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The Swamp Fox



General Francis Marion is a well-known figure in the history and folklore of the Pee Dee. During the American Revolution (1775-1781), Marion's troops hid in the region's tangled, muddy forests and marshes while strategizing their campaigns and taking advantage of the "redcoats," who were unfamiliar with the terrain or the stealth of their tactics.

"Snow's Island" in Florence County served as a campsite, supply base, and rendezvous point for Marion’s men between 1780-1781. Encased by the Pee Dee River, Lynches Creek, and Clarks Creek, the camp remained vital to their operations until it was raided and destroyed by the redcoats in March of 1781. Today, the exact location of the site is still unknown.

This abbreviated version of “Chasing the Swamp Fox” is provided by South Carolina ETV.

From Instructional Television (ITV) of South Carolina:

“Francis Marion, nicknamed 'The Swamp Fox,' is one of the seminal heroes of the American Revolution in South Carolina. All South Carolinians - young and old - are familiar with his exploits, from his early military career fighting the Cherokee to his role as partisan guerilla leader during the Revolution. Countless books and several movies and television programs have dramatized his adventures and further cemented his legacy into the American vernacular.

As beloved and revered as he is, Francis Marion’s life, especially in the context of the Revolution in South Carolina, is still very much shrouded in folklore and mythology. Before the first shots of the Revolution were fired at Lexington in 1775, Marion was just another member of the gentry, a farmer trying to make a living on his plantation above the Santee River. This transformation from mild-mannered, semi-literate planter into a formidable guerilla leader is, in part, what makes him such an attractive historical figure.

He embodies the romantic (and American) ideal of the partisan fighter. The tales told around campfires about Francis Marion and his brigade of Whigs chasing bloodthirsty redcoats through the swampy wilderness provide a pleasant narrative. They do not however tell the whole story. They say nothing of the acts of violence committed on both sides of the conflict. They don’t mention the starvation, the privation, and the disease. They don’t tell the story of the desperate need for clothes, shoes, weapons and, most of all, salt. They don’t detail the extent to which neighbors and even families went to destroy each other. The obstacles that were overcome by Marion and his companions were more than most people realize, as is their contribution to history.

The hour-long program deals with Marion’s campaigns from the fall of Charleston in 1780 to the end of the Revolution in 1782. It is a comprehensive examination of life in the midst of conflict in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War using Francis Marion’s life and battles as a context. The intention is to juxtapose the distant folklore with the realities of what life must have actually been like for the early patriots. It looks closely at the hardships endured and overcome by those who fought, and the cruelties visited on the civilian population by both the patriots and the British. Many questions are considered. How did Marion’s Brigade help turn the tide in favor of the Americans? How was he able to operate with so few supplies and men and in the midst of such privation? What tactics did he employ in his raids? What kind of a leader was he? What kind of a man was he?

The contributions of South Carolinians during the War for American Independence are undeniable. It is sad to think that in some discussions about the Revolution, those contributions have been reduced to a minor footnote. Without discounting the ample aid on the part of the French, it can be argued that our independence as a nation was born in the north and was hacked out of the wilderness of South Carolina. This program can help shed more light on the forgotten conflicts and people that helped."

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