The Swamp Fox


American Patriot Warrior

On October 23, 1959 the television show Walt Disney Presents aired the first episode of the "Swamp Fox." This show was an attempt to capitalize on the success of its "Davy Crockett" series which had been airing on TV since the end of 1954. The "Swamp Fox," based loosely on the exploits of Francis Marion, revolutionary war hero of the Carolinas, starred Leslie Nielsen as the hero. Like Davy Crockett, the Swamp Fox wore a three-cornered hat with a foxtail.

The real Francis Marion was born in South Carolina in 1732, the same year as George Washington. Marion's ancestors were French Huguenots who, escaping from France's religious persecution, had settled along the Santee River. Francis was the last of 7 children born to Gabriel Marion, Jr. and Charlotte Cordes.

When he was 16, Marion left his family's home and sought work on a ship headed for the West Indies. The journey ended with the ship sinking. Marion escaped and returned home never to go to sea again. He began a life of farming and self-education. His biographers describe him as a modest, unaffected man who like fishing and hunting; he used few words but rather valued action.

In 1761 he embarked on a military career as a lieutenant in the force built to defeat the native Americans living in South Carolina, particularly the Cherokee. He fought in several battles in the Summer of 1761 as the colonists exerted their might. Shortly after these Indian battles Marion was promoted to Captain.

After this military service he returned to his farm. In 1775 he was elected to South Carolina's first provincial Congress and appointed a commander of the 2nd Regiment of South Carolina's militia.

When the British captured the city of Charleston in 1780 Marion undertook the second stage of his military career. Marion led a small guerilla force and embarked on a series of actions aimed at ambushing and sabotaging the enemy. So successful were Marion's tactics and so clever was his ability to strike and then disappear into the murky swamps around the Santee that the British regimental commander in the area, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, named him the "Swamp Fox."

In 1781 Marion served with General Nathaniel Greene at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, which resulted in the British leaving South Carolina. Marion returned home to a home and farm decimated by the war. He was however a certified war hero. He was elected to the South Carolina senate by the people of his town and served until 1790. In 1784 he was appointed Commandant of Fort Johnson. This was largely a ceremonial assignment offered perhaps as retrospective payment for his valorous patriotic service to the State.

Friends finally fixed him up with one Mary Esther Videau and in 1786 he married her. The couple had no children of their own but adopted a son. Marion served on the committee that wrote the South Carolina's state constitution and finally in 1794 he retired from public life. On February 27, 1795 , "peaceful and assured with no apparent pain and without regret," the Swamp Fox died at home.

Song of Marion's Men

by William Cullen Bryant [1794-1878]

Our band is few, but true and tried,
Our leader frank and bold;
The British soldier trembles
When Marion's name is told.
Our fortress is the good greenwood,
Our tent the cypress-tree;
We know the forest round us,
As seamen know the sea.
We know its walls of thorny vines,
Its glades of reedy grass,
Its safe and silent islands
Within the dark morass.

Woe to the English soldiery,
That little dread us near!
On them shall light at midnight
A strange and sudden fear:
When, waking to their tents on fire,
They grasp their arms in vain,
And they who stand to face us
Are beat to earth again.
And they who fly in terror deem
A mighty host behind,
And hear the tramp of thousands
Upon the hollow wind.

Then sweet the hour that brings release
From danger and from toil:
We talk the battle over,
And share the battle's spoil.
The woodland rings with laugh and shout,
As if a hunt were up,
And woodland flowers are gathered
To crown the soldier's cup.
With merry songs we mock the wind
That in the pine-top grieves,
And slumber long and sweetly
On beds of oaken leaves.

Well knows the fair and friendly moon
The band that Marion leads --
The glitter of their rifles,
The scampering of their steeds.
'Tis life to guide the fiery barb
Across the moonlight plain;
'Tis life to feel the night-wind
That lifts his tossing mane.
A moment in the British camp --
A moment -- and away
Back to the pathless forest,
Before the peep of day.

Grave men there are by broad Santee,
Grave men with hoary hairs,
Their hearts are all with Marion,
For Marion are their prayers.
And lovely ladies greet our band
With kindliest welcoming,
With smiles like those of summer,
And tears like those of spring.
For them we wear these trusty arms,
And lay them down no more
Till we have driven the Briton,
Forever, from our shore.

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Francis Marion- 1999 Cosmic Player Plate
Published: January 25, 1999
Copyright © 1999 by the Cosmic Baseball Association