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Planning and Zoning
Berkeley County Council
Francis Marion, the youngest son of Gabriel and Esther Marion, was born in 1732 at Goatfield Plantation in the Cordesville area of Berkeley County. His ancestors were French Huguenots who had fled from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His father moved the family to Georgetown when Francis was five years old, and he grew up hunting and fishing in the swamps from the Pee Dee to the Santee River. This experience would serve him well in later years as he used his knowledge of the swamps to confound his enemies, the British.
His first experience as a solider came during the Cherokee war in 1761 at the age of 25. He served under Captain William Moultrie as a first lieutenant during the campaign to punish the Cherokee Indians for their attacks on the frontier outpost. Many of their crops and towns were destroyed and as a result they surrendered and moved out of the colony. His superiors considered Marion a fine "partisan officer".
After the war, Marion became a farmer and purchased Pond Bluff Plantation on the Santee River below Eutaw Springs. He was elected a captain of the Second S.C. Regiment of Foot in 1775 under his old commander Colonel William Moultrie. He fought with the 2nd Regiment at the battle of Sullivans Island, the first major defeat for the British on June 28, 1776 when the British fleet was badly mauled by the Americans in a partially completed fort made of sand and palmetto logs. The news of the battle reached the Continental Congress just as the Declaration of Independence was being ratified.
Lt. Colonel Marion was in command of the 2nd Regiment during the siege of Savannah in October 1779. The French commander of the siege gave General Prevost, the British officer in charge, 24 hours to decide to surrender. Prevost instead used the time to reinforce his position. Marion and his 2nd Regiment were to assault the Spring Hill Redoubt that was occupied by Lt. Colonel Thomas Brown and his Regiment of S.C. Loyalists. Because of the Count D'Estaings' decision, the battle was doomed to fail. Marion and his command assaulted the redoubt and managed to raise the regimental standard on the redoubt, but they were driven off with the loss of over a third of his command. Realizing the futility of further action Count D'Estaing sailed off with the French fleet and the Continentals left Georgia and returned to Charleston.
In 1780, the British Army left Savannah and laid siege to Charleston. The city was surrendered to the British. Marion was not in Charleston when the city capitulated. He had been invited to a party given by Captain McQueen where the host locked all his guests in and requested they help him empty his wine cellar. Marion escaped by jumping out of a second story window and breaking his ankle. For South Carolina, this was a very fortunate event. Marion was at Pond Bluff recovering when he heard about the fall of Charleston. When he was fit enough to travel, he headed for Charlotte with his faithful servant Oscar as his companion. He arrived at the headquarters of General Gates with a small group of followers described by Colonel Otho Williams "attended by very few followers distinguished by small leather caps and the wretchedness of their attire. Their number did not exceed 20 men and boys, some white, some black, all mounted, but most miserably equipped". Not a very auspicious beginning. General Gates was unsure what to do with them so he sent them off to keep an eye on the British and to destroy any boats used to cross the Santee while he led an expedition into South Carolina.
After Gates' defeat at Camden, Marion had the only active military force in the Pee Dee and Lowcountry. In one of his first actions, he captured one of Cornwallis' raiding parties after the battle of Camden and released a number of soldiers captured during that debacle. For the next 18 months, Marion led his militiamen on forays against British patrols and outposts. His soldiers fought with swords made from saw blades and made musket balls out of pewter plates and cups. Always poorly fed, they received no pay and they would have to cease military operations during the planting and harvesting seasons for his men to go home and take care of their families. At times attacks had to be called off for lack of ammunition. He terrorized the British army, striking with incredible swiftness and vanishing ghost-like back into the swamps. He received his nickname from his chief opponent, Banastre Tarleton, who after chasing Marion for seven hours said to his British Legion troops "Come on my boys! Let us go back and we will find the game cock, but as for this damned old fox, the devil himself could not catch him." With those words, Marion's place in history was assured. There is a legend from this period of a British officer who came to the headquarters at Snows Island to discuss terms for a prisoner release with General Marion was invited to supper. When he saw that they were having only sweet potatoes and water to eat, he exclaimed that this was surely not the usual fare. When Marion replied that it was and they were fortunate that day to have more than their usual amount. Tradition says that the officer was so impressed that he returned to British lines and retired from the service because he could not believe that men of such dedication could be defeated.
Marion was there when the British left Charleston in 1782, and he returned to his plantation to find it in ruins. He reestablished his plantation and served in the legislature for a time. He married his cousin Mary Esther Videau and settled down to a life of a gentleman farmer. Always kind to those he defeated, he refused to persecute his former loyalist enemies. The Swamp Fox died at Pond Bluff in February 27, 1795 and is buried at his brothers Belle Isle plantation where his grave and monument can be viewed today.
He was the greatest guerilla fighter of the American Revolution. He epitomized the successful citizen soldier. The paintings in the banner are of the General during the period of his exploits in the lowcountry. After the war, thousands of parents named their sons after him. There are over 29 cities and towns and 17 counties are named for him as well as a National Forest.
Our land is few, but true and tried.