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Francis Marion, Introduction


A. S. Salley’s Introduction to the 1948 edition

But for an accident General Francis Marion probably would not have been the hero of the Revolution that he became.

In June, 1775, the Provincial Congress of South Carolina, the extra-legal body of the revolting people of the province, organized three regiments of regular troops in preparation against any attempt at coercion by the British government. The first and second regiments were constituted as infantry, or foot; the third regiment as rangers, or horse.

The Congress elected twenty captains to man the first and second regiments, and they took seniority according to their standing in the vote. Francis Marion was elected one of the twenty captains and stood third in the balloting and was assigned to the Second Regiment, ranking second to Capt. Barnard Elliott.

In November, 1775, an artillery regiment was organized and Capt. Elliott was promoted to major thereof. In February, 1776, a regiment of rifles was organized and Major McIntosh of the Second was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel thereof, which advanced Captain Marion to the majority of the Second Regiment.

On September 16, 1776, the six regular regiments of South Carolina were taken on the Continental Establishment and Colonel William Moultrie, of the Second Regiment, was promoted to brigadier general; Lieutenant-Colonel Motte was promoted to colonel and Major Marion became the lieutenant-colonel. Colonel Motte resigned September 23, 1778, and Marion became commander of the regiment.

As British regiments were commanded by lieutenant-colonels, British authorities refused to exchange a captured Continental colonel for one of their lieutenant-colonels in the hands of the Americans. This complication caused the Continental Congress to cease promoting lieutenant-colonels to colonels, and so Marion remained as lieutenant-colonel of the Second Regiment, South Carolina Line, Continental Establishment, until mustered out of the service in February, 1783.

While a British fleet and army were besieging Charles Town March 28 – May 12, 1780, Lieutenant Colonel Marion sprained an ankle, which rendered him unfit for active duty. Soon after General Lincoln published an order furloughing him to his plantation until able to resume active duty, but Charles Town was captured before Marion was able to return.

When General Gates was sent down to Hillsboro, North Carolina, to take command of the Southern Army he published an order directing all Continental officers and men not on parole to report to him at Hillsboro. Marion was the senior officer of South Carolina to report. His regiment having been captured with the garrison of Charles Town Marion was without a command. He was directed by Gates to go down to the Santee River and assemble a militia force and destroy the ferry boats on the river to prevent the British from retreating to Charles Town or receiving aid therefrom. Marion found a willing force of militia at hand on the Santee with which he speedily drove off the guard at Murray’s Ferry and captured the guard at Nelson’s Ferry and also captured a convoy from Cornwallis’s army taking American prisoners to Charles Town. From then on he was very active. In November, 1780, Governor Rutledge appointed him brigadier general of the Lower Brigade of the State militia and his activity knew no bounds from then to the end of the war.

This history of Marion’s career thereafter, accurately and authentically tells the story, for Judge James, its author, was one of Marion’s active officers.

Perhaps Marion’s highly meritorious services would never have received the widespread attention that has been accorded them had it not been for a fictitious publication issued in 1809 by Matthew Carey, a well known publisher, of Philadelphia, entitled: The / Life / of / Gen. Francis Marion, / a Celebrated / Partizan Officer, / in / The Revolutionary War, / against the / British and Tories, in South-Carolina and Georgia. From documents furnished by his brother in arms, Brigadier-General P. Horry: and his nephew, the Hon. Robert Marion, Esq. of Congress.

General Peter Horry, who had been one of Marion’s most active colonels, had written a history of Marion’s brigade, but had not readily found a publisher when he encountered Rev. Mason L. Weems, an itinerant book agent and preacher. Weems persuaded Horry to let him have the manuscript, assuring him that he would secure a publisher. Horry agreed, but admonished Weems “not to alter the sense or meaning of my work, least when it came out I might not know it; and, perverted, it might convey a very different meaning from the truth.” Those were Horry’s own words to Weems, as recalled by Horry to Weems in a letter dated at Georgetown, S.C., February 4, 1811.

In the same letter he reminded Weems: “I requested you would (if necessary) so far alter the work as to make it read grammatically, and I gave you leave to embellish the work, but entertained not the least idea of what has happened — though several of my friends were under such apprehensions, which caused my being urgent on you not to alter as above mentioned.” . . . “Nor have the public received the real history of General Marion. You have carved and mutilated it with so many erroneous statements your embellishments, observation and remarks, must necessarily be erroneous as proceeding from false grounds. Most certainly ’tis not my history, but your romance.” . . . “Can you suppose I can be pleased with reading particulars (though so elevated, by you) of Marion and myself, when I know such never existed.”

The book has been through scores of editions and printings and the falsehoods that Weems concocted — sometimes in malice — have been accepted as truth and retold throughout the United States and used in encyclopaedias and text books, government reports and political speeches. As a result, Marion has been honored by having counties and towns named for him to an extent equalled or surpassed by few of America’s greatest men.

Judge James’s book had but a limited circulation and it has long been a very scarce book; hence it has not been the factor it should have been in correcting the fabrications in Weems’s book.

Judge James’s book is not entirely free from error. He begins his first chapter with the statement: “Francis Marion was born at Winyaw, near Georgetown, South-Carolina, in the year 1732.” Marion’s family had no connection with Georgetown until six or seven years after Marion’s birth, when his father moved with his family to that town from St. John’s Parish, Berkeley, where he had resided since marriage. His wife’s family resided in the adjoining St. James’s Parish, Goose Creek, and, as there is no definite record of the place of Marion’s birth, it could have been at the home of either family. The year of his birth cannot be fixed as 1732. The inscription on his tombstone gives the date of his death as February 27, 1795, “in the sixty-third year of his age.” If he had been born at any time between January 1st and February 26, 1733, he would have been in the 63rd year of his age February 27, 1795.


William Dobein James’ Introduction


A view of the first settlement of the French Protestants on the Santee. Lawson’s account of them. The ancestors of General Marion emigrate among them.

The revocation of the edict of Nantz, by Lewis XIV., though highly detrimental to France, proved beneficial to Holland, England and other European countries; which received the protestant refugees, and encouraged their arts and industry. The effects of this unjust and bigoted decree, extended themselves likewise to North America, but more particularly to South Carolina: About seventeen years after its first settlement, in the year 1690, and a short time subsequently, between seventy and eighty French families, fleeing from the bloody persecution excited against them in their mother country, settled on the banks of the Santee. Among these were the ancestors of General FRANCIS MARION. These families extended themselves at first only from the lower ferry at South Santee, in St. James’ parish, up to within a few miles of Lenud’s ferry, and back from the river into the parish of St. Dennis, called the Orange quarter.

From their first settlement, they appear to have conciliated their neighbours, the Sewee and Santee Indians; and to have submitted to their rigorous fate with that resignation and cheerfulness which is characteristic of their nation. — Many must have been the hardships endured by them in settling upon a soil covered with woods, abounding in serpents and beasts of prey, naturally sterile, and infested by a climate the most insalubrious. For a picture of their sufferings read the language of one of them, Judith Manigault, bred a lady in ease and affluence: — “Since leaving France we have experienced every kind of affliction, disease, pestilence, famine, poverty, hard labour; I have been for six months together without tasting bread, working the ground like a slave.” They cultivated the barren high lands, and at first naturally attempted to raise wheat, barley and other European grains upon them, until better taught by the Indians. Tradition informs us, that men and their wives worked together in felling trees, building houses, making fences, and grubbing up their grounds, until their settlements were formed; and afterwards continued their labours at the whip-saw,1 and in burning tar for market. Such was their industry, that in fourteen years after their first settlement, and according to the first certain account of them, they were in prosperous circumstances. In the year 1701, John Lawson, then Surveyor General of the province, visited these enterprising people, and as there are but two copies of his “Journal of a thousand miles travelled through several nations of Indians”, known at present to be in existence, no apology appears to be necessary for presenting extracts of the most interesting parts of it to the reader:

“On December 28th, 1700, I began my voyage for North Carolina, from Charleston, in a large canoe. At four in the afternoon, at half flood, we passed over the breach through the marsh, leaving Sullivan’s Island on our starboard; the first place we designed for was Santee river, on which there is a colony of French protestants, allowed and encouraged by the lords proprietors.” — After passing through Sewee bay and up Santee, the mouth of which was fresh, he visited the Sewees; “formerly,” he says, “a large nation, though now very much decreased, since the English have seated their lands, and all other nations of Indians are observed to partake of the same fate.

“With hard rowing we got that night (11th January, 1701,) to Mons. Eugee’s2 house, which stands about fifteen miles up the river, being the first christian dwelling we met withal in that settlement, and were very courteously received by him and his wife. Many of the French follow a trade with the Indians, living very conveniently for that interest. Here are 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 effects, yet by their endeavours and mutual assistance among themselves (which is highly commendable) have outstript our English, who brought with them larger fortunes. We lay all that night at Mons. Eugee’s,2 and the next morning set out further to go the remainder of our voyage by land.

“At noon we came up with several French plantations, meeting with several creeks by the way: the French were very officious in assisting 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. Towards the afternoon we came to Mons. L’Jandro’s,3 where we got our dinner. We got that night to Mons. Galliar’s,4 who lives in a very curious contrived house, built of brick and stone, which is gotten near that place. Near here, comes in the road from Charleston and the rest of the English settlement, it being a very good way by land and not above thirty-six miles.”5

After this, our author gives a long description of his difficulty and danger in crossing the Santee in a small canoe, in time of a freshet. He then goes on as follows: — “We intended for Mons. Galliar’s jun. but were lost *************. When we got to the house we found several of the French inhabitants, who treated us very courteously; wondering about our undertaking such a voyage through a country inhabited by none but savages, and them of so different nations and tongues. After we had refreshed ourselves, we parted from a very kind, loving, affable people, who wished us a safe and prosperous voyage.”

Our traveller had now arrived at the extreme boundary of the white population of South Carolina, and consequently of the United States, and this was but forty miles from Charleston. In the course of one hundred and twenty years what a change, and what a subject for reflection! But, to return to the French refugees. The same persevering industry and courteous manners which distinguished the ancestors, were handed down to their children, and are still conspicuous among their descendants of the third and fourth generations. Most of them may be classed among our useful and honourable citizens, and many have highly distinguished themselves in the state, both in civil and military affairs: but in the latter character, the subject of these memoirs, General FRANCIS MARION, stands forth the most prominent and illustrious example.6

1 Gen. Horry states, that his grandfather and grandmother commenced the handsome fortune they left, by working together at the whip-saw.

2 Huger, who lived in the fork between South Santee and Wambaw Creek.

3 Gendron.

4 Gaillard’s.

5 Near this place the French laid out a town, and called it Jamestown; whence the name St. James’, Santee.

6 After leaving the house of Bartholomew Gaillard, jun. on the east side of Santee, Mr. Lawson saw no more settlements of the whites. He visited the Santee Indians, who, from his description of the country, must have lived about Nelson’s ferry and Scott’s lake. In passing up the river, the Indian path led over a hill, where he saw, as he says, “the most amazing prospect I had seen since I had been in Carolina. We travelled by a swamp side, which swamp, I believe to be no less than twenty miles over; the other side being, as far as I could well discern; there appearing great ridges of mountains bearing from us W.N.W. One Alp, with a top like a sugar loaf, advanced its head above the rest very considerably; the day was very serene, which gave us the advantage of seeing a long way; these mountains were clothed all over with trees, which seemed to us to be very large timbers. At the sight of this fair prospect we stayed all night; our Indian going before half an hour, provided three fat turkeys e’er we got up to him.” The prospect he describes is evidently the one seen from the Santee Hills; the old Indian path passed over a point of one of these at Captain Baker’s plantation, from which the prospect extends more than twenty miles; and the Alp, which was so conspicuous, must have been Cook’s Mount, opposite Stateburgh. — Our traveller afterwards visited the Congaree, the Wateree, and Waxhaw Indians, in South Carolina, and divers tribes in North Carolina, as far as Roanoke; and it is melancholy to think, that all of these appear to be now extinct. They treated him with their best; such as bear meat and oil, venison, turkeys, maize, cow peas, chinquepins, hickory nuts and acorns. The Kings and Queens of the different tribes always took charge of him as their guest.