Francis Marion was born near Georgetown in Berkeley County, South Carolina. After receiving a basic education in local schools, Marion went to sea at age 15 and later served with his brother in the French and Indian War. In the early 1760s, he served under William Moultrie in the fighting against the Cherokee.
Turning from military to domestic matters, Marion became a successful planter in St. Johns Parish. He later received a small inheritance and purchased a larger plantation on the Santee River. Increasing prosperity brought him into active participation in public affairs, where he emerged as an advocate for the rights of American colonists in the face of oppressive British policies.
With the outbreak of war in 1775, Francis Marion became increasingly prominent in the Patriot cause. He was elected to the South Carolina Provincial Congress, the governing body of the colony following the collapse of royal authority. He also fought in a number of the early battles in the South, again under Moultrie, including the clash at Fort Sullivan in February 1776.
In September 1778, Marion was commissioned as the commander of the South Carolina Second State Regiment and in the following year, he fought under Benjamin Lincoln at the second Battle of Savannah. A broken ankle kept Marion out of action during part of 1780 and allowed him to escape capture at the fall of Charleston in May.
Francis Marion responded to the British victory at Camden in August 1780 by leading a series of successful nighttime guerilla-style raids against the British supply and communication lines, and against small concentrations of British or Loyalist soldiers. Frustrated opponents, including Benastre Tarleton, failed to track down the elusive Swamp Fox as Marion had become known. In December 1780, he was promoted to brigadier general under Nathanael Greene.
In 1781, Marion participated in the protracted fighting in the Carolinas that culminated at Eutaw Springs in September. The Americans were forced from the field, but British losses compelled them to pull back to Charleston and their war plan deteriorated rapidly in the following weeks.
After the war, Francis Marion served in the South Carolina Senate and sponsored legislative measures designed to provide fair treatment for the remaining Loyalists. In 1790, he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention and was a supporter of the new federal governing document.
He died on his estate on February 27, 1795.
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The Life of Francis Marion by William Gilmore Simms. Known as the "Swamp Fox," South Carolina's Francis Marion maintained the hope of Patriots in the Southern states in the darkest hours of the American ...