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"The Swamp Fox" of Revolutionary War Fame

Do you have a FRANCIS MARION in your family tree?
This story may surprise you a bit.
Many of the families I researched had a son named Francis Marion.
Many of these men were called "Frank".
No more hunting James , John, Thomas or William. So much easier
to track someone with the first name Amos, Turner, Mathias, Homer,
Felix ,Baron , Braxton or Francis Marion.
Bet if I said the name Harmon you researchers out there would think
"Cooper". But that is another whole story in itself.
At first,I thought Francis Marion was a handed-down family name.
But the name appeared in so very many different areas, in families
that were not related. Got to thinking..."wonder if there was a famous
man named Francis Marion"? Sure enough, there was a Francis Marion,
nicknamed "The Swamp Fox" of Revolutionary War fame, born in
South Carolina.

Then I got to wondering if families using Marion as the first name of
a son, were naming their son after this Francis Marion. So, after
reading several books on his life, decided to write this story.

Several Kinfolks who bore the name of Francis Marion were:
(1)Francis Marion Smith,born 1866, son of Martin and Rhoda Standridge
Smith who married Mary Elizabeth"Lizzie"Reddell, Mariah Josephine Tally
Martin and Nora Belle Martin.This Francis Marion Smith sleeps his
eternal sleep in an unmarked grave in Smith Cemetery, Newton County,

(2)Francis Marion Davis, born 1849 in Newton County,Missouri .He was
first husband of Lucinda Caroline Hefley, a daughter of Harve Hefley
and Adeline Criner.This Francis Marion Davis was some kin to Richard
Davis of Newton County,Arkansas. Francis Marion Davis' children were
Laura Florence Davis Criner Payne and Mary Alice Davis McCutcheon.
Francis Marion DAVIS died in 1875 with burial in Sexton Cemetery,Newton

(3)Francis Marion Robinson(Roberson),born 1847, son of Pleasant M and
Luanna Jane BOHANNON .Francis was husband of Sarah E WOODWARD..
Some of his childrens names were:
Mary Ellen SHATSWELL, William E"Chock"Robinson; Isabelle and
served in Co. K, Hill's Arkanas Cavalry (Confederate) during the
Civil War. He and many of his family are buried in Essex Cemetery
in Newton County,Arkansas.

(4)Francis Marion HOLT born in Arkansas 1850,son of William Carroll
HOLT and Nancy Montgomery POTTS. Francis Marion HOLT married Frances
P RAMSEY in 1874 in Newton Co.Arkansas. He died in 1879 and his widow
later married Henry GLADDEN.

(5) Francis Marion HOLT, born 1844. Son of Asa Nathan HOLT,Senior and
Desia (maiden name unknown). Francis Marion HOLT served in Co. K, First
Arkansas Cavalry(Union)during Civil War.He married Ellen RICKEY in
1870 at Cove, Polk County,Arkansas.Francis Marion HOLT died in 1902 at
Harrison, Kiowa County, Oklahoma.

In Newton County,Arkansas area there was Francis Marion ACORD,
F M REEVES, F M ROBERTS, F M WHITE and F M WISE (to name a few).
The list goes on and on.....too numerous to mention, probably named
after this FRANCIS MARION,"The Swamp Fox" of Revolutionary War legend.

But let's get on with the story of The Francis Marion of Revolutioinary
War fame.
He was a small man but stood tall in the eyes of the age in which he
lived. His thrust into history lasted no longer than three years.
Outside of the seiges of Charleston and Savannah, he cherished his
commission as a Continental Officer. He became proficient in guerilla
warfare during the Revolutionary War.

Yet, his name was given to countless babies. This is but befitting a
man who did not have a son to carry on his name and who gave so much
for his country.....America.

The marble slab above his grave reads:
" Sacred to the Memory of
Who departed this life, on the 27th of February,1795
In the Sixty-Third Year of His Age
Deeply regretted by all his fellow citizens.
HISTORY will record his worth, and rising generations embalm
his memory, as one of the most distinguished Patriots and Heros
of the American Revolution: which elevated his native Country
To Honour and Independence and secured to her the blessings of
This tribute of veneration and gratitude is erected in commemoration
of the noble and disinterested virtues of the CITIZEN: and the gallant
exploits of the SOLDIER; Who lived without fear, and died without

He was born in 1732 on Goatfield Plantation in St.John's Parish,
Berkeley County,South Carolina .He is said to be a child that was tiny
and puny. Both ankles and knees were somewhat"malformed"from birth.
He was the youngest of six children born to Gabriel and Esther Marion.

Siblings bore names of : Esther, Isaac, Gabriel, Benjamin and Job
Marion. He was descended from French Huguenots who had fled France in

He was about six years old when the family moved to a plantation on
Winyah Bay in Prince George Parish near Georgetown, a port town.

He was about fifteen when he shipped aboard a schooner bound for the
West Indies.His experience on that schooner, its sinking ,and the
resulting aftermath was enough for him.
He returned to farming, remaining on the plantation while his elder
brothers and sisters married.

His father died about 1750 and Francis MARION managed the plantation
and took care of his mother.

He was about age 25 when his military career began.
The Cherokee Indians began acting up along the frontier.
The then governor, William Henry Lyttleton, enlarged the South Carolina
Militia and recruited Francis and Gabriel MARION on 31 Jan 1756.

Lieutenant Colonel Archibald MONTGOMERIE led his British Highland
Regiment and the South Carolina Militia over into the valley of the
Tennessee. Assistance was requested from Lord Jeffery AMHERST,
commander in chief of British forces in North America.

In 1761, 1200 British regulars disembarked at Charleston, South
Colonel Thomas MIDDLETON, Lt. Colonel Henry LAURENS and Major John
MOULTRIE, all prominent in South Carolina politics, provided support
for the regulars.
The first lieutenant of Captain William MOULTRIE's company of infantry
was Francis MARION.

The Cherokees had lain ambushes and had to be driven out before the
Army could advance. A detachment under MARION was given the task of
clearing the path. And thus, Francis Marion, learned the fighting
tactics of the Cherokees, which he used later on in his military career.
One tactic was to use trees for cover and not advance in a line or
column as was the general military rule. The British marched in
columns. Remember.

Francis Marion became a prosperous planter. He loved to hunt and fish
and knew the area around the Santee. In 1773 he purchased his own
plantation, called "Pond Bluff".

Francis Marion and his brother Job were elected delegates to South
Carolin'as first Provincial Congress.This congress did little other
than "rubber-stamp" the Continental Association, prohibiting the
importing of merchandise from England.
A revolutionary spirit was sparked in America.

General Thomas GAGE, commander of the British forces in North America,
had sent his redcoats marching out from Boston and there had been
fighting in the Massachusetts villages of Lexington and Concord.
Riders on swift horses carried the news from town to town, with
Isaac MARION (brother of Francis) one of those forwarding the news as
it passed along settlements on the North Carolina Border. There was
talk that the Bitish were inciting the Indians to warfare.

South Carolinians voted to raise two regiments of infantry and one of
cavalry,to be composed of 500 men each. William MOULTRIE was chosen as
colonel or the Second Regiment and among the ten captains assigned to
this regiment was Francis MARION.

The first thing that MOULTRIE had his officers do was to uniform
themselves properly in blue coats with linings, facings and cuffs of
red. Buttons were white, as were waistcoats and breeches. Their hats
were to carry a silver cresent and a plum.
Thus "Bluecoats". A blue flag was assembled with its silver crescent
and the word "Liberty" was affixed.

Francis Marion was able to recruit 60 men and his territory was along
the Santee, Black and Peedee Rivers. He trained his men carefully and
declared them ready to "take the field".

Charleston, South Carolina began to take on the appearance of an armed
fort. Names appeared among the rank and file of South Carolinian
officers such as Major General Charles LEE; Colonel William MOULTRIE;
Colonel William THOMPSON and Lieutenant Colonel MOTTE. Thus the defense
of Charleston was begun.

A resolution of the Continental Cogress praised the defenders of
Charleston by a letter of commendation from General WASHINGTON.

Four soldiers who had gone absent without leave on the day of the
battle were flogged with two hundred lashes each while "dressed" in
Petticoats and Caps" as punishment.

As soon as LEE was positive that the British were leaving South Carolina,
he began his preparations for the Georgia campaign. There were frantic
messages that British ships were off Savannah, Georgia.

During these preparations the news arrived, on 5 August 1776, that the
Continental Congress had declared the colonies independent of England.

Francis Marion spent most of his time training and disciplining his
troops. He held a passion for tidiness, order and discipline. He
constantly cautioned his men to be as clean as possible and not to
appear at roll call barefooted. He hated the way in which the men
allowed their hair to grow. Time and time again he cautioned them
to wear their hair no longer than the tops of their shirt collars,
for "long hair gathers filth", and takes a great deal of time and
trouble to keep clean. For those who refused to comply in cutting,
braiding or tying up their hair, there was the warning,"Any soldier
who comes on parade with beards or hair uncombed, shall be dry shaved
immediately and have his hair dressed on the parade".
Was this the starting of the Service connected hair code??

Other practices that disturbed MARION was the wanton firing of weapons,
drunkenness, straying away from sentry duty, plundering homes, selling
military articles and disobeying orders. There were frequent court
One soldier described MARION as an "ugly, cross, knock-kneed, hook-nosed
"so and so". MARION worked on his soldiers to appear more soldierlike,
even having the men on guard duty powder their hair.
Men received their 100 cat o'nine tails or a switch when needed.

Another thing that changed MARIONS's personal habit was the regular
portions of vinegar to be issued to the regiment because of its
medicinal value.
It was said this became his favorite drink , a mixture of vinegar and
water, a brew some called the "drink of the Roman soldier".

There was promise of action in the near future. From the Continental
Congress came the warnings that the British were planning to make the
southern states the object of their next major offensive, commanded by
General CLINTON.
The orders were said to contain the words "to burn and destroy all who
would not submit" to British rule.

There had also been a change in the top level of South Carolina political
command, replacing Robert HOWE with Major General Benjamin LINCOLN of
Massachusetts in command of the Southern Department.

HOWE went to Savannah, Georgia. While he was there a British fleet with
3,500 troops from New York under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald CAMPBELL
dropped anchor off Savannah. They attacked the town on 29 December 1778.
HOWE's forces were forced to withdraw,his men being outnumbered four
to one.LINCOLN and MOULTRIE started marching for Georgia.

Francis MARION was appointed temporary commander of Charleston.
Once while giving a party at Charleston, Captain Alexander McQUEEN,
ordered all doors be locked after dinner, a custom of the day. Those
attending the party drank to their victories and became drunk.
Francis MARION was not a heavy drinker and wanted to escape the house.
He looked around for a way and a second-story window stood open.
He dropped onto the ground below and one of his ankles was broken.
MARION was carried out of town on a litter and went into hiding among
his relatives along the Santee River. British soldiers rode through
the countryside routing out rebels but MARION remained safely hidden.

On 12 May 1780, Charleston had surrendered and General LINCOLN taken
Although his ankle was still very painful, MARION dressed himself in
his uniform, crossed the Santee River and rode on into North Carolina,
hoping to catch up with the remnants of the Southern Army.

British Sir Henry CLINTON sent British soldiers into the interior of
South Carolina. Lord CORNWALLIS, major general in His Majesty's Army,
was scheduled to replace CLINTON as commanding general in the South
when CLINTON returned to New York.

A British officer Banastre TARLETON slaughtered 113 or more Virginians
under Colonel Abraham BUFORD.People were rumored to be "delivering up
their arms". A seething undercurrent of hatred in the South awaited
an opportunity to surface, due mostly to the British officers and
soldiers brutal atrocities.

There was rumor that the Congress was going to cede the three
southernmost states to Great Britian.

CLINTON, believing that South Carolina was back safe within the Royal
fold, sailed back to New York,leaving Lord Cornwallis in command of
southern operations.
Names as John HAMILTON, John JAMES, Charles CAMPBELL, Horatio GATES,
Hugh GILES, Nathaniel GREEN, Johann de KALB of Bavaria, Thomas
SUMTER, John WAITES, William SNOW, and John ERVIN,are some
of the names that appear in this great time of our country.

Francis MARION's little party of men left the army with orders to go
down the country to destroy all boats and craft of any kind they found
on Santee River in order to prevent CORNWALLIS and his troops from
escaping.And so it was that Colonel Francis MARION rode off for his
great adventure of becoming "The Swamp Fox" of the Revolutionary War.

He was nearly 48 years old, short and a bit on the frail side with his
"malformed" ankles and knees. His healing broken ankle still caused
him pain and he limped with nearly every step. He wore a close
round-bodied crimson jacket, a little leather helmet that bore the
silver crescent of the Second Regiment and was inscribed with the
words "Liberty or Death". Instead of an officers sword, a little "cut
and thrust"hung at his waist and it was said it became so rusty it
could not be withdrawn from its scabbard.

His men were ordered to wear white "cockades "in their hats so they
could be identified.

The British continued to dispatch soldiers and defeat the American
forces. Francis MARION, hearing of these defeats did not disclose
these matters even to his men, but kept them busy destroying boats
and canoes.
He found himself like an island in a sea of enemies. He won few
friends among the planters when they discovered he and his men had
destroyed their boats.

Lord CORNWALLIS found himself with a large number of prisoners and was
worried that malaria and smallpox would break out if he held these men
too long in close confinement. He sent them marching to Charleston
under guard.

MARION learned that 150 Americans were being held at Thomas SUMTER's
abandoned plantation on Great Savannah. MARION led his men through the
Santee Swamp and the growth of cedars and live oaks were thick enough
to provide hiding for his men.

One of his tactics was to hit the enemy from the rear. The British
soldiers had stacked their arms and coats in a careless manner.
MARION's men easily overpowered the British soldiers. The American
soldiers were mostly Maryland Continentals (named for American Colonies
at the time of the Revolution).
This was Lord CORNWALLIS' first encounter with MARION and declared
his men had been overwhelmed by a force of 150 men when actually
MARION's band numered only fifty-two mounted men.

And, yes, you kinfolk of Newton County-----Charles HOLT, the ancestor
of many HOLT families still living in Newton County, Arkansas can lay
claim to the fact that their ancestor recalled his experiences in the
Revolutionary War and remembered the guarding of a ferry approximately
one month and the "return to the station at Colonel BURTON and
remaining there doing duty until they received intelligence of the
capture of Lord CORNWALLIS and were immediately discharged and from
thence removed to Blount County, Alabama where he had
resided ever since."

He recalled his Revolutionary War experiences in his Pension
Application No.W7756 from the state of North Carolina on the 6th day
of July 1833. What a remarkable memory recorded about Charles HOLT
and his service in the Revolutionary War.

MARION decided to disband his men as they were needed at home to tend
their crops. They were of the Militia and he had no control over them.
They were volunteers who could come and go as they wished and joined
MARION at different times. Word was getting around about MARION's
exploits and he was on his way to becoming a folk hero.

MARION, with his fifty odd men, hid in the Blue Savannah, an area
surrounded by thickets of stunted pine and scrub-oak trees and thus
hid his men in the tangled underbrush and waited. Tory (British)
soldiers marching in a column were easily routed and many fled to the
swamps.MARION used caution by not pursuing the Tories into the swamps.
He was a timid and cautious man.
He carried on this type of warfare all through his military career,
] becoming expert at" guerilla warfare".He and his men camped among the
moss-laden trees in the Great White Marsh. They had no tents and some
did not even have the comfort of a blanket. His patrols constantly went
out to prevent surprise and to forage for food.
Malarial fevers sometimes swept through his men.
They had no medicines,very little food and were always short of
Once while crossing a wooden bridge, their horses hoofs rang out and
alerted the enemy. After this, when their horses were forced to cross
a bridge at night, he had his men cover the bridge planking with their

Space does not permit me to list the many incidents that happened to
Francis MARION and his men. But reading about Francis MARION's life
was very interesting and wanted to mention some of those happenings.

On 14 December 1782 the last British soldier left Charleston. Major
General Anthony WAYNE was in charge and soldiers and prominent citizens
rode in triumphant procession into Charleston. The Militia was not
permitted to participate in nor witness this happening.

The Militia was disbanded and told to go home. Brigadier General
Francis MARION mustered his men and spoke to them, thanking them for
their spirit and bravery. He mounted his horse Ball and rode home to
the ruins of his Pond Bluff plantation.

He had been without pay for almost three years and hoped to be
pensioned on half-pay, but he was not pensioned.
On 30 September 1783, Francis MARION was promoted to full colonel in
the Continental Line.

Governor Benjamin Guerrard appointed Francis MARION commandant of
Fort Johnson and given 500 pounds a year but the South Carolina
legislature reduced the pay to $500.

How soon we forget the people who did good and bow down to the name
of Politics,greed, power and money.

At the age of fifty-four Francis MARION went a-courting. Her name was
Mary VIDEAU a woman of forty-nine years and they had known each other
since childhood. She had never married , but she did have money to help
him rebuild his beloved Pond Bluff Plantation.

On 20 of April 1786 he became a married man. They did not have
children but lived in happiness. Marion later adopted a grand-nephew
Francis Marion DWIGHT.
DWIGHT was required to change his surname to MARION and his two
marriages produced only daughters.

Francis MARION prospered and replaced his Pond Bluff home with a
simple one story frame building of cypress. When he became older and
even after his health began to fail, he and Mary, with their faithful
servant Oscar, would wander over the hills of the Santee, visiting old
haunts and reliving his past with those men who had ridden the road of
adventure with him.

He grew old gracefully, something of a folk hero in his own time.
He was a good citizen who was elected to the Senate of South Carolina
several times. He took more than a passing interest in public
education. It was his belief that free schools were the only means of
reaching the poorest and greatest part of the population.

He helped draw up the new South Carolina constitution in 1790. Most of
his time during his later years was devoted to improving the South
Carolina State Militia.

In November 1794 he began to complain of "constant pain in my head
for some time, by great cold but no fevor".

A friend had come to visit and spent the hours until ten 'oclock in
the evening talking and reminiscing of days
they had spent together. When the friend suggested that Marion should
go to bed, Marion replied"Oh,no, we must not talk of bed yet. It is
but seldom you know that we meet and as this may be our last, let us
take all we can of it in chat.
What do you think of the times?"

Not long after, Marion took to his bed with his last illness.
As he grew weaker, he saw his wife Mary sitting beside his bed and
said, My dear, do not weep for me. I am not afraid to die, for thank
God, I can lay my hand upon my heart and say since I came to man's
estate, I have never intentionally done wrong to any man."

Francis Marion died at Pond Bluff on 17 February 1795.
His wife Mary lived to the age of seventy-seven, dying 26 July 1815.
They both sleep their eternal sleep in the family graveyard on
Gabriel's Plantation at Belle Isle.

And thus ended the life of a man who left no blood heirs, but who
left his legacy in the names of many, many men with the name of
Copyright(c) 20 February, 2000
Published in the Newton County, Arkansas Times Newspaper February 2000

Evelyn Flood
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