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Gen. Francis Marion

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This week and next we will have a look at some of South Carolina’s leaders during the Revolutionary War. Today, we look at Gen. Francis Marion, otherwise known as “The Swamp Fox.”

Gen. Marion (c.1732-1795) was born in Berkeley County, SC. His military career began in 1761 when he led a successful attack against the Cherokee. In 1775, he was elected to the first South Carolina Provincial Congress. That same year, he was appointed the captain of a newly organized militia. In September, 1775, Marion commanded the capture of British forts in Charleston. In 1776, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and spent the next several years in South Carolina.

When British forces captured Charleston in 1780, American troops pulled out of South Carolina. Marion chose to stay and organized a guerilla force of poorly equipped men. Marion and his troops harassed British troops by staging small surprise attacks in which they captured small groups of British soldiers, sabotaged communications and supply lines and rescued American prisoners. After these attacks, Marion withdrew his men to swamp country unfamiliar to the British. It was British Colonel Banastre Tarleton who gave Marion his famous nickname when he complained that it was impossible to capture the “Swamp Fox.” Near the end of the war, Marion teamed up with General Nathanael Greene and, in 1781, together they beat the British at the Battle of Eutaw Springs and forced the British to retreat to North Carolina.

While still leading his brigade, Marion was elected to the State Senate in 1781, reelected in 1782 & 1784, after the war ended. In appreciation for his service, the Legislature appointed Marion the commander of Fort Johnson in Charleston.

There are numerous monuments and memorials to Francis Marion. He is one of three Revolutionary War commanders memorialized in a monument on Sumter Street in Columbia. There is also a street named for him in Columbia as well. In Florence, in the Pee Dee, is Francis Marion University.

In 1958, Leslie Nielsen, later of “Airplane& “Police Squad” fame, portrayed Marion in several episodes of “Disneyland,” naturally called, “The Swamp Fox”

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