|Return to Table of Contents|
The name of FRANCIS MARION is identified, in the history of South Carolina with all that is pleasing and exciting in romance. He is, par excellence, the famous partisan of that region.
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 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. 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 were French Huguenots who emigrated to South Carolina somewhere about the year 1685, within twenty years after the first British settlement of the province.
|Jump to Chapter 2.|
|Return to Chapter Outline of Marion|
|Return to SC Revolutionary War Outline Page|
|Return to Genweb South Carolina Home Page|
This HTML version Copyright ©1999, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. This document may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy. However, this document may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same. Please send any errors, corrections, conjectures, updates, etc. to Dr. Frank O. Clark.
Please inform me of errors and corrections, and parts that may be improved.