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[Note on text: Italicized words or phrases are capitalized. Some obvious errors have been corrected.]
[William Gilmore Simms, American (South Carolinian) Writer. 1806-1870.]
The Life of Francis Marion.
By W. Gilmore Simms,
Author of “Yemassee”, “History of South Carolina”, etc.
“The British soldier trembles
When Marion’s name is told.”
Introduction — The Huguenots in South Carolina.
The Marion Family — Birth of Francis Marion — His Youth — Shipwreck.
Marion a Farmer — Volunteers in the Cherokee Campaign.
Cherokee War continues — Marion leads the Forlorn Hope at the Battle of Etchoee.
Marion is returned for the Provincial Congress from St. John’s, Berkeley — Made Captain in the Second Regiment — Fort Johnson taken — Battle of Fort Moultrie.
From the Battle of Fort Moultrie to that of Savannah — Anecdote of Jasper — His Death.
From the Battle of Savannah to the Defeat of Gates at Camden.
Organization of “Marion’s Brigade” — Surprise of Tories under Gainey — Defeat of Barfield — Capture of British Guard with Prisoners at Nelson’s Ferry.
Marion retreats before a superior Force — Defeats the Tories at Black Mingo — Surprises and disperses the Force of Colonel Tynes at Tarcote — Is pursued by Tarleton.
Marion attempts Georgetown — Horry defeats Merritt — Melton defeated by Barfield — Gabriel Marion taken by the Tories and murdered — Marion retires to Snow’s Island.
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.
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.
Watson and Doyle pursue Marion — He baffles and harasses them — Pursues Doyle — His Despondency and final Resolution.
Marion renews his Pursuit of Doyle — Confronts Watson — Is joined by Col. Lee — Invests and takes Fort Watson — Fort Motte taken — Anecdote of Horry and Marion.
Correspondence of Marion and Greene — Anecdote of Colonel Snipes — Marion takes Georgetown — Attempt of Sumter and Marion on Col. Coates — Battle of Quinby Bridge.
Marion moves secretly to Pon-Pon — Rescues Col. Harden — Defeats Major Frazier at Parker’s Ferry — Joins the main Army under Greene — Battle of Eutaw.
Retreat of the British from Eutaw — Pursuit of them by Marion and Lee — Close of the Year.
Marion summoned to the Camp of Greene — Defeats the British Horse at St. Thomas — Leaves his Command to Horry, and takes his Seat in the Assembly at Jacksonborough, as Senator from St. John’s, Berkeley — Proceedings of the Assembly — Confiscation Act — Dispute between Cols. Mayham and Horry — The Brigade of Marion surprised, during his absence, by a Detachment from Charleston — Marion’s Encounter with the British Horse — Conspiracy in the Camp of Greene.
Marion summoned with his Force to that of Greene — Insurrection of the Loyalists on the Pedee — Marches against them — Subdues them — Treats with Gainey — Fanning — Protects the Tory, Butler, from his Men — Returns to the Country between the Santee and the Cooper — Moves to protect Georgetown from the British Fleet — Takes post at Watboo, on Cooper River — Defeats the British Cavalry under Major Frasier.
The British propose Terms of Pacification — Rejected by the Civil Authorities — They penetrate the Combahee with their Fleet — Death of Col. Laurens — Anecdote of Marion — Death of Wilmot — The British evacuate Charleston — Marion separates from his Brigade at Watboo — His Military Genius.
Marion retires to his Farm, which he finds in Ruins — Is returned to the Senate from St. John — His Course on the Confiscation Act — Anecdotes — Is made Commandant at Fort Johnson — His Marriage — A Member of the State Convention in 1794 — Withdraws from Public Life — His Death.
Appendix A. Notes on the Electronic Text.
Appendix B. Song of Marion’s Men. By William Cullen Bryant [1794-1878].
In preparing this biography, the following works have been consulted:
1. A Sketch of the Life of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion, and a History of his Brigade, &c. By Wm. Dobein James, A.M. Charleston, S.C. 1821.
2. The Life of Gen. Francis Marion, &c. By Brig. Gen. P. Horry, and M. L. Weems. Philadelphia. 1833.
3. A MS. Memoir of the Life of Brig. Gen. P. Horry. By Himself.
4. Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, &c. By William Johnson. Charleston. 1822.
5. Memoirs of the American Revolution, &c. By William Moultrie. New York. 1802.
6. Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War in America (1st and 2d series). By Alex. Garden. 1822 and 1828.
7. Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States. By Henry Lee, &c. Philadelphia. 1812.
8. Memoirs of the American Revolution, &c., as relating to the State of South Carolina, &c. By John Drayton, LL.D. Charleston. 1821.
9. The History of South Carolina, &c. By David Ramsay. Charleston. 1809.
10. The History of Georgia, &c. By Capt. Hugh M`Call. Savannah. 1811.
11. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America. By Lieut. Col. Tarleton, Commandant of the late British Legion. London. 1797.
12. Strictures on Lieut. Col. Tarleton’s History, &c. By Roderick Mackenzie, late Lieutenant in the 71st Regiment, &c. London. 1787.
13. History of the Revolution of South Carolina from a British Province to an Independent State. By David Ramsay, M.D. Trenton. 1785.
14. An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia. (Hewatt.) London. 1779.
15. A New Voyage to Carolina, &c. By John Lawson, Gent., Surveyor-General of North Carolina. London. 1709.
16. The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America, &c. By William Gordon, D.D. New York. 1789.
17. Five volumes of MS. Letters from distinguished officers of the Revolution in the South. From the Collection of Gen. Peter Horry.
The facts, in the life of Francis Marion, are far less generally extended in our country than his fame. The present is an attempt to supply this deficiency, and to justify, by the array of authentic particulars, the high position which has been assigned him among the master-workers in our revolutionary history. The task has been a difficult, but I trust not entirely an unsuccessful one. Our southern chronicles are meagre and unsatisfactory. South Carolina was too long in the occupation of the British — too long subject to the ravages of civil and foreign war, to have preserved many of those minor records which concern only the renown of individuals, and are unnecessary to the comprehension of great events; and the vague tributes of unquestioning tradition are not adequate authorities for the biographer, whose laws are perhaps even more strict than those which govern the historian. Numerous volumes, some private manuscripts, and much unpublished correspondence, to which reference has been more particularly made in the appendix, have been consulted in the preparation of this narrative. The various histories of Carolina and Georgia have also been made use of. Minor facts have been gathered from the lips of living witnesses. Of the two works devoted especially to our subject, that by the Rev. Mr. Weems is most generally known — a delightful book for the young. The author seems not to have contemplated any less credulous readers, and its general character is such as naturally to inspire us with frequent doubts of its statements. Mr. Weems had rather loose notions of the privileges of the biographer; though, in reality, he has transgressed much less in his Life of Marion than is generally supposed. But the untamed, and sometimes extravagant exuberance of his style might well subject his narrative to suspicion. Of the “Sketch” by the Hon. Judge James, we are more secure, though, as a literary performance, it is quite as devoid of merit as pretension. Besides, the narrative is not thorough. It dwells somewhat too minutely upon one class of facts, to the neglect or the exclusion of others. I have made both of these works tributary to my own whenever this was possible.
Woodland, S.C., May 25, 1844.
The Life of Francis Marion.
Introduction — The Huguenots in South Carolina.
The name of FRANCIS MARION is identified, in the history of South Carolina, his parent state, with all that is pleasing and exciting in romance. He is, par excellence, the famous partisan of that region. While Sumter stands conspicuous for bold daring, fearless intrepidity and always resolute behavior; while Lee takes eminent rank as a gallant Captain of Cavalry, the eye and the wing of the southern liberating army under Greene; Marion is proverbially the great master of strategy — the wily fox of the swamps — never to be caught, never to be followed, — yet always at hand, with unconjectured promptness, at the moment when he is least feared and is least to be expected. His pre-eminence in this peculiar and most difficult of all kinds of warfare, is not to be disputed. In his native region he has no competitor, and it is scarcely possible to compute the vast influence which he possessed and exercised over the minds and feelings of the people of Carolina, simply through his own resources, at a period most adverse to their fortunes, and when the cause of their liberties, everywhere endangered, was almost everywhere considered hopeless. His name was the great rallying cry of the yeoman in battle — the word that promised hope — that cheered the desponding patriot — that startled, and made to pause in his career of recklessness and blood, the cruel and sanguinary tory. Unprovided with the means of warfare, no less than of comfort — wanting equally in food and weapons — we find him supplying the one deficiency with a cheerful courage that never failed; the other with the resources of a genius that seemed to wish for nothing from without. With a force constantly fluctuating and feeble in consequence of the most ordinary necessities — half naked men, feeding upon unsalted pottage, — forced to fight the enemy by day, and look after their little families, concealed in swamp or thicket, by night — he still contrived, — one knows not well how, — to keep alive and bright the sacred fire of his country’s liberties, at moments when they seemed to have no other champion. In this toil and watch, taken cheerfully and with spirits that never appeared to lose their tone and elasticity, tradition ascribes to him a series of achievements, which, if they were small in comparison with the great performances of European war, were scarcely less important; and which, if they sometimes transcend belief, must yet always delight the imagination. His adventures have given a rich coloring to fable, and have stimulated its performances. The language of song and story has been employed to do them honor, and our children are taught, in lessons that they love, to lisp the deeds and the patriotism of his band. “Marion” — “Marion’s Brigade” and “Marion’s men”, have passed into household words, which the young utter with an enthusiasm much more confiding than that which they yield to the wondrous performances of Greece and Ilium. They recall, when spoken, a long and delightful series of brilliant exploits, wild adventures, by day and night, in swamp and thicket, sudden and strange manoeuvres, and a generous, unwavering ardor, that never found any peril too hazardous, or any suffering too unendurable. The theme, thus invested, seems to have escaped the ordinary bounds of history. It is no longer within the province of the historian. It has passed into the hands of the poet, and seems to scorn the appeal to authentic chronicles. When we look for the record we find but little authority for a faith so confiding, and seemingly so exaggerated. The story of the Revolution in the southern colonies has been badly kept. Documentary proofs are few, bald and uninteresting. A simple paragraph in the newspapers, — those newspapers issued not unfrequently in cities where the enemy had power, and in the control of Editors, unlike the present, who were seldom able to expatiate upon the achievement which they recorded; — or the brief dispatches of the Captain himself, whose modesty would naturally recoil from stating more than the simple result of his performances; — these are usually the sum total of our authorities. The country, sparsely settled, and frequently overrun by the barbarous enemy, was incapable of that patient industry and persevering care, which could chronicle the passing event, give place and date to the brilliant sortie, the gallant struggle, the individual deed of audacity, which, by a stroke, and at a moment, secures an undying remembrance in the bosoms of a people. The fame of Marion rests very much upon tradition. There is little in the books to justify the strong and exciting relish with which the name is spoken and remembered throughout the country. He was not a bloody warrior. His battle fields were never sanguinary. His ardor was never of a kind to make him imprudent. He was not distinguished for great strength of arm, or great skill in his weapon. We have no proofs that he was ever engaged in single combat: yet the concurrent testimony of all who have written, declare, in general terms, his great services: and the very exaggeration of the popular estimate is a partial proof of the renown for which it speaks. In this respect, his reputation is like that of all other heroes of romantic history. It is a people’s history, written in their hearts, rather than in their books; which their books could not write — which would lose all its golden glow, if subjected to the cold details of the phlegmatic chronicles. The tradition, however swelling, still testifies to that large merit which must have been its basis, by reason of which the name of the hero was selected from all others for such peculiar honors; and though these exaggerations suggest a thousand difficulties in the way of sober history, they yet serve to increase the desire, as well as the necessity, for some such performance.
The family of Marion came from France. They emigrated to South Carolina somewhere about the year 1685, within twenty years after the first British settlement of the province. They belonged, in the parent country, to that sect of religious dissenters which bore the name of Huguenots; and were among those who fled from the cruel persecutions which, in the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV., followed close upon the re-admission of the Jesuits into France. The edict of Nantz, which had been issued under the auspices of Henri IV., and by which the Huguenots had been guaranteed, with some slight qualifications, the securities of the citizen, almost in the same degree with the Catholic inhabitants, had, under the weak and tyrannous sway of the former monarch, proved totally inadequate to their protection. Long before its formal revocation, the unmeasured and inhuman persecutions to which they were subjected, drove thousands of them into voluntary banishment. The subsequent decree of Louis, by which even the nominal securities of the Huguenots were withdrawn, increased the number of the exiles, and completed the sentence of separation from all those ties which bind the son to the soil. The neighboring Protestant countries received the fugitives, the number and condition of whom may be estimated by the simple fact, not commonly known, that England alone possessed “eleven regiments composed entirely of these unhappy refugees, besides others enrolled among the troops of the line. There were in London twenty French churches supported by Government; about three thousand refugees were maintained by public subscription; many received grants from the crown; and a great number lived by their own industry.* Some of the nobility were naturalized and obtained high rank; among others, Ruvigny, son of the Marquis, was made Earl of Galway, and Schomberg received the dignity of Duke.”**
* Memoires et Observations faites par un Voyageur en Angleterre, 12mo. La Haye, 1698, p. 362. Quoted by Browning in his History of the Huguenots. ** Browning, [William Shergold]: History of the Huguenots. London: Whittaker and Co. 1840. p. 256. Of the Refugees from France, Hume says, “near fifty thousand passed over into England;” and Voltaire writes that “one of the suburbs of London was entirely peopled with French workers of silk.” [W. S. Browning was uncle to the poet, Robert Browning. — A. L., 1996.] —
America, the new world, was naturally a land of refuge, and soon received her share of these unhappy fugitives. The transition was easy from England to her colonies. Every facility was afforded them for transportation, and the wise policy which encouraged their settlement in the new countries was amply rewarded by the results. Altogether, the Huguenots were a much better sort of people than those who usually constituted the mass of European emigrants. The very desperation of their circumstances was a proof of their virtues. They were a people of principle, for they had suffered everything for conscience sake. They were a people of pure habits, for it was because of their religion that they suffered banishment. In little patriarchal groups of sixty, seventy, or eighty families, they made their way to different parts of America; and with the conscious poverty of their own members, were generally received with open arms by those whom they found in possession of the soil. The English, as they beheld the dependent and destitute condition of the fugitives, forgot, for a season, their usual national animosities; and assigning ample tracts of land for their occupation, beheld them, without displeasure, settling down in exclusive colonies, in which they sought to maintain, as far as possible, the pious habits and customs of the mother country. One of these communities, comprising from seventy to eighty families, found their way to the banks of the Santee in South Carolina.* From this point they gradually spread themselves out so as to embrace, in partial settlements, the spacious tract of country stretching to the Winyah, on the one hand, and the sources of Cooper River on the other; extending upward into the interior, following the course of the Santee nearly to the point where it loses its identity in receiving the descending streams of the Wateree and Congaree. These settlers were generally poor. They had been despoiled of all their goods by the persecutions which had driven them into exile. This, indeed, had been one of the favorite modes by which this result had been effected. Doubtless, also, it had been, among the subordinates of the crown, one of the chief motives of the persecution. It was a frequent promise of his Jesuit advisers, to the vain and bigoted Louis, that the heretics should be brought into the fold of the Church without a drop of bloodshed; and, until the formal revocation of the edict of Nantz, by which the Huguenots were put without the pale and protection of the laws, spoliation was one of the means, with others, by which to avoid this necessity. These alternatives, however, were of a kind not greatly to lessen the cruelties of the persecutor or the sufferings of the victim. It does not fall within our province to detail them. It is enough that one of the first and most obvious measures by which to keep their promise to the king, was to dispossess the proscribed subjects of their worldly goods and chattels. By this measure a two-fold object was secured. While the heretic was made to suffer, the faithful were sure of their reward. It was a principle faithfully kept in view; and the refugees brought with them into exile, little beyond the liberties and the virtues for which they had endured so much. But these were possessions, as their subsequent history has shown, beyond all price.
* Dalcho, in his Church History, says, “upwards of one hundred families.” —
Our humble community along the Santee had suffered the worst privations of their times and people. But, beyond the necessity of hard labor, they had little to deplore, at the outset, in their new condition. They had been schooled sufficiently by misfortune to have acquired humility. They observed, accordingly, in their new relations, a policy equally prudent and sagacious. More flexible in their habits than the English, they conciliated the latter by deference; and, soothing the unruly passions of the Indians — the Santee and Sewee tribes, who were still in considerable numbers in their immediate neighborhood — they won them to alliance by kindness and forbearance. From the latter, indeed, they learned their best lessons for the cultivation of the soil. That, upon which they found themselves, lay in the unbroken forest. The high lands which they first undertook to clear, as less stubborn, were most sterile; and, by a very natural mistake, our Frenchmen adopted the modes and objects of European culture; the grains, the fruits and the vegetables, as well as the implements, to which they had been accustomed. The Indians came to their succor, taught them the cultivation of maize, and assisted them in the preparation of their lands; in return for lessons thought equally valuable by the savages, to whom they taught, along with gentler habits and morals, a better taste for music and the dance! To subdue the forest, of itself, to European hands, implied labors not unlike those of Hercules. But the refugees, though a gentle race, were men of soul and strength, capable of great sacrifices, and protracted self-denial. Accommodating themselves with a patient courage to the necessities before them, they cheerfully undertook and accomplished their tasks. We have more than one lively picture among the early chroniclers of the distress and hardship which they were compelled to encounter at the first. But, in this particular, there was nothing peculiar in their situation. It differed in no respect from that which fell to the lot of all the early colonists in America. The toil of felling trees, over whose heavy boughs and knotty arms the winters of centuries had passed; the constant danger from noxious reptiles and beasts of prey, which, coiled in the bush or crouching in the brake, lurked day and night, in waiting for the incautious victim; and, most insidious and fatal enemy of all, the malaria of the swamp, of the rank and affluent soil, for the first time laid open to the sun; these are all only the ordinary evils which encountered in America, at the very threshold, the advances of European civilisation. That the Huguenots should meet these toils and dangers with the sinews and the hearts of men, was to be expected from their past experience and history. They had endured too many and too superior evils in the old world, to be discouraged by, or to shrink from, any of those which hung upon their progress in the new. Like the hardy Briton, whom, under the circumstances, we may readily suppose them to have emulated, they addressed themselves, with little murmuring, to the tasks before them. We have, at the hands of one of their number, — a lady born and raised in affluence at home, — a lively and touching picture of the sufferings and duties, which, in Carolina, at that period, neither sex nor age was permitted to escape. “After our arrival,” she writes, “we suffered every kind of evil. In about eighteen months our elder brother, unaccustomed to the hard labor we were obliged to undergo, died of a fever. Since leaving France, we had experienced every kind of affliction, disease, pestilence, famine, poverty and hard labor! I have been for six months together without tasting bread, working the ground like a slave; and I have even passed three or four years without always having it when I wanted it. I should never have done were I to attempt to detail to you all our adventures.”*
* The narrative of Mrs. Judith Manigault, wife of Peter Manigault, as quoted by Ramsay. — Hist. S. C. Vol. I., p. 4. For a graphic detail of the usual difficulties and dangers attending the escape of the Huguenots from France, at the period of migration, see the first portion of this letter. —
We may safely conclude that there was no exaggeration in this picture. The lot of all the refugees seems to have been very equally severe. Men and women, old and young, strove together in the most menial and laborious occupations. But, as courage and virtue usually go hand in hand with industry, the three are apt to triumph together. Such was the history in the case of the Carolina Huguenots. If the labor and the suffering were great, the fruits were prosperity. They were more. Honors, distinction, a goodly name, and the love of those around them, have blessed their posterity, many of whom rank with the noblest citizens that were ever reared in America. In a few years after their first settlement, their forest homes were crowned with a degree of comfort, which is described as very far superior to that in the usual enjoyment of the British colonists. They were a more docile and tractable race; not so restless, nor — though this may seem difficult to understand to those who consider their past history — so impatient of foreign control. Of their condition in Carolina, we have a brief but pleasing picture from the hands of John Lawson, then surveyor-general of the province of North Carolina.* This gentleman, in 1701, just fifteen years after its settlement, made a progress through that portion of the Huguenot colony which lay immediately along the Santee. The passages which describe his approach to the country which they occupied, the hospitable reception which they gave him, the comforts they enjoyed, the gentleness of their habits, the simplicity of their lives, and their solicitude in behalf of strangers, are necessary to furnish the moral of those fortunes, the beginning of which was so severe and perilous. “There are,” says he, “about seventy families seated on this river, WHO LIVE AS DECENTLY AND HAPPILY AS ANY PLANTERS IN THESE SOUTHWARD PARTS OF AMERICA. THE FRENCH BEING A TEMPERATE, INDUSTRIOUS PEOPLE, some of them bringing very little of effects, YET, BY THEIR ENDEAVORS AND MUTUAL ASSISTANCE AMONG THEMSELVES (which is highly to be commended), HAVE OUTSTRIPT OUR ENGLISH, WHO BROUGHT WITH THEM LARGER FORTUNES, though (as it seems) less endeavor to manage their talent to the best advantage. ‘Tis admirable to see what time and industry will (with God’s blessing) effect,” &c. . . . . . . “We lay all that night at Mons. EUGEE’S (Huger), and the next morning set out farther, to go the remainder of our voyage by land. At ten o’clock we passed over a narrow, deep swamp, having left the three Indian men and one woman, that had piloted the canoe from Ashley river, having hired a Sewee Indian, a tall, lusty fellow, who carried a pack of our clothes, of great weight. Notwithstanding his burden, we had much ado to keep pace with him. At noon we came up with several French plantations. Meeting with several creeks by the way, THE FRENCH WERE VERY OFFICIOUS IN ASSISTING US WITH THEIR SMALL DORIES TO PASS OVER THESE WATERS: whom we met coming from their church, BEING ALL OF THEM VERY CLEAN AND DECENT IN THEIR APPAREL; their HOUSES AND PLANTATIONS SUITABLE IN NEATNESS AND CONTRIVANCE. They are all of the same opinion with the church of Geneva,** there being no difference among them concerning the punctilios of their Christian faith; WHICH UNION HATH PROPAGATED A HAPPY AND DELIGHTFUL CONCORD IN ALL OTHER MATTERS THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD; LIVING AMONGST THEMSELVES AS ONE TRIBE OR KINDRED, EVERY ONE MAKING IT HIS BUSINESS TO BE ASSISTANT TO THE WANTS OF HIS COUNTRYMEN, PRESERVING HIS ESTATE AND REPUTATION WITH THE SAME EXACTNESS AND CONCERN AS HE DOES HIS OWN: ALL SEEMING TO SHARE IN THE MISFORTUNES, AND REJOICE AT THE ADVANCE AND RISE OF THEIR BRETHREN.” Lawson fitly concludes his account of the settlers upon the Santee, by describing them as “a very kind, loving, and affable people” — a character which it has been the happy solicitude of their descendants to maintain to the present day.***
* Lawson’s “Journal of a Thousand Miles’ Travel among the Indians, from South to North Carolina”, is a work equally rare and interesting. This unfortunate man fell a victim to his official duties. He was confounded, by the savages, with the government which he represented, and sacrificed to their fury, under the charge of depriving them, by his surveys, of their land. He was made captive with the Baron de Graffenreid. The latter escaped, but Lawson was subjected to the fire-torture. ** “The inhabitants [of St. James, otherwise French Santee] petitioned the Assembly, in 1706, to have their settlement made a parish; and, at the same time, expressed their desire of being united to the Church of England, whose doctrines and discipline they professed highly to esteem. The Assembly passed an act, April 9, 1706, to erect the French settlement of Santee into a parish.” — `Dalcho’s Historical Account’, ch. 9, p. 295. *** See “A new Voyage to Carolina, containing the exact description and natural history of that country, &c.; and a journey of a thousand miles, travelled through several nations of Indians. By John Lawson, Gent., Surveyor-General of North Carolina. London, 1709.” —
A more delightful picture than this of Mr. Lawson, could not well be drawn by the social perfectionist. The rational beauty of the voluntary system could not find a happier illustration; and, duly impressed with its loveliness, we shall cease to wonder at the instances of excellence, equally frequent and admirable, which rose up among this little group of exiles, to the good fortune of the country which gave them shelter, and in attestation of their own virtues. But this happy result was due entirely to their training. It would be wonderful, indeed, if such an education, toil and watch, patient endurance of sickness and suffering, sustained only by sympathy with one another and a humble reliance upon divine mercy, should not produce many perfect characters — men like Francis Marion, the beautiful symmetry of whose moral structure leaves us nothing to regret in the analysis of his life. Uncompromising in the cause of truth, stern in the prosecution of his duties, hardy and fearless as the soldier, he was yet, in peace, equally gentle and compassionate, pleased to be merciful, glad and ready to forgive, sweetly patient of mood, and distinguished throughout by such prominent virtues, that, while always sure of the affections of followers and comrades, he was not less secure in the unforced confidence of his enemies, among whom his integrity and mercy were proverbial. By their fruits, indeed, shall we know this community, the history of which furnishes as fine a commentary upon the benefit of good social training for the young — example and precept happily keeping concert with the ordinary necessities and performances of life, the one supported by the manliest courage, the other guided by the noblest principle — as any upon record.*
* It is one of the qualifications of the delight which an historian feels while engaged in the details of those grateful episodes which frequently reward his progress through musty chronicles, to find himself suddenly arrested in his narrative by some of those rude interruptions by which violence and injustice disfigure so frequently, in the march of history, the beauty of its portraits. One of these occurs to us in this connection. Our Huguenot settlers on the Santee were not long suffered to pursue a career of unbroken prosperity. The very fact that they prospered — that, in the language of Mr. Lawson, “they outstript our English,” when placed in like circumstances — that they were no longer desolate and dependent, and had grown vigorous, and perhaps wanton, in the smiles of fortune — was quite enough to re-awaken in the bosoms of “our English” the ancient national grudge upon which they had so often fed before. The prejudices and hostilities which had prevailed for centuries between their respective nations, constituted no small part of the moral stock which the latter had brought with them into the wilderness. This feeling was farther heightened, at least maintained, by the fact that France and England had contrived to continue their old warfare in the New World; and, while French emissaries were busy in the back parts of the colony, stimulating the Creeks and Cherokees to hostility, it was perhaps natural enough that the English, whose frontiers were continually ravaged in consequence, should find it easy to confound the “parley-vous”, their enemies, with those, their neighbors, who spoke the same unpopular language. It is not improbable, on the other hand, that the Huguenot settlers were a little too exclusive, a little too tenacious of their peculiar habits, manners, and language. They did not suffer themselves to assimilate with their neighbors; but, maintaining the policy by which they had colonized in a body, had been a little too anxious to preserve themselves as a singular and separate people. In this respect they were not unlike the English puritans, in whom and their descendants, this passion for homogeneousness has always been thought a sort of merit, appealing very much to their self-esteem and pride. In the case of the French colonists, whether the fault was theirs or not, the evil results of being, or making themselves, a separate people, were soon perceptible. They were subjected to various political and social disabilities, and so odious had they become to their British neighbors, that John Archdale, one of the proprietors, a man like Wm. Penn (and by Grahame, the historian, pronounced very far his superior), equally beloved by all parties, as a man just and fearless, was, when Governor of the colony, compelled to deny them representation in the colonial Assembly, under penalty of making invalid all his attempts at proper government. Under this humiliating disability the Huguenots lived and labored for a considerable period, until the propriety of their lives, the purity of their virtues, and their frequently-tried fidelity in the cause of the country, forced the majority to be just. An act, passed in 1696, making all aliens, THEN inhabitants, free — enabling them to hold lands and to claim the same as heirs — according liberty of conscience to all Christians (except Papists), &c. — placed our refugees on a footing of equality with the rest of the inhabitants, and put an end to the old hostilities between them. —
When our traveller turned his back upon this “kind, loving, and affable people,” to pursue his journey into North Carolina, his first forward step was into a howling wilderness. The Santee settlement, though but forty miles distant from Charleston, was a frontier — all beyond was waste, thicket and forest, filled with unknown and fearful animals, and
“sliding reptiles of the ground, Startlingly beautiful,” —
which the footstep of man dreaded to disturb. Of the wild beasts by which it was tenanted, a single further extract from the journal of Mr. Lawson will give us a sufficient and striking idea. He has left the Santee settlements but a single day — probably not more than fifteen miles. His Indian companion has made for his supper a bountiful provision, having killed three fat turkeys in the space of half an hour. “When we were all asleep,” says our traveller, “in the beginning of the night, we were awakened with the dismallest and most hideous noise that ever pierced my ears. This sudden surprisal incapacitated us of guessing what this threatening noise might proceed from; but our Indian pilot (who knew these parts very well) acquainted us that it was customary to hear such musick along that swamp-side, there being endless numbers of panthers, tygers, wolves, and other beasts of prey, which take this swamp for their abode in the day, coming in whole droves to hunt the deer in the night, making this frightful ditty till day appears, then all is still as in other places.” (Page 26.)
Less noisy, except in battle, but even more fearful, were the half-human possessors of the same regions, the savages, who, at that period, in almost countless tribes or families, hovered around the habitations of the European. Always restless, commonly treacherous, warring or preparing for war, the red men required of the white borderer the vigilance of an instinct which was never to be allowed repose. This furnished an additional school for the moral and physical training of our young Huguenots. In this school, without question, the swamp and forest partisans of a future day took some of their first and most valuable lessons in war. Here they learned to be watchful and circumspect, cool in danger, steady in advance, heedful of every movement of the foe, and — which is of the very last importance in such a country and in such a warfare as it indicates — happily dextrous in emergencies to seize upon the momentary casualty, the sudden chance — to convert the most trivial circumstance, the most ordinary agent, into a means of extrication or offence. It was in this last respect particularly, in being quick to see, and prompt to avail themselves of the happy chance or instrument, that the partisans of the revolution in the southern colonies, under Marion and others, asserted their vast superiority over the invader, and maintained their ground, and obtained their final triumph, in spite of every inequality of arms and numbers.
The Marion Family — Birth of Francis Marion — His Youth — Shipwreck.
We have dwelt upon the Huguenot Settlement in Carolina, somewhat more largely than our immediate subject would seem to require. Our apology must be found in the obvious importance and beauty of the fact, could this be shown, that the character of Francis Marion was in truth a remarkable illustration, in all its parts, of the moral nature which prevailed in this little colony of exiles: that, from the harmony existing among them, their purity of conduct, propriety of sentiment, the modesty of their deportment and the firmness of their virtues, he most naturally drew all the components of his own. His hardihood, elasticity, great courage and admirable dexterity in war, were also the natural results of their frontier position. We do not pretend that his acquisitions were at all peculiar to himself. On the contrary, we take for granted, that every distinguished person will, in some considerable degree, betray in his own mind and conduct, the most striking of those characteristics, which mark the community in which he has had his early training; that his actions will, in great measure, declare what sort of moral qualities have been set before his eyes, not so much by his immediate family, as by the society at large in which he lives; that he will represent that society rather than his immediate family, as it is the nature of superior minds to rush out of the narrow circles of domestic life; and that his whole after-performances, even where he may appear in the garb and guise of the reformer, will indicate in numerous vital respects, the tastes and temper of the very people whose alteration and improvement he seeks. The memoir upon which we are about to enter, will, we apprehend, justify the preliminary chapter which has been given to the history of the Huguenots upon the Santee. Gabriel Marion, the grandfather of our subject, was one of those who left France in 1685. His son, named after himself, married Charlotte Cordes, by whom he had seven children, five of whom were sons and two daughters.* Francis Marion was the last. He was born at Winyah, near Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1732; a remarkable year, as, in a sister colony (we are not able to say how nearly at the same time), it gave birth to GEORGE WASHINGTON. This coincidence, which otherwise it might seem impertinent to notice here, derives some importance from the fact that it does not stand alone, but is rendered impressive by others, to be shown as we proceed; not to speak of the striking moral resemblances, which it will be no disparagement to the fame of the great Virginian to trace between the two.
* Weems speaks of six children only, naming all the sons and one of the daughters. Of her, he frankly says, “I have never heard what became; but for his four brothers, I am happy to state, that though not formidable as soldiers, they were very amiable as citizens.” James tells us of two daughters, not naming either, but describing them as “grandmothers of the families of the Mitchells, of Georgetown, and of the Dwights, formerly of the same place, but now of St. Stephen’s parish.” Such particularity might be presumed to settle the question.
The infancy of Marion was unpromising. At birth he was puny and diminutive in a remarkable degree. Weems, in his peculiar fashion, writes, “I have it from good authority, that this great soldier, at his birth, was not larger than a New England lobster, and might easily enough have been put into a quart pot.” It was certainly as little supposed that he should ever live to manhood, as that he should then become a hero. But, by the time that he had reached his twelfth year, his constitution underwent a change. His health became good. The bracing exercises and hardy employments of country life invigorated his frame, and with this improvement brought with it a rare increase of energy. He grew restless and impatient. The tendency of his mind, which was so largely developed in the partisan exercises of after years, now began to exhibit itself. Under this impulse he conceived a dislike to the staid and monotonous habits of rural life, and resolved upon seafaring as a vocation. Such, it may be remarked, was also the early passion of Washington; a passion rather uncommon in the history of a southern farmer’s boy. In the case of Washington the desire was only overcome at the solicitations of his mother. The mother of Marion, in like manner, strove to dissuade her son from this early inclination. She did not succeed, however, and when scarcely sixteen, he embarked in a small vessel for the West Indies. The particulars of this voyage, with the exception of the mode in which it terminated, have eluded our inquiry. We have looked for the details in vain. The name of the vessel, the captain, the port she sailed from, have equally escaped our search. To the wanton destruction of private and public records by the British, together with the heedless improvidence of heads of families in the South, we owe this poverty of historical resource. The voyage must have been taken somewhere about the year 1747-8. At that period there were perils of the sea to which the mariner is not often exposed at the present day. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico, in particular, were covered with pirates. The rich produce of New Spain, the West Indies, and the Southern Colonies of the English, were rare temptations. The privateers of Spain and France, a sort of legalized pirates, hung about the ports of Carolina, frequently subjecting them to a condition of blockade, and sometimes to forced contributions. In the occasional absence of the British armed vessels appointed for the protection of these ports, the more enterprising and spirited among their citizens frequently fitted out their own cruisers, drawing them, for this purpose, from the merchant service; manning them in person, and requiting themselves for their losses of merchandise by the occasional capture of some richly laden galleon from New Spain. No doubt the imagination of young Marion was fired by hearing of these exploits. The sensation produced in the community, by the injuries done to its commerce, in all probability gave the direction to his already excited and restless disposition. It does not appear, however, that Marion’s first and only voyage was made in an armed vessel. Such, we may well suppose, would have been his desire; but the period when he set forth to procure service upon the seas, may not have been auspicious. He may have reached the seaport a moment too soon or too late, and the opportunities of this kind were necessarily infrequent in a small and frontier city, whose commerce lay mostly in the hands of strangers. His small size and puny appearance must have operated very much against his hopes of obtaining employment in a service which particularly calls for manhood and muscle. In what capacity, or in what sort of vessel he obtained a berth, we are left wholly to conjecture. Choosing the sea as a vocation, and laudably resolved on acquiring a proper knowledge of his business (as from what we know of his character, we may suppose was the case), he most probably went before the mast. His first and only voyage was unfortunate. The ship in which he sailed was no doubt equally frail and small. She foundered at sea, whether going or returning is not said; in consequence, we are told, of injuries received from the stroke of a whale, of the thornback species. So suddenly did she sink, that her crew, only six in number, had barely time to save themselves. They escaped to the jolly boat, saving nothing but their lives. They took with them neither water nor provisions; and for six days, hopeless of succor, they lay tossing to and fro, upon the bald and cheerless ocean. A dog, which swam to them from the sinking vessel, was sacrificed to their hunger. His raw flesh was their only food, his blood their only drink, during this distressing period. Two of their number perished miserably.* The survivors, on the seventh day, were found and taken up by a passing vessel, nourished carefully and finally restored to their homes.
* Weems represents the captain and mate, as throwing themselves overboard in a state of phrenzy, and there is nothing improbable or unnatural in the statement. Privation of food, the use of salt water, and exposure in an open boat to a burning sun, might very well produce such an effect. The only difficulty, however, consists in the simple fact that we have no other authority for the statement. James is silent on the point, and contents himself with simply stating the death of two of the crew. Weems, however, adds that of two others, whose end receives, as usual, quite a dramatic finish at his hands. He suffers none to live but “little Marion”, and, in the exuberance of his imagination, actually goes so far as to describe the particular food, “chocolate and turtle broth”, by which the youthful hero is recruited and recovered. By this he designs to show, more emphatically, the immediate interposition, in his behalf, of an especial providence. The truth is, that any attempt at details where so little is known to have been preserved, must necessarily, of itself, subject to doubt any narrative not fortified by the most conclusive evidence. Unfortunately for the reverend historian, his known eccentricities as a writer, and fondness for hyperbole, must always deprive his books — though remarkably useful and interesting to the young — of any authority which might be claimed for them as histories. As fictions from history, lively and romantic, they are certainly very astonishing performances; have amused and benefited thousands, and entitle the writer to a rank, in a peculiar walk of letters, which has not yet been assigned him. —
Francis Marion was one of these survivors. The puny boy lived through the terrors and sufferings under which the strong men perished. So intense were their sufferings, so terrible the trial, that it will not greatly task the imagination to recognize in the preservation of the youth, — looking to his future usefulness — the agency of a special providence. The boy was preserved for other times and fortunes; and, in returning to his mother, was perhaps better prepared to heed her entreaties that he should abandon all idea of an element, from which his escape had been so hazardous and narrow. It was well for himself and country that he did so. It can scarcely be conjectured that his achievements on the sea would have been half so fortunate, or half so honorable to himself and country, as those which are now coupled with his name.
Returning to his home and parents, young Marion sunk once more into the humble condition of the farmer. His health and strength had continued to improve. His adventures by sea had served, seemingly, to complete that change for the better, in his physical man, which had been so happily begun on land; and, subduing his roving inclinations, we hear of him only, in a period of ten years, as a tiller of the earth. In this vocation he betrayed that diligent attention to his duties, that patient hardihood, and calm, equable temper, which distinguished his deportment in every part of his career. He is represented as equally industrious and successful as a farmer. The resources of his family seem to have been very moderate. There were several children, and before Francis was yet twenty-five years of age, he lost his father. In 1758 he was planting with his mother and brother Gabriel, near Friersons Lock on the Santee Canal. In 1759 they separated. Gabriel removed to Belle Isle — the place where the mortal remains of Francis Marion now repose — while the latter settled at a place called Pond Bluff in the Parish of St. John.* This place he continued to hold during life. It is still pointed out to the traveller as Marion’s plantation, and is the more remarkable, as it lies within cannon shot of the battle ground of Eutaw, which his valor and conduct contributed to render so justly famous in the history of his native state. During this long period of repose — the interval between his shipwreck, and removal to Pond Bluff, — we are only left to conjecture his employments. Beyond his agricultural labors, we may suppose that his chief tasks were the cultivation of his mind, by close application to those studies which, in the condition of the country, sparsely settled, and without teachers, were usually very inadequately urged. It does not appear that his acquisitions in this respect were more valuable than could be afforded at the present day by the simplest grammar-school of the country. Here again we may trace the resemblance between his career and that of Washington. Equally denied the advantages of education, they equally drew from the great mother-sources of nature. Thrown upon their own thoughts, taught by observation and experience — the same results of character, — firmness, temperance, good sense, sagacious foresight, and deliberate prudence — became conspicuous in the conduct and career of both. In the fortunes of neither — in the several tasks allotted to them, — in their various situations, — did their deficiencies of education appear to qualify their successes, or diminish the respect and admiration of those around them, — a singular fact, as indicative equally of the modesty, the good sense, and the superior intrinsic worth of both of these distinguished persons. In the case of Marion, his want of education neither lessened his energies, his confidence in himself, nor baffled any of his natural endowments. On the contrary, it left his talents free to their natural direction. These, it is probable, were never of a kind to derive, or to need, many advantages from a very superior or scientific education. His mind was rather practical than subtile — his genius prompted him to action, rather than to study, — and the condition and necessities of the country, calling for the former rather than the latter character, readily reconciled him to a deficiency the importance of which he did not feel.
* Pond Bluff now lies at the bottom of Lake Marion. — A. L., 1996. —
Marion a Farmer — Volunteers in the Cherokee Campaign.
From the readiness with which young Marion yielded himself to the entreaties of his mother, and resumed the occupations of agriculture, and from the quiet and persevering industry with which he pursued them for a period of nearly or quite ten years, it might be supposed that the impatience and restlessness of mood, which had formerly led him to revolt at the staid drudgery of rural life, had been entirely extinguished in his bosom. But such was not the case. It was only subdued, and slumbering for a season, ready to awaken at the first opportunity, with all the vigor and freshness of a favorite passion. That opportunity was at hand. Events were in progress which were to bring into the field, and prepare by the very best sort of training, for the most noble trials, the great military genius of the Partisan. At the opening of the year 1759, the colony of South Carolina was on the eve of an Indian war. The whole frontier of the Southern Provinces, from Pennsylvania to Georgia, was threatened by the savages, and the scalping-knife had already begun its bloody work upon the weak and unsuspecting borderers. The French had been conquered upon the Ohio. Forts Frontenac and Duquesne had fallen. British and Provincial valor, aided by strong bodies of Cherokee warriors, had everywhere placed the flag of Britain above the fortresses of France. With its elevation, the Indian allies of the French sent in their adhesion to the conquerors; and, their work at an end, the Cherokee auxiliaries of Britain prepared to return to their homes, covered with their savage trophies, and adequately rewarded for their services. It happened, unfortunately, that, while passing along the frontiers of Virginia, the Cherokees, many of whom had lost their horses during the campaign, supplied themselves rather unscrupulously from the pastures of the colonists. With inconsiderate anger, the Virginians, forgetting the late valuable services of the savages, rose upon their footsteps, slew twelve or fourteen of their warriors, and made prisoners of as many more. This rash and ill-advised severity aroused the nation. The young warriors flew to arms, and pouring their active hordes upon the frontier settlements, proceeded to the work of slaughter, without pausing to discriminate between the offending and the innocent. The emergency was pressing, and Governor Lyttleton, of South Carolina, called out the militia of the province. They were required to rendezvous at the Congarees, about one hundred and forty miles from Charleston. To this rendezvous Francis Marion repaired, in a troop of provincial cavalry commanded by one of his brothers.* But he was not yet to flesh his maiden valor upon the enemy. The prompt preparation of the Carolinians had somewhat lessened the appetite of the savages for war. Perhaps their own preparations were not yet sufficiently complete to make them hopeful of its issue. The young warriors were recalled from the frontiers, and a deputation of thirty-two chiefs set out for Charleston, in order to propitiate the anger of the whites, and arrest the threatened invasion of their country. Whether they were sincere in their professions, or simply came for the purpose of deluding and disarming the Carolinians, is a question with the historians. It is certain that Governor Lyttleton doubted their sincerity, refused to listen to their explanations, and, carrying them along with him, rather as hostages than as commissioners in sacred trust, he proceeded to meet the main body of his army, already assembled at the Congarees. The treatment to which they were thus subjected, filled the Cherokee deputies with indignation, which, with the usual artifice of the Indian, they yet contrived to suppress. But another indiscreet proceeding of the Governor added to the passion which they felt, and soon baffled all their powers of concealment. In resuming the march for the nation, he put them into formal custody, placed a captain’s guard over them, and in this manner hurried them to the frontiers. Whatever may have been the merits of this movement as a mere military precaution, it was of very bad policy in a civil point of view. It not only degraded the Indian chiefs in their own, but in the eyes of their people. His captives deeply and openly resented this indignity and breach of faith; and, brooding in sullen ferocity over the disgrace which they suffered, meditated in silence those schemes of vengeance which they subsequently brought to a fearful maturity. But though thus impetuous and imprudent, and though pressing forward as if with the most determined purposes, Lyttleton was in no mood for war. His policy seems to have contemplated nothing further than the alarm of the Indians. Neither party was exactly ripe for the final issue. The Cherokees needed time for preparation, and the Governor, with an army ill disciplined and imperfectly armed, found it politic, when on the very confines of the enemy’s country, to do that which he might very well have done in Charleston — listen to terms of accommodation. Having sent for Attakullakullah, the wise man of the nation, who had always been the staunch friend of the whites, he made his complaints, and declared his readiness for peace; — demanding, however, as the only condition on which it could be granted, that twenty-four men of the nation should be delivered to him, to be disposed of as he should think proper, by death or otherwise, as an atonement for that number of Carolinians, massacred in the late foray of the savages. A treaty was effected, but with some difficulty, on these terms. Compliance with this requisition was not so easy, however, on the part of the Cherokee chiefs. The moment it was understood, the great body of their people fled to the mountains, and the number of hostages could be secured only by the detention of twenty-two of those chiefs already in the Governor’s custody. The captives were placed, for safe keeping, at the frontier fort of Prince George.
* Judge James’ Life of Marion, p. 17. —
But the natural sense of the savage is not inferior to that by which the laws of the civilized are prescribed, in their dealings with one another. The treaty thus extorted from their leaders, while in a state of duress, was disregarded by the great body of the nation. They watched their opportunity, and, scarcely had the Governor disbanded his forces, when the war-whoop resounded from the frontiers.
Fort Prince George was one of the most remote of a chain of military posts by which the intercourse was maintained between the several white settlements of the seaboard and the interior. It stood on the banks of the Isundiga River, about three hundred miles from Charleston, within gunshot of the Indian town of Keowee. This post, to which the Cherokee hostages were carried, was defended by cannon, and maintained by a small force under Colonel Cotymore. It was in this neighborhood, and, as it were in defiance of this force, that the war was begun. Fourteen whites were massacred at a blow, within a mile of this station. This was followed up by a stratagem, by which Occonostota, one of the principal warriors, aimed to obtain possession of the fort. Pretending to have something of importance to communicate to the commander, he dispatched a woman who had usually obtained access to the station, to solicit an interview with him. This was to take place on the banks of the river. Meanwhile the savage prepared his ambush. Cotymore imprudently assented to the meeting, and, attended by Lieutenants Bell and Foster, walked down towards the river, from the opposite side of which Occonostota addressed him. While they spoke, the Indian was seen to wave a bridle over his head. This was the signal agreed upon with the ambushed warriors. At this signal they rose and poured in their fire. Cotymore was slain on the spot, and his companions wounded. But the savages failed to get possession of the fort. Suspecting a concerted movement among the hostages, by which they would cooperate with the assailing foe without, the officer in command of the fort gave orders to secure them with irons. The attempt to obey these orders ended in a bloody tragedy. The Indians resisted with arms, and, stabbing three of the soldiers, so exasperated the rest, already excited by the murder of their captain, that they fell upon the miserable wretches and butchered them to a man.
This unhappy event, completing what the indiscreet severities of Governor Lyttleton had begun, united the whole nation of Cherokees in war. There had been a strong party favorable to peace, and friendly to the whites. This unfortunate proceeding involved the loss of this party. The hostages were among their chief men, and scarcely a family in the nation but lost a relative or friend in their massacre. They were now unanimous for battle; and, numerous parties rushing simultaneously down upon the frontiers, baffled the courage and prevented the flight of the fugitives. They fell without distinction upon men, women and children. “Such as fled to the woods and escaped the scalping-knife, perished of hunger. . . . Every day brought fresh accounts to the capital of their ravages, murders and desolations. But while the back settlers looked to their governor for relief, the small-pox raged to such a degree in town that few of the militia could be prevailed upon to leave their distressed families to serve the public.”* Lyttleton, meanwhile, by whom all the mischief was occasioned, was made Governor of Jamaica, and the charge of the colony devolved on William Bull, a native — “a man of great integrity and erudition.” In the almost hopeless condition of the province, her sisters, North Carolina and Virginia, raised seven troops of rangers for the frontiers; and Colonel Montgomery, afterwards Earl of Eglintoun, was dispatched from Canada, with a battalion of Highlanders and four companies of Royal Scots. Before the end of April, 1760, the camp of rendezvous for a new invasion of the Cherokee territories was established at Monk’s Corner. Meanwhile, the health of Carolina had undergone some improvement, and the gentlemen of the country were not idle. They turned out in force as volunteers, and under the spirited direction of Governor Bull, the whole disposable force of the province was put in requisition. Among these, it is not so sure, but is believed, that Francis Marion once more made his appearance as a volunteer. From what we know of his character, his temperament, and that unsatisfied craving which he seems to have shown from the beginning for such excitements, it is reasonable to infer his presence in the field. But, though asserted by tradition, we confess that the records are silent on the subject. Unsatisfactory as at that period they generally are, on this point they are particularly so; and but that his share in this war, before its final conclusion, was not only unquestionable but conspicuous, we should pass over the campaign of Montgomery, with a simple reference to its results.
* Hewatt’s Hist. S.C.
The Cherokees, meanwhile, were not unobservant of the preparations and approaches of the Carolinians. They gathered themselves up for defence, and in silence matured their half civilized, half primitive modes of warfare. This people, at the period of which we write, were a people of very superior endowments and resources to any of the neighboring savage nations. If less warlike, in the simple sense of the word, than their rivals the Creeks, they were really more to be feared, as it was in consequence of their superior civilisation that they had lost some of their brute ferocity. If they were less reckless, they were better skilled; if less frantic in their fury, they coupled it with a wary vindictiveness which rendered the blow more fatal when it fell. The advances which they had made in civilisation had naturally increased their numbers; while the novel tastes by which their wandering habits were diminished, had necessarily added to their love of country, in adding to the resources and improvements by which its comforts and delights were increased. Thus, neither degraded by the lowest condition in which we find the human animal, nor enervated by the superior luxuries to which he may attain, the Cherokee was perhaps at this time in possession of his greatest vigor; not very remote, in his moral and physical condition, from the Roman when he overcame his Etrurian and Sabine neighbors. The Cherokees occupied a country equally broad and beautiful. It lay in fertile valleys, green meadows, sunny slopes, and mighty forests, along the sides of lofty summits, that circled their extensive territory with natural fortresses of giant grandeur. Spreading from the Broad, or Cherokee river, beyond the Tennessee and the Savannah, it comprised every variety of soil and surface, and while adapted in a high degree to the hands of the agriculturist, seemed almost as easily made secure against the footsteps of invasion. Its apparent securities had made them insolent. Their mountain recesses had never known the presence of this foe. Their fruits and fields, their villages and towns, with the exception of a district that lay upon the Atlantic slopes, were generally fenced in, and admirably protected, by wild and rugged masses of rocky mountains, natural defences, impenetrable, unless through certain passes which a few determined hearts might easily make good against twenty times their number. But the numerical force of this great aboriginal people, seemed of itself sufficiently strong to promise security to their country. At the time of Montgomery’s invasion they had no less than sixty-four towns and villages. In an emergency, they could send six thousand warriors into the field. Many of these were armed with the weapons of European warfare — were accustomed to that warfare, and were thus doubly prepared to encounter the enemy in whose ranks they had received their best military lessons. Such a force very far exceeded that of the Carolinians. Mustering but two thousand men, Col. Montgomery found it advisable to urge his march upon the nation with equal celerity and caution. Having reached a place called Twelve-mile River, within twenty miles of the Indian town of Estatoee, he advanced by night upon it, secretly, and with a view to its surprise. In his march, surrounding the town of Little Keowee, not a warrior of the Cherokees escaped the sword. His success was less complete at Estatoee. The Indians, apprised of his approach, with few exceptions, succeeded in making their escape; but the town, consisting of more than two hundred houses, and well stored with corn, hogs, poultry and ammunition, perished in the flames. Shugaw Town and every other settlement in the “Lower Nation”, shared the same fate. The lightning-like rapidity of the march had taken the savages everywhere, in this part of the country, by surprise. They fled rather than fought, and while they lost everything in the shape of property, but few of them were slain. They sought for shelter among their more numerous and better protected brethren of the mountains; a people neither so easily approached, nor so easily overcome.
Montgomery, having finished this part of his work so successfully, hurried on to the relief of Fort Prince George, which, from the time when their Chiefs were so cruelly butchered within its walls, had been closely invested by a formidable force of Cherokees. The fort was relieved. The Indians fled at his approach; and, thinking that the severe chastisement which he had inflicted upon them, had inclined their hearts to peace, the General of the Carolinians paused in his progress, to give them an opportunity to sue for it, as the former friends and allies of the English. But he had mistaken the stubborn nature of his foe. They were not sufficiently humbled, and it was resolved to march upon the “middle settlements”. To this task, that which had been performed was comparatively easy. They were now to enter upon a different country, where the Indians were better prepared for them — nay, where they HAD prepared for them, — in all probability, to the neglect of the lower towns. Toilsome and full of peril was this march. Dismal and dense was the wilderness which they were now to penetrate. Rugged paths, narrow passes, gloomy thickets and dark ravines, encountered them in their hourly progress, calling for constant vigilance and the maintenance of all their courage. Rivers, fordable in unfrequent places and overlooked by precipitous banks on either side, crowned most commonly by dense and intricate masses of forest, through which and without a guide, our little army was compelled to pass, — presented opportunities for frequent ambush and attack, in which, very inferior forces, if properly commanded, might, with little danger to themselves, overwhelm and utterly destroy an advancing enemy. It was in such a region that the Cherokees made their first and formidable stand. Within five miles of Etchoee, the nearest town of the middle settlements, the army of Montgomery approached a low valley, clothed with a thicket so dense that the soldiers could scarcely discern objects three paces ahead. Through this thicket ran a muddy river, enclosed between steep banks of clay. This passage, where but few men could act in unison, was that through which it became necessary that the army should proceed. It was the very spot, which, over all others, a sagacious warrior would choose in which to place an ambush, or meet a superior assailant. Montgomery knew his enemy, and prepared for the encounter. Captain Morrison, commanding a company of rangers, native marksmen and well acquainted with the forest — was sent forward to scour the thicket. His advance was the signal for battle. Scarcely had he entered upon the dismal passage when the savages rose from their hiding-places and poured in a severe fire. Morrison, with several of his men, perished at the first discharge. They were sustained by the light Infantry and Grenadiers, who boldly advanced upon the wood in the face of the invisible foe. A heavy fire followed on both sides, the Cherokees, each with his eye upon his man, the Carolinians aiming at the flash of the enemy’s guns. The pass was disputed by the savages with a degree of conduct and courage, which left the issue doubtful. The necessity was apparent for extraordinary effort. The Royal Scots, who were in the rear, were now pushed forward to take possession of a rising ground on the right, while the Highlanders were marched forward to the immediate support of the Infantry and Grenadiers. This movement had the effect of bringing the enemy into close action. The bayonet stirred and laid bare the thicket. The woods resounded with the shouts and yells of the Cherokees, but they no longer fell with terror upon the ear of the whites. They had grown familiar. The savages yielded slowly as the bayonet advanced. Suffering severely as they fled, they yet displayed the native obstinacy of their race, — turning upon the pursuer when they could, availing themselves of tree or thicket to retard, by shot or stroke, the assailants; and, even in flight, only so far keeping ahead of the bayonet as to avoid its stroke. As he beheld this, Montgomery changed the head of his army, and advanced upon the town of Etchoee, which it had been their purpose to defend, and from which they now strove to divert him. This movement alarmed them for their wives and children. Their retreat became a flight; and, satisfied with having inflicted upon them this measure of punishment, the British General prepared to march back to Fort Prince George.
This decision was the result of his exigencies. The situation of his army was neither a safe nor an agreeable one. The victory was with the Carolinians, yet the affair was very far from decisive in its consequences. The enemy had only retired from one advantageous position to another. They waited his approach only to renew a conflict in which even victory might be without its fruits. To gain a battle, unless a final one, was, with a force so small as his, a matter of very doubtful advantage. He was already encumbered with his wounded, to furnish horses for whom, he was compelled to discard, and to destroy, a large quantity of the provisions necessary for the army. What remained was measured with a nice reference to their absolute wants on the return march to Prince George. Under these suggestions of prudence the retreat was begun. It was conducted with admirable regularity. The Cherokees, meanwhile, hung upon the retiring footsteps of the invaders, annoying them to the utmost of their power. Sixty miles of mountainous country were traversed in this manner, and under various hardships, with a skill and intrepidity which confer the highest credit upon the English captain. A large train of wounded was brought to the frontier without the loss of a man.
We have admitted an uncertainty as to the presence of Marion in this campaign. It would be impertinent and idle, therefore, to speculate upon his performances, or the share which he might have taken in its events. Tradition simply assures us that he distinguished himself. That, if present, he did his duty, we have no question; and, enduring with becoming resolution the worst severities of the march, proved himself possessed of the first great requisite for soldiership in Indian warfare.
Cherokee War continues — Marion leads the Forlorn Hope at the Battle of Etchoee.
The Cherokees were very far from being subdued or satisfied. The snake had been “scotched not killed”, and stung, rather than humbled by the chastisement they received, they prepared to assume the offensive with sudden vigor. Concentrating a numerous force upon the distant garrison of Fort Loudon, on the Tennessee river, they succeeded in reducing it by famine. Here they took bloody revenge for the massacre of their chiefs at Prince George. The garrison was butchered, after a formal surrender upon terms which guaranteed them protection. This wholesale and vindictive barbarity, while it betrayed the spirit which filled the savages, had the still farther effect of encouraging them in a warfare which had so far gratified very equally their appetites for blood and booty. In addition to this natural effect, the result of their own wild passions, there were other influences, from without, at work among them. Certain French emissaries had crept into their towns and were busily engaged, with bribes and arguments, in stimulating them to continued warfare. This, in all probability, was the secret influence, which, over all, kept them from listening, as well to their own fears, as to the urgent suggestions of the British authorities, for peace. Hitherto, the Cherokees had given no ear to the temptations of the French, whom they considered a frivolous people, and whose professions of faith they were very likely to have regarded with distrust. But the labors of their emissaries at this juncture, harmonizing with the temper of the nation, were necessarily more than usually successful. One of these emissaries, Louis Latinac, an officer of considerable talent, proved an able instigator to mischief. He persuaded them, against the better reason of their older chiefs, to the rejection of every overture for peace. Their successes at Fort Loudon were, perhaps, sufficient arguments for the continuance of war, but there were others not less potent. The king of France was now to be their ally in place of him of Great Britain. The one “great father” was no less able than the other to minister to their appetites and necessities. His arms and ammunition replaced those which had been withdrawn by the latter; and we may suppose that the liberality of the new allies was such as to admit of very favorable comparison and contrast with that which they had experienced at the hands of the British. Their very excesses in the war were favorable to its continuance; as they might very well doubt the binding force of treaties between parties, the bad faith of whom had been written so terribly in blood. At a great meeting of the nation, at which Louis Latinac was present, he, with something of their own manner, seizing suddenly upon a hatchet, struck it violently into a block of wood, exclaiming, as he did so, “Who is the warrior that will take this up for the king of France?” Salouee, a young chief of Estatoee, instantly tore the weapon from the tree. He declared himself for instant and continued war. “The spirits of our slain brothers,” was his cry, “call upon us to avenge their massacre. He is a woman that dares not follow me!”
Such being the spirit of the savages, the Carolinians had no alternative but to resume their arms. Col. Montgomery having gone to England, the command devolved upon Colonel Grant, and the Highlanders were once more ordered to the relief of the province. The Carolinians were now somewhat better prepared to cooperate with their allies. A native regiment of twelve hundred men was raised, and the command given to Col. Middleton, a brave and accomplished provincial officer.
To this regiment Marion was attached, under the immediate command of Moultrie. Many of his associates in this Cherokee war became subsequently, like himself, distinguished in the war with Great Britain. Among these may be mentioned the names of Moultrie,* Henry Laurens, Andrew Pickens and Isaac Huger. These were all officers, even in that early day, and Marion himself held a lieutenancy — some proof that, however little we may know of the circumstances by which he secured the confidence of his neighbors, he was already in full possession of it. How much of the future acts and successes of these brave men was due to the exercises and events of this Cherokee war, may reasonably be conjectured by every reader who knows the value of a stern apprenticeship to a hazardous profession. Its successive campaigns against no inferior enemy, and under circumstances of peril and privation of no common order, were such as must have afforded them frequent opportunity of making themselves familiar equally with the exigencies and responsibilities of command.
* Moultrie in his Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 223, would seem to settle the question in the negative, whether Marion was or was not in the preceding campaign. He says, “General Marion and myself ENTERED THE FIELD OF MARS TOGETHER, in an expedition against the Cherokee Indians, under the command of Colonel James Grant, in 1761, when I had the honor to command a light infantry company in a provincial regiment; he was my first lieutenant. He was an active, brave and hardy soldier, and an excellent partisan officer.” This is very far however from being conclusive, inasmuch as we have seen that Marion `entered the field of Mars’ two years before, under the command of his brother, in the first campaign of Lyttleton against the Indians. This latter fact is settled beyond all question. —
To the united forces of Colonels Grant and Middleton, were added a certain number of Chickasaw and Catawba Indians; making a total of twenty-six hundred men. This army reached Fort Prince George on the 29th of May, 1761. On the 7th of June following, it took up the line of march for the enemy’s country. The advance was conducted with caution, but without molestation, until it reached the place where Montgomery, in the previous campaign, had encountered the Indians, near the town of Etchoee. Here the Cherokees were again prepared to make a stand, and to dispute a pass which, above all others, seemed to be admirably designed by nature for the purposes of defence. Their position was not exactly what it had been on the previous occasion, but its characteristic advantages were the same. Hitherto, the Indians had shown considerable judgment in the selection of their battle-grounds, and in the general employment of their strength. This judgment they probably owed in great part to their present adversaries. Quick in their instinct, and surprisingly observant, they had soon learned the use of European weapons. The various lessons of European tactics, the modes of attack and defence, were, in their united struggles with the French, equally open to their study and acquisition. They had not suffered these lessons to escape them. But they probably owed something of their skill in the present war to the active counsels of the French emissaries. The fact is not recorded by the historian, but there is no reason to suppose that the officers who counselled the war, would withhold themselves when the opportunity offered, from giving directions in the field. The French had frequently distinguished themselves, by leading on forces entirely composed of Indians. The practice was common. Even at the defeat of Braddock, the French troops bore but a small proportion to their Indian allies. There is no reason to suppose that Louis Latinac was not present at one or both of the bloody fields of Etchoee.
The provincial army marched in good order upon the suspected position. The Indian auxiliaries, who were in the van, first discovered signs of an enemy. The Cherokees were in possession of a hill, strongly posted, and in considerable force, upon the right flank of the army. Finding themselves discovered, they opened their fire upon the advanced guard, and followed it up with a gallant charge. But the van being vigorously and promptly supported, they were driven back, and resumed their position upon the hill. Under this hill the line of march lay for a considerable distance. To attempt, therefore, to continue the march before dislodging the enemy in possession of it, would be to expose the troops to a protracted fire, the more murderous, as it would be delivered by a foe in a position of perfect security. The advanced guard was ordered upon this duty, and from this body a forlorn-hope of thirty men was chosen, to force the perilous entrance to the foe. The command of this devoted corps was assigned to Francis Marion, still a lieutenant under the command of Moultrie, in the provincial regiment of Middleton. The ascent of the hill was by means of a gloomy defile, through which the little band, headed gallantly by their leader, advanced with due rapidity; a considerable body of the army moving forward at the same time in support of the advance. Scarcely had the detachment penetrated the defile, when the war-whoop gave the signal. The savages, still concealed, poured in a deadly fire, by which no less than twenty-one of this fated band were prostrated.* Fortunately their leader was not among them. He seems, like Washington, to have been the special care of Providence. The residue were only saved from destruction by the proximity of the advance, whose hurried approach, while giving them safety, brought on the main action. The battle was fought with great carnage on both sides. The Cherokees were not only well posted, but they were in great numbers. Repeatedly dislodged by the bayonet, they as repeatedly returned to the attack; and, driven from one quarter, rallied upon another, with a tenacious and unshaken valor becoming in men who were defending the passes to the bosom of their country. From eight in the morning until noon, the fight was continued, not only without intermission, but seemingly without any decisive results on either side. But, at length, the patient resolution of the whites prevailed; and, about two o’clock in the day, the field was yielded by the reluctant Cherokees to their superior foes. This victory determined the fate of Etchoee, a town of considerable size, which was reduced to ashes.
* Weems, p. 21. Horry’s MS. Memoir, p. 58. —
The result of this fierce engagement seems to have broken the spirit of the nation. They had chosen the position of greatest strength to make their stand, and brought to the struggle their best spirits and bravest warriors. In the issue, they had shown, by their dogged and determined valor, the great importance which it carried in their eyes. The day once decided against them, they appeared to be equally without heart and hope; they no longer appeared in arms — no longer offered defence — and the army of the Carolinians marched through the heart of the nation, searching its secret settlements, and everywhere inflicting the severest penalties of war. The rest of the campaign was an easy progress, and terrible was the retribution which it brought with it. No less than fourteen of their towns, in the middle settlements, shared the fate of Etchoee. Their granaries were yielded to the flames, their cornfields ravaged, while the miserable fugitives, flying from the unsparing sword, took refuge, with their almost starving families, among the barren mountains, which could yield them little but security. A chastisement so extreme was supposed to be necessary, in order to subdue for ever that lively disposition for war, upon the smallest provocation, which, of late years, the Cherokees had manifested but too frequently; but it may be doubted whether the means which were employed for administering this admonitory lesson, were of the most legitimate character. We must always continue to doubt that humanity required the destruction of towns and hamlets, whose miserable walls of clay and roofs of thatch could give shelter to none but babes and sucklings — women with their young — those who had never offended, and those who could not well offend — the innocent victims to an authority which they never dared oppose. The reckless destruction of their granaries — fields yet growing with grain — necessarily exposed to the worst privations of famine only those portions of the savage population who were least guilty. The warrior and hunter could readily relieve himself from the gnawing necessities of hunger. He could wander off to remote tribes, and, armed with rifle or bow, could easily secure his game, sufficient for his own wants, from the contiguous forest. But these were resources inaccessible to the weak, the old, the timid, and the imbecile. Surely, it was a cruel measure of war, and if necessary to the safety of the whites, renders still more criminal the wanton excesses of the latter, by which it was originally provoked. It is pleasing to be able to show that Marion felt, in this matter, as became that rare humanity which was one of the most remarkable and lovely traits in his character, — the more remarkable, indeed, as shining out among endowments which, in particular, designated him for a military life — a life which is supposed to need for its stimulus so much that is sanguinary, if not brutal, in one’s nature. It is recorded of him, that the severities practised in this campaign filled him, long after, with recollections of sorrow. Writing to a friend,* he gives a brief description of the calamities of the war, in terms equally touching and picturesque. “We arrived,” he writes, “at the Indian towns in the month of July. As the lands were rich, and the season had been favorable, the corn was bending under the double weight of lusty roasting ears and pods of clustering beans. The furrows seemed to rejoice under their precious loads — the fields stood thick with bread. We encamped the first night in the woods, near the fields, where the whole army feasted on the young corn, which, with fat venison, made a most delicious treat.
* In a letter quoted by Weems.
[The poetic language here suggests the possibility that this letter may be one of Weems’ inventions. — A. L., 1996.] —
“The next morning we proceeded, by order of Colonel Grant, to burn down the Indian cabins. Some of our men seemed to enjoy this cruel work, laughing very heartily at the curling flames as they mounted, loud-crackling, over the tops of the huts. But to me it appeared a shocking sight. “Poor creatures!” thought I, “we surely need not grudge you such miserable habitations.” But when we came, ACCORDING TO ORDERS, to cut down the fields of corn, I could scarcely refrain from tears. For who could see the stalks that stood so stately, with broad green leaves and gaily-tasselled shocks, filled with sweet milky fluid, and flour, the staff of life — who, I say, without grief, could see these sacred plants sinking under our swords, with all their precious load, to wither and rot untasted, in their mourning fields!
“I saw everywhere around the footsteps of the little Indian children, where they had lately played under the shelter of the rustling corn. No doubt they had often looked up with joy to the swelling shocks, and gladdened when they thought of their abundant cakes for the coming winter. When we are gone, thought I, they will return, and peeping through the weeds with tearful eyes, will mark the ghastly ruin poured over their homes, and the happy fields where they had so often played. `Who did this?’ they will ask their mothers. `The white people, the Christians did it!’ will be the reply.”
“It would be no easy matter,” says Hewatt, the earliest regular historian of Carolina, “to describe the hardships which this little army endured, in the wilderness, from heat, thirst, watching, danger, and fatigue. Thirty days did Colonel Grant continue in the heart of the Cherokee territories, and upon his return to Fort Prince George, the feet and legs of many of his army were so mangled, and their strength and spirits so much exhausted, that they were unable to march farther.” But the chastisement which the Indians had received, secured the object for the attainment of which it was inflicted. The Cherokees sued for peace, and Marion once more retired to the obscurity of rural life; we may well believe with a human sense of satisfaction, that the painful duty upon which he had been engaged was at length over. Unhappily, the details of the war, beyond those which we have given, do not enable us to ascertain the extent of his services. We are simply told that he behaved well, with skill and spirit. More than this perhaps it would be unreasonable to expect from any degree of talent, in the subordinate situation which he at that time occupied.
Marion is returned for the Provincial Congress from St. John’s, Berkeley — Made Captain in the Second Regiment — Fort Johnson taken — Battle of Fort Moultrie.
Engaged in rural and domestic occupations we hear no more of Marion, except as a citizen and farmer, until the beginning of the year 1775. In the latter capacity he is reputed to have been successful; and between the labors and sports of the field, the more violent humors of youth seem to have been dissipated in exercises which are seldom followed by reproach. He was very fond of angling and hunting, and with rod or gun, his leisure was employed in a way that would not have displeased the gentle Isaak Walton. These constituted his chief pastimes for the fourteen years that had elapsed since his Cherokee campaigns. His connection with public events had long since ceased; but, from all accounts, he still continued, in some degree, to fill the eyes of his countrymen. His firmness and purity of character, his gentle temper, known bravery, and the conduct which he had already manifested in war, had secured to him the confidence and the affections of his neighbors. He had attained that place in their esteem which naturally brought him conspicuously before their eyes in the moment of emergency. Emergencies were now approaching of a kind well calculated to bring into the field all the energies, with all the patriotism of the country. The great struggle was at hand between the colonies and that mighty empire by which they had been established. Of the part taken by South Carolina in this conflict, history has already sufficiently informed us. Her movements were made without reserve — her resolves taken promptly, and steadily maintained with her best blood and treasure. Her battles were among the boldest and bloodiest, as they were among the first and last of the revolution. Of the political steps by which she committed herself to that event, it does not need that we should enter into details. These belong rather to general history than to biography. It will be enough to exhibit those particulars only, of her progress, in which the subject of our memoir was more immediately interested. That he took an early and deep concern in the contest may be inferred from his character. That he should not have become an active politician may also be inferred from his known modesty, and the general reserve of his deportment in society. He was no orator, and no doubt felt quite as awkward in debate as Washington. But his opinions were well known; he was not the person about whose ways of thinking, in trying times, his neighbors could entertain either doubt or discussion. He formed his opinions as promptly as he fought for them, and his character was above concealment. We find him accordingly, in 1775, returned to the Provincial Congress of South Carolina, as a member from St. John, Berkeley.* This Congress distinguished itself by committing the people of South Carolina to the final destinies of the Revolution. It adopted the American Bill of Rights, as declared by the Continental Congress — adopted the famous “act of association”, recommended by the same federative body to all the colonies, by which the subscribers bound themselves to refuse and to prevent the importation of goods, wares and merchandise, from the mother country; established committees of safety throughout the province, and, in short, in possession of almost dictatorial powers, did not hesitate to use them for the public welfare. It was at particular pains to infuse a martial spirit among the people; and, influenced by this spirit, and under the immediate suggestion, and by direct participation, of this assembly, certain overt acts of treason were committed. The public armory in Charleston was broken open by night, and eight hundred stand of arms, two hundred cutlasses, besides cartouches, flints, matches and other necessary materials of war, were withdrawn without discovery. One party possessed itself of the public powder at Hobcau; another emptied Cochran’s Magazine, while a third, as above stated, relieved the state armory of its contents. In all these proceedings, the members of the Provincial Congress displayed the energies of men, who, having once set their hands to the plough, have resolved not to be turned away from it. Under that bolder policy which, by provoking the danger, compels the timid to a part in it from which they might otherwise shrink in terror, they were personally engaged in these acts of treason. We may reasonably conclude that, however silent as a member, Francis Marion was not the person to forbear taking active part in the more hazardous duties which distinguished the doings of the body to which he belonged. There was a generous impulse in his character, which hurried him into performance, whenever work was to be done, or daring became necessary. He could approach such duties with a degree of cheerfulness, which to the ordinary mind, thoughtful only of the consequences and responsibilities of action, seemed to partake of levity and recklessness. There was, indeed, an element of playfulness, we had almost said fun, in his character; a quiet and unobtrusive humor, which enlivened his utterance, and softened, with a gentle aspect, a countenance that might otherwise have been esteemed severe. We have no doubt that the native courage, and the elastic spirit of his temperament made him an active participant in all those deeds of decision, which the deliberations of the body to which he belonged, deemed it necessary should be done. We can very well imagine him conspicuous among those masked and midnight bands, commissioned to do mischief for the public good, by which the arsenals were stripped of their contents, and the tea-chests tumbled into Cooper river.**
* “For St. John’s, Berkeley County — James Ravenel, Daniel Ravenel, JOB MARION, John Frierson, Esqrs., Mr. Gabriel Gignilliat, MR. FRANCIS MARION.” Journals of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina.
** It is not so generally known that South Carolina did her part, as well as Massachusetts, in destroying teas and stamped paper. —
The Provincial Congress having thus committed the country, without doubt, to the destinies of war, and having, to some extent, provided against its consequences, adjourned to re-assemble on the 20th June, 1775. But this interval was shortened by the occurrence of events equally unexpected and important. The battle of Lexington, in the meantime, had taken place, and any hopes which might have been entertained, of a final reconciliation between the two countries, without a trial of strength, was fairly dismissed from every reflecting, if not every loyal mind. Instead of the 20th of June, the Provincial Congress was brought together on the first day of that month.*
* A letter from ISAAC MARION, one of the brothers of our subject, who dwelt at Little River, the Northern boundary of the province, is worthy of quotation, as serving to show that he was animated with the same public spirit that possessed his more distinguished kinsman. It was written to accompany the express, which brought the news of the battle of Lexington. A letter to him, from R. Howe, of N.C., forwarding the express, remarking, “I know you stand in no need of being prompted when your country requires your service” — would seem to show that he too had shared in the reputation of his brother. The following is the letter of Isaac Marion, addressed to the Committee of Safety of Little River.
Boundary, May 9, 1775, Little River.
Gentlemen of the Committee; — I have just now received an express, from the Committee of the Northern Provinces, desiring I would forward the enclosed packet to the Southern Committees. As yours is the nearest, I request FOR THE GOOD OF YOUR COUNTRY, AND THE WELFARE OF OUR LIVES, LIBERTIES, AND FORTUNES, you’ll not lose a moment’s time, but dispatch the same to the Committee of Georgetown, to be forwarded to Charleston. In meantime, am, gentlemen, Your obliged humble servant, &c. Isaac Marion.
To Danness, Hawkins and others.
The members of this body, assembling according to summons, proceeded, with the utmost vigor, to the consideration of the subjects before them. They approached their tasks with equal speed and solemnity. Their labors were commenced with Divine Service, and an act of association was then passed, though not without considerable opposition. This act ran as follows: —
“The actual commencement of hostilities against this Continent by the British troops, in the bloody scene of the 19th of April last, near Boston — the increase of arbitrary imposition from a wicked and despotic ministry — and the dread of insurrections in the Colonies — are causes sufficient to drive an oppressed people to the use of arms. We, therefore, the subscribers, inhabitants of South Carolina, holding ourselves bound by that most sacred of all obligations, the duty of good citizens to an injured country, and thoroughly convinced, that, under our present distressed circumstances, we shall be justified before God and man, in resisting force by force — do unite ourselves, under every tie of religion and honor, and associate as a band in her defence, against every foe — hereby solemnly engaging, that, whenever our Continental and Provincial Councils shall deem it necessary, we will go forth, and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes to secure her freedom and safety. This obligation to continue in force, until a reconciliation shall take place between Great Britain and America, upon Constitutional principles — an event which we most ardently desire. And, we will hold all those persons inimical to the liberty of the Colonies, who shall refuse to subscribe to this association.”*
* Drayton’s Memoirs, Vol. 1, p. 28. —
This open declaration was followed up with measures equally fearless and decisive. On the fourth day of the session, the Provincial Congress resolved to raise fifteen hundred infantry, rank and file, in two regiments; and four hundred and fifty horse, constituting another regiment. The troops so to be raised, were to be subjected to military discipline, and to the articles of war, in like manner with the British. On the fourteenth day of their session, a million of money was voted, and a council of safety was elected, vested with the executive power of the colony. Among other acts of this body, non-subscribers to the association were made amenable to the General Committee, and punishable ACCORDING TO SOUND POLICY. Absentees having estates, were, with certain exceptions, required to return; and it was further resolved that no persons ought to withdraw from the service of the Colony, without giving good and sufficient reasons to the Provincial Congress. Military duty was performed day and night, as in a state of actual warfare, by the militia companies in rotation; and thus, having placed the province in a state of preparation, with arms in the hands of the people, and given to the newly arrived Governor, Lord William Campbell, a reception which boded small repose to his authority, the Provincial Congress adjourned itself on the 22d day of June, leaving their authority, in great part, to the Council of Safety and General Committee.
It has been seen that the only share which Marion had in the proceedings of this body, was that of an assenting member. He was not endowed with those talents which could have rendered him conspicuous in a deliberative assembly. But he is not the less entitled to his share in the merit of those proceedings, which so admirably declared and illustrated the patriotism and the spirit of the province; and one of the last, decisive measures of the Provincial Congress, happily enabled him to appear in the character upon which he was more likely to confer distinction, than that of the orator. He was elected a captain in the Second Regiment, of which William Moultrie, formerly his captain in the Cherokee campaign, was made Colonel. The duties of this appointment were immediately begun, with a promptness at once due to the necessities of the case, and his own character. As a proof of the zeal by which the newly made officers were distinguished, we find them seeking recruits so early as the 20th of June, and while the body to which they belonged were still engaged in the most laborious duties of the session.*
* Drayton’s Memoirs, vol. 1, p. 265. NOTE. —
Marion’s commission was made out on the 21st June. Weems, in his life of our subject, gives us some pictures, equally lively and ludicrous, of his progress in the business of recruiting, upon which, in connection with his friend, Captain Horry, he at once begun. This gentleman received his appointment as captain at the same time, and in the same regiment, with Marion. The Provincial Congress had voted a million of money, by which to carry out their measures, but this was yet to be procured, and, as it appears, rather more upon the credit of individuals than that of the colony. But money, in times of danger, seems to have an instinct of its own, by which it hides itself readily from sight and touch. It was no easy matter for our captains to obtain the requisite sums. But faith and zeal did more for them, and for the cause, than gold and silver; and with very inadequate supplies, but in fresh and showy uniforms, our young officers set forth on the recruiting service. Their route lay in the several neighborhoods of Georgetown, Black River, and the Great Pedee. In these parts both of them were known. Here, indeed, Marion was already a favorite. Accordingly, they succeeded beyond their expectations, and were soon enabled to complete the full number for their two companies, of fifty men each. Another circumstance, apart from their personal popularity, probably facilitated their objects. Some of the settlements into which they penetrated were originally founded by the Irish. The bitter heritage of hate to the English, which they brought with them to America, was transmitted with undiminished fervor to their descendants. It was easy to show that the power which had trampled upon the affections of their fathers, and tyrannized over their rights in the old world, was aiming at the same objects in the case of their children in the new. At one remove only from the exiled and suffering generation, the sons had as lively a recollection of the tyrannies of Britain as if the experience had been immediately their own. To this cause our recruiting officers owed some of their success in the present expedition. Some of the bravest fellows of the second regiment were picked up on this occasion. It was the spirit which they brought, and to which the genius of Marion gave lively exercise, that imparted a peculiar vitality at all times to his little brigade. Among these gallant young men there were two in particular, of whom tradition in Carolina will long retain a grateful recollection; these were Jasper and Macdonald. Of these two, both of whom sealed their patriotism with their blood, we shall yet have something further to deliver.
While the friends of liberty were thus active, the adherents of the crown, in the colony, were not less so. These, in many parts of the country, were equally numerous and influential. They possessed, indeed, certain advantages in the discussion, which, in some degree, served to counterbalance the impelling and stimulating influences which always belong to a `mouvement’ party. They carried with them the PRESTIGE of authority, of the venerable power which time and custom seemed to hallow; they appealed to the loyalty of the subject; they dwelt upon the dangers which came with innovation; they denounced the ambition of the patriot leaders; they reminded the people of the power of Great Britain — a power to save or to destroy — which had so frequently and so successfully been exerted in their behalf in their numerous and bloody conflicts with the Indians, and which might be brought, with such fearful emphasis, upon their own heads. They reminded the people that the Indians were not exterminated, that they still hung in numerous hordes about the frontiers, and that it needed but a single word from the Crown, to bring them, once more, with tomahawk and scalping-knife, upon their defenceless homes. Already, indeed, had the emissaries of Great Britain taken measures to this end. The savage was already shaking off his apathy, scenting the carnage from afar, and making ready for the onset. The assurance, that such was the case, was doing the work of numerous arguments among the timid and the exposed. Such were the suggestions, appealing equally to their fears and gratitude, which the leading loyalists addressed to the people. They were supported by other suggestions, scarcely less potent, which naturally flowed from their own thoughts. Why should they dare the conflict with Great Britain? There was no such reason for it as in the case of the northern colonies. They had known her chiefly by benefactions; they did not conflict with her in shipping or in manufactures; and the arguments for discontent and resistance, as urged by the patriot leaders, did not reach them with sufficient force. What was the tax on tea, of which they drank little, and the duty on stamps, when they had but little need for legal papers? And why should not taxes follow protection, which Great Britain had not often withheld in the need of a favorite colony, as South Carolina had unquestionably been? Let us do justice to this people. The loyalists — or, as they were more commonly called, and as we shall hereafter be compelled to call them, the Tories — were, probably, in the majority of cases, governed by principle, by a firm and settled conviction, after deliberate examination of the case. That they might have thought otherwise, nay, would gradually have adopted the opinions of the patriots, is not improbable, had more time been allowed them, and had the course of the latter been more indulgent and considerate. Unfortunately, this was not the case; and the desire to coerce where they could not easily convince, had the effect of making a determined and deadly, out of a doubtful foe. This was terribly proved by the after history. To this cause we may ascribe, in some degree, the terrors of that sanguinary strife, in which, to use the language of a distinguished officer, they “pursued each other rather like wild beasts than men.”* We shall see something of this history as we proceed in ours.
* Letter of General Greene. See Johnson’s Greene. —
There was yet another circumstance which tended, in some degree, to give courage to the Tories. It was the somewhat temporizing policy of the patriots. There was still a feeling of doubt, a hesitancy, on the part of the latter, as the prospects grew stronger of a final breach with Great Britain. There were many who still clung to the hope that the differences of the two nations might yet be reconciled; and though the means of such reconciliation did not make themselves obvious, they yet fondly cherished the conviction that something might turn up, at the last moment, to prevent the absolute necessity of bloodshed. This portion of the patriots necessarily influenced the rest; those who, looking beyond the moment, saw the true issue, and properly regarded the declared objects of difference as pretexts which must suffice when the better reasons might not be expressed. They dared not openly broach the idea of national independence, which, there is very little question that the noblest of the American patriots everywhere, though secretly, entertained from the beginning. The people were not prepared for such a revelation — such a condition; and appearances were still to be maintained. Their proceedings, accordingly, still wore, however loosely, a pacific aspect. Though actively preparing for war, the professions of the patriots declared their measures to be precautionary only — a refuge, an alternative, in the event of greater oppression. They still spoke the language of loyalty, still dealt in vague assurances of devotion to the crown. But such professions deceived nobody, and least of all the loyalists. They derived courage from the reluctance of the patriots to embark in a struggle, for the fruits of which, if successful, they evidently longed. They were not less active — nay, in the interior, they were even more active — than their opponents; had already taken arms, and gained advantages, which nothing but decisive movements on the part of the people along the seaboard could possibly induce them to forego. This necessity was apparent for other reasons. In consequence of the temporizing policy already mentioned, the crown was still in possession of most of the shows of power in and about Charleston. The royal governor was still in the city, and in some degree exerting his authority. Fort Johnson, on James’ Island, was suffered to remain in the hands of the king’s troops for more than three months after the Provincial Congress had ordered a levy of troops, and had resolved on taking up arms. Two British armed vessels, the Tamar and Cherokee, lay in Rebellion Roads, opposite Sullivan’s Island. This force was quite sufficient, under existing circumstances, to have destroyed the town. But the royal leaders were not prepared for this issue; they shared the reluctance of the patriots to begin a conflict, the issues of which were so extreme. Their policy, like that of the patriots — influencing it, and possibly influenced by it — was equally halting and indecisive. It was sufficiently satisfactory if, by the presence of such a force, the citizens should be overawed and kept from action.
This condition of things could not continue. The very nature of the movement was adverse to indecision. It needed but a first step — a first stroke — and this was to be taken by the patriots. They brooked impatiently the humiliating position in which the city stood, controlled by an inferior enemy; and it was resolved that Fort Johnson should be subdued. It was on this occasion that Marion first drew his sword against the British. He was one of those Captains who, with their companies, were dispatched on this expedition. The command was given to Col. Moultrie. A strong resistance was expected, as, but a short time before, the garrison had been reinforced from the armed vessels. At midnight on the fourteenth of September, 1775, the detachment crossed to James’ Island. The disembarkation was effected with delay and difficulty, occasioned by the inadequate size and number of the boats. The forlorn hope, consisting of a detachment from the grenadiers of Capt. Pinckney, joined by the Cadets, and led by Lieut. Mouatt, were to scale the walls of the fort on its south bastion; Col. Moultrie with the rest of Pinckney’s Grenadiers, and Marion’s Light Infantry, were to enter or force the gates over the ravelin; while Capt. Elliott, with his grenadiers, penetrated the lower battery over the left flank. It was broad daylight before the landing was effected; and on making the assault they were surprised by an easy victory. The fort was abandoned. The enemy had probably been apprised of the attack. A detachment from the ships had landed some hours before — had dismantled the fort, dismounted the cannon, and withdrawn the garrison; retreating in safety to the ships. A gunner and three men only, fell into the hands of the provincials. The very day that this event occurred, Lord William Campbell, the Governor, fled to the Tamar sloop of war. His flight was no doubt hastened by a proceeding so decisive. That evening he dispatched his secretary to Fort Johnson, which he was not permitted to enter. He was met at the water-side by Capt. Pinckney, of whom he demanded, in the name of the Governor, by what authority he had taken and held possession of the fortress. The answer to this demand brought up the vessels of war, which, on the seventeenth of September, presented themselves within point blank shot of the fort. Up to this time, but three of the dismantled cannon had been remounted and put in order for action. With these, the provincials prepared for battle, relying, however, less upon their cannon than upon their ability to oppose the landing of any body of men. But the demonstration of the squadron was without fruits. They hauled off without a shot, and resumed their former less offensive position.
Here, however, the popular leaders were not disposed to suffer them to remain. Still they hesitated at coming to blows. They adopted a middle course, which, in such cases, is generally the worst. They ordered that the ships should not be victualled or supplied with water from the city, except from day to day. This produced a threat from Captain Thornborough that, unless supplied as before, he should prevent the ingress, or departure, of any vessel from the harbor. A menace of this kind, to have been properly met, should have been answered from the eighteen pounders of Fort Johnson. And, but for the reluctance of several highly esteemed patriots, such would have been the mode of answer.