fell back,
and crossing in silence and darkness a dense and gloomy swamp of vast extent,
called the "wood-yard", halted on Jack's creek, a distance of six miles
from his late encampment. This post was temporarily a secure one. Tarleton,
meanwhile, was conducted faithfully by the deserter into the "wood-yard", --
but the bird had flown. He pressed the pursuit the next day, with that
hot haste by which he was quite as much distinguished as by his cruelties.
But Marion knew his foe, and had already changed his ground.
Pushing his way through a wild extent of country, full of bogs and swamps,
he reached Benbow's Ferry, about ten miles above Kingstree,
where, taking a strong position, he resolved to defend himself.
The place was one with which himself and men were familiar.
It was not only eligible in itself, commanding the passage of the river,
but it was one in which defeat was not necessarily final. It had resources,
and means of rally, which are always important considerations
to a militia command. There were three difficult passes, through the swamp,
in Marion's rear, at each of which, if driven by the enemy,
his men could make a stubborn fight. His position taken,
he proceeded promptly to strengthen its natural defences by art.
Trees were felled across the track, and the post so improved as to reconcile
the inequalities of his own with the pursuing force of Tarleton.
Had the latter made his appearance, as Marion fully hoped and expected,
the fatal rifles of the "Brigade" thus planted, would have very quickly
emptied his best saddles. But the commander of the legion
grew weary of the chase, at the very moment when it halted to await him.
Of the pursuit he has given us a somewhat vainglorious description.
He represents himself as having been nearly successful,
by means of his great adroitness and the excellence of his strategy.
He says -- "According to the reports of the country, General Marion's numbers
were hourly increasing, which induced Lt.-Col. Tarleton to move his corps,
for a short time, in a very compact body, lest the Americans
should gain any advantage over patrols or detachments.
But as soon as he found that the account of numbers was exaggerated,
and that the enemy declined an engagement, he divided his corps
into several small parties, publishing intelligence that each was on patrol,
and that the main body of the King's troops had countermarched to Camden.
Notwithstanding the divisions scattered throughout the country,
to impose upon the enemy, Lt.-Col. Tarleton took care that no detachment
should be out of the reach of assistance; and that the whole
formed after dark every evening a solid and vigilant corps during the night.
This stratagem had not been employed more than three days,
before General Marion was on the point of falling a sacrifice to it.
He advanced on the 10th before day, with five hundred militia,
to attack Lt.-Col. Tarleton (who had notice of his approach), and arrived
within two miles of his post, when a person of the name of Richardson
discovered to him his misconception of the British force."
But, as we have seen, Marion's advance upon Tarleton was only the continuation
of the pursuit which he began under the impression that the latter
was still forcing his way to Camden with the small force with which
he had crossed the Santee. Of the descent of the legion from above,
he knew nothing, and the three days' strategy of Tarleton
were wasted upon him. The caution of the British Colonel in all this time
might have been spared. It influenced the course of Marion in no respect.
We have seen that, when the latter discovered his enemy,
it was before day had closed, and not just before day. We have also seen
that Tarleton's own bonfires had already revealed the secret of his presence,
in strength, to his wary antagonist. If Col. Richardson had never entered
the camp of Marion, the blazing dwellings of the Richardson family
would have led to such precautions, on the side of the partisan,
as must have effectually baffled the objects of the British Colonel.
This indulgence in the usual British passion for burning
the homesteads of women and children, which Tarleton could not resist,
even though his immediate aim required the utmost watchfulness and secrecy,
at once revealed to Marion not only that his enemy was there,
but that he was there, with a force, in the strength of which he had
the utmost confidence. It is not to be supposed that a small detachment,
a scouting party of horse, a troop sent out for intelligence, --
such as the British Colonel represents his several parties to have been,
when his force was broken up in detail, to beguile the partisan, --
would be likely to commit such excesses as to draw the eye of the country
suddenly upon them, at a time, too, when a wary adversary was within two miles
with a force of five hundred men.
Tarleton proceeds: "A pursuit was immediately commenced,
and continued for seven hours, through swamps and defiles.
Some prisoners fell into the possession of the legion dragoons,
who gained ground very fast, and must soon have brought the enemy to action,
when an express from Earl Cornwallis, who had followed
the tracks of the march, recalled Lt.-Col. Tarleton."
Such is the British narrative. We have reason to think it faulty
in several respects. We doubt that it was the express of Earl Cornwallis
that arrested the pursuit of our Legionary Colonel. We are disposed
to ascribe it to his own weariness of the game. The dispatch of Cornwallis
to which he refers, was dated at Winnsboro' on the 9th of the month.
It was on the night of the 10th, as we see by Tarleton's own statement,
that he commenced the close and earnest pursuit of Marion.
The distance from Winnsboro' to the `wood-yard', even allowing
that the instincts and information of the express should bring him
directly upon the trail of the Legion, would have employed him
fully two days to overcome. These two days would have brought him
to the close of the twelfth, up to which period, had Tarleton
continued the chase, he might have enjoyed the satisfaction of shaking hands
with his antagonist in his defences at Benbow's Ferry.
There, at the first proper position in which he might,
with any hopes of success, oppose his adversary, had Marion taken his stand.
There, having entrenched himself, he was busy in bringing together his forces.
"Had Tarleton," says Judge James, "proceeded with his jaded horses
to Benbow's, he would have exposed his force to such sharp shooting
as he had not yet experienced, and that in a place where he could not
have acted with either his artillery or cavalry."
But Tarleton had tired of the adventure. After a pursuit
of twenty-five miles, he found his progress arrested by a swamp,
wide and deep, through which his eye could discern no beaten road.
But this should have discouraged no resolute commander, having his enemy
before him. Marion had already preceded him in the passage, and was then
within ten miles, awaiting his approach. He could have reached him
in three hours, and four might have sufficed for the march and conflict.
The express of Cornwallis might have yielded that time,
since it was not on the necessity of the Earl that he had written.
Tarleton insinuates that the sole desire of Marion was to save himself.
Now, one fact will suffice to show the incorrectness of this notion.
For a distance of twelve miles on his retreat, the course of the partisan
skirted the south branch of Black River. He could, at any time
and in a few minutes, have plunged into it, and no regular body of cavalry
could have followed him. Besides, so close, we are told, was the pursuit,
that the dragoons were taking prisoners. The enemy must have been overtaken,
but for the express. Under such circumstances it seems strange
that Tarleton should show such singular deference to the express
as to forbear the blow, when his sabre was already uplifted,
and one of his most troublesome enemies was actually beneath it.
It is scarcely possible that, with his dragoons so close on the heels
of the fugitives and informed by prisoners of the proximity of his foe,
he should not have heard that he was finally posted and in waiting for him.
We will suppose, however, that he did not. He turned the head of his column
at the very moment when his object was attainable. Popular tradition
represents him as expressing himself discouraged at the sight of Ox swamp,
and exclaiming, "Come, my boys! let us go back. We will soon find
the `Game Cock' (meaning Sumter), but as for this d----d `Swamp Fox',
the devil himself could not catch him." From this speech of Tarleton,
we are given to understand that the two popular names were derived,
by which Sumter and Marion were ever after known by their followers.
Tarleton gained nothing by the pursuit of his wily antagonist.
Marion remained in perfect mastery over the whole territory
which he had been wont to overrun, with a strength somewhat increased
by the fact that he had succeeded in baffling and eluding the attempts of one
who had hitherto been successful in all his enterprises. From this moment
the career of Tarleton ceased to be fortunate. His failure to capture Marion
was the first in a long train of disappointments and disasters,
some of which were also attended by the most disgraceful and humbling defeats.
Marion attempts Georgetown -- Horry defeats Merritt -- Melton defeated
by Barfield -- Gabriel Marion taken by the Tories and murdered --
Marion retires to Snow's Island.
Failing to overtake Marion in his retreat, and unwilling to press upon him
in his stronghold, Tarleton turned the heads of his columns
in the search after the other famous partisan of Carolina, General Sumter.
This gentleman, after the surprise and dispersion of his force,
which had followed so closely the defeat of Gates, had fallen back,
with the wreck of his command, to the neighborhood of the mountains.
But, no sooner was it understood that a second Continental army
was on its march for Carolina, than he emerged from his retreat,
and renewed his enterprises with as much activity as ever.
It was to direct his arms against this enemy, and to restrain his incursions,
that Tarleton was recalled from the pursuit of Marion by Earl Cornwallis.
The force under Sumter had increased to about five hundred men
when he approached, and took post within twenty-eight miles
of the encampment of Cornwallis at Winnsboro'. This approach,
particularly as Sumter, unlike Marion, was apt to linger some time
in a favorite position, induced the British commander to attempt his surprise.
Col. Wemyss was accordingly sent against him with a strong body
of British infantry. But Wemyss was defeated, severely wounded himself,
and fell into the hands of the Americans. The failure of Wemyss,
and the audacity of Sumter, provoked the anxiety and indignation
of Cornwallis. Tarleton promptly seconded the wishes of his superior,
and rapidly advanced upon his adversary. Sumter, hearing of his approach,
and with a force very far superior to his own, commenced his retreat,
and threw the Tyger River between himself and his pursuer.
Apprehensive only of losing his prey, and not at all doubtful of his victory,
Tarleton continued the pursuit with about four hundred mounted men,
leaving the main body of his infantry and artillery to follow.
As soon as Sumter discovered that the whole of the British army
was not at his heels, he discontinued his flight, and waited for his enemy
at the house and farm of one Blackstock, on the banks of the Tyger.
Here an action followed, in which the British were defeated.
Tarleton lost ninety-two slain and one hundred wounded.
The Americans lost three men slain and as many wounded. But among the latter
was their commander. The wound of Sumter was in the breast,
and a very severe one. He was wrapped up in the raw hide of a bullock,
suspended between two horses, and, guarded by a hundred faithful followers,*
was conveyed in safety to North Carolina, where, unhappily,
he lay for some time totally incapacitated from active performance.
* Judge James says "a guard of five men". -- A. L., 1996.
This event was preceded and followed by others quite as encouraging
to the American cause. The battle of King's Mountain took place
on the 7th October, 1780, in which the British, under Major Ferguson,
experienced a total defeat; Ferguson being slain, and the killed,
wounded and captured of his army, amounting to eleven hundred men.
Meanwhile, the example of Marion and Sumter had aroused the partisan spirit
in numerous other places; and every distinct section of the country
soon produced its particular leader, under whom the Whigs embodied themselves,
striking wherever an opportunity offered of cutting off the British and Tories
in detail, and retiring to places of safety, or dispersing in groups,
on the approach of a superior force. This species of warfare was,
of all kinds, that which was most likely to try the patience,
and baffle the progress, of the British commander.
He could overrun the country, but he made no conquests.
His great armies passed over the land unquestioned,
but had no sooner withdrawn, than his posts were assailed,
his detachments cut off, his supplies arrested, and the Tories
once more overawed by their fierce and fearless neighbors.
Marion's brigade, in particular, constantly in motion, --
moving by night as frequently as by day, singularly well informed
by its scouts, and appearing at the least expected moment, --
was always ready to prevent the gathering, into force and strength,
of the loyalists. And this activity was shown, and this warfare waged,
at a time, when, not only was the State without an army,
without any distinct embodiment of its own, or of its confederates, --
but when it was covered everywhere with strong and well appointed posts
of the enemy. The position of Earl Cornwallis at Winnsboro',
completed his chain of posts from Georgetown to Augusta, in a circle,
the centre of which would have been about Beaufort, in South Carolina,
equidistant from Charleston and Savannah. These posts
consisted of Georgetown, Camden, Winnsboro', Ninety-Six and Augusta.
Within this circle was an interior chain, at the distance of half the radius,
consisting of Fort Watson on the road to Camden, Motte's house,
and Granby on the Congaree. Dorchester and Orangeburgh, on the road
both to Ninety-Six and Granby, were fortified as posts of rest and deposit,
on the line of communication; as was Monk's Corner, or Biggin Church,
and some other small posts on that to Camden. These posts were all
judiciously chosen, both for arming the country and obtaining subsistence.*
* Johnson's Greene, vol. 1.
Penetrating between these posts, and snatching their prey,
or smiting the enemy's detachments, under the very jaws of their cannon,
our partisans succeeded in embodying public opinion,
through the very sense of shame, against their enemies.
The courage of the Whigs was ennobled, and their timidity rebuked,
when they beheld such a daring spirit, and one so crowned
by frequent successes, in such petty numbers. The `esprit de corps',
which these successes, and this spirit, awakened in the brigade of Marion,
necessarily imparted itself to the region of country in which he operated;
and the admiration which he inspired in the friendly,
and the fear which he taught to the adverse, uniting in their effects,
brought equally the faithful and the doubtful to his ranks.
From the moment that he eluded the arts, and baffled the pursuit of Tarleton,
the people of that tract of country, on a line stretching from Camden,
across, to the mouth of Black Creek on the Pedee, including generally
both banks of the Wateree, Santee and Pedee, were now
(excepting Harrison's party on Lynch's Creek) either ready,
or preparing to join him. Under these auspices, with his brigade increasing,
Marion began to prepare for new enterprises.
The British post at Georgetown was one of considerable
strength and importance. It was of special importance to Marion.
From this place he procured, or expected to procure, his supplies of salt,
clothing, and ammunition. Of these commodities he was now grievously in want.
To surprise Georgetown became as desirable as it was difficult.
Marion determined to attempt it. It was only by a surprise
that he could hope to be successful, and he made his plans accordingly.
They were unfortunate, and the event was particularly and personally
distressing to himself. To expedite his schemes, he crossed Black river,
at a retired place, called Potato Ferry, and proceeded by the "Gap-way"
towards the object of his aim. Three miles from the town
there is an inland swamp, called "White's Bay", which,
discharging itself by two mouths, the one into Black river,
the other into Sampit, completely insulates the town, which stands
on the north side of the latter river near its junction with Winyaw bay.
Over the creek which empties into the Sampit, there is a bridge,
two miles from Georgetown. In the rear of these swamps,
Marion concealed himself with the main body of his force,
sending out two parties to reconnoitre. One of these parties
was commanded by Col. P. Horry, the other by Capt. Melton.
These officers both encountered the enemy, but they were not both
equally fortunate in the result. Horry may be allowed to tell his own story.
"I was sent," he writes, "by Gen. Marion to reconnoitre Georgetown.
I proceeded with a guide through the woods all night.
At the dawn of day, I drew near the town. I laid an ambuscade,
with thirty men and three officers, near the road. About sunrise
a chair appeared with two ladies escorted by two British officers.
I was ready in advance with an officer to cut them off,
but reflecting that they might escape, and alarm the town,
which would prevent my taking greater numbers, I desisted.
The officers and chair halted very near me, but soon the chair went on,
and the officers gallopped in retrograde into the town.
Our party continued in ambush, until 10 o'clock A.M.
"Nothing appearing, and men and horses having eaten nothing
for thirty-six hours, we were hungered, and retired to a plantation
of my quarter-master's, a Mr. White, not far distant. There a curious scene
took place. As soon as I entered the house . . . four ladies appeared,
two of whom were Mrs. White and her daughter. I was asked what I wanted.
I answered, food, refreshment. The other two ladies were those whom
I had seen escorted by the British officers. They seemed greatly agitated,
and begged most earnestly that I would go away, for the family was very poor,
had no provisions of any sort, -- that I knew that they were Whigs,
and surely would not add to their distress. So pressing were they
for my immediately leaving the plantation, that I thought
they had more in view than they pretended. I kept my eye on Mrs. White,
and saw she had a smiling countenance, but said nothing.
Soon she left the room, and I left it also and went into the piazza,
laid my cap, sword and pistols on the long bench, and walked the piazza; --
when I discovered Mrs. White behind the house chimney beckoning me.
I got to her undiscovered by the young ladies, when she said: `Colonel Horry,
be on your guard; these two young ladies, Miss F---- and M----,
are just from Georgetown; they are much frightened, and I believe the British
are leaving it and may soon attack you. As to provisions, which they make
such a rout about, I have plenty for your men and horses in yonder barn,
but you must affect to take them by force. Hams, bacon, rice, and fodder,
are there. You must insist on the key of the barn, and threaten
to split the door with an axe if not immediately opened.' I begged her
to say no more, for I was well acquainted with all such matters --
to leave the ladies and everything else to my management.
She said `Yes; but do not ruin us: be artful and cunning,
or Mr. White may be hanged and all our houses burnt over our heads.'
We both secretly returned, she to the room where the young ladies were,
and I to the piazza I had just left."*1* This little narrative
will give some idea of the straits to which the good whig matrons of Carolina
were sometimes reduced in those days. But no time was allowed Horry
to extort the provisions as suggested. He had scarcely got to the piazza
when his videttes gave the alarm. Two shots warned him of the approach
of the foe, and forgetting that his cap, sabre and pistols,
lay on the long bench on the piazza, Horry mounted his horse,
left the enclosure, and rushed into the melee. The British
were seventeen in number, well mounted, and commanded by a brave fellow
named Merritt. The dragoons, taken by surprise, turned in flight,
and, smiting at every step, the partisans pursued them with fatal earnestness.
But two men are reported to have escaped death or captivity,
and they were their captain and a sergeant. It was in approaching
to encounter Merritt that Horry discovered that he was weaponless.
"My officers," says he, "in succession, came up with Captain Merritt,
who was in the rear of his party, urging them forward. They engaged him.
He was a brave fellow. Baxter, with pistols, fired at his breast,
and missing him, retired; Postelle and Greene, with swords, engaged him;
both were beaten off. Greene nearly lost his head. His buckskin breeches
were cut through several inches. . . . I almost blush to say
that this one British officer beat off three Americans."*2*
The honor of the day was decidedly with Merritt, though he was beaten.
He was no doubt a far better swordsman than our self-taught cavalry,
with broadswords wrought out of mill saws. Merritt abandoned his horse,
and escaped to a neighboring swamp, from whence, at midnight, he got
into Georgetown.*3* Two of Horry's prisoners proved to be American soldiers;
"the sergeant belonged to the 3d Regiment of South Carolina Continentals,
and a drummer formerly belonged to my own Regiment (the 5th).
The drummer was cruelly wounded on the head; the sergeant was of Virginia,
and wounded on the arm. They said they had enlisted from the Prison Ship
to have a chance of escaping and joining their countrymen in arms,"*4*
and would have done so that day but that the British captain was in the rear,
and they dared not. Horry rejoined Marion in safety with his prisoners.
*1* MS. Life of Horry by himself, pp. 84-87.
*2* MS. of Horry, p. 89.
*3* Weems, speaking for Horry, tells us that he met with Captain Merritt
after the war in New York, who recognized him, and told him
that he had never had such a fright in all his life as upon that occasion.
"Will you believe me, sir," said he, "when I assure you
that I went out that morning with my locks of as bright an auburn
as ever curled upon the forehead of youth, and by the time
I had crawled out of the swamp into Georgetown that night,
they were as grey as a badger!"
*4* MS. of Horry.
Captain Melton was not so fortunate. He came in contact
with a party of Tories, much larger than his own force,
who were patrolling, under Captain Barfield, near White's Bridge.
A sharp, but short action followed, in which Melton was compelled to retreat.
But Gabriel Marion, a nephew of the General, had his horse shot under him,
and fell into the hands of the Tories. As soon as he was recognized
he was put to death, no respite allowed, no pause, no prayer.*
His name was fatal to him. The loss was severely felt by his uncle,
who, with no family or children of his own, had lavished
the greater part of his affections upon this youth, of whom high expectations
had been formed, and who had already frequently distinguished himself
by his gallantry and conduct. He had held a lieutenancy
in the Second South Carolina Regiment, and was present
at the battle of Fort Moultrie. Subsequently, he had taken part
in most of the adventures of his uncle. Marion felt his privation keenly;
but he consoled himself by saying that "he should not mourn for him.
The youth was virtuous, and had fallen in the cause of his country!"
But this event, with some other instances of brutality and murder
on the part of the Tories, happening about this time,
gave a more savage character than ever to the warfare which ensued.
Motives of private anger and personal revenge embittered and increased
the usual ferocities of civil war; and hundreds of dreadful
and desperate tragedies gave that peculiar aspect to the struggle,
which led Greene to say that the inhabitants pursued each other
rather like wild beasts than like men. In the Cheraw district, on the Pedee,
above the line where Marion commanded, the Whig and Tory warfare,
of which we know but little beyond this fact, was one of utter extermination.
The revolutionary struggle in Carolina was of a sort utterly unknown
in any other part of the Union.
* Judge James writes: "Gabriel Marion . . . was taken prisoner;
but as soon as his name was announced, he was inhumanely shot.
The instrument of death was planted so near that it burnt his linen
at the breast." -- A. L., 1996.
The attempt upon Georgetown was thus defeated. The British had taken
the alarm, and were now in strength, and in a state of vigilance and activity,
which precluded the possibility of surprise. Marion's wishes,
therefore, with regard to this place, were deferred accordingly
to a more auspicious season. He retired to Snow's Island,
where he made his camp. This place acquired large celebrity
as the "camp of Marion". To this day it is pointed out
with this distinguishing title, and its traditionary honors insisted upon.
It was peculiarly eligible for his purposes, furnishing a secure retreat,
a depot for his arms, ammunition, prisoners and invalids --
difficult of access, easily guarded, and contiguous to
the scenes of his most active operations. "Snow's Island" lies
at the confluence of Lynch's Creek and the Pedee. On the east
flows the latter river; on the west, Clark's Creek, issuing from Lynch's,
and a stream navigable for small vessels; on the north lies Lynch's Creek,
wide and deep, but nearly choked by rafts of logs and refuse timber.
The island, high river swamp, was spacious, and, like all
the Pedee river swamp of that day, abounded in live stock and provision.
Thick woods covered the elevated tracts, dense cane-brakes the lower,
and here and there the eye rested upon a cultivated spot, in maize,
which the invalids and convalescents were wont to tend.
Here Marion made his fortress. Having secured all the boats
of the neighborhood, he chose such as he needed, and destroyed the rest.
Where the natural defences of the island seemed to require aid from art,
he bestowed it; and, by cutting away bridges and obstructing
the ordinary pathways with timber, he contrived to insulate,
as much as possible, the country under his command. From this fortress,
his scouting parties were sent forth nightly in all directions.
Enemies were always easy to be found. The British maintained minor posts
at Nelson's Ferry and Scott's Lake, as well as Georgetown;
and the Tories on Lynch's Creek and Little Pedee were much more numerous,
if less skilfully conducted, than the men of Marion.
Marion's encampment implied no repose, no forbearance of the active
business of war. Very far from it. He was never more dangerous to an enemy,
than when he seemed quietly in camp. His camp, indeed, was frequently a lure,
by which to tempt the Tories into unseasonable exposure.
The post at Snow's Island gave him particular facilities
for this species of warfare. He had but to cross a river,
and a three hours' march enabled him to forage in an enemy's country.
Reinforcements came to him daily, and it was only now, for the first time,
that his command began to assume the appearance, and exhibit the force
of a brigade.* He became somewhat bolder in consequence,
in the tone which he used towards the Tories. We find him at this period,**
sending forth his officers with orders of a peremptory nature.
He writes to Adjutant Postelle: "You will proceed with a party
down Black river, from Black Mingo to the mouth of Pedee,
and come up to this place. You will take all the boats and canoes
from Euhaney up, and impress negroes to bring them to camp --
put some men to see them safe. You will take every horse, to whomsoever
he may belong, whether friend or foe. You will take all arms and ammunition
for the use of our service. You will forbid all persons
from carrying any grains, stock, or any sort of provisions to Georgetown,
or where the enemy may get them, on pain of being held as traitors,
and enemies to the Americans. All persons who will not join you,
you will take prisoners and bring to me, &c."
* December 30, 1780.
** Correspondence of Marion, quoted by James.
He then laid the country under martial law, the proper measure
for straitening an enemy, and compelling sluggish and doubtful friends
to declare themselves. In this proceeding he was justified by
the authority of Governor Rutledge, from whom, with a brigadier's commission,
he had received military command over a region of country of vast extent,
which the indefatigable partisan contrived to compass and coerce,
if not altogether to command and control. Similar orders with those
which were given to Postelle, were addressed to Col. P. Horry;
and they were both dispatched; the one, as we have seen,
between Black and Pedee rivers, the other to Waccamaw Creek.
Other parties were sent out in other quarters, with like objects; and,
with the whole contiguous country thus placed under the keenest surveillance,
Marion hailed the close of the year in his swamp fortress.
All these parties were more or less engaged with the enemy,
at different periods, while on their scouting expeditions.
Several small, but spirited achievements, of which history condescends
to furnish no details, occurred among them, in which, however,
the partisans were not always successful. One instance may be mentioned.
Lieutenant Roger Gordon had been dispatched with a small party
to patrol on Lynch's Creek. He suffered himself, while taking refreshments
at a house, to be surrounded by a party of Tories, under Capt. Butler.
The enemy made good his approaches to the house, and set it on fire.
Finding himself greatly outnumbered, and perceiving that resistance
would be useless, Gordon surrendered upon terms; but as soon as his party
had yielded up their arms, they were murdered to a man. These bloody events
were accompanied and followed by others of a like character.
Nor were the Tories always, or exclusively guilty. The sanguinary warfare
began with them, but it was perpetuated by mutual excesses.
Shortly after the murder of Gabriel Marion, the person who was supposed
to have been guilty of the savage crime, was taken prisoner by Horry.
While on the road, returning to the camp, environed by his guards,
the prisoner was shot down by an officer, who escaped detection
under cover of the night. Prisoners, after this, were seldom made
on either side, where the Whigs and Tories came in conflict.
No quarter was given. Safety lay in victory alone, and the vanquished,
if they could not find refuge in the swamps, found no mercy
from the conqueror. Even where, under the occasional influence
of a milder mood, or milder captain, the discomfited were admitted
to present mercy, there was still no security for their lives.
There were a few infuriated men, who defied subordination,
by whom, on both sides, the unhappy captives were sure to be sacrificed.
We need not say, in behalf of Marion, and his superior officers,
that, where he or they commanded in person, no countenance was given
to these bloody principles and performances. Marion was notoriously
the most merciful of enemies. The death of the prisoner
in the ranks of Horry, though the unhappy man was charged with the murder
of his favorite nephew, was a subject of the greatest soreness and annoyance
to his mind; and he warmly expressed the indignation which he felt,
at an action which he could not punish.
Marion's Camp at Snow's Island -- The Character of his Warfare --
Of his Men -- Anecdotes of Conyers and Horry --
He feasts a British Officer on Potatoes -- Quells a Mutiny.
Marion's career as a partisan, in the thickets and swamps of Carolina,
is abundantly distinguished by the picturesque; but it was while he held
his camp at Snow's Island, that it received its highest colors of romance.
In this snug and impenetrable fortress, he reminds us very much
of the ancient feudal baron of France and Germany, who,
perched on castled eminence, looked down with the complacency of an eagle
from his eyrie, and marked all below him for his own. The resemblance is good
in all respects but one. The plea and justification of Marion are complete.
His warfare was legitimate. He was no mountain robber, --
no selfish and reckless ruler, thirsting for spoil and delighting inhumanly
in blood. The love of liberty, the defence of country, the protection
of the feeble, the maintenance of humanity and all its dearest interests,
against its tyrant -- these were the noble incentives which strengthened him
in his stronghold, made it terrible in the eyes of his enemy,
and sacred in those of his countrymen. Here he lay, grimly watching for
the proper time and opportunity when to sally forth and strike. His position,
so far as it sheltered him from his enemies, and gave him facilities
for their overthrow, was wonderfully like that of the knightly robber
of the Middle Ages. True, his camp was without its castle --
but it had its fosse and keep -- its draw-bridge and portcullis.
There were no towers frowning in stone and iron -- but there were
tall pillars of pine and cypress, from the waving tops of which
the warders looked out, and gave warning of the foe or the victim.
No cannon thundered from his walls; no knights, shining in armor,
sallied forth to the tourney. He was fond of none of the mere pomps of war.
He held no revels -- "drank no wine through the helmet barred,"
and, quite unlike the baronial ruffian of the Middle Ages,
was strangely indifferent to the feasts of gluttony and swilled insolence.
He found no joy in the pleasures of the table. Art had done little
to increase the comforts or the securities of his fortress.
It was one, complete to his hands, from those of nature -- such a one
as must have delighted the generous English outlaw of Sherwood forest --
isolated by deep ravines and rivers, a dense forest of mighty trees,
and interminable undergrowth. The vine and briar guarded his passes.
The laurel and the shrub, the vine and sweet scented jessamine,
roofed his dwelling, and clambered up between his closed eyelids
and the stars. Obstructions, scarcely penetrable by any foe,
crowded the pathways to his tent; -- and no footstep,
not practised in the secret, and `to the manner born',
might pass unchallenged to his midnight rest. The swamp was his moat;
his bulwarks were the deep ravines, which, watched by sleepless rifles,
were quite as impregnable as the castles on the Rhine.
Here, in the possession of his fortress, the partisan slept secure.
In the defence of such a place, in the employment of such material
as he had to use, Marion stands out alone in our written history,
as the great master of that sort of strategy, which renders
the untaught militia-man in his native thickets, a match for
the best drilled veteran of Europe. Marion seemed to possess
an intuitive knowledge of his men and material, by which, without effort,
he was led to the most judicious modes for their exercise.
He beheld, at a glance, the evils or advantages of a position.
By a nice adaptation of his resources to his situation,
he promptly supplied its deficiencies and repaired its defects.
Till this was done, he did not sleep; -- he relaxed in none of his endeavors.
By patient toil, by keenest vigilance, by a genius peculiarly his own,
he reconciled those inequalities of fortune or circumstance,
under which ordinary men sit down in despair. Surrounded by superior foes,
he showed no solicitude on this account. If his position was good,
their superiority gave him little concern. He soon contrived to lessen it,
by cutting off their advanced parties, their scouts or foragers,
and striking at their detachments in detail. It was on their own ground,
in their immediate presence, nay, in the very midst of them,
that he frequently made himself a home. Better live upon foes
than upon friends, was his maxim; and this practice of living amongst foes
was the great school by which his people were taught vigilance.
The adroitness and address of Marion's captainship were
never more fully displayed than when he kept Snow's Island;
sallying forth, as occasion offered, to harass the superior foe,
to cut off his convoys, or to break up, before they could well embody,
the gathering and undisciplined Tories. His movements were marked
by equal promptitude and wariness. He suffered no risks
from a neglect of proper precaution. His habits of circumspection and resolve
ran together in happy unison. His plans, carefully considered beforehand,
were always timed with the happiest reference to the condition and feelings
of his men. To prepare that condition, and to train those feelings,
were the chief employment of his repose. He knew his game,
and how it should be played, before a step was taken or a weapon drawn.
When he himself, or any of his parties, left the island, upon an expedition,
they advanced along no beaten paths. They made them as they went.
He had the Indian faculty in perfection, of gathering his course
from the sun, from the stars, from the bark and the tops of trees,
and such other natural guides, as the woodman acquires only
through long and watchful experience. Many of the trails, thus opened by him,
upon these expeditions, are now the ordinary avenues of the country.
On starting, he almost invariably struck into the woods,
and seeking the heads of the larger water courses, crossed them
at their first and small beginnings. He destroyed the bridges where he could.
He preferred fords. The former not only facilitated the progress
of less fearless enemies, but apprised them of his own approach.
If speed was essential, a more direct, but not less cautious route
was pursued. The stream was crossed sometimes where it was deepest.
On such occasions the party swam their horses, Marion himself leading the way,
though he himself was unable to swim. He rode a famous horse called Ball,
which he had taken from a loyalist captain of that name.
This animal was a sorrel, of high, generous blood, and took the water
as if born to it. The horses of the brigade soon learned to follow him
as naturally as their riders followed his master. There was no waiting
for pontoons and boats. Had there been there would have been no surprises.
The secrecy with which Marion conducted his expeditions was, perhaps,
one of the reasons for their frequent success. He entrusted
his schemes to nobody, not even his most confidential officers.
He consulted with them respectfully, heard them patiently,
weighed their suggestions, and silently approached his conclusions.
They knew his determinations only from his actions. He left no track
behind him, if it were possible to avoid it. He was often vainly hunted after
by his own detachments. He was more apt at finding them than they him.
His scouts were taught a peculiar and shrill whistle, which, at night,
could be heard at a most astonishing distance. We are reminded of
the signal of Roderick Dhu: --
---- "He whistled shrill,
And he was answered from the hill,
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag, the signal flew."
His expeditions were frequently long, and his men, hurrying forth
without due preparation, not unfrequently suffered much privation
from want of food. To guard against this danger, it was their habit
to watch his cook. If they saw him unusually busied in preparing
supplies of the rude, portable food, which it was Marion's custom
to carry on such occasions, they knew what was before them,
and provided themselves accordingly. In no other way could they arrive
at their general's intentions. His favorite time for moving
was with the setting sun, and then it was known that the march
would continue all night. Before striking any sudden blow, he has been known
to march sixty or seventy miles, taking no other food in twenty-four hours,
than a meal of cold potatoes and a draught of cold water.
The latter might have been repeated. This was truly a Spartan process
for acquiring vigor. Its results were a degree of patient hardihood,
as well in officers as men, to which few soldiers in any periods
have attained. These marches were made in all seasons. His men were
badly clothed in homespun, a light wear which afforded little warmth.
They slept in the open air, and frequently without a blanket.
Their ordinary food consisted of sweet potatoes, garnished,
on fortunate occasions, with lean beef. Salt was only to be had
when they succeeded in the capture of an enemy's commissariat;
and even when this most necessary of all human condiments was obtained,
the unselfish nature of Marion made him indifferent to its use.
He distributed it on such occasions, in quantities not exceeding a bushel,
to each Whig family; and by this patriarchal care, still farther
endeared himself to the affection of his followers.
The effect of this mode of progress was soon felt by the people of
the partisan. They quickly sought to emulate the virtues which they admired.
They became expert in the arts which he practised so successfully.
The constant employment which he gave them, the nature of his exactions,
taught activity, vigilance, coolness and audacity. His first requisition,
from his subordinates, was good information. His scouts were always
his best men. They were generally good horsemen, and first rate shots.
His cavalry were, in fact, so many mounted gunmen, not uniformly weaponed,
but carrying the rifle, the carbine, or an ordinary fowling-piece,
as they happened to possess or procure them. Their swords,
unless taken from the enemy, were made out of mill saws, roughly manufactured
by a forest blacksmith. His scouts were out in all directions,
and at all hours. They did the double duty of patrol and spies.
They hovered about the posts of the enemy, crouching in the thicket,
or darting along the plain, picking up prisoners, and information,
and spoils together. They cut off stragglers, encountered patrols of the foe,
and arrested his supplies on the way to the garrison.
Sometimes the single scout, buried in the thick tops of the tree,
looked down upon the march of his legions, or hung perched
over the hostile encampment till it slept, then slipping down,
stole through the silent host, carrying off a drowsy sentinel,
or a favorite charger, upon which the daring spy flourished conspicuous
among his less fortunate companions. The boldness of these adventurers
was sometimes wonderful almost beyond belief. It was the strict result
of that confidence in their woodman skill, which the practice of their leader,
and his invariable success, naturally taught them to entertain.
The mutual confidence which thus grew up between our partisan and his men,
made the business of war, in spite of its peculiar difficulties
and privations, a pleasant one. As they had no doubts
of their leader's ability to conduct them to victory, he had no apprehension,
but, when brought to a meeting with the enemy, that they would secure it.
His mode of battle was a simple one; generally very direct; but he was
wonderfully prompt in availing himself of the exigencies of the affair.
His rule was to know his enemy, how posted and in what strength, --
then, if his men were set on, they had nothing to do but to fight.
They knew that he had so placed them that valor was the only requisite.
A swamp, right or left, or in his rear; a thicket beside him; --
any spot in which time could be gained, and an inexperienced militia rallied,
long enough to become reconciled to the unaccustomed sights and sounds of war,
-- were all that he required, in order to secure a fit position
for fighting in. He found no difficulty in making good soldiers of them.
It caused him no surprise, and we may add no great concern,
that his raw militia men, armed with rifle and ducking gun,
should retire before the pushing bayonets of a regular soldiery.
He considered it mere butchery to expose them to this trial.
But he taught his men to retire slowly, to take post
behind the first tree or thicket, reload, and try the effect of a second fire;
and so on, of a third and fourth, retiring still, but never forgetting to
take advantage of every shelter that offered itself. He expected them to fly,
but not too far to be useful. We shall see the effect of this training
at Eutaw, where the militia in the advance delivered seventeen fires,
before they yielded to the press of the enemy. But, says Johnson,
with equal truth and terseness, "that distrust of their own
immediate commanders which militia are too apt to be affected with,
never produced an emotion where Marion and Pickens commanded."*
The history of American warfare shows conclusively that,
under the right leaders, the American militia are as cool in moments of danger
as the best drilled soldiery in the universe. But they have been
a thousand times disgraced by imbecile and vainglorious pretenders.
* History of Greene, p. 225, vol. 2.
Marion was admirably supported by his followers. Several officers
of the brigade were distinguished men. Of Major John James
we have already seen something. All the brothers were men
of courage and great muscular activity. The Witherspoons were
similarly endowed. His chief counsellors were the brothers Horry,
and Postelle, -- all like himself descended from Huguenot stocks.
To the two last (the brothers Postelle) it has been remarked,
that "nothing appeared difficult."* Captains Baxter and Conyers
were particularly distinguished, -- the first for his gigantic frame,
which was informed by a corresponding courage; the latter
by his equal bravery and horsemanship. He was a sort of knight-errant
in the brigade, and his behavior seemed not unfrequently dictated
by a passion for chivalrous display. An anecdote, in connection with Conyers,
is told, which will serve to show what was the spirit of the patriotic damsels
of the revolution. Marion had environed Colonel Watson,
at a plantation where Mary, the second daughter of John Witherspoon,
was living at the time. She was betrothed to Conyers.
The gallant captain daily challenged the British posts,
skirmishing in the sight of his mistress. His daring was apparent enough --
his great skill and courage were known. He presented himself frequently
before the lines of the enemy, either as a single champion
or at the head of his troop. The pride of the maiden's heart may be imagined
when she heard the warning in the camp, as she frequently did --
"Take care, -- there is Conyers!" The insult was unresented:
but, one day, when her lover appeared as usual, a British officer,
approaching her, spoke sneeringly, or disrespectfully, of our knight-errant.
The high spirited girl drew the shoe from her foot, and flinging it
in his face, exclaimed, "Coward! go and meet him!" The chronicler
from whom we derive this anecdote is particularly careful to tell us
that it was a walking shoe and not a kid slipper which she made use of;
by which we are to understand, that she was no ways tender of the stroke.
* Judge James' Sketch of Marion.
The Horrys were both able officers. Hugh was a particular favorite of Marion.
For his brother he had large esteem. Of Peter Horry we have
several amusing anecdotes, some of which we gather from himself.
It is upon the authority of his MS. memoir that we depend
for several matters of interest in this volume. This memoir,
written in the old age of the author, and while he suffered from infirmities
of age and health, is a crude but not uninteresting narrative of events
in his own life, and of the war. The colonel confesses himself very frankly.
In his youth he had a great passion for the sex, which led him
into frequent difficulties. These, though never very serious,
he most seriously relates. He was brave, and ambitious of distinction.
This ambition led him to desire a command of cavalry rather than of infantry.
But he was no rider -- was several times unhorsed in combat,
and was indebted to the fidelity of his soldiers for his safety.*
On one occasion his escape was more narrow from a different cause.
He gives us a ludicrous account of it himself. Crossing the swamp
at Lynch's Creek, to join Marion, in the dark, and the swamp swimming,
he encountered the bough of a tree, to which he clung, while his horse
passed from under him. He was no swimmer, and, but for timely assistance
from his followers, would have been drowned. Another story,
which places him in a scarcely less ludicrous attitude,
is told by Garden.** He was ordered by Marion to wait, in ambush,
the approach of a British detachment. The duty was executed with skill;
the enemy was completely in his power. But he labored under an impediment
in his speech, which, we may readily suppose, was greatly increased
by anxiety and excitement. The word "fire" stuck in his throat,
as "amen" did in that of Macbeth. The emergency was pressing,
but this only increased the difficulty. In vain did he make the attempt.
He could say "fi-fi-fi!" but he could get no further --
the "r" was incorrigible. At length, irritated almost to madness,
he exclaimed, "SHOOT, d----n you, SHOOT! you know what I would say!
Shoot, and be d----d to you!" He was present, and acted bravely,
in almost every affair of consequence, in the brigade of Marion.
At Quinby, Capt. Baxter, already mentioned, a man distinguished
by his great strength and courage, as well as size, and by equally great
simplicity of character, cried out, "I am wounded, colonel!"
"Think no more of it, Baxter," was the answer of Horry,
"but stand to your post." "But I can't stand," says Baxter, "I am wounded
a second time." "Lie down then, Baxter, but quit not your post."
"They have shot me again, colonel," said the wounded man, "and if I stay
any longer here, I shall be shot to pieces." "Be it so, Baxter,
but stir not," was the order, which the brave fellow obeyed,
receiving a fourth wound before the engagement was over.
* MS. Memoir, p. 51.
** Anecdotes, first series, p. 30.
It was while Marion was lying with his main force at the camp
at Snow's Island, that two circumstances occurred which deserve mention,
as equally serving to illustrate his own and the character of the warfare
of that time and region. One of these occurrences has long been
a popular anecdote, and, as such, has been made the subject
of a very charming picture, which has done something towards giving it
a more extended circulation.* The other is less generally known,
but is not less deserving of the popular ear, as distinguishing, quite as much
as the former, the purity, simplicity, and firmness of Marion's character.
It appears that, desiring the exchange of prisoners,
a young officer was dispatched from the British post at Georgetown
to the swamp encampment of Marion, in order to effect this object.
He was encountered by one of the scouting parties of the brigade,
carefully blindfolded, and conducted, by intricate paths,
through the wild passes, and into the deep recesses of the island.
Here, when his eyes were uncovered, he found himself
surrounded by a motley multitude, which might well have
reminded him of Robin Hood and his outlaws. The scene was
unquestionably wonderfully picturesque and attractive,
and our young officer seems to have been duly impressed by it.
He was in the middle of one of those grand natural amphitheatres
so common in our swamp forests, in which the massive pine,
the gigantic cypress, and the stately and ever-green laurel,
streaming with moss, and linking their opposite arms, inflexibly locked
in the embrace of centuries, group together, with elaborate limbs and leaves,
the chief and most graceful features of Gothic architecture.
To these recesses, through the massed foliage of the forest,
the sunlight came as sparingly, and with rays as mellow and subdued,
as through the painted window of the old cathedral, falling upon
aisle and chancel. Scattered around were the forms of those hardy warriors
with whom our young officer was yet destined, most probably,
to meet in conflict, -- strange or savage in costume or attitude --
lithe and sinewy of frame -- keen-eyed and wakeful at the least alarm.
Some slept, some joined in boyish sports; some with foot in stirrup,
stood ready for the signal to mount and march. The deadly rifle
leaned against the tree, the sabre depended from its boughs.
Steeds were browsing in the shade, with loosened bits, but saddled,
ready at the first sound of the bugle to skirr through brake and thicket.
Distant fires, dimly burning, sent up their faint white smokes,
that, mingling with the thick forest tops, which they could not pierce,
were scarce distinguishable from the long grey moss which made the old trees
look like so many ancient patriarchs. But the most remarkable object
in all this scene was Marion himself. Could it be that the person
who stood before our visitor -- "in stature of the smallest size,
thin, as well as low"** -- was that of the redoubted chief,
whose sleepless activity and patriotic zeal had carried terror
to the gates of Charleston; had baffled the pursuit and defied the arms
of the best British captains; had beaten the equal enemy,
and laughed at the superior? Certainly, if he were,
then never were the simple resources of intellect, as distinguishable
from strength of limb, or powers of muscle, so wonderfully evident
as in this particular instance. The physical powers of Marion
were those simply of endurance. His frame had an iron hardihood,
derived from severe discipline and subdued desires and appetites,
but lacked the necessary muscle and capacities of the mere soldier.
It was as the general, the commander, the counsellor,
rather than as the simple leader of his men, that Marion takes rank,
and is to be considered in the annals of war. He attempted
no physical achievements, and seems to have placed very little reliance
upon his personal prowess.***
* General Marion, in his swamp encampment, inviting the British officer
to dinner. Painted by J. B. White; engraved by Sartain;
published by the Apollo Association.
** Henry Lee's Memoirs. He adds: "His visage was not pleasing,
and his manners not captivating. He was reserved and silent,
entering into conversation only when necessary, and then
with modesty and good sense. He possessed a strong mind, improved by
its own reflections and observations, not by books or travel. His dress
was like his address -- plain, regarding comfort and decency only.
In his meals he was abstemious, eating generally of one dish,
and drinking water mostly. He was sedulous and constant in his attention
to the duties of his station, to which every other consideration yielded.
Even the charms of the fair, like the luxuries of the table
and the allurements of wealth, seemed to be lost upon him.
The procurement of subsistence for his men, and the continuance
of annoyance for his enemy, engrossed his entire mind.
He was virtuous all over; never, even in manner, much less in reality,
did he trench upon right. Beloved by his friends, and respected
by his enemies, he exhibited a luminous example of the beneficial effects
to be produced by an individual who, with only small means at his command,
possesses a virtuous heart, a strong head, and a mind directed
to the common good." -- Appendix to `Memoirs', vol. 1 p. 396.
*** The dislike or indifference of Marion, to anything like
mere military display, was a matter of occasional comment, and some jest,
among his followers. Among other proofs which are given
of this indifference, we are told, that, on one occasion,
attempting to draw his sword from the scabbard, he failed to do so
in consequence of the rust, the result of his infrequent employment
of the weapon. Certainly, a rich event in the life of a military man.
The fact is, that Marion seldom used his sword except in battle,
or on occasions when its employment was inseparable from his duties.
Long swords were then in fashion, but he continued to wear
the small cut and thrust of the second regiment. Such a weapon
better suited his inferior physique, and necessarily lessened
the motives to personal adventure.
The British visitor was a young man who had never seen Marion.
The great generals whom he was accustomed to see, were great of limb, portly,
and huge of proportion. Such was Cornwallis, and others of the British army.
Such, too, was the case among the Americans. The average weight of these
opposing generals, during that war, is stated at more than two hundred pounds.
The successes of Marion must naturally have led our young Englishman
to look for something in his physique even above this average,
and verging on the gigantic. Vastness seems always the most necessary agent
in provoking youthful wonder, and satisfying it. His astonishment,
when they did meet, was, in all probability, not of a kind
to lessen the partisan in his estimation. That a frame so slight,
and seemingly so feeble, coupled with so much gentleness,
and so little pretension, should provoke a respect so general,
and fears, on one side, so impressive, was well calculated
to compel inquiry as to the true sources of this influence.
Such an inquiry was in no way detrimental to a reputation founded,
like Marion's, on the successful exercise of peculiar mental endowments.
The young officer, as soon as his business was dispatched, prepared to depart,
but Marion gently detained him, as he said, for dinner, which was
in preparation. "The mild and dignified simplicity of Marion's manners
had already produced their effects, and, to prolong so interesting
an interview, the invitation was accepted. The entertainment was served up
on pieces of bark, and consisted entirely of roasted potatoes, of which
the general ate heartily, requesting his guest to profit by his example,
repeating the old adage, that `hunger is the best sauce.'
"But surely, general," said the officer, "this cannot be your ordinary fare."
"Indeed, sir, it is," he replied, "and we are fortunate on this occasion,
entertaining company, to have more than our usual allowance."*
The story goes, that the young Briton was so greatly impressed
with the occurrence, that, on his return to Georgetown,
he retired from the service, declaring his conviction
that men who could with such content endure the privations of such a life,
were not to be subdued. His conclusion was strictly logical, and hence,
indeed, the importance of such a warfare as that carried on by Marion,
in which, if he obtained no great victories, he was yet never to be overcome.
* Garden -- Anecdotes -- First Series, p. 22.
The next anecdote, if less pleasing in its particulars,
is yet better calculated for the development of Marion's character,
the equal powers of firmness and forbearance which he possessed,
his superiority to common emotions, and the mingled gentleness and dignity
with which he executed the most unpleasant duties of his command.
Marion had placed one of his detachments at the plantation
of a Mr. George Crofts, on Sampit Creek. This person had proved
invariably true to the American cause; had supplied the partisans secretly
with the munitions of war, with cattle and provisions.
He was an invalid, however, suffering from a mortal infirmity,
which compelled his removal for medical attendance to Georgetown,
then in possession of the enemy.* During the absence of the family,
Marion placed a sergeant in the dwelling-house, for its protection.
From this place the guard was expelled by two officers of the brigade,
and the house stripped of its contents. The facts were first disclosed
to Marion by Col. P. Horry, who received them from the wife of Crofts.
This lady pointed to the sword of her husband actually at the side
of the principal offender. The indignation of Marion was not apt
to expend itself in words. Redress was promised to the complainant
and she was dismissed. Marion proceeded with all diligence
to the recovery of the property. But his course was governed by prudence
as well as decision. The offenders were men of some influence,
and had a small faction in the brigade, which had already proved troublesome,
and might be dangerous. One of them was a major, the other a captain.
Their names are both before us in the MS. memoir of Horry,
whose copious detail on this subject leaves nothing to be supplied.
We forbear giving them, as their personal publication
would answer no good purpose. They were in command of a body of men,
about sixty in number, known as the Georgia Refugees.
Upon the minds of these men the offenders had already sought to act,
in reference to the expected collision with their general.
Marion made his preparations with his ordinary quietness, and then
dispatched Horry to the person who was in possession of the sword of Croft;
for which he made a formal demand. He refused to give it up, alleging that
it was his, and taken in war. "If the general wants it," he added,
"let him come for it himself." When this reply was communicated to Marion
he instructed Horry to renew the demand. His purpose seems to have been,
discovering the temper of the offender, to gain the necessary time.
His officers, meanwhile, were gathering around him. He was making
his preparations for a struggle, which might be bloody, which might, indeed,
involve not only the safety of his brigade, but his own future usefulness.
Horry, however, with proper spirit, entreated not to be sent again
to the offender, giving, as a reason for his reluctance,
that, in consequence of the previous rudeness of the other,
he was not in the mood to tolerate a repetition of the indignity, and might,
if irritated, be provoked to violence. Marion then dispatched his orderly
to the guilty major, with a request, civilly worded,
that he might see him at head quarters. He appeared accordingly,
accompanied by the captain who had joined with him in the outrage,
and under whose influence he appeared to act. Marion renewed his demand,
in person, for the sword of Croft. The other again refused to deliver it,
alleging that "Croft was a Tory, and even then with the enemy in Georgetown."
* The brigade of Marion was for a long period without medical attendance
or a surgeon to dress his wounded. If a wound reached an artery
the patient bled to death. To illustrate the fierce hostility
of Whigs and Tories, a single anecdote will suffice. On one occasion,
Horry had three men wounded near Georgetown. A surgeon of the Tories
was then a prisoner in his ranks, yet he positively refused
to dress the wounds, and suffered a fine youth named Kolb,
to bleed to death before his eyes, from a slight injury upon the wrist.
"Will you deliver me the sword or not, Major ------?" was the answer
which Marion made to this suggestion.
"I will not!" was the reply of the offender. "At these words,"
says Horry in the MS. before us, "I could forbear no longer,
and said with great warmth, `By G--d, sir, did I command this brigade,
as you do, I would hang them both up in half an hour!'
Marion sternly replied, -- `This is none of your business, sir:
they are both before me! -- Sergeant of the guard, bring me a file of men
with loaded arms and fixed bayonets!' -- `I was silent!' adds Horry:
`all our field officers in camp were present, and when the second
refusal of the sword was given, they all put their hands to their swords
in readiness to draw. My own sword was already drawn!'"
In the regular service, and with officers accustomed to, and bred up in,
the severe and stern sense of authority which is usually thought necessary
to a proper discipline, the refractory offender would most probably
have been hewn down in the moment of his disobedience.
The effect of such a proceeding, in the present instance,
might have been of the most fatal character. The `esprit de corps'
might have prompted the immediate followers of the offender
to have seized upon their weapons, and, though annihilated,
as Horry tells us they would have been, yet several valuable lives
might have been lost, which the country could ill have spared.
The mutiny would have been put down, but at what a price!
The patience and prudence of Marion's character taught him forbearance.
His mildness, by putting the offender entirely in the wrong,
so justified his severity, as to disarm the followers of the criminals.
These, as we have already said, were about sixty in number. Horry continues:
"Their intentions were, to call upon these men for support --
our officers well knew that they meant, if possible, to intimidate Marion,
so as to [make him] come into their measures of plunder and Tory-killing."
The affair fortunately terminated without bloodshed.
The prudence of the general had its effect. The delay gave time
to the offenders for reflection. Perhaps, looking round upon their followers,
they saw no consenting spirit of mutiny in their eyes, encouraging their own;
for, "though many of these refugees were present, none offered
to back or support the mutinous officers;" -- and when the guard
that was ordered, appeared in sight, the companion of the chief offender
was seen to touch the arm of the other, who then proffered the sword
to Marion, saying, "General, you need not have sent for the guard."*
Marion, refusing to receive it, referred him to the sergeant of the guard,
and thus doubly degraded, the dishonored major of Continentals --
for he was such -- disappeared from sight, followed by his associate.
His farther punishment was of a kind somewhat differing from those
which are common to armies, by which the profession of arms
is sometimes quite as much dishonored as the criminal. Marion endeavored,
by his punishments, to elevate the sense of character in the spectators.
He had some of the notions of Napoleon on this subject.
He was averse to those brutal punishments which, in the creature,
degrade the glorious image of the Creator. In the case of the two offenders,
thus dismissed from his presence, the penalty was, of all others,
the most terrible to persons, in whose minds there remained the sparks
even of a conventional honor. These men had been guilty of numerous offences
against humanity. Marion expelled them from his brigade.
Subsequently, their actions became such, that he proclaimed their outlawry
through the country.** By one of these men he was challenged
to single combat, but he treated the summons with deserved contempt.
His composure remained unruffled by the circumstance.
* Horry's MS., from which the several extracts preceding have been made.
-- pp. 100-103.
** He set up on trees and houses, in public places,
proclamations in substance thus, that Major ---- and Capt. ----
did not belong to his brigade, that they were banditti,
robbers and thieves, -- were hereby deemed out of the laws,
and might be killed wherever found. -- Horry's MS. pp. 104, 105.
In this affair, as in numerous others, Marion's great knowledge
of the militia service, and of the peculiar people with whom he sometimes
had to deal, enabled him to relieve himself with little difficulty
from troublesome companions. Of these he necessarily had many;
for the exigencies of the country were such that patriotism was not permitted
to be too nice in the material which it was compelled to employ.
The refugees were from various quarters -- were sometimes, as we have seen,
adopted into his ranks from those of the defeated Tories, and were frequently
grossly ignorant, not only of what was due to the community in which
they found themselves, but still more ignorant of the obligations
of that military law to which they voluntarily put themselves in subjection.
Marion's modes of punishment happily reached all such cases
without making the unhappy offender pay too dearly for the sin of ignorance.
On one occasion, Horry tells us that he carried before him a prisoner
charged with desertion to the enemy. "Marion released him,
saying to me, `let him go, he is too worthless to deserve
the consideration of a court martial.'" Such a decision in such a case,
would have shocked a military martinet, and yet, in all probability,
the fellow thus discharged, never repeated the offence,
and fought famously afterwards in the cause of his merciful commander.
We have something yet to learn on these subjects. The result of a system
in which scorn is so equally blended with mercy, was singularly good.
In the case of the person offending (as is frequently the case among militia)
through sheer ignorance of martial law, it teaches while it punishes,
and reforms, in some degree, the being which it saves. Where the fault flows
from native worthlessness of character the effect is not less beneficial.
One of Marion's modes of getting rid of worthless officers,
was to put them into coventry. In this practice his good officers joined him,
and their sympathy and cooperation soon secured his object.
"He kept a list of them," said Horry, "which he called his Black List.
This mode answered so well that many resigned their commissions,
and the brigade was thus fortunately rid of such worthless fellows."
The values of such a riddance is well shown by another sentence
from the MS. of our veteran. "I found the men seldom defective,
were it not for the bad example set them by their officers."*
* MS. p. 55.
General Greene assumes Command of the Southern Army --
His Correspondence with Marion -- Condition of the Country --
Marion and Lee surprise Georgetown -- Col. Horry defeats Gainey --
Marion pursues McIlraith -- Proposed Pitched Battle between Picked Men.
The year 1781 opened, with new interest, the great drama of war
in South Carolina. In that State, as we have seen,
deprived of a large portion of her military effectives,
opposition had never entirely ceased to the progress of the invader.
New and more strenuous exertions, on the part of Congress,
were made to give her the necessary assistance. Without this,
the war, prolonged with whatever spirit by the partisans,
was not likely, because of their deficient materiel and resources,
to reach any decisive results. We may yield thus much,
though we are unwilling to admit the justice of those opinions,
on the part of General Greene and other officers of the regular army,
by which the influence of the native militia, on the events of the war,
was quite too much disparaged. But for this militia, and the great
spirit and conduct manifested by the partisan leaders in Carolina,
no regular force which Congress would or could have sent into the field,
would have sufficed for the recovery of the two almost isolated States
of South Carolina and Georgia. Indeed, we are inclined to think that,
but for the native spirit which they had shown in the conquest,
no attempt would have been made for their recovery. We should be at a loss,
unless we recognized the value of this native spirit, and the importance
of its achievements, however small individually, to determine by what means
these States were finally recovered to the American confederacy.
In no single pitched battle between the two grand armies did the Americans
obtain a decided victory. The fruits of victory enured to them, quite as much
in consequence of the active combination of the partisan captains,
as by the vigor of their own arms. By these the enemy were harassed
with unparalleled audacity -- their supplies and convoys cut off,
their detachments captured or cut to pieces, their movements watched,
and their whole influence so narrowed and restrained, as to be confined
almost entirely to those places where they remained in strength.
It is not meant by this, to lessen in any degree the value of the services
rendered by the Continental forces. These were very great, and contributed
in large measure to bring the war to an early and a happy issue.
It is only intended to insist upon those claims of the partisans,
which, unasserted by themselves, have been a little too irreverently
dismissed by others. But for these leaders, Marion, Sumter, Pickens,
Davie, Hampton, and some fifty more well endowed and gallant spirits,
the Continental forces sent to Carolina would have vainly flung themselves
upon the impenetrable masses of the British.
It was the vitality thus exhibited by the country, by the native
captains and people, that persuaded Congress, though sadly deficient
in materials and men, to make another attempt to afford to the South,
the succor which it asked. The wreck of the army under Gates
had been collected by that unfortunate commander at Charlotte, North Carolina.
He was superseded in its command by General Greene, a soldier
of great firmness and discretion, great prudence and forethought --
qualities the very opposite of those by which his predecessor
seems to have been distinguished. New hopes were awakened
by this change of command, which, though slow of fruition, were not finally
to be disappointed. Greene's assumption of command was distinguished
by a happy augury. In a few hours after reaching camp Charlotte,
he received intelligence of the success of Lt.-Col. Washington,
against the British post held at Clermont, South Carolina,
by the British Colonel Rugely. Rugely was well posted in a redoubt,
which was tenable except against artillery. Washington's force
consisted only of cavalry. A pleasant `ruse de guerre' of the latter,
which produced some little merriment among the Americans
at the expense of the British colonel, enabled Washington to succeed.
A pine log was rudely hewn into the appearance of a cannon,
and, mounted upon wagon wheels, was advanced with solemnity to the attack.
The affair looked sufficiently serious, and Rugely,
to avoid any unnecessary effusion of blood, yielded the post.
Cornwallis, drily commenting on the transaction, in a letter to Tarleton,
remarks, "Rugely will not be made a brigadier."
Greene proceeded in the duties of his command with characteristic
vigilance and vigor. He soon put his army under marching orders
for the Pedee, which river he reached on the 26th of December. He took post
near Hicks' Creek, on the east side of the river. Before leaving
camp Charlotte, he had judiciously made up an independent brigade
for General Morgan, composed of his most efficient soldiers.
It consisted of a corps of light infantry, detached from the Maryland line,
of 320 men; a body of Virginia militia of 200 men, and Washington's cavalry,
perhaps one hundred more. Morgan was to be joined, on reaching
the tract of country assigned to his operations in South Carolina,
by the militia lately under Sumter; that gallant leader
being still `hors de combat', in consequence of the severe wound
received at Blackstock's. The force of Morgan was expected to be
still farther increased by volunteer militia from North Carolina;
and he received a powerful support in the cooperation of Col. Pickens,
with the well exercised militia under his command.
The object of this detachment was to give confidence and encouragement
to the country, to inspirit the patriots, overawe the Tories,
and facilitate the accumulation of the necessary provisions.
The main army at Hicks' Creek, meanwhile, formed a camp of repose.
This was necessary, as well as time and training, to its usefulness.
It was sadly deficient in all the munitions and materials of war --
the mere skeleton of an army, thin in numbers, and in a melancholy
state of nakedness. "Were you to arrive," says Greene,
in a letter to Lafayette, dated December 29, "you would find a few ragged,
half-starved troops in the wilderness, destitute of everything necessary
for either the comfort or convenience of soldiers." The department
was not only in a deplorable condition, but the country was laid waste.
Such a warfare as had been pursued among the inhabitants, beggars description.
The whole body of the population seems to have been in arms,
at one time or another, and, unhappily, from causes already discussed,
in opposite ranks. A civil war, as history teaches, is like no other.
Like a religious war, the elements of a fanatical passion
seem to work the mind up to a degree of ferocity, which is not common
among the usual provocations of hate in ordinary warfare.
"The inhabitants," says Greene, "pursue each other with savage fury. . . .
The Whigs and the Tories are butchering one another hourly.
The war here is upon a very different scale from what it is to the northward.
It is a plain business there. The geography of the country
reduces its operations to two or three points. But here, it is everywhere;
and the country is so full of deep rivers and impassable creeks and swamps,
that you are always liable to misfortunes of a capital nature."
The geographical character of the country, as described by Greene,
is at once suggestive of the partisan warfare. It is the true sort of warfare
for such a country. The sparseness of its settlements,
and the extent of its plains, indicate the employment of cavalry --
the intricate woods and swamps as strikingly denote the uses and importance
of riflemen. The brigade of Marion combined the qualities of both.
General Greene, unlike his predecessor, knew the value of such services
as those of Marion. On taking command at Charlotte, the very day
after his arrival, he thus writes to our partisan: "I have not,"
says he, "the honor of your acquaintance, but am no stranger to
your character and merit. Your services in the lower part of South Carolina,
in awing the Tories and preventing the enemy from extending their limits,
have been very important. And it is my earnest desire
that you continue where you are until farther advice from me.
Your letter of the 22d of last month to General Gates, is before me.
I am fully sensible your service is hard and sufferings great,
but how great the prize for which we contend! I like your plan
of frequently shifting your ground. It frequently prevents a surprise
and perhaps a total loss of your party. Until a more permanent army
can be collected than is in the field at present, we must endeavor
to keep up a partisan war, and preserve the tide of sentiment among the people
in our favor as much as possible. Spies are the eyes of an army,
and without them a general is always groping in the dark,
and can neither secure himself, nor annoy his enemy. At present,
I am badly off for intelligence. It is of the highest importance
that I get the earliest intelligence of any reinforcement which may arrive
at Charleston. I wish you, therefore, to fix some plan for procuring
such information and conveying it to me with all possible dispatch.
The spy should be taught to be particular in his inquiries
and get the names of the corps, strength and commanding officer's name --
place from whence they came and where they are going. It will be best
to fix upon somebody in town to do this, and have a runner between you and him
to give you the intelligence; as a person who lives out of town
cannot make the inquiries without being suspected. The utmost secrecy
will be necessary in the business."
This letter found Marion at one of his lurking places on Black river.
It was properly addressed to him. He was the man who, of all others,
was not only best acquainted with the importance of good information,
furnished promptly, but who had never been without his spies and runners,
from the first moment when he took the field. He readily assumed the duty,
and upon him Greene wholly relied for his intelligence of every sort.
Every occurrence in Charleston, Georgetown, and the whole low country,
was promptly furnished to the commander, to whom, however,
Marion complains generally of the embarrassment in procuring intelligence,
arising from the want of a little hard money -- but this want
was quite as great in the camp of Greene as in that of the partisan.
It is probable that Marion had communicated to General Gates
a desire to strengthen his militia with a small force of regular troops.
With such a force, it was expected that something of a more decisive nature
could be effected. His eye was upon Georgetown. The capture of that post
was particularly desirable on many accounts; and if his views and wishes
were not communicated to Gates, they were to Greene, who subsequently
made his dispositions for promoting them. While the latter
was moving down to his camp at Hicks' Creek, Marion was engaged
in some very active movements against a party under McArthur and Coffin,
and between that and the High Hills of the Santee. To cut off
his retreat by the Pedee, a strong detachment had been pushed on
from Charleston to Georgetown, intended to intercept him
by ascending the north bank of the Pedee river. But Marion,
informed of the movement, readily divined its object,
and, retiring across the country, took a strong position on Lynch's Creek,
in the vicinity of his favorite retreat at Snow's Island,
where he always kept a force to guard his boats and overawe the Tories.
The moment his pursuers had left the ground, Marion resumed
offensive operations upon it. In a short time, his parties were pushed down
to the immediate neighborhood of Georgetown, on all the rivers
that flow into the bay of Winyaw. His smaller parties were actively busy
in collecting boats and transferring provisions to Snow's Island.
This was with the twofold purpose of straitening the enemy,
and supplying the Continental army. In the meantime,
with a respectable force of mounted infantry, he himself pressed closely
upon the town, watching an opportunity when he might attempt something
with a prospect of success. But the British confined themselves
to their redoubts. Marion had neither bayonets nor artillery.
With one hundred Continental troops -- he writes with his usual modesty
to Greene -- he should be able to render important services.
While thus employed, he received intelligence that the loyalists
were embodying above him, in great force, under Hector McNeill.
They were at Amy's Mill on Drowning Creek, and were emboldened by
a knowledge of the fact that the main army was entirely destitute of cavalry.
Marion was not able to detach a force sufficient for their dispersion,
and it would have been fatal to his safety to suffer them to descend upon him
while his detachments were abroad. His first measures were
to call in his scattered parties. He then communicated to Greene
the necessity of reinforcing him against his increasing enemies,
and, in particular, of addressing himself to the movements of McNeill,
as he supposed them to be directed, in part, against the country
between the Waccamaw and the sea-coast, which had never been ravaged,
and which, at this time, held abundance of provisions. To this communication
Greene replies: "I have detached Major Anderson with one thousand regulars,
and one hundred Virginia militia, to attack and disperse the Tories
at Amy's Mill, on Drowning Creek. The party marched yesterday
with orders to endeavor to surprise them; perhaps you might be able
to make some detachment that would contribute to their success. . . .
I wish your answer respecting the practicability of surprising the party
near Nelson's; the route, and force you will be able to detach.
This inquiry is a matter that requires great secrecy."
Another letter of Greene's, three days after (January 22d),
refers to some "skirmishes between your people and the enemy, which,"
says Greene, "do them honor," -- but of which we have no particulars.
The same letter begs for a supply of horses. "Get as many as you can,
and let us have fifteen or twenty sent to camp without loss of time,
they being wanted for immediate service." By another letter, dated the day
after the preceding, Greene communicates to Marion the defeat of Tarleton
by Morgan, at the celebrated battle of the Cowpens. "On the 17th at daybreak,
the enemy, consisting of eleven hundred and fifty British troops
and fifty militia, attacked General Morgan, who was at the Cowpens,
between Pacolet and Broad rivers, with 290 infantry, eighty cavalry
and about six hundred militia. The action lasted fifty minutes
and was remarkably severe. Our brave troops charged the enemy with bayonets
and entirely routed them, killing nearly one hundred and fifty,
wounding upwards of two hundred, and taking more than five hundred prisoners,
exclusive of the prisoners with two pieces of artillery, thirty-five wagons,
upwards of one hundred dragoon horses, and with the loss of only
ten men killed and fifty-five wounded. Our intrepid party pursued the enemy
upwards of twenty miles. About thirty commissioned officers
are among the prisoners. Col. Tarleton had his horse killed and was wounded,
but made his escape with two hundred of his troops."
Before receiving this grateful intelligence Marion had been joined
by Lieut.-Col. Lee, at the head of a legion which acquired high reputation
for its spirit and activity during the war. Lee tells us
that it was no easy matter to find our partisan. "An officer,
with a small party, preceded Lee a few days' march to find out Marion,
who was known to vary his position in the swamps of the Pedee;
sometimes in South Carolina, sometimes in North Carolina,
and sometimes on the Black river. With the greatest difficulty
did this officer learn how to communicate with the brigadier;
and that by the accident of hearing among our friends
on the south side of the Pedee, of a small provision party of Marion's
being on the same side of the river. Making himself known to this party
he was conveyed to the general, who had changed his ground
since his party left him, which occasioned many hours' search
even before his own men could find him."*
* Lee's Memoirs, vol. 1, p. 164.
[Note: This Lieut.-Col. Henry Lee -- "Light-Horse Harry" --
later became the father of Gen. Robert Edward Lee. -- A. L., 1996.]
This anecdote illustrates the wary habits of our partisan,
and one of the modes by which he so successfully baffled
the numerous and superior parties who were dispatched in his pursuit.
We have given, elsewhere, from Col. Lee's memoirs, a brief description
of Marion and his mode of warfare, taken from the appendix to that work.
But another occurs, in the text before us, which, as it is brief,
differing somewhat in phrase, and somewhat more comprehensive,
than the former, will no doubt contribute to the value and interest
of our narrative. "Marion," says Lee, "was about forty-eight years of age,
small in stature, hard in visage, healthy, abstemious and taciturn.
Enthusiastically wedded to the cause of liberty, he deeply deplored
the doleful condition of his beloved country. The common weal
was his sole object; nothing selfish, nothing mercenary
soiled his ermine character. Fertile in stratagem, he struck unperceived,
and retiring to those hidden retreats selected by himself,
in the morasses of Pedee and Black rivers, he placed his corps, not only
out of the reach of his foe, but often out of the discovery of his friends.
A rigid disciplinarian, he reduced to practice the justice of his heart;
and during the difficult course of warfare through which he passed
calumny itself never charged him with molesting the rights of person,
property or humanity. Never avoiding danger, he never rashly sought it;
and, acting for all around him as he did for himself,
he risked the lives of his troops only when it was necessary.
Never elated with prosperity, nor depressed by adversity,
he preserved an equanimity which won the admiration of his friends
and exalted the respect of his enemies."*
* Lee's Memoirs, vol. 2 p. 164.
Such were Lee's opinions of the partisan, to whose assistance
he was dispatched by Greene, with his legion, consisting of
near three hundred men, horse and foot.
The junction of Lee's troops with those of Marion led to the enterprise
which the other had long since had at heart, the capture of
the British garrison at Georgetown. Georgetown was a small village,
the situation and importance of which have already been described.
The garrison consisted of two hundred men commanded by Colonel Campbell.
His defences in front were slight, and not calculated to resist artillery.
"Between these defences and the town, and contiguous to each,
was an enclosed work with a frieze and palisade, which constituted
his chief protection."* It was held by a subaltern guard.
"The rest of the troops were dispersed in light parties in and near the town,
and looking towards the country." It was planned by the assailants
to convey a portion of their force secretly down the Pedee,
and land them in the water suburb of the town, which, being deemed secure,
was left unguarded. This body was then to move in two divisions.
The first was to force the commandant's quarters -- the place of parade --
to secure him, and all others who might flock thither on the alarm.
The second was designed to intercept such of the garrison as might endeavor
to gain the fort. The partisan militia, and the cavalry of the legion,
led by Marion and Lee in person, were to approach the place in the night,
to lie concealed, and when the entrance of the other parties into the town
should be announced, they were to penetrate to their assistance,
and put the finishing stroke to the affair.
* Lee, vol. 1 p. 249.
The plan promised well, but the attempt was only partially successful.
Captain Carnes, with the infantry of the legion, in boats, dropped down
the Pedee, sheltered from discovery by the deep swamps and dense forests
which lined its banks, until he reached an island at its mouth
within a few miles of Georgetown. Here he landed, and lay concealed
during the day. The night after, Marion and Lee proceeded
to their place of destination, which they reached by twelve o'clock,
when, hearing the expected signal, they rushed into the town, Marion leading
his militia, and Lee his dragoons, prepared to bear down all opposition;
but they found all the work already over which it was in the power
of the present assailants to attempt. The two parties of infantry,
the one led by Carnes the other by Rudolph, had reached their places,
but perhaps not in good season. The surprise was incomplete.
They delayed too long upon the way, instead of pushing up directly
upon the redoubt. They were also delayed by the desire of securing
the person of the commandant -- an unimportant consideration,
in comparison with the stronghold of the garrison, which,
assailed vigorously at the first alarm, must have fallen into their hands.
The commandant was secured, and Carnes judiciously posted his division
for seizing such parties of the garrison as might flock to the parade-ground.
Rudolph had also gained his appointed station in the vicinity of the fort,
and so distributed his corps as to prevent all communication with it.
But this was not probably achieved with sufficient rapidity,
and the garrison was strengthening itself while the Americans were busy
in catching Campbell, and cutting down the fugitives.
When Marion and Lee appeared, there was nothing to be done --
no enemy to be seen. Not a British soldier appeared on parade --
no one attempted either to gain the fort or repair to the commandant.
The troops of the garrison simply hugged their respective quarters,
and barricaded the doors. The assailants were unprovided
with the necessary implements for battering or bombarding.
The fort was in possession of the British, and daylight was approaching.
And thus this bold and brilliant attempt was baffled -- it is difficult,
at this time of day, to say how. Lee was dissatisfied with the result.
Marion, more modestly, in a letter to Greene, says: "Col. Lee
informed you yesterday, by express, of our little success on Georgetown,
which could not be greater without artillery." Lee says:
"If, instead of placing Rudolph's division to intercept the fugitives,
it had been ordered to carry the fort by the bayonet, our success
would have been complete. The fort taken, and the commandant a prisoner,
we might have availed ourselves of the cannon, and have readily demolished
every obstacle and shelter." There were probably several causes combined,
which baffled the perfect success of the enterprise: the guides are said
to have blundered; there was too much time lost in capturing Campbell,
and probably in the prosecution of some private revenges.
A circuitous route was taken by Carnes, when a direct one might have been had,
by which his entrance into the town was delayed until near daylight;
and, by one account, the advance of Marion and Lee was not in season.
The simple secret of failure was probably a want of concert
between the parties, by which the British had time to recover
from their alarm, and put themselves in a state of preparation.
Many of the British were killed, few taken; among the former was Major Irvine,
who was slain by Lieut. Cryer, whom, on a former occasion,
he had subjected to a cruel punishment of five hundred lashes.
Lieut.-Col. Campbell was suffered to remain on parole.
Though failing of its object, yet the audacity which marked the enterprise,
and the partial success of the attempt, were calculated to have their effect
upon the fears of the enemy. It was the first of a series of movements
against their several fortified posts, by which their power
was to be broken up in detail. Its present effect was to discourage
the removal of forces from the seaboard to the interior,
to prevent any accession of strength to the army of Cornwallis, who now,
roused by the defeat of Tarleton, was rapidly pressing, with all his array,
upon the heels of Morgan. The American plan of operations,
of which this `coup de main' constituted a particular of some importance,
had for its object to keep Cornwallis from Virginia --
to detain him in South Carolina until an army of sufficient strength
could be collected for his overthrow. This plan had been
the subject of much earnest correspondence between Greene, Marion,
and others of the American officers. That part of it
which contemplated the conquest of Georgetown harmonized immediately
with the long cherished objects of our partisan.
Halting but a few hours to rest their troops, Marion and Lee,
after the attempt on Georgetown, moved the same day directly up
the north bank of the Santee towards Nelson's Ferry.
Their object was the surprise of Col. Watson, who had taken post there.
But, though the march was conducted with equal caution and celerity,
it became known to the threatened party. Watson, consulting his fears,
did not wait to receive them; but, throwing a garrison of about eighty men
into Fort Watson, five miles above the ferry, hurried off to Camden.
Upon the defeat of Tarleton by Morgan, General Greene hastened
to put himself at the head of the force conducted by the latter,
which was then in full flight before the superior army of Cornwallis.
Orders from Greene to Lee found him preparing for further cooperations
with Marion, which they arrested. Lee was summoned to join
the commander-in-chief with his whole legion, and Marion was thus deprived
of the further use, which he so much coveted, of the Continentals.
But this diminution of force did not lessen the activity of the latter.
On the 29th January, he sent out two small detachments of thirty men each,
under Colonel and Major Postelle, to strike at the smaller British posts
beyond the Santee. These parties were successful in several affairs.
A great quantity of valuable stores were burnt at Manigault's Ferry,
and in the vicinity. At Keithfield, near Monk's Corner, Major Postelle
captured forty of the British regulars without the loss of a man.
Here also fourteen baggage wagons, with all their stores,
were committed to the flames. The proceedings of these parties,
conducted with caution and celerity, were exceedingly successful.
In giving his instructions to the officers entrusted with these duties,
Marion writes -- "You will consider provisions of all kinds British property.
The destruction of all the British stores in the above-mentioned places,
is of the greatest consequence to us, and only requires
boldness and expedition."
About this time Marion organized four new companies of cavalry.
This proceeding was prompted by the scarcity of ammunition.
His rifles were comparatively useless, and the want of powder and ball
rendered it necessary that he should rely upon some other weapons.
To provide broadswords for his troops, he was compelled once more