Francis Marion, Swamp Fox

By Werner Willis

Open Edition Paper 8″ X 10″

Francis Marion

“Swamp Fox”

Fading in and out of the lowcounty swamps like an early morning fog, Francis Marion and his small band of patriots became legend. Their exploits in ambush and hit and run tactics disrupted British plans for the subjugation of South Carolina and made them the target of one of the most brutal and bloodthirsty British commanders in the South, Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton, known as the “Butcher of the Waxhaws” after his troops slaughtered American patriots even as they attempted to surrender, gave Marion the nickname of the “Swamp Fox” after a seven hour pursuit through woods, swamps and bogs. When Marion and his men proved to be as elusive as those swamp foxes, Tarleton in frustration is reported to have said, “As for that damned old fox, the devil himself could not catch him.” Francis Marion’s guerrilla operations were instrumental in winning the war in the South.

Marion was 48 years old when he achieved fame as the commander of a band of partisan guerrillas that stayed in the field longer than any others did and best accomplished their mission. On his roan mare named “Red Doe”, Marion clad in “a close, round-bodied, crimson jacket and the blue breeches piped in the white of his old Continental regiment” and wearing “the hard, visored helmet of the Second South Carolina, adorned with a plume and, in front, a silver crescent engraved, ‘Liberty or death'” led his men into battle and the British on a many a merry chase.

Portrait of Marion from the South Carolina State House Collection