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The Life of Francis Marion by William Gilmore Simms

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I am willing to make him restitution. If, in a single instance,
in the course of my command, I have done that which I cannot fully justify,
justice requires that I should suffer for it."

So proud was his integrity, so pure and transparent was
his happy consciousness of a mind fixed only on good,
and regulated by the sternest rules of virtue, and the nicest
instincts of gentleness and love! The Bill passed into a law,
but the name of Marion, omitted at his requisition, is nowhere present,
as showing that he needed other security than that which is afforded
to the meanest citizen under the keenest scrutiny of justice.

Marion did not confine his objections to the continued operation
of the Confiscation Act, to the single instance which we have given.
We have reason to believe that his labors to remedy its hardships,
and restrain its severities, were uniform and unremitting.
There is no doubt that he favored the original bill.
He considered it a war measure, and necessary to the prosecution of the war.
The propriety of the distinction which he made just after the war was over,
obvious enough to us now, was not so evident at a season
when the victors were looking after the division of the spoils. The subject
became one of considerable excitement, and we may say in this place,
that, after time had mollified the popular feeling in some degree,
the State admitted the greater number of the offenders to mercy
and restored their estates. But there is reason to believe
that the humane sentiments which Marion taught, were not universal,
and met with most violent opposition. His feelings on the subject
were not only declared with frankness, but with warmth and energy.
Dining at the table of Governor Matthews, while the strife was highest,
he was called upon by his Excellency for a toast. Lifting his glass,
with a smile, he promptly gave the following, -- "Gentlemen,
here's damnation to the Confiscation Act."

Though, in the language of Moultrie, "born a soldier", and yielding
so many of his youthful and maturer years to the habits of the camp and field,
there was nothing of a harsh or imperious nature in his temper or his manner.
The deportment of the mere soldier seems to have been his aversion.
He preferred the modest and forbearing carriage which is supposed to belong
more distinctly to civil than to military life. No novelty of situation,
no provocation of circumstance, nothing in the shape of annoyance or disaster,
was suffered so to ruffle his mood as to make him heedless or indifferent
to the claims or sensibilities of others. He never conceived
that any of his virtues gave him a right to trespass upon
the proprieties of social or public life. An anecdote is related of him
which illustrates the veneration which he entertained
for the regulations of society and law. It appears that,
when the war was over, one of his closest intimates and nearest friends --
one whom he had trusted long, and who had shared with him
in all his campaigns, stood within the perils of the law
for some offence of which the facts have not been preserved.
Presuming upon his well-known services, and the favor in which he was held
by the public, he refused to submit to the ordinary legal process,
and bade defiance to the sheriff. While maintaining this position,
Marion sought him out. He used no argument to convince the offender
of his error, for that, he felt assured, the other sufficiently knew.
But he addressed him in a style, and with words, which conveyed much more
than any ordinary argument. "Deliver yourself," said he,
"into the hands of justice -- submit to the process of the sheriff,
and my heart and hand are yours as before; -- resist, -- refuse, --
and we are separated for ever." It need not be said
that under such an exhortation the refractory spirit was subdued.
How much to be regretted it is that so few anecdotes have been preserved
of his character, illustrating a life which, according to all testimony,
was consistent throughout in a just appreciation of all that was pure,
virtuous and becoming, in the character of the individual man.

Early in the year 1783, the following resolutions passed
in the Senate of South Carolina, Marion, who was a member,
not being present at the time:

Senate, South Carolina, February 26, 1783.

"RESOLVED, nem. con., That the thanks of this House be given
to Brigadier General Marion, in his place, as a member of this House,
for his eminent and conspicuous services to his country.

"RESOLVED, nem. con., That a gold medal be given to
Brigadier General Marion, as a mark of public approbation
for his great, glorious, and meritorious conduct."

Two days after, Marion being in his place in the Senate,
the President took occasion to convey to him the sense of these resolutions,
in a neat and highly laudatory speech. He said, among other things --

"When I consider the occasion which calls me to address you,
I am filled with inexpressible pleasure; but when I reflect on the difficulty
of doing justice to your distinguished merit, I feel my own inefficiency.
What sentiments or words shall I make use of equal to the task!
I scarce dare trust my own, especially after what has been said
by several honorable persons on this floor, respecting your great,
your glorious, and meritorious conduct; and I most earnestly wish,
for my own sake, for yours, Sir, and for the honor of this House,
that I could avail myself of their eloquence. . . . Your conduct merits
the applause of your countrymen -- your courage, your vigilance,
and your abilities have exceeded their most sanguine expectations;
and have answered all their hopes. Whilst the virtue of gratitude
shall form a part of our national character, your important services
to this country can never be forgotten," &c.

To this Marion replied with simple brevity:

"MR. PRESIDENT: The approbation which this House have given
of my conduct, in the execution of my duty, gives me
very pleasing and heartfelt satisfaction. The honor which
they have conferred on me this day, by their thanks, will be remembered
with gratitude. I shall always be ready to exert my abilities
for the good of the state and the liberties of her inhabitants.
I thank you, Sir, for the polite manner in which you have conveyed to me
the thanks of the Senate."

Whether the medal was really given, or only voted, is a fact
that we have no means of ascertaining. It is to be feared that
the action of the Senate went no farther than the resolution and the speech.
It probably remains a reproach against the republic, in this,
as in numerous other instances, that, knowing what gratitude required,
we would yet forego the satisfaction of the debt. Cheaply, at best,
was our debt to Marion satisfied, with a gold medal, or the vote of one,
while Greene received ten thousand guineas and a plantation. We quarrel not
with the appropriation to Greene, but did Marion deserve less from Carolina?
Every page of her history answers "No!"

By the Legislative session of 1784, Fort Johnson, in the harbor of Charleston,
was fitted up and garrisoned by the State. In the unstable
condition of things, so immediately after the war, some such fortress
might well be deemed essential to the security of the port. Marion was
appointed Commandant of the Fort, with an annual salary of 500 Pounds.
The office was in all probability made for him. His necessities were known,
and its salary was intended to compensate him for his losses during the war.
But the duties of the office were nominal. Even its possible uses
soon ceased to be apparent; and, with a daily increasing sense of security,
the people murmured at an appropriation which they considered
unnecessarily burdensome. The common mind could not well perceive
that the salary was not so much yielded for what was expected of the office,
as for what had already been performed. It was not given for present,
but for past services. It was the payment of a debt incurred,
not a simple appropriation for the liquidation of one growing out of
current performances. Legislative reformers waged constant war against it,
and it was finally cut down to five hundred dollars. A smile of fortune, --
one of the fairest perhaps, that had ever shone on our hero, --
just then relieved him from the mortifying necessity of holding a sinecure
which his fellow citizens pronounced an encumbrance. It had been observed
by his friends that there was a lady of good family and considerable wealth,
who appeared to take a more than ordinary interest in hearing of his exploits.
Modest and reserved himself, Marion was not conscious of
the favorable impression which he had made upon this lady.
It was left for others to discover the state of her affections.
They remarked the delight with which, like

"The gentle lady wedded to the Moor,"

she listened to the tale of his achievements, his

"Hair-breadth 'scapes in th' imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe." --

and they augured favorably of the success of any desire which he might express
to make her the sharer in his future fortunes. On this hint he spake.
Miss Mary Videau, like himself, came of the good old Huguenot stock,
the virtues of which formed our theme in the opening chapter
of this narrative. He proposed to her and was accepted.
Neither of them was young. It was not in the heyday of passion
that they loved. The tie that bound them sprang from an affection
growing out of a just appreciation of their mutual merits. She is reported
to have somewhat resembled him as well in countenance as character.
She certainly shared warmly in his interests and feelings. She readily
conformed to his habits no less than his wishes -- partook of his amusements,
shared his journeys -- which were frequent -- and still, in his absence,
could listen with as keen a zest to his praises, as before their marriage.
During the summer months, it was his almost yearly custom
to retire to the mountains of the interior. She was always his companion.
On such occasions, he was guilty of a piece of military ostentation
of which nobody could have accused him while a military man.
He had preserved carefully, as memorials of an eventful history,
his marquee, camp bed, and cooking utensils, just as he had done
while in the Brigade, during the last twelve months of his military life.
These were carefully taken with him; and, with his faithful servant Oscar,
and his two sumpter mules, were still the companions of his wanderings.
They were coupled no doubt with many associations as interesting to his heart
as they were trying to his experience. They were, perhaps, doubly precious,
as they constituted the sum total of all that he had gathered --
besides an honorable fame -- from his various campaignings.

The marriage of Marion, like that of Washington, was without fruits.
This may have baffled some hopes, and in some degree qualified his happiness,
but did not impair his virtues. He adopted the son of a relative,
to whom he gave his own name, in the hope of perpetuating it in the family,
but even this desire has been defeated, since the heir thus chosen,
though blessed with numerous children, was never so fortunate as to own a son.

In the decline of life, in the modest condition of the farmer, Marion seems
to have lived among his neighbors, very much as the ancient patriarch,
surrounded by his flock. He was honored and beloved by all.
His dwelling was the abode of content and cheerful hospitality.
Its doors were always open; and the chronicler records
that it had many chambers. Here the stranger found a ready welcome,
and his neighbors a friendly counsellor, to the last.
His active habits were scarcely lessened in the latter years of life.
His agricultural interests were managed judiciously, and his property
underwent annual increase. Nor did his domestic interests and declining years
prevent him from serving the public still. He still held a commission
in the militia, and continued to represent the parish of St. John's,
in the Senate of the State. In May, 1790, we find him sitting
as a member of the Convention for forming the State Constitution;
but from this period he withdrew from public life, and, in 1794,
after the reorganization of the State militia, he resigned his commission
in that service to which he had done so much honor. On this occasion
he was addressed by an assembly of the citizens of Georgetown,
through a special committee of four, in the following language.*

* The committee consisted of Messrs. William D. James, Robert Brownfield,
Thomas Mitchell, and Joseph Blythe.

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

The artless language of this address was grateful to the venerable patriot.
In its truth and simplicity lay its force and eloquence. It had truly
embodied in a single sentence the noble points of his career and character.
He lived in the delightful consciousness of a pure mind,
free from accusation -- and no higher eulogy could be conferred
upon the captain of citizen soldiers, than to say, he never wantonly
exposed their lives, but was always solicitous of their safety.
To this address his answer was verbal. He no longer used the pen.
The feebleness of nature was making itself understood.
That he felt himself failing may be inferred from his withdrawal
from all public affairs. But his mind was cheerful and active to the last.
He still saw his friends and neighbors, and welcomed their coming --
could still mount his horse and cast his `eye over his acres.'
The progress of decline, in his case, was not of that humiliating kind,
by which the faculties of the intellect are clouded,
and the muscles of the body made feeble and incompetent.
He spoke thoughtfully of the great concerns of life, of death,
and of the future; declared himself a Christian, a humble believer in all
the vital truths of religion. As of the future he entertained no doubt,
so of the awful transition through the valley and shadow of death,
he had no fear. "Death may be to others," said he, "a leap in the dark,
but I rather consider it a resting-place where old age
may throw off its burdens." He died, peaceful and assured,
with no apparent pain, and without regret, at his residence
in St. John's parish, on the 27th day of February, 1795,
having reached the mature and mellow term of sixty-three years.
His last words declared his superiority to all fears of death;
"for, thank God," said he, "I can lay my hand on my heart and say that,
since I came to man's estate, I have never intentionally done wrong to any."

Thus died Francis Marion, one of the noblest models of the citizen soldier
that the world has ever produced. Brave without rashness,
prudent without timidity, firm without arrogance, resolved without rudeness,
good without cant, and virtuous without presumption.
His mortal remains are preserved at Belle-Isle, in St. John's parish.
The marble slab which covers them bears the following inscription: --
"Sacred to the memory of Brigadier-General Francis Marion, who departed
this life on the 29th of Feb., 1795, in the sixty-third year of his age,
deeply regretted by all his fellow citizens. History will record his worth,
and rising generations embalm his memory, as one of the most distinguished
patriots and heroes of the American Revolution; which elevated
his native country to honor and Independence, and secured to her
the blessings of liberty and peace. This tribute of veneration and gratitude
is erected in commemoration of the noble and disinterested
virtues of the citizen, and the gallant exploits of the soldier,
who lived without fear, and died without reproach."

This inscription was the tribute of an individual, not of the country.
The State of South Carolina has conferred his name upon
one of its district divisions. But a proper gratitude,
not to speak of policy, would seem to require more

"If it be we love
His fame and virtues, it were well, methinks,
To link them with his name i' the public eye,
That men, who in the paths of gainful trade,
Do still forget the venerable and good,
May have such noble monitor still nigh,
And, musing at his monument, recall,
Those precious memories of the deeds of one
Whose life were the best model for their sons."

[End of original text.]

Appendix A. Notes on the electronic text.

The great majority of changes in this electronic edition, from the original,
are in spelling (some words are spelled both ways in the original). To wit:

partizan > partisan.
merchandize > merchandise.
duresse > duress.
ancle > ankle.
swamp-fox > swamp fox. (The modern spelling.)
co-operate > cooperate.
bivouack > bivouac.
head-quarters > headquarters.
secresy > secrecy.
patrole > patrol.

A number of spellings which might be considered errors, and might not,
have been retained, where they are less likely to interfere with reading.

When the true facts were known, either from context or outside reading,
a few other errors were corrected. A couple are footnoted in the text.
Otherwise, the larger changes are:

Chapter 5 (p. 59 of the original): "Weems, in his life of our author"
has been changed to "Weems, in his life of our subject".

Chapter 6 (p. 80): "while the second North Carolina regiment"
has been changed to "while the second South Carolina regiment".

Chapter 14, last paragraph (p. 239): "Mrs. Moultrie"
has been changed to "Mrs. Motte".

These errors are not merely represented here for their scholastic interest,
but also to give the reader an appreciation of the types of errors
which Simms was frequently subject to make. Many have most certainly
not been caught -- if I had not lived in the Waxhaw area,
I certainly would not have known of the error (footnoted in the text)
which replaced `Waxhaw' with `Warsaw' -- two very different regions.
Names are particularly prone to error, not only by Simms,
but from the whole revolutionary era in the South -- many of the people
were only semi-literate, if literate at all, and many of the names
have been spelled several, even a dozen ways -- sometimes even
by the individual named. For all this, the errors of Simms
are generally minor, and will not prevent the reader from
a true appreciation of both Marion and Simms.

Alan R. Light, Birmingham, Alabama.
December, 1996.

Appendix B. Song of Marion's Men. By William Cullen Bryant [1794-1878].

As this poem is quoted in part by Simms at the very beginning of the book,
I have considered it appropriate to include the whole here:

Our band is few, but true and tried,
Our leader frank and bold;
The British soldier trembles
When Marion's name is told.
Our fortress is the good greenwood,
Our tent the cypress-tree;
We know the forest round us,
As seamen know the sea.
We know its walls of thorny vines,
Its glades of reedy grass,
Its safe and silent islands
Within the dark morass.

Woe to the English soldiery,
That little dread us near!
On them shall light at midnight
A strange and sudden fear:
When, waking to their tents on fire,
They grasp their arms in vain,
And they who stand to face us
Are beat to earth again.
And they who fly in terror deem
A mighty host behind,
And hear the tramp of thousands
Upon the hollow wind.

Then sweet the hour that brings release
From danger and from toil:
We talk the battle over,
And share the battle's spoil.
The woodland rings with laugh and shout,
As if a hunt were up,
And woodland flowers are gathered
To crown the soldier's cup.
With merry songs we mock the wind
That in the pine-top grieves,
And slumber long and sweetly
On beds of oaken leaves.

Well knows the fair and friendly moon
The band that Marion leads --
The glitter of their rifles,
The scampering of their steeds.
'Tis life to guide the fiery barb
Across the moonlight plain;
'Tis life to feel the night-wind
That lifts his tossing mane.
A moment in the British camp --
A moment -- and away
Back to the pathless forest,
Before the peep of day.

Grave men there are by broad Santee,
Grave men with hoary hairs,
Their hearts are all with Marion,
For Marion are their prayers.
And lovely ladies greet our band
With kindliest welcoming,
With smiles like those of summer,
And tears like those of spring.
For them we wear these trusty arms,
And lay them down no more
Till we have driven the Briton,
Forever, from our shore.

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