When I was a kid my heroes were never ballplayers or athletes or musicians, they were real heroes. Men and women who put their country before anything else and earned their place in history. People like John Paul Jones, or Betty Zane, or Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. For as long as I can remember, I devoured history books and biographies of people like that. One of my favorites was Francis Marion, who won fame in the Revolutionary War as the Swamp Fox.
Born sometime around 1732 in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Marion seemed to have looked for adventure at a young age. He was shipwrecked at 15 and spent a week in a lifeboat before being rescued. Back on dry land, he later managed his family’s plantation.
He fought in the French and Indian War in 1757 and was called back to service in 1775, being commissioned a captain in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment. He saw action in June, 1776 in the defense of Fort Sullivan in Charleston harbor. Promoted to lieutenant colonel by the Continental Congress in 1776, he continued his service fighting against the British, including taking part in the siege of Savannah.
When Charleston, South Carolina fell to the British in 1780 and most Continental soldiers were called away to fight in other areas, Marion organized a small group of patriots to stay behind and wage war against the enemy. From that time through the end of the war, Marion’s ragtag group of men conducted guerrilla raids on British troops and Loyalists who supported the Crown, emerging from the swamps in brief, vicious attacks, often against superior forces, before fading away into the mists.
British military leaders and their troops, trained and comfortable in formal combat where long lines faced off against each other on battlefields, were disheartened and frustrated dealing with Marion’s brand of unconventional warfare. Over time, patriots and the enemy alike began to call him the Swamp Fox because of his cunning ways and how easily he and his men could survive without pay or rations, living off the land and from what they plundered in their raids.
By war’s end, Marion’s plantation had been burned to the ground and he was nearly destitute. But he managed to rebuild, marrying his cousin, Mary Esther Videau, and serving several terms in the South Carolina State Senate.
Francis Marion, the fabled Swamp Fox, died in 1795, at the age of 63, and was buried at his brother’s Belle Isle Plantation Cemetery in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Today the small cemetery is part of Santee State Park and is tucked away on a back road a few miles from Pineville, South Carolina.
Marion’s tomb is protected by a concrete slab and a wrought iron fence. Several family members are also buried in the cemetery.
I could not find an address when we visited, and it took a couple of false turns before we located it. GPS coordinates are 33°26’58.9″N and 80°05’14.4″W. The road into the cemetery is narrow and tree-lined, and the small parking area at the cemetery could be difficult for a large RV.
But if your travels take you through the lowlands of South Carolina, make the time to visit and pay your respects to the Swamp Fox. We need to honor our real heroes.
Congratulations Mark Little, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Cops and Writers: From the Academy to the Street by my friend Patrick J. O’Donnell. Patrick recently retired from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Police Department, and runs the Cops and Writers Facebook page, which is a valuable resource for anyone writing mysteries or crime thrillers. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be a police officer, this is the book that tells you how it all gets started, from basic training at the police academy to hitting the streets as a rookie patrol officer working with a Field Training Officer (FTO), along with a lot of other information about things like arrest techniques, different types of police assignments, and stories from Patrick’s own experiences in the trenches. Even if you’re not a writer, this is a book you will enjoy. We had 49 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day – Sometimes I like to surprise my neighbors by smiling and waving back at them.