* Johnson's Greene, vol. 1.—
Penetrating between these posts, and snatching their prey, or smiting the enemy's detachments, under the very jaws of their cannon, our partisans succeeded in embodying public opinion, through the very sense of shame, against their enemies. The courage of the Whigs was ennobled, and their timidity rebuked, when they beheld such a daring spirit, and one so crowned by frequent successes, in such petty numbers. The 'esprit de corps', which these successes, and this spirit, awakened in the brigade of Marion, necessarily imparted itself to the region of country in which he operated; and the admiration which he inspired in the friendly, and the fear which he taught to the adverse, uniting in their effects, brought equally the faithful and the doubtful to his ranks. From the moment that he eluded the arts, and baffled the pursuit of Tarleton, the people of that tract of country, on a line stretching from Camden, across, to the mouth of Black Creek on the Pedee, including generally both banks of the Wateree, Santee and Pedee, were now (excepting Harrison's party on Lynch's Creek) either ready, or preparing to join him. Under these auspices, with his brigade increasing, Marion began to prepare for new enterprises.
The British post at Georgetown was one of considerable strength and importance. It was of special importance to Marion. From this place he procured, or expected to procure, his supplies of salt, clothing, and ammunition. Of these commodities he was now grievously in want. To surprise Georgetown became as desirable as it was difficult. Marion determined to attempt it. It was only by a surprise that he could hope to be successful, and he made his plans accordingly. They were unfortunate, and the event was particularly and personally distressing to himself. To expedite his schemes, he crossed Black river, at a retired place, called Potato Ferry, and proceeded by the "Gap-way" towards the object of his aim. Three miles from the town there is an inland swamp, called "White's Bay", which, discharging itself by two mouths, the one into Black river, the other into Sampit, completely insulates the town, which stands on the north side of the latter river near its junction with Winyaw bay. Over the creek which empties into the Sampit, there is a bridge, two miles from Georgetown. In the rear of these swamps, Marion concealed himself with the main body of his force, sending out two parties to reconnoitre. One of these parties was commanded by Col. P. Horry, the other by Capt. Melton. These officers both encountered the enemy, but they were not both equally fortunate in the result. Horry may be allowed to tell his own story. "I was sent," he writes, "by Gen. Marion to reconnoitre Georgetown. I proceeded with a guide through the woods all night. At the dawn of day, I drew near the town. I laid an ambuscade, with thirty men and three officers, near the road. About sunrise a chair appeared with two ladies escorted by two British officers. I was ready in advance with an officer to cut them off, but reflecting that they might escape, and alarm the town, which would prevent my taking greater numbers, I desisted. The officers and chair halted very near me, but soon the chair went on, and the officers gallopped in retrograde into the town. Our party continued in ambush, until 10 o'clock A.M.
"Nothing appearing, and men and horses having eaten nothing for thirty-six hours, we were hungered, and retired to a plantation of my quarter-master's, a Mr. White, not far distant. There a curious scene took place. As soon as I entered the house... four ladies appeared, two of whom were Mrs. White and her daughter. I was asked what I wanted. I answered, food, refreshment. The other two ladies were those whom I had seen escorted by the British officers. They seemed greatly agitated, and begged most earnestly that I would go away, for the family was very poor, had no provisions of any sort,—that I knew that they were Whigs, and surely would not add to their distress. So pressing were they for my immediately leaving the plantation, that I thought they had more in view than they pretended. I kept my eye on Mrs. White, and saw she had a smiling countenance, but said nothing. Soon she left the room, and I left it also and went into the piazza, laid my cap, sword and pistols on the long bench, and walked the piazza;—when I discovered Mrs. White behind the house chimney beckoning me. I got to her undiscovered by the young ladies, when she said: 'Colonel Horry, be on your guard; these two young ladies, Miss F——and M——, are just from Georgetown; they are much frightened, and I believe the British are leaving it and may soon attack you. As to provisions, which they make such a rout about, I have plenty for your men and horses in yonder barn, but you must affect to take them by force. Hams, bacon, rice, and fodder, are there. You must insist on the key of the barn, and threaten to split the door with an axe if not immediately opened.' I begged her to say no more, for I was well acquainted with all such matters—to leave the ladies and everything else to my management. She said 'Yes; but do not ruin us: be artful and cunning, or Mr. White may be hanged and all our houses burnt over our heads.' We both secretly returned, she to the room where the young ladies were, and I to the piazza I had just left."*1* This little narrative will give some idea of the straits to which the good whig matrons of Carolina were sometimes reduced in those days. But no time was allowed Horry to extort the provisions as suggested. He had scarcely got to the piazza when his videttes gave the alarm. Two shots warned him of the approach of the foe, and forgetting that his cap, sabre and pistols, lay on the long bench on the piazza, Horry mounted his horse, left the enclosure, and rushed into the melee. The British were seventeen in number, well mounted, and commanded by a brave fellow named Merritt. The dragoons, taken by surprise, turned in flight, and, smiting at every step, the partisans pursued them with fatal earnestness. But two men are reported to have escaped death or captivity, and they were their captain and a sergeant. It was in approaching to encounter Merritt that Horry discovered that he was weaponless. "My officers," says he, "in succession, came up with Captain Merritt, who was in the rear of his party, urging them forward. They engaged him. He was a brave fellow. Baxter, with pistols, fired at his breast, and missing him, retired; Postelle and Greene, with swords, engaged him; both were beaten off. Greene nearly lost his head. His buckskin breeches were cut through several inches.... I almost blush to say that this one British officer beat off three Americans."*2* The honor of the day was decidedly with Merritt, though he was beaten. He was no doubt a far better swordsman than our self-taught cavalry, with broadswords wrought out of mill saws. Merritt abandoned his horse, and escaped to a neighboring swamp, from whence, at midnight, he got into Georgetown.*3* Two of Horry's prisoners proved to be American soldiers; "the sergeant belonged to the 3d Regiment of South Carolina Continentals, and a drummer formerly belonged to my own Regiment (the 5th). The drummer was cruelly wounded on the head; the sergeant was of Virginia, and wounded on the arm. They said they had enlisted from the Prison Ship to have a chance of escaping and joining their countrymen in arms,"*4* and would have done so that day but that the British captain was in the rear, and they dared not. Horry rejoined Marion in safety with his prisoners.
*1* MS. Life of Horry by himself, pp. 84-87.
*2* MS. of Horry, p. 89.
*3* Weems, speaking for Horry, tells us that he met with Captain Merritt after the war in New York, who recognized him, and told him that he had never had such a fright in all his life as upon that occasion. "Will you believe me, sir," said he, "when I assure you that I went out that morning with my locks of as bright an auburn as ever curled upon the forehead of youth, and by the time I had crawled out of the swamp into Georgetown that night, they were as grey as a badger!"
*4* MS. of Horry.—
Captain Melton was not so fortunate. He came in contact with a party of Tories, much larger than his own force, who were patrolling, under Captain Barfield, near White's Bridge. A sharp, but short action followed, in which Melton was compelled to retreat. But Gabriel Marion, a nephew of the General, had his horse shot under him, and fell into the hands of the Tories. As soon as he was recognized he was put to death, no respite allowed, no pause, no prayer.* His name was fatal to him. The loss was severely felt by his uncle, who, with no family or children of his own, had lavished the greater part of his affections upon this youth, of whom high expectations had been formed, and who had already frequently distinguished himself by his gallantry and conduct. He had held a lieutenancy in the Second South Carolina Regiment, and was present at the battle of Fort Moultrie. Subsequently, he had taken part in most of the adventures of his uncle. Marion felt his privation keenly; but he consoled himself by saying that "he should not mourn for him. The youth was virtuous, and had fallen in the cause of his country!" But this event, with some other instances of brutality and murder on the part of the Tories, happening about this time, gave a more savage character than ever to the warfare which ensued. Motives of private anger and personal revenge embittered and increased the usual ferocities of civil war; and hundreds of dreadful and desperate tragedies gave that peculiar aspect to the struggle, which led Greene to say that the inhabitants pursued each other rather like wild beasts than like men. In the Cheraw district, on the Pedee, above the line where Marion commanded, the Whig and Tory warfare, of which we know but little beyond this fact, was one of utter extermination. The revolutionary struggle in Carolina was of a sort utterly unknown in any other part of the Union.
* Judge James writes: "Gabriel Marion... was taken prisoner; but as soon as his name was announced, he was inhumanely shot. The instrument of death was planted so near that it burnt his linen at the breast."—A. L., 1996.—
The attempt upon Georgetown was thus defeated. The British had taken the alarm, and were now in strength, and in a state of vigilance and activity, which precluded the possibility of surprise. Marion's wishes, therefore, with regard to this place, were deferred accordingly to a more auspicious season. He retired to Snow's Island, where he made his camp. This place acquired large celebrity as the "camp of Marion". To this day it is pointed out with this distinguishing title, and its traditionary honors insisted upon. It was peculiarly eligible for his purposes, furnishing a secure retreat, a depot for his arms, ammunition, prisoners and invalids—difficult of access, easily guarded, and contiguous to the scenes of his most active operations. "Snow's Island" lies at the confluence of Lynch's Creek and the Pedee. On the east flows the latter river; on the west, Clark's Creek, issuing from Lynch's, and a stream navigable for small vessels; on the north lies Lynch's Creek, wide and deep, but nearly choked by rafts of logs and refuse timber. The island, high river swamp, was spacious, and, like all the Pedee river swamp of that day, abounded in live stock and provision. Thick woods covered the elevated tracts, dense cane-brakes the lower, and here and there the eye rested upon a cultivated spot, in maize, which the invalids and convalescents were wont to tend.
Here Marion made his fortress. Having secured all the boats of the neighborhood, he chose such as he needed, and destroyed the rest. Where the natural defences of the island seemed to require aid from art, he bestowed it; and, by cutting away bridges and obstructing the ordinary pathways with timber, he contrived to insulate, as much as possible, the country under his command. From this fortress, his scouting parties were sent forth nightly in all directions. Enemies were always easy to be found. The British maintained minor posts at Nelson's Ferry and Scott's Lake, as well as Georgetown; and the Tories on Lynch's Creek and Little Pedee were much more numerous, if less skilfully conducted, than the men of Marion.
Marion's encampment implied no repose, no forbearance of the active business of war. Very far from it. He was never more dangerous to an enemy, than when he seemed quietly in camp. His camp, indeed, was frequently a lure, by which to tempt the Tories into unseasonable exposure. The post at Snow's Island gave him particular facilities for this species of warfare. He had but to cross a river, and a three hours' march enabled him to forage in an enemy's country. Reinforcements came to him daily, and it was only now, for the first time, that his command began to assume the appearance, and exhibit the force of a brigade.* He became somewhat bolder in consequence, in the tone which he used towards the Tories. We find him at this period,** sending forth his officers with orders of a peremptory nature. He writes to Adjutant Postelle: "You will proceed with a party down Black river, from Black Mingo to the mouth of Pedee, and come up to this place. You will take all the boats and canoes from Euhaney up, and impress negroes to bring them to camp—put some men to see them safe. You will take every horse, to whomsoever he may belong, whether friend or foe. You will take all arms and ammunition for the use of our service. You will forbid all persons from carrying any grains, stock, or any sort of provisions to Georgetown, or where the enemy may get them, on pain of being held as traitors, and enemies to the Americans. All persons who will not join you, you will take prisoners and bring to me, &c."
* December 30, 1780.
** Correspondence of Marion, quoted by James.—
He then laid the country under martial law, the proper measure for straitening an enemy, and compelling sluggish and doubtful friends to declare themselves. In this proceeding he was justified by the authority of Governor Rutledge, from whom, with a brigadier's commission, he had received military command over a region of country of vast extent, which the indefatigable partisan contrived to compass and coerce, if not altogether to command and control. Similar orders with those which were given to Postelle, were addressed to Col. P. Horry; and they were both dispatched; the one, as we have seen, between Black and Pedee rivers, the other to Waccamaw Creek. Other parties were sent out in other quarters, with like objects; and, with the whole contiguous country thus placed under the keenest surveillance, Marion hailed the close of the year in his swamp fortress. All these parties were more or less engaged with the enemy, at different periods, while on their scouting expeditions. Several small, but spirited achievements, of which history condescends to furnish no details, occurred among them, in which, however, the partisans were not always successful. One instance may be mentioned. Lieutenant Roger Gordon had been dispatched with a small party to patrol on Lynch's Creek. He suffered himself, while taking refreshments at a house, to be surrounded by a party of Tories, under Capt. Butler. The enemy made good his approaches to the house, and set it on fire. Finding himself greatly outnumbered, and perceiving that resistance would be useless, Gordon surrendered upon terms; but as soon as his party had yielded up their arms, they were murdered to a man. These bloody events were accompanied and followed by others of a like character. Nor were the Tories always, or exclusively guilty. The sanguinary warfare began with them, but it was perpetuated by mutual excesses. Shortly after the murder of Gabriel Marion, the person who was supposed to have been guilty of the savage crime, was taken prisoner by Horry. While on the road, returning to the camp, environed by his guards, the prisoner was shot down by an officer, who escaped detection under cover of the night. Prisoners, after this, were seldom made on either side, where the Whigs and Tories came in conflict. No quarter was given. Safety lay in victory alone, and the vanquished, if they could not find refuge in the swamps, found no mercy from the conqueror. Even where, under the occasional influence of a milder mood, or milder captain, the discomfited were admitted to present mercy, there was still no security for their lives. There were a few infuriated men, who defied subordination, by whom, on both sides, the unhappy captives were sure to be sacrificed.
We need not say, in behalf of Marion, and his superior officers, that, where he or they commanded in person, no countenance was given to these bloody principles and performances. Marion was notoriously the most merciful of enemies. The death of the prisoner in the ranks of Horry, though the unhappy man was charged with the murder of his favorite nephew, was a subject of the greatest soreness and annoyance to his mind; and he warmly expressed the indignation which he felt, at an action which he could not punish.
Marion's Camp at Snow's Island—The Character of his Warfare—Of his Men—Anecdotes of Conyers and Horry—He feasts a British Officer on Potatoes—Quells a Mutiny.
Marion's career as a partisan, in the thickets and swamps of Carolina, is abundantly distinguished by the picturesque; but it was while he held his camp at Snow's Island, that it received its highest colors of romance. In this snug and impenetrable fortress, he reminds us very much of the ancient feudal baron of France and Germany, who, perched on castled eminence, looked down with the complacency of an eagle from his eyrie, and marked all below him for his own. The resemblance is good in all respects but one. The plea and justification of Marion are complete. His warfare was legitimate. He was no mountain robber,—no selfish and reckless ruler, thirsting for spoil and delighting inhumanly in blood. The love of liberty, the defence of country, the protection of the feeble, the maintenance of humanity and all its dearest interests, against its tyrant—these were the noble incentives which strengthened him in his stronghold, made it terrible in the eyes of his enemy, and sacred in those of his countrymen. Here he lay, grimly watching for the proper time and opportunity when to sally forth and strike. His position, so far as it sheltered him from his enemies, and gave him facilities for their overthrow, was wonderfully like that of the knightly robber of the Middle Ages. True, his camp was without its castle—but it had its fosse and keep—its draw-bridge and portcullis. There were no towers frowning in stone and iron—but there were tall pillars of pine and cypress, from the waving tops of which the warders looked out, and gave warning of the foe or the victim. No cannon thundered from his walls; no knights, shining in armor, sallied forth to the tourney. He was fond of none of the mere pomps of war. He held no revels—"drank no wine through the helmet barred," and, quite unlike the baronial ruffian of the Middle Ages, was strangely indifferent to the feasts of gluttony and swilled insolence. He found no joy in the pleasures of the table. Art had done little to increase the comforts or the securities of his fortress. It was one, complete to his hands, from those of nature—such a one as must have delighted the generous English outlaw of Sherwood forest—isolated by deep ravines and rivers, a dense forest of mighty trees, and interminable undergrowth. The vine and briar guarded his passes. The laurel and the shrub, the vine and sweet scented jessamine, roofed his dwelling, and clambered up between his closed eyelids and the stars. Obstructions, scarcely penetrable by any foe, crowded the pathways to his tent;—and no footstep, not practised in the secret, and 'to the manner born', might pass unchallenged to his midnight rest. The swamp was his moat; his bulwarks were the deep ravines, which, watched by sleepless rifles, were quite as impregnable as the castles on the Rhine. Here, in the possession of his fortress, the partisan slept secure. In the defence of such a place, in the employment of such material as he had to use, Marion stands out alone in our written history, as the great master of that sort of strategy, which renders the untaught militia-man in his native thickets, a match for the best drilled veteran of Europe. Marion seemed to possess an intuitive knowledge of his men and material, by which, without effort, he was led to the most judicious modes for their exercise. He beheld, at a glance, the evils or advantages of a position. By a nice adaptation of his resources to his situation, he promptly supplied its deficiencies and repaired its defects. Till this was done, he did not sleep;—he relaxed in none of his endeavors. By patient toil, by keenest vigilance, by a genius peculiarly his own, he reconciled those inequalities of fortune or circumstance, under which ordinary men sit down in despair. Surrounded by superior foes, he showed no solicitude on this account. If his position was good, their superiority gave him little concern. He soon contrived to lessen it, by cutting off their advanced parties, their scouts or foragers, and striking at their detachments in detail. It was on their own ground, in their immediate presence, nay, in the very midst of them, that he frequently made himself a home. Better live upon foes than upon friends, was his maxim; and this practice of living amongst foes was the great school by which his people were taught vigilance.
The adroitness and address of Marion's captainship were never more fully displayed than when he kept Snow's Island; sallying forth, as occasion offered, to harass the superior foe, to cut off his convoys, or to break up, before they could well embody, the gathering and undisciplined Tories. His movements were marked by equal promptitude and wariness. He suffered no risks from a neglect of proper precaution. His habits of circumspection and resolve ran together in happy unison. His plans, carefully considered beforehand, were always timed with the happiest reference to the condition and feelings of his men. To prepare that condition, and to train those feelings, were the chief employment of his repose. He knew his game, and how it should be played, before a step was taken or a weapon drawn. When he himself, or any of his parties, left the island, upon an expedition, they advanced along no beaten paths. They made them as they went. He had the Indian faculty in perfection, of gathering his course from the sun, from the stars, from the bark and the tops of trees, and such other natural guides, as the woodman acquires only through long and watchful experience. Many of the trails, thus opened by him, upon these expeditions, are now the ordinary avenues of the country. On starting, he almost invariably struck into the woods, and seeking the heads of the larger water courses, crossed them at their first and small beginnings. He destroyed the bridges where he could. He preferred fords. The former not only facilitated the progress of less fearless enemies, but apprised them of his own approach. If speed was essential, a more direct, but not less cautious route was pursued. The stream was crossed sometimes where it was deepest. On such occasions the party swam their horses, Marion himself leading the way, though he himself was unable to swim. He rode a famous horse called Ball, which he had taken from a loyalist captain of that name. This animal was a sorrel, of high, generous blood, and took the water as if born to it. The horses of the brigade soon learned to follow him as naturally as their riders followed his master. There was no waiting for pontoons and boats. Had there been there would have been no surprises.
The secrecy with which Marion conducted his expeditions was, perhaps, one of the reasons for their frequent success. He entrusted his schemes to nobody, not even his most confidential officers. He consulted with them respectfully, heard them patiently, weighed their suggestions, and silently approached his conclusions. They knew his determinations only from his actions. He left no track behind him, if it were possible to avoid it. He was often vainly hunted after by his own detachments. He was more apt at finding them than they him. His scouts were taught a peculiar and shrill whistle, which, at night, could be heard at a most astonishing distance. We are reminded of the signal of Roderick Dhu:—
——"He whistled shrill, And he was answered from the hill, Wild as the scream of the curlew, From crag to crag, the signal flew."
His expeditions were frequently long, and his men, hurrying forth without due preparation, not unfrequently suffered much privation from want of food. To guard against this danger, it was their habit to watch his cook. If they saw him unusually busied in preparing supplies of the rude, portable food, which it was Marion's custom to carry on such occasions, they knew what was before them, and provided themselves accordingly. In no other way could they arrive at their general's intentions. His favorite time for moving was with the setting sun, and then it was known that the march would continue all night. Before striking any sudden blow, he has been known to march sixty or seventy miles, taking no other food in twenty-four hours, than a meal of cold potatoes and a draught of cold water. The latter might have been repeated. This was truly a Spartan process for acquiring vigor. Its results were a degree of patient hardihood, as well in officers as men, to which few soldiers in any periods have attained. These marches were made in all seasons. His men were badly clothed in homespun, a light wear which afforded little warmth. They slept in the open air, and frequently without a blanket. Their ordinary food consisted of sweet potatoes, garnished, on fortunate occasions, with lean beef. Salt was only to be had when they succeeded in the capture of an enemy's commissariat; and even when this most necessary of all human condiments was obtained, the unselfish nature of Marion made him indifferent to its use. He distributed it on such occasions, in quantities not exceeding a bushel, to each Whig family; and by this patriarchal care, still farther endeared himself to the affection of his followers.
The effect of this mode of progress was soon felt by the people of the partisan. They quickly sought to emulate the virtues which they admired. They became expert in the arts which he practised so successfully. The constant employment which he gave them, the nature of his exactions, taught activity, vigilance, coolness and audacity. His first requisition, from his subordinates, was good information. His scouts were always his best men. They were generally good horsemen, and first rate shots. His cavalry were, in fact, so many mounted gunmen, not uniformly weaponed, but carrying the rifle, the carbine, or an ordinary fowling-piece, as they happened to possess or procure them. Their swords, unless taken from the enemy, were made out of mill saws, roughly manufactured by a forest blacksmith. His scouts were out in all directions, and at all hours. They did the double duty of patrol and spies. They hovered about the posts of the enemy, crouching in the thicket, or darting along the plain, picking up prisoners, and information, and spoils together. They cut off stragglers, encountered patrols of the foe, and arrested his supplies on the way to the garrison. Sometimes the single scout, buried in the thick tops of the tree, looked down upon the march of his legions, or hung perched over the hostile encampment till it slept, then slipping down, stole through the silent host, carrying off a drowsy sentinel, or a favorite charger, upon which the daring spy flourished conspicuous among his less fortunate companions. The boldness of these adventurers was sometimes wonderful almost beyond belief. It was the strict result of that confidence in their woodman skill, which the practice of their leader, and his invariable success, naturally taught them to entertain.
The mutual confidence which thus grew up between our partisan and his men, made the business of war, in spite of its peculiar difficulties and privations, a pleasant one. As they had no doubts of their leader's ability to conduct them to victory, he had no apprehension, but, when brought to a meeting with the enemy, that they would secure it. His mode of battle was a simple one; generally very direct; but he was wonderfully prompt in availing himself of the exigencies of the affair. His rule was to know his enemy, how posted and in what strength,—then, if his men were set on, they had nothing to do but to fight. They knew that he had so placed them that valor was the only requisite. A swamp, right or left, or in his rear; a thicket beside him;—any spot in which time could be gained, and an inexperienced militia rallied, long enough to become reconciled to the unaccustomed sights and sounds of war,—were all that he required, in order to secure a fit position for fighting in. He found no difficulty in making good soldiers of them. It caused him no surprise, and we may add no great concern, that his raw militia men, armed with rifle and ducking gun, should retire before the pushing bayonets of a regular soldiery. He considered it mere butchery to expose them to this trial. But he taught his men to retire slowly, to take post behind the first tree or thicket, reload, and try the effect of a second fire; and so on, of a third and fourth, retiring still, but never forgetting to take advantage of every shelter that offered itself. He expected them to fly, but not too far to be useful. We shall see the effect of this training at Eutaw, where the militia in the advance delivered seventeen fires, before they yielded to the press of the enemy. But, says Johnson, with equal truth and terseness, "that distrust of their own immediate commanders which militia are too apt to be affected with, never produced an emotion where Marion and Pickens commanded."* The history of American warfare shows conclusively that, under the right leaders, the American militia are as cool in moments of danger as the best drilled soldiery in the universe. But they have been a thousand times disgraced by imbecile and vainglorious pretenders.
* History of Greene, p. 225, vol. 2.—
Marion was admirably supported by his followers. Several officers of the brigade were distinguished men. Of Major John James we have already seen something. All the brothers were men of courage and great muscular activity. The Witherspoons were similarly endowed. His chief counsellors were the brothers Horry, and Postelle,—all like himself descended from Huguenot stocks. To the two last (the brothers Postelle) it has been remarked, that "nothing appeared difficult."* Captains Baxter and Conyers were particularly distinguished,—the first for his gigantic frame, which was informed by a corresponding courage; the latter by his equal bravery and horsemanship. He was a sort of knight-errant in the brigade, and his behavior seemed not unfrequently dictated by a passion for chivalrous display. An anecdote, in connection with Conyers, is told, which will serve to show what was the spirit of the patriotic damsels of the revolution. Marion had environed Colonel Watson, at a plantation where Mary, the second daughter of John Witherspoon, was living at the time. She was betrothed to Conyers. The gallant captain daily challenged the British posts, skirmishing in the sight of his mistress. His daring was apparent enough—his great skill and courage were known. He presented himself frequently before the lines of the enemy, either as a single champion or at the head of his troop. The pride of the maiden's heart may be imagined when she heard the warning in the camp, as she frequently did—"Take care,—there is Conyers!" The insult was unresented: but, one day, when her lover appeared as usual, a British officer, approaching her, spoke sneeringly, or disrespectfully, of our knight-errant. The high spirited girl drew the shoe from her foot, and flinging it in his face, exclaimed, "Coward! go and meet him!" The chronicler from whom we derive this anecdote is particularly careful to tell us that it was a walking shoe and not a kid slipper which she made use of; by which we are to understand, that she was no ways tender of the stroke.
* Judge James' Sketch of Marion.—
The Horrys were both able officers. Hugh was a particular favorite of Marion. For his brother he had large esteem. Of Peter Horry we have several amusing anecdotes, some of which we gather from himself. It is upon the authority of his MS. memoir that we depend for several matters of interest in this volume. This memoir, written in the old age of the author, and while he suffered from infirmities of age and health, is a crude but not uninteresting narrative of events in his own life, and of the war. The colonel confesses himself very frankly. In his youth he had a great passion for the sex, which led him into frequent difficulties. These, though never very serious, he most seriously relates. He was brave, and ambitious of distinction. This ambition led him to desire a command of cavalry rather than of infantry. But he was no rider—was several times unhorsed in combat, and was indebted to the fidelity of his soldiers for his safety.* On one occasion his escape was more narrow from a different cause. He gives us a ludicrous account of it himself. Crossing the swamp at Lynch's Creek, to join Marion, in the dark, and the swamp swimming, he encountered the bough of a tree, to which he clung, while his horse passed from under him. He was no swimmer, and, but for timely assistance from his followers, would have been drowned. Another story, which places him in a scarcely less ludicrous attitude, is told by Garden.** He was ordered by Marion to wait, in ambush, the approach of a British detachment. The duty was executed with skill; the enemy was completely in his power. But he labored under an impediment in his speech, which, we may readily suppose, was greatly increased by anxiety and excitement. The word "fire" stuck in his throat, as "amen" did in that of Macbeth. The emergency was pressing, but this only increased the difficulty. In vain did he make the attempt. He could say "fi-fi-fi!" but he could get no further—the "r" was incorrigible. At length, irritated almost to madness, he exclaimed, "SHOOT, d——n you, SHOOT! you know what I would say! Shoot, and be d——d to you!" He was present, and acted bravely, in almost every affair of consequence, in the brigade of Marion. At Quinby, Capt. Baxter, already mentioned, a man distinguished by his great strength and courage, as well as size, and by equally great simplicity of character, cried out, "I am wounded, colonel!" "Think no more of it, Baxter," was the answer of Horry, "but stand to your post." "But I can't stand," says Baxter, "I am wounded a second time." "Lie down then, Baxter, but quit not your post." "They have shot me again, colonel," said the wounded man, "and if I stay any longer here, I shall be shot to pieces." "Be it so, Baxter, but stir not," was the order, which the brave fellow obeyed, receiving a fourth wound before the engagement was over.
* MS. Memoir, p. 51.
** Anecdotes, first series, p. 30.—
It was while Marion was lying with his main force at the camp at Snow's Island, that two circumstances occurred which deserve mention, as equally serving to illustrate his own and the character of the warfare of that time and region. One of these occurrences has long been a popular anecdote, and, as such, has been made the subject of a very charming picture, which has done something towards giving it a more extended circulation.* The other is less generally known, but is not less deserving of the popular ear, as distinguishing, quite as much as the former, the purity, simplicity, and firmness of Marion's character. It appears that, desiring the exchange of prisoners, a young officer was dispatched from the British post at Georgetown to the swamp encampment of Marion, in order to effect this object. He was encountered by one of the scouting parties of the brigade, carefully blindfolded, and conducted, by intricate paths, through the wild passes, and into the deep recesses of the island. Here, when his eyes were uncovered, he found himself surrounded by a motley multitude, which might well have reminded him of Robin Hood and his outlaws. The scene was unquestionably wonderfully picturesque and attractive, and our young officer seems to have been duly impressed by it. He was in the middle of one of those grand natural amphitheatres so common in our swamp forests, in which the massive pine, the gigantic cypress, and the stately and ever-green laurel, streaming with moss, and linking their opposite arms, inflexibly locked in the embrace of centuries, group together, with elaborate limbs and leaves, the chief and most graceful features of Gothic architecture. To these recesses, through the massed foliage of the forest, the sunlight came as sparingly, and with rays as mellow and subdued, as through the painted window of the old cathedral, falling upon aisle and chancel. Scattered around were the forms of those hardy warriors with whom our young officer was yet destined, most probably, to meet in conflict,—strange or savage in costume or attitude—lithe and sinewy of frame—keen-eyed and wakeful at the least alarm. Some slept, some joined in boyish sports; some with foot in stirrup, stood ready for the signal to mount and march. The deadly rifle leaned against the tree, the sabre depended from its boughs. Steeds were browsing in the shade, with loosened bits, but saddled, ready at the first sound of the bugle to skirr through brake and thicket. Distant fires, dimly burning, sent up their faint white smokes, that, mingling with the thick forest tops, which they could not pierce, were scarce distinguishable from the long grey moss which made the old trees look like so many ancient patriarchs. But the most remarkable object in all this scene was Marion himself. Could it be that the person who stood before our visitor—"in stature of the smallest size, thin, as well as low"**—was that of the redoubted chief, whose sleepless activity and patriotic zeal had carried terror to the gates of Charleston; had baffled the pursuit and defied the arms of the best British captains; had beaten the equal enemy, and laughed at the superior? Certainly, if he were, then never were the simple resources of intellect, as distinguishable from strength of limb, or powers of muscle, so wonderfully evident as in this particular instance. The physical powers of Marion were those simply of endurance. His frame had an iron hardihood, derived from severe discipline and subdued desires and appetites, but lacked the necessary muscle and capacities of the mere soldier. It was as the general, the commander, the counsellor, rather than as the simple leader of his men, that Marion takes rank, and is to be considered in the annals of war. He attempted no physical achievements, and seems to have placed very little reliance upon his personal prowess.***
* General Marion, in his swamp encampment, inviting the British officer to dinner. Painted by J. B. White; engraved by Sartain; published by the Apollo Association.
** Henry Lee's Memoirs. He adds: "His visage was not pleasing, and his manners not captivating. He was reserved and silent, entering into conversation only when necessary, and then with modesty and good sense. He possessed a strong mind, improved by its own reflections and observations, not by books or travel. His dress was like his address— plain, regarding comfort and decency only. In his meals he was abstemious, eating generally of one dish, and drinking water mostly. He was sedulous and constant in his attention to the duties of his station, to which every other consideration yielded. Even the charms of the fair, like the luxuries of the table and the allurements of wealth, seemed to be lost upon him. The procurement of subsistence for his men, and the continuance of annoyance for his enemy, engrossed his entire mind. He was virtuous all over; never, even in manner, much less in reality, did he trench upon right. Beloved by his friends, and respected by his enemies, he exhibited a luminous example of the beneficial effects to be produced by an individual who, with only small means at his command, possesses a virtuous heart, a strong head, and a mind directed to the common good."—Appendix to 'Memoirs', vol. 1 p. 396.
*** The dislike or indifference of Marion, to anything like mere military display, was a matter of occasional comment, and some jest, among his followers. Among other proofs which are given of this indifference, we are told, that, on one occasion, attempting to draw his sword from the scabbard, he failed to do so in consequence of the rust, the result of his infrequent employment of the weapon. Certainly, a rich event in the life of a military man. The fact is, that Marion seldom used his sword except in battle, or on occasions when its employment was inseparable from his duties. Long swords were then in fashion, but he continued to wear the small cut and thrust of the second regiment. Such a weapon better suited his inferior physique, and necessarily lessened the motives to personal adventure.—
The British visitor was a young man who had never seen Marion. The great generals whom he was accustomed to see, were great of limb, portly, and huge of proportion. Such was Cornwallis, and others of the British army. Such, too, was the case among the Americans. The average weight of these opposing generals, during that war, is stated at more than two hundred pounds. The successes of Marion must naturally have led our young Englishman to look for something in his physique even above this average, and verging on the gigantic. Vastness seems always the most necessary agent in provoking youthful wonder, and satisfying it. His astonishment, when they did meet, was, in all probability, not of a kind to lessen the partisan in his estimation. That a frame so slight, and seemingly so feeble, coupled with so much gentleness, and so little pretension, should provoke a respect so general, and fears, on one side, so impressive, was well calculated to compel inquiry as to the true sources of this influence. Such an inquiry was in no way detrimental to a reputation founded, like Marion's, on the successful exercise of peculiar mental endowments. The young officer, as soon as his business was dispatched, prepared to depart, but Marion gently detained him, as he said, for dinner, which was in preparation. "The mild and dignified simplicity of Marion's manners had already produced their effects, and, to prolong so interesting an interview, the invitation was accepted. The entertainment was served up on pieces of bark, and consisted entirely of roasted potatoes, of which the general ate heartily, requesting his guest to profit by his example, repeating the old adage, that 'hunger is the best sauce.'" "But surely, general," said the officer, "this cannot be your ordinary fare." "Indeed, sir, it is," he replied, "and we are fortunate on this occasion, entertaining company, to have more than our usual allowance."* The story goes, that the young Briton was so greatly impressed with the occurrence, that, on his return to Georgetown, he retired from the service, declaring his conviction that men who could with such content endure the privations of such a life, were not to be subdued. His conclusion was strictly logical, and hence, indeed, the importance of such a warfare as that carried on by Marion, in which, if he obtained no great victories, he was yet never to be overcome.
* Garden—Anecdotes—First Series, p. 22.—
The next anecdote, if less pleasing in its particulars, is yet better calculated for the development of Marion's character, the equal powers of firmness and forbearance which he possessed, his superiority to common emotions, and the mingled gentleness and dignity with which he executed the most unpleasant duties of his command. Marion had placed one of his detachments at the plantation of a Mr. George Crofts, on Sampit Creek. This person had proved invariably true to the American cause; had supplied the partisans secretly with the munitions of war, with cattle and provisions. He was an invalid, however, suffering from a mortal infirmity, which compelled his removal for medical attendance to Georgetown, then in possession of the enemy.* During the absence of the family, Marion placed a sergeant in the dwelling-house, for its protection. From this place the guard was expelled by two officers of the brigade, and the house stripped of its contents. The facts were first disclosed to Marion by Col. P. Horry, who received them from the wife of Crofts. This lady pointed to the sword of her husband actually at the side of the principal offender. The indignation of Marion was not apt to expend itself in words. Redress was promised to the complainant and she was dismissed. Marion proceeded with all diligence to the recovery of the property. But his course was governed by prudence as well as decision. The offenders were men of some influence, and had a small faction in the brigade, which had already proved troublesome, and might be dangerous. One of them was a major, the other a captain. Their names are both before us in the MS. memoir of Horry, whose copious detail on this subject leaves nothing to be supplied. We forbear giving them, as their personal publication would answer no good purpose. They were in command of a body of men, about sixty in number, known as the Georgia Refugees. Upon the minds of these men the offenders had already sought to act, in reference to the expected collision with their general. Marion made his preparations with his ordinary quietness, and then dispatched Horry to the person who was in possession of the sword of Croft; for which he made a formal demand. He refused to give it up, alleging that it was his, and taken in war. "If the general wants it," he added, "let him come for it himself." When this reply was communicated to Marion he instructed Horry to renew the demand. His purpose seems to have been, discovering the temper of the offender, to gain the necessary time. His officers, meanwhile, were gathering around him. He was making his preparations for a struggle, which might be bloody, which might, indeed, involve not only the safety of his brigade, but his own future usefulness. Horry, however, with proper spirit, entreated not to be sent again to the offender, giving, as a reason for his reluctance, that, in consequence of the previous rudeness of the other, he was not in the mood to tolerate a repetition of the indignity, and might, if irritated, be provoked to violence. Marion then dispatched his orderly to the guilty major, with a request, civilly worded, that he might see him at head quarters. He appeared accordingly, accompanied by the captain who had joined with him in the outrage, and under whose influence he appeared to act. Marion renewed his demand, in person, for the sword of Croft. The other again refused to deliver it, alleging that "Croft was a Tory, and even then with the enemy in Georgetown."
* The brigade of Marion was for a long period without medical attendance or a surgeon to dress his wounded. If a wound reached an artery the patient bled to death. To illustrate the fierce hostility of Whigs and Tories, a single anecdote will suffice. On one occasion, Horry had three men wounded near Georgetown. A surgeon of the Tories was then a prisoner in his ranks, yet he positively refused to dress the wounds, and suffered a fine youth named Kolb, to bleed to death before his eyes, from a slight injury upon the wrist.—
"Will you deliver me the sword or not, Major———?" was the answer which Marion made to this suggestion.
"I will not!" was the reply of the offender. "At these words," says Horry in the MS. before us, "I could forbear no longer, and said with great warmth, 'By G—d, sir, did I command this brigade, as you do, I would hang them both up in half an hour!' Marion sternly replied,—'This is none of your business, sir: they are both before me!—Sergeant of the guard, bring me a file of men with loaded arms and fixed bayonets!'—'I was silent!' adds Horry: 'all our field officers in camp were present, and when the second refusal of the sword was given, they all put their hands to their swords in readiness to draw. My own sword was already drawn!'"
In the regular service, and with officers accustomed to, and bred up in, the severe and stern sense of authority which is usually thought necessary to a proper discipline, the refractory offender would most probably have been hewn down in the moment of his disobedience. The effect of such a proceeding, in the present instance, might have been of the most fatal character. The 'esprit de corps' might have prompted the immediate followers of the offender to have seized upon their weapons, and, though annihilated, as Horry tells us they would have been, yet several valuable lives might have been lost, which the country could ill have spared. The mutiny would have been put down, but at what a price! The patience and prudence of Marion's character taught him forbearance. His mildness, by putting the offender entirely in the wrong, so justified his severity, as to disarm the followers of the criminals. These, as we have already said, were about sixty in number. Horry continues: "Their intentions were, to call upon these men for support—our officers well knew that they meant, if possible, to intimidate Marion, so as to [make him] come into their measures of plunder and Tory-killing." The affair fortunately terminated without bloodshed. The prudence of the general had its effect. The delay gave time to the offenders for reflection. Perhaps, looking round upon their followers, they saw no consenting spirit of mutiny in their eyes, encouraging their own; for, "though many of these refugees were present, none offered to back or support the mutinous officers;"—and when the guard that was ordered, appeared in sight, the companion of the chief offender was seen to touch the arm of the other, who then proffered the sword to Marion, saying, "General, you need not have sent for the guard."* Marion, refusing to receive it, referred him to the sergeant of the guard, and thus doubly degraded, the dishonored major of Continentals—for he was such—disappeared from sight, followed by his associate. His farther punishment was of a kind somewhat differing from those which are common to armies, by which the profession of arms is sometimes quite as much dishonored as the criminal. Marion endeavored, by his punishments, to elevate the sense of character in the spectators. He had some of the notions of Napoleon on this subject. He was averse to those brutal punishments which, in the creature, degrade the glorious image of the Creator. In the case of the two offenders, thus dismissed from his presence, the penalty was, of all others, the most terrible to persons, in whose minds there remained the sparks even of a conventional honor. These men had been guilty of numerous offences against humanity. Marion expelled them from his brigade. Subsequently, their actions became such, that he proclaimed their outlawry through the country.** By one of these men he was challenged to single combat, but he treated the summons with deserved contempt. His composure remained unruffled by the circumstance.
* Horry's MS., from which the several extracts preceding have been made.—pp. 100-103.
** He set up on trees and houses, in public places, proclamations in substance thus, that Major——and Capt. —— did not belong to his brigade, that they were banditti, robbers and thieves,—were hereby deemed out of the laws, and might be killed wherever found.—Horry's MS. pp. 104, 105.—
In this affair, as in numerous others, Marion's great knowledge of the militia service, and of the peculiar people with whom he sometimes had to deal, enabled him to relieve himself with little difficulty from troublesome companions. Of these he necessarily had many; for the exigencies of the country were such that patriotism was not permitted to be too nice in the material which it was compelled to employ. The refugees were from various quarters—were sometimes, as we have seen, adopted into his ranks from those of the defeated Tories, and were frequently grossly ignorant, not only of what was due to the community in which they found themselves, but still more ignorant of the obligations of that military law to which they voluntarily put themselves in subjection. Marion's modes of punishment happily reached all such cases without making the unhappy offender pay too dearly for the sin of ignorance. On one occasion, Horry tells us that he carried before him a prisoner charged with desertion to the enemy. "Marion released him, saying to me, 'let him go, he is too worthless to deserve the consideration of a court martial.'" Such a decision in such a case, would have shocked a military martinet, and yet, in all probability, the fellow thus discharged, never repeated the offence, and fought famously afterwards in the cause of his merciful commander. We have something yet to learn on these subjects. The result of a system in which scorn is so equally blended with mercy, was singularly good. In the case of the person offending (as is frequently the case among militia) through sheer ignorance of martial law, it teaches while it punishes, and reforms, in some degree, the being which it saves. Where the fault flows from native worthlessness of character the effect is not less beneficial. One of Marion's modes of getting rid of worthless officers, was to put them into coventry. In this practice his good officers joined him, and their sympathy and cooperation soon secured his object. "He kept a list of them," said Horry, "which he called his Black List. This mode answered so well that many resigned their commissions, and the brigade was thus fortunately rid of such worthless fellows." The values of such a riddance is well shown by another sentence from the MS. of our veteran. "I found the men seldom defective, were it not for the bad example set them by their officers."*
* MS. p. 55.—
General Greene assumes Command of the Southern Army—His Correspondence with Marion—Condition of the Country— Marion and Lee surprise Georgetown—Col. Horry defeats Gainey—Marion pursues McIlraith—Proposed Pitched Battle between Picked Men.
The year 1781 opened, with new interest, the great drama of war in South Carolina. In that State, as we have seen, deprived of a large portion of her military effectives, opposition had never entirely ceased to the progress of the invader. New and more strenuous exertions, on the part of Congress, were made to give her the necessary assistance. Without this, the war, prolonged with whatever spirit by the partisans, was not likely, because of their deficient materiel and resources, to reach any decisive results. We may yield thus much, though we are unwilling to admit the justice of those opinions, on the part of General Greene and other officers of the regular army, by which the influence of the native militia, on the events of the war, was quite too much disparaged. But for this militia, and the great spirit and conduct manifested by the partisan leaders in Carolina, no regular force which Congress would or could have sent into the field, would have sufficed for the recovery of the two almost isolated States of South Carolina and Georgia. Indeed, we are inclined to think that, but for the native spirit which they had shown in the conquest, no attempt would have been made for their recovery. We should be at a loss, unless we recognized the value of this native spirit, and the importance of its achievements, however small individually, to determine by what means these States were finally recovered to the American confederacy. In no single pitched battle between the two grand armies did the Americans obtain a decided victory. The fruits of victory enured to them, quite as much in consequence of the active combination of the partisan captains, as by the vigor of their own arms. By these the enemy were harassed with unparalleled audacity—their supplies and convoys cut off, their detachments captured or cut to pieces, their movements watched, and their whole influence so narrowed and restrained, as to be confined almost entirely to those places where they remained in strength. It is not meant by this, to lessen in any degree the value of the services rendered by the Continental forces. These were very great, and contributed in large measure to bring the war to an early and a happy issue. It is only intended to insist upon those claims of the partisans, which, unasserted by themselves, have been a little too irreverently dismissed by others. But for these leaders, Marion, Sumter, Pickens, Davie, Hampton, and some fifty more well endowed and gallant spirits, the Continental forces sent to Carolina would have vainly flung themselves upon the impenetrable masses of the British.
It was the vitality thus exhibited by the country, by the native captains and people, that persuaded Congress, though sadly deficient in materials and men, to make another attempt to afford to the South, the succor which it asked. The wreck of the army under Gates had been collected by that unfortunate commander at Charlotte, North Carolina. He was superseded in its command by General Greene, a soldier of great firmness and discretion, great prudence and forethought—qualities the very opposite of those by which his predecessor seems to have been distinguished. New hopes were awakened by this change of command, which, though slow of fruition, were not finally to be disappointed. Greene's assumption of command was distinguished by a happy augury. In a few hours after reaching camp Charlotte, he received intelligence of the success of Lt.-Col. Washington, against the British post held at Clermont, South Carolina, by the British Colonel Rugely. Rugely was well posted in a redoubt, which was tenable except against artillery. Washington's force consisted only of cavalry. A pleasant 'ruse de guerre' of the latter, which produced some little merriment among the Americans at the expense of the British colonel, enabled Washington to succeed. A pine log was rudely hewn into the appearance of a cannon, and, mounted upon wagon wheels, was advanced with solemnity to the attack. The affair looked sufficiently serious, and Rugely, to avoid any unnecessary effusion of blood, yielded the post. Cornwallis, drily commenting on the transaction, in a letter to Tarleton, remarks, "Rugely will not be made a brigadier."
Greene proceeded in the duties of his command with characteristic vigilance and vigor. He soon put his army under marching orders for the Pedee, which river he reached on the 26th of December. He took post near Hicks' Creek, on the east side of the river. Before leaving camp Charlotte, he had judiciously made up an independent brigade for General Morgan, composed of his most efficient soldiers. It consisted of a corps of light infantry, detached from the Maryland line, of 320 men; a body of Virginia militia of 200 men, and Washington's cavalry, perhaps one hundred more. Morgan was to be joined, on reaching the tract of country assigned to his operations in South Carolina, by the militia lately under Sumter; that gallant leader being still 'hors de combat', in consequence of the severe wound received at Blackstock's. The force of Morgan was expected to be still farther increased by volunteer militia from North Carolina; and he received a powerful support in the cooperation of Col. Pickens, with the well exercised militia under his command.
The object of this detachment was to give confidence and encouragement to the country, to inspirit the patriots, overawe the Tories, and facilitate the accumulation of the necessary provisions. The main army at Hicks' Creek, meanwhile, formed a camp of repose. This was necessary, as well as time and training, to its usefulness. It was sadly deficient in all the munitions and materials of war—the mere skeleton of an army, thin in numbers, and in a melancholy state of nakedness. "Were you to arrive," says Greene, in a letter to Lafayette, dated December 29, "you would find a few ragged, half-starved troops in the wilderness, destitute of everything necessary for either the comfort or convenience of soldiers." The department was not only in a deplorable condition, but the country was laid waste. Such a warfare as had been pursued among the inhabitants, beggars description. The whole body of the population seems to have been in arms, at one time or another, and, unhappily, from causes already discussed, in opposite ranks. A civil war, as history teaches, is like no other. Like a religious war, the elements of a fanatical passion seem to work the mind up to a degree of ferocity, which is not common among the usual provocations of hate in ordinary warfare. "The inhabitants," says Greene, "pursue each other with savage fury.... The Whigs and the Tories are butchering one another hourly. The war here is upon a very different scale from what it is to the northward. It is a plain business there. The geography of the country reduces its operations to two or three points. But here, it is everywhere; and the country is so full of deep rivers and impassable creeks and swamps, that you are always liable to misfortunes of a capital nature."
The geographical character of the country, as described by Greene, is at once suggestive of the partisan warfare. It is the true sort of warfare for such a country. The sparseness of its settlements, and the extent of its plains, indicate the employment of cavalry—the intricate woods and swamps as strikingly denote the uses and importance of riflemen. The brigade of Marion combined the qualities of both.
General Greene, unlike his predecessor, knew the value of such services as those of Marion. On taking command at Charlotte, the very day after his arrival, he thus writes to our partisan: "I have not," says he, "the honor of your acquaintance, but am no stranger to your character and merit. Your services in the lower part of South Carolina, in awing the Tories and preventing the enemy from extending their limits, have been very important. And it is my earnest desire that you continue where you are until farther advice from me. Your letter of the 22d of last month to General Gates, is before me. I am fully sensible your service is hard and sufferings great, but how great the prize for which we contend! I like your plan of frequently shifting your ground. It frequently prevents a surprise and perhaps a total loss of your party. Until a more permanent army can be collected than is in the field at present, we must endeavor to keep up a partisan war, and preserve the tide of sentiment among the people in our favor as much as possible. Spies are the eyes of an army, and without them a general is always groping in the dark, and can neither secure himself, nor annoy his enemy. At present, I am badly off for intelligence. It is of the highest importance that I get the earliest intelligence of any reinforcement which may arrive at Charleston. I wish you, therefore, to fix some plan for procuring such information and conveying it to me with all possible dispatch. The spy should be taught to be particular in his inquiries and get the names of the corps, strength and commanding officer's name—place from whence they came and where they are going. It will be best to fix upon somebody in town to do this, and have a runner between you and him to give you the intelligence; as a person who lives out of town cannot make the inquiries without being suspected. The utmost secrecy will be necessary in the business."
This letter found Marion at one of his lurking places on Black river. It was properly addressed to him. He was the man who, of all others, was not only best acquainted with the importance of good information, furnished promptly, but who had never been without his spies and runners, from the first moment when he took the field. He readily assumed the duty, and upon him Greene wholly relied for his intelligence of every sort. Every occurrence in Charleston, Georgetown, and the whole low country, was promptly furnished to the commander, to whom, however, Marion complains generally of the embarrassment in procuring intelligence, arising from the want of a little hard money—but this want was quite as great in the camp of Greene as in that of the partisan.
It is probable that Marion had communicated to General Gates a desire to strengthen his militia with a small force of regular troops. With such a force, it was expected that something of a more decisive nature could be effected. His eye was upon Georgetown. The capture of that post was particularly desirable on many accounts; and if his views and wishes were not communicated to Gates, they were to Greene, who subsequently made his dispositions for promoting them. While the latter was moving down to his camp at Hicks' Creek, Marion was engaged in some very active movements against a party under McArthur and Coffin, and between that and the High Hills of the Santee. To cut off his retreat by the Pedee, a strong detachment had been pushed on from Charleston to Georgetown, intended to intercept him by ascending the north bank of the Pedee river. But Marion, informed of the movement, readily divined its object, and, retiring across the country, took a strong position on Lynch's Creek, in the vicinity of his favorite retreat at Snow's Island, where he always kept a force to guard his boats and overawe the Tories. The moment his pursuers had left the ground, Marion resumed offensive operations upon it. In a short time, his parties were pushed down to the immediate neighborhood of Georgetown, on all the rivers that flow into the bay of Winyaw. His smaller parties were actively busy in collecting boats and transferring provisions to Snow's Island. This was with the twofold purpose of straitening the enemy, and supplying the Continental army. In the meantime, with a respectable force of mounted infantry, he himself pressed closely upon the town, watching an opportunity when he might attempt something with a prospect of success. But the British confined themselves to their redoubts. Marion had neither bayonets nor artillery. With one hundred Continental troops—he writes with his usual modesty to Greene—he should be able to render important services. While thus employed, he received intelligence that the loyalists were embodying above him, in great force, under Hector McNeill. They were at Amy's Mill on Drowning Creek, and were emboldened by a knowledge of the fact that the main army was entirely destitute of cavalry. Marion was not able to detach a force sufficient for their dispersion, and it would have been fatal to his safety to suffer them to descend upon him while his detachments were abroad. His first measures were to call in his scattered parties. He then communicated to Greene the necessity of reinforcing him against his increasing enemies, and, in particular, of addressing himself to the movements of McNeill, as he supposed them to be directed, in part, against the country between the Waccamaw and the sea-coast, which had never been ravaged, and which, at this time, held abundance of provisions. To this communication Greene replies: "I have detached Major Anderson with one thousand regulars, and one hundred Virginia militia, to attack and disperse the Tories at Amy's Mill, on Drowning Creek. The party marched yesterday with orders to endeavor to surprise them; perhaps you might be able to make some detachment that would contribute to their success.... I wish your answer respecting the practicability of surprising the party near Nelson's; the route, and force you will be able to detach. This inquiry is a matter that requires great secrecy." Another letter of Greene's, three days after (January 22d), refers to some "skirmishes between your people and the enemy, which," says Greene, "do them honor,"—but of which we have no particulars. The same letter begs for a supply of horses. "Get as many as you can, and let us have fifteen or twenty sent to camp without loss of time, they being wanted for immediate service." By another letter, dated the day after the preceding, Greene communicates to Marion the defeat of Tarleton by Morgan, at the celebrated battle of the Cowpens. "On the 17th at daybreak, the enemy, consisting of eleven hundred and fifty British troops and fifty militia, attacked General Morgan, who was at the Cowpens, between Pacolet and Broad rivers, with 290 infantry, eighty cavalry and about six hundred militia. The action lasted fifty minutes and was remarkably severe. Our brave troops charged the enemy with bayonets and entirely routed them, killing nearly one hundred and fifty, wounding upwards of two hundred, and taking more than five hundred prisoners, exclusive of the prisoners with two pieces of artillery, thirty-five wagons, upwards of one hundred dragoon horses, and with the loss of only ten men killed and fifty-five wounded. Our intrepid party pursued the enemy upwards of twenty miles. About thirty commissioned officers are among the prisoners. Col. Tarleton had his horse killed and was wounded, but made his escape with two hundred of his troops."
Before receiving this grateful intelligence Marion had been joined by Lieut.-Col. Lee, at the head of a legion which acquired high reputation for its spirit and activity during the war. Lee tells us that it was no easy matter to find our partisan. "An officer, with a small party, preceded Lee a few days' march to find out Marion, who was known to vary his position in the swamps of the Pedee; sometimes in South Carolina, sometimes in North Carolina, and sometimes on the Black river. With the greatest difficulty did this officer learn how to communicate with the brigadier; and that by the accident of hearing among our friends on the south side of the Pedee, of a small provision party of Marion's being on the same side of the river. Making himself known to this party he was conveyed to the general, who had changed his ground since his party left him, which occasioned many hours' search even before his own men could find him."*
* Lee's Memoirs, vol. 1, p. 164.
[Note: This Lieut.-Col. Henry Lee—"Light-Horse Harry"— later became the father of Gen. Robert Edward Lee.—A. L., 1996.]—
This anecdote illustrates the wary habits of our partisan, and one of the modes by which he so successfully baffled the numerous and superior parties who were dispatched in his pursuit. We have given, elsewhere, from Col. Lee's memoirs, a brief description of Marion and his mode of warfare, taken from the appendix to that work. But another occurs, in the text before us, which, as it is brief, differing somewhat in phrase, and somewhat more comprehensive, than the former, will no doubt contribute to the value and interest of our narrative. "Marion," says Lee, "was about forty-eight years of age, small in stature, hard in visage, healthy, abstemious and taciturn. Enthusiastically wedded to the cause of liberty, he deeply deplored the doleful condition of his beloved country. The common weal was his sole object; nothing selfish, nothing mercenary soiled his ermine character. Fertile in stratagem, he struck unperceived, and retiring to those hidden retreats selected by himself, in the morasses of Pedee and Black rivers, he placed his corps, not only out of the reach of his foe, but often out of the discovery of his friends. A rigid disciplinarian, he reduced to practice the justice of his heart; and during the difficult course of warfare through which he passed calumny itself never charged him with molesting the rights of person, property or humanity. Never avoiding danger, he never rashly sought it; and, acting for all around him as he did for himself, he risked the lives of his troops only when it was necessary. Never elated with prosperity, nor depressed by adversity, he preserved an equanimity which won the admiration of his friends and exalted the respect of his enemies."*
* Lee's Memoirs, vol. 2 p. 164.—
Such were Lee's opinions of the partisan, to whose assistance he was dispatched by Greene, with his legion, consisting of near three hundred men, horse and foot.
The junction of Lee's troops with those of Marion led to the enterprise which the other had long since had at heart, the capture of the British garrison at Georgetown. Georgetown was a small village, the situation and importance of which have already been described. The garrison consisted of two hundred men commanded by Colonel Campbell. His defences in front were slight, and not calculated to resist artillery. "Between these defences and the town, and contiguous to each, was an enclosed work with a frieze and palisade, which constituted his chief protection."* It was held by a subaltern guard. "The rest of the troops were dispersed in light parties in and near the town, and looking towards the country." It was planned by the assailants to convey a portion of their force secretly down the Pedee, and land them in the water suburb of the town, which, being deemed secure, was left unguarded. This body was then to move in two divisions. The first was to force the commandant's quarters—the place of parade—to secure him, and all others who might flock thither on the alarm. The second was designed to intercept such of the garrison as might endeavor to gain the fort. The partisan militia, and the cavalry of the legion, led by Marion and Lee in person, were to approach the place in the night, to lie concealed, and when the entrance of the other parties into the town should be announced, they were to penetrate to their assistance, and put the finishing stroke to the affair.
* Lee, vol. 1 p. 249.—
The plan promised well, but the attempt was only partially successful. Captain Carnes, with the infantry of the legion, in boats, dropped down the Pedee, sheltered from discovery by the deep swamps and dense forests which lined its banks, until he reached an island at its mouth within a few miles of Georgetown. Here he landed, and lay concealed during the day. The night after, Marion and Lee proceeded to their place of destination, which they reached by twelve o'clock, when, hearing the expected signal, they rushed into the town, Marion leading his militia, and Lee his dragoons, prepared to bear down all opposition; but they found all the work already over which it was in the power of the present assailants to attempt. The two parties of infantry, the one led by Carnes the other by Rudolph, had reached their places, but perhaps not in good season. The surprise was incomplete. They delayed too long upon the way, instead of pushing up directly upon the redoubt. They were also delayed by the desire of securing the person of the commandant—an unimportant consideration, in comparison with the stronghold of the garrison, which, assailed vigorously at the first alarm, must have fallen into their hands. The commandant was secured, and Carnes judiciously posted his division for seizing such parties of the garrison as might flock to the parade-ground. Rudolph had also gained his appointed station in the vicinity of the fort, and so distributed his corps as to prevent all communication with it. But this was not probably achieved with sufficient rapidity, and the garrison was strengthening itself while the Americans were busy in catching Campbell, and cutting down the fugitives. When Marion and Lee appeared, there was nothing to be done—no enemy to be seen. Not a British soldier appeared on parade—no one attempted either to gain the fort or repair to the commandant. The troops of the garrison simply hugged their respective quarters, and barricaded the doors. The assailants were unprovided with the necessary implements for battering or bombarding. The fort was in possession of the British, and daylight was approaching. And thus this bold and brilliant attempt was baffled—it is difficult, at this time of day, to say how. Lee was dissatisfied with the result. Marion, more modestly, in a letter to Greene, says: "Col. Lee informed you yesterday, by express, of our little success on Georgetown, which could not be greater without artillery." Lee says: "If, instead of placing Rudolph's division to intercept the fugitives, it had been ordered to carry the fort by the bayonet, our success would have been complete. The fort taken, and the commandant a prisoner, we might have availed ourselves of the cannon, and have readily demolished every obstacle and shelter." There were probably several causes combined, which baffled the perfect success of the enterprise: the guides are said to have blundered; there was too much time lost in capturing Campbell, and probably in the prosecution of some private revenges. A circuitous route was taken by Carnes, when a direct one might have been had, by which his entrance into the town was delayed until near daylight; and, by one account, the advance of Marion and Lee was not in season. The simple secret of failure was probably a want of concert between the parties, by which the British had time to recover from their alarm, and put themselves in a state of preparation. Many of the British were killed, few taken; among the former was Major Irvine, who was slain by Lieut. Cryer, whom, on a former occasion, he had subjected to a cruel punishment of five hundred lashes. Lieut.-Col. Campbell was suffered to remain on parole.
Though failing of its object, yet the audacity which marked the enterprise, and the partial success of the attempt, were calculated to have their effect upon the fears of the enemy. It was the first of a series of movements against their several fortified posts, by which their power was to be broken up in detail. Its present effect was to discourage the removal of forces from the seaboard to the interior, to prevent any accession of strength to the army of Cornwallis, who now, roused by the defeat of Tarleton, was rapidly pressing, with all his array, upon the heels of Morgan. The American plan of operations, of which this 'coup de main' constituted a particular of some importance, had for its object to keep Cornwallis from Virginia—to detain him in South Carolina until an army of sufficient strength could be collected for his overthrow. This plan had been the subject of much earnest correspondence between Greene, Marion, and others of the American officers. That part of it which contemplated the conquest of Georgetown harmonized immediately with the long cherished objects of our partisan.
Halting but a few hours to rest their troops, Marion and Lee, after the attempt on Georgetown, moved the same day directly up the north bank of the Santee towards Nelson's Ferry. Their object was the surprise of Col. Watson, who had taken post there. But, though the march was conducted with equal caution and celerity, it became known to the threatened party. Watson, consulting his fears, did not wait to receive them; but, throwing a garrison of about eighty men into Fort Watson, five miles above the ferry, hurried off to Camden.
Upon the defeat of Tarleton by Morgan, General Greene hastened to put himself at the head of the force conducted by the latter, which was then in full flight before the superior army of Cornwallis. Orders from Greene to Lee found him preparing for further cooperations with Marion, which they arrested. Lee was summoned to join the commander-in-chief with his whole legion, and Marion was thus deprived of the further use, which he so much coveted, of the Continentals. But this diminution of force did not lessen the activity of the latter. On the 29th January, he sent out two small detachments of thirty men each, under Colonel and Major Postelle, to strike at the smaller British posts beyond the Santee. These parties were successful in several affairs. A great quantity of valuable stores were burnt at Manigault's Ferry, and in the vicinity. At Keithfield, near Monk's Corner, Major Postelle captured forty of the British regulars without the loss of a man. Here also fourteen baggage wagons, with all their stores, were committed to the flames. The proceedings of these parties, conducted with caution and celerity, were exceedingly successful. In giving his instructions to the officers entrusted with these duties, Marion writes—"You will consider provisions of all kinds British property. The destruction of all the British stores in the above-mentioned places, is of the greatest consequence to us, and only requires boldness and expedition."
About this time Marion organized four new companies of cavalry. This proceeding was prompted by the scarcity of ammunition. His rifles were comparatively useless, and the want of powder and ball rendered it necessary that he should rely upon some other weapons. To provide broadswords for his troops, he was compelled once more to put in requisition the mill saws of the country, and his blacksmiths were busy in manufacturing blades, which, as we are told by a contemporary, were sufficiently keen and massy to hew a man down at a blow. This body of cavalry he assigned to the command of Col. P. Horry. Horry was an admirable infantry officer. His ability to manage a squadron of cavalry was yet to be ascertained. He labored under one disqualification, as he plainly tells us in his own manuscript. He was not much of a horseman. But he had several excellent officers under him. As the brigade was not strong enough to allow of the employment, in body, of his whole command, its operations were commonly by detachment. The colonel, at the head of one of his parties consisting of sixty men, had soon an opportunity of testing his capacity and fortune in this new command. We glean the adventure from his own manuscript. He was sent to the Waccamaw to reconnoitre and drive off some cattle. After crossing Socastee swamp, a famous resort for the Tories, he heard of a party of British dragoons under Colonel Campbell. Horry's men had found a fine English charger hid in a swamp. This he was prevailed upon to mount, in order to spare his own. It so happened, somewhat unfortunately for him, that he did so with an enemy at hand. With his own horse he was sufficiently familiar to escape ordinary accidents. It will be seen that he incurred some risks with the more spirited quadruped. His patrol had brought in a negro, whom he placed under guard. He had in his command a Captain Clarke, who, knowing the negro, set him free during the night. "Reader," says our colonel, with a serenity that is delightful, "behold a militia captain releasing a prisoner confined by his colonel commandant, and see the consequence!" The negro fell into the hands of the British, and conducted them upon the steps of our partisan. It so happened that the same Captain Clarke, who seems to have been a sad simpleton, and something of a poltroon, had been sent in front with five horsemen as an advanced guard. Near the great Waccamaw road, the bugles of the British were heard sounding the charge. Horry was fortunately prepared for the enemy, but such was not the case with Clarke. He confounded the martial tones of the bugle with the sylvan notes of the horn. "Stop," says our militia captain, to his men—"stop, and you will see the deer, dogs and huntsmen, as they cross the road." He himself happened to be the silly deer. The huntsmen were upon him in a few moments, and he discovered his mistake only when their broadswords were about his ears. He was taken, but escaped. A short encounter followed between Campbell and Horry, in which the former was worsted. Six of his men fell at the first fire, three slain, and as many wounded. Horry's pieces were common shot guns, and the only shot that he had were swan shot, or the mischief would have been greater. Campbell's horse was killed under him, and he narrowly escaped. Horry was dismounted in the encounter,—in what manner we are not told,—and would have been cut down by a British sergeant, but for his wearing a uniform that resembled that of a British colonel. He was helped to a horse at a most fortunate moment. He did not know, in consequence of the blunder of Clarke, that the dragoons whom he had fought and beaten, were only an advanced guard of a body of infantry. Horses and men were in his hands, and, dividing his force, he sent off one party of his men in charge of the prisoners and trophies. A sudden attack of the British infantry took the small party which remained with him totally by surprise. They broke and left him almost alone, with nothing but his small sword in his hand. It was at this moment that a brave fellow of the second regiment, named McDonald, yielded his own pony to his commander, by which he escaped. McDonald saved himself by darting into the neighboring swamp. The British, dreading an ambuscade, did not pursue, and Horry rallied his men, and returned, with a reinforcement sent by Marion, to the scene of battle; but the enemy had left it and retired to Georgetown. Horry proceeded to Sand Hill, where, finding himself in good quarters, among some rich and friendly Whigs, living well on their supplies, he proceeded to entrench himself in a regular redoubt. But from this imposing situation Marion soon and sensibly recalled him. "He wrote me," says Horry, "that the open field was our play—that the enemy knew better how to defend forts and entrenched places than we did, and that if we attempted it, we should soon fall into their hands." Marion's farther instructions were to join him immediately, with every man that he could bring, for that it was his purpose to attack the enemy as soon as possible. Horry admits that he quitted his redoubt and good fare very reluctantly. He set out with eighty men, but when he joined his commander in Lynch's Creek Swamp, they were reduced to eighteen. It seems that his force had been made up in part of new recruits, who had but lately joined themselves to Marion. Horry calls them "wild Tories or half-made new Whigs—volunteers, assuredly, not to fight, but plunder,—who would run at the sight of the enemy." His recent surprise and danger had rendered the colonel sore. It was on this occasion, that, as we have already related, he was nearly drowned, and only saved by clinging to the impending branches of a tree.