The loss of the brigade in horses and accoutrements was greater than in men. Their greater loss, however, was of that confidence in themselves and one another, which it was one of the greatest objects of Marion's training to inspire. The true secret of the superiority of regulars over militia-men lies in the habit of mutual reliance. They feel each other's elbows, in military parlance—they are assured by the custom of mutually depending one upon the other. This habit impresses them with a conviction, which the terrors of conflict do not often impair, that they will not be deserted; and, thus assured, they hurry into the battle, and remain in it so long as the body with which they move can act together. Once broken, however, the cry is 'sauve qui peut'. Not so with militia-men. They never forget their individuality. The very feeling of personal independence is apt to impair their confidence in one another. Their habit is to obey the individual impulse. They do not wait to take their temper from their neighbor right and left. Hence their irregularity—the difficulty of restraining them—of making them act in routine, and with entire reference to the action of other bodies. So far from deriving strength from feeling another's elbow, they much prefer elbow room. Could they be assured of one another, they were the greatest troops in the world. They ARE the greatest troops in the world—capable of the most daring and heroic achievements—wherever the skill of the commander can inspire this feeling of mutual reliance. Frequent cooperation of the same persons under the same leader produces it, and makes them veterans. The old soldiers of the brigade had it in perfection. It was one of the excellences of Marion that it followed so certainly and rapidly from his peculiar training. That it should be lost or impaired, was a most serious evil. That it would not have been endangered, we are sure, had it not been that the brigade no longer consisted of the brave fellows who had clung to him through the campaigns of the last two years. The new recruits were, in all probability, to blame for the mischance; and something, perhaps, is due to the unhappy quarrel between Mayham and Horry. The former was terribly mortified by the affair—mortified that Marion should have hurried to the scene of action without apprising him, and vexed that his own regiment should have behaved so badly. He complains that others should "expend the strength of the regiment without giving HIM the satisfaction of being present." Captain John Caraway Smith, the officer who led the column thus disastrously aside, resigned the day after the affair. His conduct had been habitually brave. But a short time before, as already shown, he had behaved with the most determined and audacious gallantry at the head of the same troop. That their training was defective is beyond question, but no imputation rested upon their courage or his own. Nevertheless, we have Napoleon's authority for the opinion that every man has his 'moment de peur'. No man is equally firm on all occasions. There are moods of weakness and irresolution in every mind, which is not exactly a machine, which impair its energies, and make its course erratic and uncertain. The truth was known in earlier ages. The old poets ascribed it to supernatural influence. Envious deities interposed between valor and its victim, paralysing the soul of the one and strengthening that of the other. Thus we find even Hector, upon occasion, the slave of panic, and Paris, on the other hand, almost emulating the spirit of his brother.
The conduct of Captain Smith, in this affair, has been excused by Mayham. He ascribes it to an error of Marion himself. He says that, "Marion (who was an infantry officer) gave the order to 'file off from the house to the right,' instead of ordering 'to charge!' This induced his officers to believe that they were to retreat and not to fight." This may be true; but it is scarcely probable. Retreat from the house, except into the river, seems to have been cut off. The only other avenue was the lane. At the end of this was the enemy, drawn out in order of battle. Upon these the advance was ordered. We have seen that Marion himself exulted in the conviction that the enemy was in his power. His exultation could not have been entirely concealed from his officers. It must have declared itself in some way. The halt and hesitation of the British were perceptible to all. They were in superior numbers, and when they reached the head of the lane, the horses of the American cavalry were unbitted and feeding. A sudden and resolute charge, according to Mayham, on the part of the British, would have resulted in the entire defeat of the regiment. That they did not order this charge betrayed their apprehensions, and should have encouraged, in similar degree, the Americans—DID encourage them, and hence the resolve of Marion to advance upon them. That it should be supposed he would hurry forward, in the very teeth of the enemy, only to dash aside in confusion from the struggle, is scarcely reasonable. But Mayham was offended with Marion. The latter had decided against him in the controversy with Horry; and the subsequent movement against the British, without stopping to require his presence, was another mortifying circumstance which he was not likely to forget. Biased by his feelings, he was not willing to believe that the seeming slight was in reality due to the emergency of the case, which would not allow a moment's hesitation in Marion's movement at such a juncture.
As soon as the presence of Marion was known, the fugitives gathered around him. But for his absence they had never been dispersed. Horry's regiment was very much crippled; Mayham's in equally bad condition. Of M'Donald's, and the brigade, a few hundred were soon brought together; and with his deranged and dispirited band, our partisan retired beyond the Santee to repair and recruit his strength, and revive the confidence of his men in their leaders and themselves. In the meanwhile, the country which he had so recently covered and protected was harried by the British. They improved the interval of his absence by successful incursions. The cattle had been already put beyond their power, on the other side the Santee; but they stripped the plantations within their reach, as well of slaves as of provisions. Greene could do nothing to prevent them. His own army was in a state of convulsion and commotion; suffering from distress and discontent, and threatened with dissolution. Recent occurrences had awakened his fears for his own security.
One result of Marion's recent disaster was to put an end to the dispute between Horry and Mayham. Their respective regiments were so reduced, after the affair at Wambaw, that it was deemed advisable to amalgamate them. Having resolved upon this measure, Gov. Mathews, who had succeeded Rutledge, applied to Marion to know who of the two was the best cavalry officer—an opinion which Marion yielded with great reluctance. His personal preferences went with Horry, but he could not hesitate in declaring for Mayham. Horry, with the ambition of a spirited soldier, eagerly desired a command of cavalry,—was a good infantry officer, and had all the requirements of skill and bravery. But he was no horseman, and it is said that, in several of his charges, he was indebted to some one or other of his men for his own safety, being commonly unhorsed. His gallantry and patriotism were equally unquestionable. They had been displayed from the beginning of the war. The preference shown Mayham caused Horry's resignation from the service; but to console him for the mortification, Marion made him commandant of Georgetown, a post which united the responsibilities and duties of a military and civil service.
With the adjournment of the Assembly at Jacksonborough, the army of Greene moved down from Skirving's plantation to Bacon's bridge, at the head of Ashley river. Here, within twenty miles of the enemy, a dangerous conspiracy ripened almost to maturity among the Pennsylvania troops, composed in part of the very mutineers who had triumphed over government in the insurrection in Jersey, and who, as Lafayette observed,* "had been well paid and well clothed in consequence of it." This, we believe, was the only body of troops furnished to the Southern army, during the Revolution, from any of the States north of Maryland and Delaware. We make this remark with the view to the correction of a very general error, arising from the vague manner in which it is customary for our historians to speak of the sources of the personnel of the Southern army. The armies led by Gates and Greene, to the defence of Carolina, were truly from States north of her, but they were not Northern States. Two fine bodies of troops came from Maryland and Delaware, but the rest were from Virginia and North Carolina,—with the exception of the Pennsylvania line, of which we have now to speak. These, as we have seen, had been refractory in Jersey, and instead of being punished, were paid for their sedition. It was natural that they should endeavor to renew an experiment which had already proved so profitable. The mutineers were directed by one Sergeant Gornell. Their number is unknown. They were solely of the Pennsylvania line, and might have been successful but for an attempt which they made upon the fidelity of the Marylanders. Their purpose was to deliver Greene to the enemy, and otherwise facilitate the objects of the latter, who were to make a concerted movement, in force, upon the American army, at a prescribed moment. The integrity of the Marylanders, whom Gornell approached, was not to be shaken; and to their fidelity and the quick ears of one of the camp-women, the army was indebted for its safety. The circumstances were all in favor of the success of the conspirators. There was a general discontent in the army. The troops were badly fed and clothed—were unpaid, doubtful of pay, and suffering present distresses. They were inactive. Many of them were new recruits. Greene was no longer surrounded by the tried and true men and officers, who had borne the brunt of the contest. The term of service of the former had in great part expired, some of his best officers were on furlough, and he had offended others. Sumter had left the army in disgust; Pickens was operating against the Indians; Marion was recruiting his brigade on the Santee; Williams had gone home; Howard was in Maryland, scarcely recovered from his wounds; Wayne was in Georgia, doing good service in that quarter; St. Clair was absent on leave; Lee had gone to Virginia to get married, and his legion was almost shorn of officers; Eggleston had gone with him to Virginia, and the brave fellows, Armstrong and Carrington, had fallen into the hands of the enemy. The time was well chosen for mutiny, and as the hour drew near for the consummation of the purpose of the conspirators, the British army was set in motion from below,—not so secretly, however, but that their movements were made known to the Americans. Symptoms of mutiny became apparent in the camp, and it was necessary to proceed with vigor. Doubtful of a large number of those around him, Greene summoned Marion with all his force from the Santee, while his own army was kept in order of battle. The arrest of Gornell, with that of four others, all sergeants of the Pennsylvania line, took place the night before the conspiracy was to take effect. Gornell was tried and executed; the others were sent under guard into the interior. This proceeding was the signal for the flight of at least a dozen more, who, having been committed, broke away on the night of Gornell's seizure, and found protection with the enemy, who advanced in force to receive them. This prompt proceeding suppressed the mutiny. The development of the conspiracy, the state of preparedness in the camp of Greene, and the movement of Marion, had the effect of discouraging the farther advance of the British army; and Marion, while yet in motion for the camp of Greene, from which he was but eight miles distant, was summoned in haste to the protection of Georgetown, against which the enemy was reported to have sailed from Charleston. A forced march of four days brought him to White's Bridge, when it was discovered that the alarm was unfounded. The enemy had not shown himself, and was not nigh. In this march of one hundred and sixty miles, Marion's men had but a single ration of rice. Their sole food, with this exception, was lean beef. The march took place in April, when there is no forage for cattle, and when such as survive the winter, are compelled to wander far in the swamps and thickets in search of the scanty herbage which sustains them. The march of our partisan in these two expeditions was conducted solely on foot. The country south of the Santee had been so completely foraged by the British, during his vacation of it, that he was compelled to dismount his infantry in his movements until the spring herbage should enable him to feed his horses. His force was reduced to two hundred militia and one hundred and twenty horse. It was the wish of General Greene that he should take post as near the enemy as possible, in order both to shorten his limits beyond Cooper river, and to enable Col. Laurens, who now commanded the legion of Lee, to pass the Ashley, and close upon the British between the latter river and Goose Creek. But with his infantry dismounted, he dared not venture so completely within the reach of an enemy so superior; and with the double purpose of securing a retreat, if necessary, and of forming a junction with any party when desirable, either at Huger's Bridge, over the west branch of Cooper river, or at Strawberry Ferry, he took post at Sinkler's plantation on the Santee. This left him within twenty-five miles of each of these designated routes. His cavalry meanwhile patrolled the country as low as Haddrell and Hobcaw, and in sight of the British posts at those places. They thus procured the earliest news of the enemy's movements, and checked his incursions in that quarter. The effect of Marion's presence with his brigade was soon felt, as well by his people as by the British. By the latter it was deemed important to relieve themselves from a neighbor at once so vigilant and inconvenient. A messenger, feigning to be a deserter, was dispatched by General Leslie, whose plan was to make his way through the scouts of Marion, to the Scotch and loyal settlements on the borders of North Carolina. These were to be stirred up to insurrection, and Marion was to be diverted from a quarter in which his presence was particularly annoying. The messenger succeeded in his object, but was less fortunate in his return. He had done the mischief required at his hands, fomented the insurrection, and set the loyalists in motion. The proofs were conclusive against him, and he perished by military execution. The timely notice which Marion obtained of his labors enabled him to prepare against the event.
* Johnson's Life of Greene, Vol. 2, p. 319.—
Marion summoned with his Force to that of Greene— Insurrection of the Loyalists on the Pedee—Marches against them—Subdues them—Treats with Gainey—Fanning —Protects the Tory, Butler, from his Men—Returns to the Country between the Santee and the Cooper—Moves to protect Georgetown from the British Fleet—Takes post at Watboo, on Cooper River—Defeats the British Cavalry under Major Frasier.
Meanwhile, the main body of the army under Greene continued to suffer diminution. On the first of May a large proportion of the North Carolina troops were entitled to and claimed their discharge. No recruits were expected from the North, and it became necessary to draw together all the force that South Carolina could afford. The Government of this State, from its first re-organization, had faithfully endeavored to re-establish the South Carolina line, but without money or means, with very little corresponding success. A few recruits were obtained from among those who had recently received their discharge, but the service had been of a kind to baffle all the temptations and arguments of the recruiting officers. In the emergency of the case, it became indispensable to look to the militia under Marion, Pickens and Henderson; and these leaders were accordingly required to repair to headquarters.
The withdrawal of the former, with his troops, from the region of country which they had so lately covered, was the signal for that rising of the loyalists upon the Pedee, to instigate which the unfortunate emissary of General Leslie had been dispatched from Charleston. The absence of Marion was considered auspicious to the new movement. He had scarcely reached Dorchester when his ancient enemy, Major Gainey, appeared in arms at the head of a considerable body of troops, both cavalry and infantry. A small command under Col. Baxter, which had been left by Marion to observe their movements, was too feeble to make head against them, and it became necessary for Marion himself to retrace his steps, and arrest the progress of the insurrection. Placing himself at the head of Mayham's cavalry, he promptly advanced in the direction of the enemy. So rapid were his movements, so vigilant his watch, so well devised his plans, that he reached the Pedee country long before his approach was suspected. His presence, on the present occasion, was a surprise. It had long been a terror; so much so that but for his remoteness at the camp of Greene, they had, in all probability, never ventured to resume their arms. Three separate bodies of men, by a judicious arrangement of our partisan, were prepared to enter their country at the same moment. These were so placed, that, though operating separately, they might yet be made to cooperate if desired. The effect was such as to paralyse the incipient resolution of the loyalists. They showed no disposition for fight; and feeling their temper, conscious of his difficulties, and now no longer hopeful of help from the British, Gainey dispatched a flag to Marion with proposals to treat for a pacification. He was not unwilling to renew the treaty which, just one year before, he had entered into with Horry, who then acted as the lieutenant of our partisan. This treaty, influenced by British emissaries, the Tories had very imperfectly kept. In small squads they had been perpetually rising, and committing trespasses upon their neighbors whenever the withdrawal of Marion's men afforded them opportunity. They had now everything to fear from his anger; but they also knew his willingness to forgive. Relying upon this, and making a merit of necessity, the communication of Gainey expressed the warmest solicitude for peace. To this Marion was prepared to listen. Commissioners were appointed on both sides. They met, but, unhappily, they recognized in each other well known personal opponents. They had often met in strife, and could not forbear alluding to their encounters. The conversation grew warm, the parties excited, and instead of coming to terms, the commissioners almost came to blows. They separated with increased resentment. A fierce skirmish followed, and the attempt to adjust their differences was renewed between the respective commanders. Marion was anxious to effect a pacification. His services were required below on the Santee and Cooper, to check the incursions of the British, and he consented to meet and confer with Gainey in person. This determination was censured by some of his officers. They denounced Gainey as a leader of banditti; and, certainly, his conduct, on many occasions, deserved the reproach. They reproached Marion for committing his dignity in treating with such a person. But this suggestion did not affect him. He was governed by views and principles very far superior to those which influence the ordinary soldier. His pride did not suffer from such censures. His reply was equally prompt and conclusive. He told them that he "aimed at no higher dignity than that of essentially serving his country."
The result was satisfactory to our partisan. Making a merit of necessity, Gainey yielded without requiring any farther resort to blows. At the Bowling Green, between the Great and Little Pedee, more than five hundred men laid down their arms, submitting to conditions which were rather strict than severe. Marion and Gainey met at Birch's mill on the 8th June, when a treaty was drawn up having for its basis the articles of the preceding arrangement with Horry. By this treaty, Gainey and his men were to lay down their arms and not to resume them unless ordered to do so by the authorities of the State; they bound themselves to deliver up all negroes, horses, cattle and other property of which they had dispossessed the people of this or any other State—to demean themselves as peaceable citizens, and submit to the laws of the State—to deliver up all contumacious and rebellious persons within their district—to deliver up all deserters from the regular service—to sign a declaration of allegiance to the United States, and to South Carolina in particular, and to abjure the British crown, and to surrender all British property. Compliance with these conditions, was to ensure them full pardon for their treasons to the State, and the enjoyment of their property as citizens within it; while individuals not choosing to comply, were to be permitted, with their wives and children, a safe progress to the British lines. From the benefits of this treaty, some few atrocious offenders were excepted. Major Gainey removed with those who preferred to adhere to the fortunes of the British. He did not side with their determination, but he deemed it a duty to see that those who had followed his arms, should be put in safety beyond the reach of their enemies: an honorable resolve certainly. Before his departure he waited upon Marion and said: "Honor, sir, requires that I should yield my commission to Col. Balfour, from whom I received it; but this done, I shall immediately return to the country and seek your protection." This was frankly promised him, and with every confidence in the assurance of Marion, as soon as he had concluded his affairs in Charleston, he promptly returned and enrolled himself in the American ranks. One of the loyalists, specially exempted from the privileges of the treaty with Gainey, was a notorious marauder by the name of Fanning. He was a sanguinary ruffian, with considerable talents, but brutal, reckless, and most inveterate in his hostility to the American cause. Shortly after the treaty with Gainey, this person appeared in the truce ground at the head of a small party. It was feared that he would stir up the revolt anew. He came for that purpose. Marion was at once upon the alert. His force, divided into three bodies, occupied various parts of the lately disaffected districts, and overawed the spirit of revolt, if it yet existed. Finding the cause hopeless in that quarter, Fanning sent a flag to Marion with a request that he would grant a safe-conduct to his wife, and some property, to the British garrison in Charleston. Against any such concession the officers of Marion expostulated. They were unwilling that so cruel a ruffian should receive any indulgence. But Marion looked more deeply into the matter, and yielded a prompt compliance with the request. "Let but his wife and property reach the British lines, and Fanning will follow. Force them to remain, and we only keep a serpent in our bosom." Such was his reasoning, and the truth of it was very soon apparent. Finding the hope of insurrection fruitless, Fanning fled the country, and was as soon in Charleston as his wife.
The disaffected district was now covered by his troops, busied in securing all persons who, declining to retire to the British, still withheld their submission from the American authorities. In the execution of this duty, some licentiousness followed—such irregularities as are apt to occur where soldiers traverse a subdued territory. Intimations of these irregularities reached the ears of the partisan. No individual was charged with offence, and no particulars were given; but Marion took occasion to declare his indignation in the presence of officers and men. "I have heard insinuations," said he, "which, if true, would disgrace my command; no accusation has been made; but I wish you clearly to know that let officer or soldier be proved guilty of crime, and he shall hang on the next tree." His firmness and sincerity were known; and he heard of no more license. While engaged in the irksome duty of arresting the recusant, he was equally busy in granting written protections to those who subscribed frankly to the conditions of the treaty. The judicious disposition and immediate presence of his force—the terror inspired by his successes—the knowledge which they had of his mercy, and their evident abandonment by the British—had the effect of bringing crowds to his camp, trebling the number of his own troops, seeking the proffered securities. Such was the consumption of paper on this occasion, or rather such the poverty at headquarters, that old letters were torn up, the backs of which were put in requisition for this object. While at Birch's mills, on the Pedee, among others who sought the protection of Marion was one Capt. Butler, who had made himself particularly odious by his crimes and ferocity. He had been conspicuous as the oppressor of the Whig inhabitants of the Pedee. He was not ignorant of the detestation in which he was held, and it was with some misgivings that he sought the required protection. His appearance in the American camp was the signal for a commotion. There were among the men of Marion some who were connected with persons who had suffered by the atrocities of Butler. They determined to avenge their friends. They resolved that no protection should save him, and an intemperate message to that effect was sent to Marion. Marion instantly took Butler to his own tent, and firmly answered those by whom the message was brought: "Relying on the pardon offered, the man whom you would destroy has submitted. Both law and honor sanction my resolution to protect him with my life." A still more intemperate message reached him, declaring that "Butler should be dragged to death from his tent—that to defend such a wretch was an insult to humanity." To this Marion made no reply, but calling around him the members of his family, and some of his most trusty followers, he gave them to understand that he should expect their cooperation at all hazards in protecting the culprit from violence. "Prepare to give me your assistance, for though I consider the villainy of Butler unparalleled, yet, acting under orders as I am, I am bound to defend him. I will do so or perish." The mutiny threatened to be formidable, and that night, Marion succeeded with a strong guard in conveying the prisoner to a place of safety. The treaty with Gainey put an end to the domestic feuds upon the Pedee, and anxious to regain the local confidence which they had forfeited, numbers of the loyalists of this quarter, following the example of their leader, entered the ranks of the Americans, and though too late to be of effectual service in the war, yet furnished sufficient proofs of their fidelity.
No farther necessity appearing for the longer stay of Marion on the Pedee, he prepared to return to his former range along the rivers Cooper and Santee. His absence from this region afforded an opportunity for the enemy to renew their depredations from Charleston. Marion had left Colonel Ashby in command of his infantry, when, at the head of Mayham's horse, he hurried to encounter Gainey, and quell his insurrection. Ashby, pressed by a superior British force, had been compelled to yield before it, and this intelligence left our partisan no moment of respite after quelling the commotions on the Pedee, before he was required to return and cover the country which had so long been indebted to his vigilance for protection. In leaving the Pedee, with still some doubts of the newly converted loyalists of that quarter, he left Col. Baxter with one hundred and fifty trusty men, to maintain the ascendency which he had just acquired. This object was of the last importance, not only with reference to the doubtful 'personnel' of the country, but the valuable 'materiel', cattle and provisions, which might have been carried off to the enemy. Suspicious of the fidelity of the loyalists, there was every reason to fear that it might be too strongly tested. The British were known to be preparing a fleet of small vessels for some enterprises directed northwardly, and no object of importance seemed more obvious than that of renewing the disturbances on the Pedee and possessing themselves of the immense plunder which that region of country might still afford.
All precautions taken, our partisan hurried his return. But had he not been joined by a newly raised corps under Major Conyers, he must have marched alone. So rapid had been his movements, so unremitting his duties, that the cavalry of Mayham which he led, were completely broken down. He was compelled to leave them behind him to recruit. At Murray's Ferry, on the Santee, he halted to collect his militia, and await the arrival of Mayham's corps. Here he consolidated the commands of Mayham and Conyers into one regiment; and about the middle of July was enabled once more to cross the Santee with a force of three hundred dismounted infantry, and a respectable body of horse. With these he took post on the Wassamasaw, in a position which, while it was secure, enabled him to cooperate with the detachments of the main army in covering the country. Here his vigilance was again conspicuous. His parties were constantly busy. His own movements to and fro, wherever an enemy could approach, or was suspected, were continual, from the Cooper to the Santee. His objects were threefold—to check the irruptions of the enemy, to cut off their supplies, and to provide for his own people. His scouting parties penetrated in every hostile direction—sometimes as low as Daniel's Island and Clement's Ferry—points almost within the ken of the British garrison. But the enemy was no longer enterprising. They were not often met. Their cavalry was few and inferior, and their exigencies may be inferred from their uniforming and converting some of their captured negroes into troopers. One corps of these black dragoons, consisting of twenty-six men, was cut to pieces by one of Marion's scouting parties of twelve, commanded by Capt. Capers.
The British, tired of the war, were preparing to evacuate the country. Preparatory to this, it was necessary that they should lay in sufficient store of provisions. General Leslie had been preparing for this necessity and, late in July, a numerous fleet of small vessels, conveying eight hundred men, and convoyed by galleys and armed brigs, left Charleston to proceed, as it was conjectured, against Georgetown. This compelled Marion to hasten in that direction. Here he made every arrangement for moving the public stores to a place of safety. Black Mingo was preferred as the depot, for the honorable reason, as given in Marion's own words, that it was "a settlement of good citizens and of my earliest and most faithful followers." But the enterprise of the enemy was less hazardous. The collection of rice was their object. This was to be found in the greatest quantity on the Santee, from the banks of which river they carried off about six hundred barrels. Marion's force was thrown over the Sampit so as to intercept their march to Georgetown, but he could not impede their progress up the South Santee, protected as they were under the guns of their galleys.
With the departure of the enemy from the river, the completion of his arrangements for the removal of the stores at Georgetown, and the defence of that place, Marion again recrossed the Santee and hurried to Watboo, on the Cooper. This river, leading to Charleston, to which the fleet of the enemy had returned, was naturally thought to be the next which they would attempt to penetrate. He had left a small body of infantry at this place, but this was deemed inadequate to the required duties. But they were sufficient at least to attract the attention of the British. Ignorant of Marion's return, believing him to be still at Georgetown, whither, it was known, he had taken all his cavalry,—a detachment of dragoons, more than one hundred strong, was sent from Charleston, under Major Frasier, against the post at Watboo. The rapidity of Marion's movements brought him back in season for its safety. It happened unfortunately, that, when he heard of the approach of this detachment, his cavalry were absent, patrolling down the river, maintaining their watch for the British fleet, which was the chief subject of apprehension. This fleet, meanwhile, had gone southwardly, pursuing the object of its former quest up the waters of the Combahee. With the approach of Frasier, Marion dispatched his messengers in search of his cavalry, and to call in his pickets. Some of the latter had joined him before the enemy appeared. Frasier exhibited considerable conduct in making his approaches. He had taken an unfrequented route, and had succeeded in capturing some of the out-sentinels of our partisan. He advanced upon him in the fullest confidence of effecting a surprise—not of Marion, but of the smaller force under Col. Ashby, which he still believed to be the only force opposed to him. He was soon undeceived and found his enemy rather stronger than he expected, and drawn up in readiness for his reception. It was about the 25th of August. Marion lay at the plantation of Sir John Colleton, on the south side of Watboo Creek, and a little above the bridge. The situation pleased him, and it was one of his frequent places of encampment when he happened to be operating in the vicinity. The owner was a loyalist and had left the country. The mansion and his extensive range of negro houses afforded ample shelter for such a force as that which Marion commanded. With the gradual advance of Frasier, Marion seems to have been acquainted, but in the absence of his cavalry his only mode of obtaining intelligence was through his officers. These alone, of all the party in camp, were provided with horses. Of these, he ordered out a party under Capt. Gavin Witherspoon to reconnoitre. While they were absent, Marion put his infantry in order of battle. The main body occupied an avenue of venerable cedars, which, neglected during the war, in their untrimmed state, stood overgrown with branches, their long boughs trailing almost to the ground. His left, by which the enemy was compelled to advance, were placed under cover of some of the out-buildings. Thus prepared, he waited the approach of the British, though not without sundry misgivings. It must be confessed that, at this juncture, he had not the most perfect confidence in the force under his command. They consisted, in great proportion, of those who, in that day, were known as new-made Whigs—men who had deserted the enemy and been cleansed of their previous treasons by the proclamation of Governor Rutledge, which, not long before, had promised immunity to all who came in promptly with their adhesion and joined the American ranks. There were also present some of those who, under Gainey, had recently received the protection of Marion, on the truce ground of Pedee. Major Gainey himself was among them, and with forty of his people, was placed conspicuously in the column in preparation for the British approach. Well might Marion feel some uneasiness at his situation, particularly in the absence of the cavalry on which he could rely. But our partisan had the art of securing the fidelity of those around him, in quite as great a degree as he possessed that other great military art, of extracting good service out of the most doubtful materials. He concealed his apprehensions, while he endeavored to dissipate those of his men.
Meanwhile, Witherspoon, with the reconnoitring party, advanced but a little distance in the woods, when they were met by the enemy's cavalry and instantly charged. A long chase followed, which soon brought the pursuers into view of the partisan. His men were half concealed behind the thick boughs of the cedars beneath which they were drawn up. The interest of the chase, as they drew more near, was increased by a little incident which was greatly calculated to encourage the militia. When in full view, the horse of Witherspoon failed him, or his rider purposely fell behind to bring up the rear of his little escort. At this sight a British dragoon darted forward to cut him down. Witherspoon coolly suffered him to advance until he was almost within striking distance. With sword uplifted, the assailant had already risen in his stirrups to smite, when, quick as lightning, Witherspoon, who had watched him narrowly, poured the contents of his carbine into his breast. This was followed by a shout from the Americans, and, with furious yells, the British dashed forward upon Marion's left. The reconnoitring party melted before them, and the infantry delivered their fire with fatal effect. A dozen saddles were instantly emptied, Capt. Gillies of the British, who led the charge, being one of the first victims. The enemy soon rallied, and attempted first his right and then his left flank; but the evolutions of Marion were quite as ready, and, by changing his front promptly, and availing himself of the cover afforded by the houses and the fences, he showed the hazard of attempting a second charge to be too great for such a force as that of Frasier. For an hour after, the British manoeuvred around them, but without discovering any opportunity of retrieving or revenging their disaster. A single fire terminated this affair, and seldom has a single fire, where so small a front has been engaged, done such considerable execution. One officer and eight men were instantly killed; three officers and eight men wounded; five horses fell dead upon the field, a few were taken and many wounded. The discharge took place at thirty paces, and Marion's men usually fired with heavy buck-shot. His new-made Whigs stood the test bravely, showing a steadiness and courage, whilst opposed to their old allies, which soon set the heart of our partisan at ease. They had very good reasons for steadiness and valor. They fought with halters about their necks. Not a man of them, if taken, would have escaped the cord and tree. Marion did not lose a man, but he suffered a very serious loss of another sort. In the midst of the confusion of the fight, the driver of his ammunition wagon took fright, and made off with his charge in a direction which betrayed its flight to the enemy, who immediately sent a small detachment, by which it was taken. Marion had no cavalry to recover it; but five of his men, armed with the broad-swords of the British whom they had just slain, and mounted on their captured horses, volunteered to recover it. They actually succeeded in rescuing it from the detachment by which it was taken, but could retain it only till the fugitives could reach their main body and return with a force to which our volunteers could oppose no resistance. They were compelled to abandon the prize, which, had fortune seconded their endeavors, was certainly due to their merits. This little affair is a sample of that generous service which it was the happy faculty of our partisan to extract from his followers. It is to tradition that we owe the vague memory of numerous like advantages, of which history preserves no records. Under his guidance, his men seldom suffered panic. They fancied themselves invincible when he led. In the present instance he declared that not a man faltered—that he even had to restrain their eagerness, and prevent them rushing out into the open field, to meet the charge of the cavalry. His own coolness never deserted him. He never lost sight of the whole field, in the vehement action of a part. His keenness of vision, his vigilance of watch, his promptness in opposing his best resources to the press of danger, of covering his weak points, and converting into means and modes of defence and extrication, all that was available in his situation—were remarkable endowments, which soon fixed the regards of his followers, and upon which they unhesitatingly relied. In the absence of his cavalry, a defeat would have been a rout; his infantry would have been cut to pieces, and his cavalry subsequently exposed to similar disaster. Had the latter been present, the safety of the British must have depended solely on the fleetness of their steeds. With this affair ended the actual conflicts of our partisan. His men were not yet disbanded. He himself did not yet retire from the field which he had so often traversed in triumph. But the occasion for bloodshed was over. The great struggle for ascendancy between the British crown and her colonies was understood to be at an end. She was prepared to acknowledge the independence for which they had fought, when she discovered that it was no longer in her power to deprive them of it. She will not require any eulogium of her magnanimity for her reluctant concession.
The British propose Terms of Pacification—Rejected by the Civil Authorities—They penetrate the Combahee with their Fleet—Death of Col. Laurens—Anecdote of Marion—Death of Wilmot—The British evacuate Charleston—Marion separates from his Brigade at Watboo—His Military Genius.
Though the war in Carolina was understood to be nearly at an end, and the toils and dangers of the conflict well nigh over, yet motives for vigilance still continued. There was ample room for vicissitudes. The British still held possession of Charleston and its harbor, but they were confined to these narrow limits. Here, watched on all sides by the impatient Americans, they made their preparations for a reluctant departure. The sole remaining contest between the opposing armies lay, in the desire of the one to bear with them as much of the spoils of war as possible, and of the other to prevent them. The greater motives for the war on both sides were at an end. The mother country had declared her willingness to forego the exercise of her ancient authority, and the Colonies were admitted to the freedom which they sought. In this state of things neither army attempted enterprises, the result of which could not affect the objects of either nation. Thus was spared the unnecessary shedding of blood. The forces under Greene continued gradually to contract their limits; while those of General Leslie remained comparatively quiescent. The British officer was governed by a proper wisdom. As the evacuation of Charleston was determined on, there was little use in keeping up the appearances of a struggle which had virtually ceased to exist. He suggested accordingly to Greene, that an intercourse should be established between town and country, by which the troops in the former might procure their necessary supplies in barter with the people. To provision his fleet and army was his object. For this he proposed a cessation of hostilities. It is to be regretted that this pacific proposition was not entertained. Some valuable lives might have been saved to the country—we may instance that of Col. Laurens. General Greene was not adverse to the proposition, but the civil authorities objected. Their reasons for opposing this humane suggestion are scarcely satisfactory. They believed that Leslie only aimed to accumulate provisions for the support of the British forces in the West Indies, and thus enable them to prosecute the war more vigorously against our French allies. This was an objection rather urged than felt. There was probably some feeling, some impatience of temper at the bottom, which prompted them to dispute, at the point of the sword, rather than yield to any suggestions of an enemy at whose hands they had suffered such protracted injuries. A little more coolness and reflection might have shown them, that, by refusing the application of Leslie, they only rendered it necessary that the British should pay in blood for those supplies for which they were not unwilling to pay in money. And blood usually calls for blood. The combat is never wholly on one side. It was virtually saying we can spare a few more citizens. The concession might have been made to the wishes of the British commander not only without any detriment to the service, but with absolute benefit to the people and the army. The provisions which the enemy required would have found a good market in Charleston, and the clothing, in lack of which the army was suffering severely, might have been procured for them at the same place on the most reasonable terms. Besides, the rejection of the overture was not necessarily a prevention of the purpose of the British. The American army was quite too feeble either to expel them from the country, or to arrest their foraging parties. The only effect of the rejection of the humane and pacific proposition of the British commander, was to compel the preparation of that fleet of small craft, which, under the guns of his galleys, was now penetrating the rivers, and rifling the grain from the wealthy plantations. We have seen Marion opposing himself to this fleet at Georgetown, and have witnessed their success upon the South Santee. The prompt return of our partisan to the head waters of Cooper river, in all probability, preserved that neighborhood from the foragers. With the tidings of their progress up the Combahee, the American light brigade, under General Gist, was ordered to oppose them. It was here that one of those events took place which furnished a conclusive commentary upon the ill-judged resolution by which the cessation of hostilities was rejected, and the British denied the privilege of procuring supplies in a pacific manner. Hearing of the movement of Gist, Col. Laurens, who was attached to his brigade, and was always eager for occasions of distinction, rose from a sick bed to resume the command of his division. He overtook the brigade on the north bank of the Combahee river, near the ferry. Twelve miles below, the extreme end of Chehaw neck protrudes into the bed of the river, which, between these points, is bounded by extensive swamps and rice fields. At this point a redoubt had been thrown up by General Gist. The enemy was already above, on the opposite side of the stream. Laurens solicited the command of this post for the purpose of annoying them in their retreat. Meanwhile, the American cavalry under Major Call, had been ordered round by Salkehatchie bridge, to join with the militia collected in that quarter for the purpose of striking at the enemy. With a howitzer, some matrosses and fifty infantry, Laurens moved down the river, and on the evening of the 26th reached the place of Mrs. Stock, sufficiently near to Chehaw Point to take post there by daylight the next morning. But the British were there before him. Baffled by the light brigade of Gist, in procuring provisions on the south side of the river, they had crossed it, and, apprised of the movements of Laurens, placed an ambush for him on his road to the Point. That night was spent by Laurens among the ladies of the place where he lingered. It is recorded that the company did not separate until a couple of hours before the time when the detachment was set in motion. The prospect of his encounter was the topic of conversation, and with the cheery, elastic spirit of youth, he gaily offered the ladies a conspicuous place from which they might enjoy a sight of the action without incurring its dangers. Before sunrise his voice was hushed for ever. Unsuspicious of an enemy, he rode at the head of his command. The British were posted in a place thickly covered with fennel and high grass. With the advance guard when they were discovered, he promptly ordered a charge, gallantly leading which, he fell at the first fire. Laurens was one of those brave and ardent spirits, generous, high-souled, and immaculate, which, in times of sordid calculation and drilled soldiership, recall to our minds the better days of chivalry. He was the Bayard of the southern youth in the war of the revolution, uniting all the qualities of the famous chevalier, 'sans peur et sans reproche'. That he should have fallen, unnecessarily, at the close of the war, when nothing was to be gained, and nothing to be saved, by valor,—and in an obscure encounter on a field of mere predatory warfare, doubles the mortification of such a close to a noble and admirable career. A lesson from the pure and correct code of Marion's military morals would have saved this precious blood, and preserved this gallant youth for nobler fortunes. The following anecdote will illustrate the admirable character of his mode of thinking on such subjects. While he held his position at Watboo, after he had beaten Frasier, he was advised that a British party, which had been dispatched to procure water at Lempriere's Point, could be cut off with little difficulty. The British were then preparing for embarkation. A parting blow was recommended, as calculated to hurry their movements, as well as to add something to the measure of patriot revenge for the wrongs and resentments of the past. But Marion resolutely refused to sanction the enterprise. His answer proves equally the excellence of his judgment and the benevolence of his heart. "My brigade," said he, "is composed of citizens, enough of whose blood has been shed already. If ordered to attack the enemy, I shall obey; but with my consent, not another life shall be lost, though the event should procure me the highest honors of the soldier. Knowing, as we do, that the enemy are on the eve of departure, so far from offering to molest, I would rather send a party to protect them."
This noble feeling would have saved the lives of Laurens, Wilmot, Moore, and other gallant young men, who were sacrificed at the last hour when all provocations to strife had ceased—when the battle was already won—when the great object of the war had been attained by the one party, and yielded, however reluctantly, by the other. Capt. Wilmot, with a small command, was stationed to cover John's Island, and to watch the passage by Stono. Fond of enterprise he was tempted occasionally to cross the river and harass the enemy on James' Island. In one of these adventures, undertaken in conjunction with the celebrated Kosciusko, against an armed party of the enemy's wood-cutters, he fell into an ambuscade, was himself slain, while his second in command, Lieut. Moore, severely wounded, fell into the hands of the British. This was the last blood shed in the American revolution. It need not to have been shed. The denouement of the protracted drama had already taken place. The conquest of the Indians by Pickens was complete; the Tories no longer appeared in bodies, though, for some time after, individuals of the scattered bands occasionally continued the habits of outlawry which the war had taught them, and dealt in deeds of midnight robbery and crime;—and the British armies were simply preparing to depart. On the 14th of December, while the American columns entered the city from the neck, those of the British retired to their ships; the movements of which, as their white sails distended to the breeze, presented, in the language of Moultrie, "a grand and pleasing sight." It was a sight, however, which the militia, always undervalued, always misunderstood and misrepresented, were not permitted to behold. They had fought the battle, it was true, "but the civil authority" conceived their uses to be over, and "they were excluded as dangerous spectators;" an unworthy and most ungrateful decision, in which, we are pleased to learn from a self-exculpatory letter of General Greene, he had no participation, and which he did not approve.
The forces of the British withdrawn from the shores of Carolina, the country, exhausted of resources, and filled with malcontents and mourners, was left to recover slowly from the hurts and losses of foreign and intestine strife. Wounds were to be healed which required the assuasive hand of time, which were destined to rankle even in the bosoms of another generation, and the painful memory of which is keenly treasured even now. But the civil authority takes the place of the military, and with the disappearance of the invader, the warrior lays aside his sword,—satisfied if he may still retain the laurels which his valor has won. Our partisan, yielding himself at the call of his country, was not the man to linger unnecessarily long upon the stage. The duties which had called him into the field were faithfully performed; how faithfully it has been the effort of this humble narrative to show. The time was come when he was to part with his brigade forever—when he was to take leave of those brave fellows, whom he had so frequently led to victory, never to dishonor. The separation was touching, but without parade. On this occasion his deportment was as modest as it had been through the whole period of their connection. Gathered around him among the cedars at his Watboo encampment, his followers were assembled to receive his last farewell. The simplicity which had marked his whole career, distinguished its conclusion. His address was brief but not without its eloquence—such eloquence as belongs to the language of unaffected and unadulterated truth. He acknowledged, with thanks, the services of the officers and men; dwelt passingly upon particular events of which they had reason to be proud, and bade them a friendly and affectionate farewell. The brief review which he made of their campaigns was well calculated to awaken the most touching recollections. He had been their father and protector. No commander had ever been more solicitous of the safety and comfort of his men. It was this which had rendered him so sure of their fidelity, which had enabled him to extract from them such admirable service. His simple entreaty stayed their quarrels; and the confidence which they yielded to his love of justice, made them always willing to abide the decisions of his judgment. Officers and men equally yielded to the authority of his opinion, as they did to that which he exercised in the capacity of their commander. No duel took place among his officers during the whole of his command.
The province which was assigned to his control by Governor Rutledge, was the constant theatre of war. He was required to cover an immense extent of country. With a force constantly unequal and constantly fluctuating, he contrived to supply its deficiencies by the resources of his own vigilance and skill. His personal bravery was frequently shown, and the fact that he himself conducted an enterprise, was enough to convince his men that they were certain to be led to victory. In due degree with their conviction of his care and consideration for themselves, was their readiness to follow where he commanded. He had no lives to waste, and the game he played was that which enabled him to secure the greatest results, with the smallest amount of hazard. Yet, when the occasion seemed to require it, he could advance and strike with an audacity, which, in the ordinary relations of the leader with the soldier, might well be thought inexcusable rashness. We have, already, in the opening of this biography, adverted to the melancholy baldness of the memorials upon which the historian is compelled to rely for the materials of his narrative. The reader will perceive a singular discrepancy between the actual events detailed in the life of every popular hero, and the peculiar fame which he holds in the minds of his countrymen. Thus, while Marion is everywhere regarded as the peculiar representative in the southern States, of the genius of partisan warfare, we are surprised, when we would trace, in the pages of the annalist, the sources of this fame, to find the details so meagre and so unsatisfactory. Tradition mumbles over his broken memories, which we vainly strive to pluck from his lips and bind together in coherent and satisfactory records. The spirited surprise, the happy ambush, the daring onslaught, the fortunate escape,—these, as they involve no monstrous slaughter—no murderous strife of masses,—no rending of walled towns and sack of cities, the ordinary historian disdains. The military reputation of Marion consists in the frequent performance of deeds, unexpectedly, with inferior means, by which the enemy was annoyed and dispirited, and the hearts and courage of his countrymen warmed into corresponding exertions with his own. To him we owe that the fires of patriotism were never extinguished, even in the most disastrous hours, in the low country of South Carolina. He made our swamps and forests sacred, as well because of the refuge which they gave to the fugitive patriot, as for the frequent sacrifices which they enabled him to make, on the altars of liberty and a becoming vengeance. We are in possession of but few of the numerous enterprises in which he was engaged; imperfect memories of the aged give us glimpses of deeds for the particulars of which we turn in vain to the dusty pages of the chronicler. But we need not generalize farther upon the traits of his military character. We have endeavored to make these speak for themselves, page by page, in the narration of the events, so far as we know them, by which his reputation was acquired. It is enough that his fame has entered largely into that of his country, forming a valuable portion of its sectional stock of character. His memory is in the very hearts of our people. Of the estimation in which he was held by contemporaries more might be said, but these pages bear ample testimony of the consideration which he commanded from friend and foe. The testimonials of Moultrie, Greene, Lee and others, are conclusive of that rare worth and excellence—that combination of military and civil virtues—which biography cannot easily be found to excel.
Marion retires to his Farm, which he finds in Ruins—Is returned to the Senate from St. John—His Course on the Confiscation Act—Anecdotes—Is made Commandant at Fort Johnson—His Marriage—A Member of the State Convention in 1794—Withdraws from Public Life—His Death.
It was with no reluctance but with the cheerful preference which Marion had always given, since manhood, to the life of the farmer, that he returned to its simple but attractive avocations. But the world with him was, as it were, to be begun anew; no easy matter to one whose habits had been necessarily rendered irregular by the capricious and desultory influences of a military career; still more difficult in the case of one who has entered upon the last period of life. The close of the Revolution found him destitute of means, almost in poverty, and more than fifty years old. His health was good, however; his frame elastic; his capacity for endurance, seemingly, as great as ever. But his little fortune had suffered irretrievably. His interests had shared the fate of most other Southern patriots, in the long and cruel struggle through which the country had gone. His plantation in St. John's, Berkeley, lay within a mile of one of the ordinary routes of the British army, and his career was not calculated to move them to forbearance in the case of one, whose perpetual activity and skill so constantly baffled their designs. His estate was ravaged, and subjected to constant waste and depredation. One-half of his negroes were taken away, and the rest only saved to him by their fidelity. The refuge in swamp and forest was as natural to the faithful negro, on the approach of the British uniforms, as to the fugitive patriot. Ten workers returned to him, when he was prepared to resume his farm, but he was destitute of everything beside. The implements of culture, plantation utensils, household furniture, stock, cattle and horses, clothes and provisions for his people, were all wanting, and all to be purchased, and he penniless. He received no compensation for his losses, no reward for his sacrifices and services. The hope of half pay was held out to him by his more sanguine friends, but this promise was never realized. But, with that cheerful spirit which hopes all things from time, and a meek compliance with what it brings, Marion proceeded to work out his deliverance by manly industry, and a devotion to his interests as true as that which he had yielded to the interests of his country. He had become fond of rural life, and the temporary estrangement of war seemed only to increase his desire for that repose in action, which the agricultural life in the South so certainly secures. But he was not permitted to retire from public service. The value of his services was too well known, and there was too much yet to be done, towards the repose and security of the country, to suffer them to be dispensed with. He was again returned to the Senate of the State by the people of St. John's. In this situation, he still maintained those noble and disinterested characteristics which had made him equally beloved and venerated. Two anecdotes are preserved of him in his official character, which deserve mention. Both of these grew out of the events of the war. The importance of the Confiscation Act, passed at the session of January, 1782, at Jacksonborough, arose chiefly from the necessity of providing for the emergencies of the State and military, during the continuance of the war. Under existing circumstances, the measure was sustained by our partisan. But the case was altered when the British ministry abandoned their pretensions to the country, and when it was left by their armies. It was then that numerous offenders—those who had been least conspicuous for their Tory predilections—applied for the indulgence and forbearance of the State. Petitions were poured into the Legislature, sustained by such pleas and friends as the circumstances of the suppliants could procure—excusing their conduct, asserting their repentance, and imploring the restoration of their possessions. Marion's course in regard to these suppliants may be inferred from his previous character. There was nothing vindictive in his nature. He was superior to the baser cravings of a dogged vengeance, and his vote and voice declared his magnanimity. It so happened that the first of these petitions upon which he was called to act, came from one of that class of timid, time-serving persons, who, with no predilections for virtue, no sympathy for principles or country, simply shape their course with regard to safety. He was a man of wealth, and the effect of wealth in perilous times is but too frequently to render selfishness equally cowardly and dishonest. The amount of his offence consisted in trimming, while the strife was doubtful, between Whig and Tory, and siding with the latter when the British gained the ascendency. He did not take up arms, took no active part in public affairs, and was content to shelter his person and possessions under a cautious insignificance. About eighteen months before, Marion had met the petitioner at a gathering of the people. The latter approached and offered our partisan his hand. But the juncture was one in which it behooveth patriotism to speak out at all hazards. The struggle was for life and death, on the part equally of Whig and Tory. Marion knew the character of the person, and disdained it. To the surprise of all, who knew how scrupulous of insult he was,—how indulgent and forbearing,—he turned away from the trimmer and the sycophant without recognition. This treatment was greatly censured at the time, and when Marion rose in the Senate, to speak on the subject of the petition of the man whom he had so openly scorned, it was taken for granted that he would again give utterance to feelings of the sort which moved him then. The miserable offender, who was himself present, grew pale, trembled, and gave up his cause as lost. What was his surprise and delight to hear the venerable patriot advocate his application! He was successful in obtaining for the suppliant the mercy which he implored. The opponents of the petitioner, some of whom were of that class of patriots who hunger for the division of the spoils, were aghast, and having counted on Marion's support, now loudly proclaimed his inconsistency. But to these his answer was equally prompt and satisfactory. His reasons were true to his principles. He had been governed in his previous views by the necessity of the case. With the disappearance of that necessity he recognized other laws and influences. "Then," said he, "it was war. It is peace now. God has given us the victory; let us show our gratitude to heaven, which we shall not do by cruelty to man."
The expediency of humanity was always the uppermost sentiment with Marion. A nobler expression of it never fell from the lips of mortal.
The next anecdote of the legislative career of Marion is one which directly related to himself. At an early period in the action of the Assembly, after the war, it was deemed advisable to introduce a bill by which to exempt from legal investigation the conduct of the militia while the war had lasted. It was thought, justly enough, that, from the nature of the services in which they were engaged, and the necessities which coerced them, they might need, in numerous instances, to be sheltered from legal persecution. They had been compelled to war with a heavy hand, to seize frequently upon private property, and subject the possessions of the citizen to the exigencies of the community. The necessities of the service being recognized, the Legislature were ready to justify them; and the Act which was prepared for the purpose, included amongst others, thus specially exempted, the name of Marion. But, scarcely had it been announced from the paper, when the venerable man arose, and with flushed cheeks and emphatic brevity, demanded that his name should be expunged from the catalogue. He declared himself friendly to the Bill—he believed it to be equally just and necessary; but for his own part, as he was not conscious of any wrong of which he had been guilty, he was not anxious for any immunity. "If," said he, "I have given any occasion for complaint, I am ready to answer in property and person. If I have wronged any man I am willing to make him restitution. If, in a single instance, in the course of my command, I have done that which I cannot fully justify, justice requires that I should suffer for it."
So proud was his integrity, so pure and transparent was his happy consciousness of a mind fixed only on good, and regulated by the sternest rules of virtue, and the nicest instincts of gentleness and love! The Bill passed into a law, but the name of Marion, omitted at his requisition, is nowhere present, as showing that he needed other security than that which is afforded to the meanest citizen under the keenest scrutiny of justice.
Marion did not confine his objections to the continued operation of the Confiscation Act, to the single instance which we have given. We have reason to believe that his labors to remedy its hardships, and restrain its severities, were uniform and unremitting. There is no doubt that he favored the original bill. He considered it a war measure, and necessary to the prosecution of the war. The propriety of the distinction which he made just after the war was over, obvious enough to us now, was not so evident at a season when the victors were looking after the division of the spoils. The subject became one of considerable excitement, and we may say in this place, that, after time had mollified the popular feeling in some degree, the State admitted the greater number of the offenders to mercy and restored their estates. But there is reason to believe that the humane sentiments which Marion taught, were not universal, and met with most violent opposition. His feelings on the subject were not only declared with frankness, but with warmth and energy. Dining at the table of Governor Matthews, while the strife was highest, he was called upon by his Excellency for a toast. Lifting his glass, with a smile, he promptly gave the following,—"Gentlemen, here's damnation to the Confiscation Act."
Though, in the language of Moultrie, "born a soldier", and yielding so many of his youthful and maturer years to the habits of the camp and field, there was nothing of a harsh or imperious nature in his temper or his manner. The deportment of the mere soldier seems to have been his aversion. He preferred the modest and forbearing carriage which is supposed to belong more distinctly to civil than to military life. No novelty of situation, no provocation of circumstance, nothing in the shape of annoyance or disaster, was suffered so to ruffle his mood as to make him heedless or indifferent to the claims or sensibilities of others. He never conceived that any of his virtues gave him a right to trespass upon the proprieties of social or public life. An anecdote is related of him which illustrates the veneration which he entertained for the regulations of society and law. It appears that, when the war was over, one of his closest intimates and nearest friends—one whom he had trusted long, and who had shared with him in all his campaigns, stood within the perils of the law for some offence of which the facts have not been preserved. Presuming upon his well-known services, and the favor in which he was held by the public, he refused to submit to the ordinary legal process, and bade defiance to the sheriff. While maintaining this position, Marion sought him out. He used no argument to convince the offender of his error, for that, he felt assured, the other sufficiently knew. But he addressed him in a style, and with words, which conveyed much more than any ordinary argument. "Deliver yourself," said he, "into the hands of justice—submit to the process of the sheriff, and my heart and hand are yours as before; —resist,—refuse,—and we are separated for ever." It need not be said that under such an exhortation the refractory spirit was subdued. How much to be regretted it is that so few anecdotes have been preserved of his character, illustrating a life which, according to all testimony, was consistent throughout in a just appreciation of all that was pure, virtuous and becoming, in the character of the individual man.
Early in the year 1783, the following resolutions passed in the Senate of South Carolina, Marion, who was a member, not being present at the time:
Senate, South Carolina, February 26, 1783.
"RESOLVED, nem. con., That the thanks of this House be given to Brigadier General Marion, in his place, as a member of this House, for his eminent and conspicuous services to his country.
"RESOLVED, nem. con., That a gold medal be given to Brigadier General Marion, as a mark of public approbation for his great, glorious, and meritorious conduct."
Two days after, Marion being in his place in the Senate, the President took occasion to convey to him the sense of these resolutions, in a neat and highly laudatory speech. He said, among other things—
"When I consider the occasion which calls me to address you, I am filled with inexpressible pleasure; but when I reflect on the difficulty of doing justice to your distinguished merit, I feel my own inefficiency. What sentiments or words shall I make use of equal to the task! I scarce dare trust my own, especially after what has been said by several honorable persons on this floor, respecting your great, your glorious, and meritorious conduct; and I most earnestly wish, for my own sake, for yours, Sir, and for the honor of this House, that I could avail myself of their eloquence.... Your conduct merits the applause of your countrymen—your courage, your vigilance, and your abilities have exceeded their most sanguine expectations; and have answered all their hopes. Whilst the virtue of gratitude shall form a part of our national character, your important services to this country can never be forgotten," &c.
To this Marion replied with simple brevity:
"MR. PRESIDENT: The approbation which this House have given of my conduct, in the execution of my duty, gives me very pleasing and heartfelt satisfaction. The honor which they have conferred on me this day, by their thanks, will be remembered with gratitude. I shall always be ready to exert my abilities for the good of the state and the liberties of her inhabitants. I thank you, Sir, for the polite manner in which you have conveyed to me the thanks of the Senate."
Whether the medal was really given, or only voted, is a fact that we have no means of ascertaining. It is to be feared that the action of the Senate went no farther than the resolution and the speech. It probably remains a reproach against the republic, in this, as in numerous other instances, that, knowing what gratitude required, we would yet forego the satisfaction of the debt. Cheaply, at best, was our debt to Marion satisfied, with a gold medal, or the vote of one, while Greene received ten thousand guineas and a plantation. We quarrel not with the appropriation to Greene, but did Marion deserve less from Carolina? Every page of her history answers "No!"
By the Legislative session of 1784, Fort Johnson, in the harbor of Charleston, was fitted up and garrisoned by the State. In the unstable condition of things, so immediately after the war, some such fortress might well be deemed essential to the security of the port. Marion was appointed Commandant of the Fort, with an annual salary of 500 Pounds. The office was in all probability made for him. His necessities were known, and its salary was intended to compensate him for his losses during the war. But the duties of the office were nominal. Even its possible uses soon ceased to be apparent; and, with a daily increasing sense of security, the people murmured at an appropriation which they considered unnecessarily burdensome. The common mind could not well perceive that the salary was not so much yielded for what was expected of the office, as for what had already been performed. It was not given for present, but for past services. It was the payment of a debt incurred, not a simple appropriation for the liquidation of one growing out of current performances. Legislative reformers waged constant war against it, and it was finally cut down to five hundred dollars. A smile of fortune,—one of the fairest perhaps, that had ever shone on our hero,—just then relieved him from the mortifying necessity of holding a sinecure which his fellow citizens pronounced an encumbrance. It had been observed by his friends that there was a lady of good family and considerable wealth, who appeared to take a more than ordinary interest in hearing of his exploits. Modest and reserved himself, Marion was not conscious of the favorable impression which he had made upon this lady. It was left for others to discover the state of her affections. They remarked the delight with which, like
"The gentle lady wedded to the Moor,"
she listened to the tale of his achievements, his
"Hair-breadth 'scapes in th' imminent deadly breach, Of being taken by the insolent foe."—
and they augured favorably of the success of any desire which he might express to make her the sharer in his future fortunes. On this hint he spake. Miss Mary Videau, like himself, came of the good old Huguenot stock, the virtues of which formed our theme in the opening chapter of this narrative. He proposed to her and was accepted. Neither of them was young. It was not in the heyday of passion that they loved. The tie that bound them sprang from an affection growing out of a just appreciation of their mutual merits. She is reported to have somewhat resembled him as well in countenance as character. She certainly shared warmly in his interests and feelings. She readily conformed to his habits no less than his wishes—partook of his amusements, shared his journeys—which were frequent—and still, in his absence, could listen with as keen a zest to his praises, as before their marriage. During the summer months, it was his almost yearly custom to retire to the mountains of the interior. She was always his companion. On such occasions, he was guilty of a piece of military ostentation of which nobody could have accused him while a military man. He had preserved carefully, as memorials of an eventful history, his marquee, camp bed, and cooking utensils, just as he had done while in the Brigade, during the last twelve months of his military life. These were carefully taken with him; and, with his faithful servant Oscar, and his two sumpter mules, were still the companions of his wanderings. They were coupled no doubt with many associations as interesting to his heart as they were trying to his experience. They were, perhaps, doubly precious, as they constituted the sum total of all that he had gathered—besides an honorable fame—from his various campaignings.
The marriage of Marion, like that of Washington, was without fruits. This may have baffled some hopes, and in some degree qualified his happiness, but did not impair his virtues. He adopted the son of a relative, to whom he gave his own name, in the hope of perpetuating it in the family, but even this desire has been defeated, since the heir thus chosen, though blessed with numerous children, was never so fortunate as to own a son.
In the decline of life, in the modest condition of the farmer, Marion seems to have lived among his neighbors, very much as the ancient patriarch, surrounded by his flock. He was honored and beloved by all. His dwelling was the abode of content and cheerful hospitality. Its doors were always open; and the chronicler records that it had many chambers. Here the stranger found a ready welcome, and his neighbors a friendly counsellor, to the last. His active habits were scarcely lessened in the latter years of life. His agricultural interests were managed judiciously, and his property underwent annual increase. Nor did his domestic interests and declining years prevent him from serving the public still. He still held a commission in the militia, and continued to represent the parish of St. John's, in the Senate of the State. In May, 1790, we find him sitting as a member of the Convention for forming the State Constitution; but from this period he withdrew from public life, and, in 1794, after the reorganization of the State militia, he resigned his commission in that service to which he had done so much honor. On this occasion he was addressed by an assembly of the citizens of Georgetown, through a special committee of four, in the following language.*
* The committee consisted of Messrs. William D. James, Robert Brownfield, Thomas Mitchell, and Joseph Blythe.—
"CITIZEN GENERAL—At the present juncture, when the necessity of public affairs requires the military of this State to be organized anew, to repel the attacks of an enemy from whatever quarter they may be forced upon us; we, the citizens of the district of Georgetown, finding you no longer at our head, have agreed to convey to you our grateful sentiments for your former numerous services. In the decline of life, when the merits of the veteran are too often forgotten, we wish to remind you that yours are still fresh in the remembrance of your fellow citizens. Could it be possible for men who have served and fought under you, to be now forgetful of that General, by whose prudent conduct their lives have been saved and their families preserved from being plundered by a rapacious enemy? We mean not to flatter you. At this time it is impossible to suspect it. Our present language is the language of freemen, expressing only sentiments of gratitude. Your achievements may not have sufficiently swelled the historic page. They were performed by those who could better wield the sword than the pen—by men whose constant dangers precluded them from the leisure, and whose necessities deprived them of the common implements of writing. But this is of little moment. They remain recorded in such indelible characters upon our minds, that neither change of circumstances, nor length of time, can efface them. Taught by us, our children shall hereafter point out the places, and say, 'HERE, General Marion, posted to advantage, made a glorious stand in defence of the liberties of his country—THERE, on disadvantageous ground, retreated to save the lives of his fellow citizens.' What could be more glorious for the General, commanding freemen, than thus to fight, and thus to save the lives of his fellow soldiers? Continue, General, in peace, to till those acres which you once wrested from the hands of an enemy. Continue to enjoy dignity accompanied with ease, and to lengthen out your days blessed with the consciousness of conduct unaccused of rapine or oppression, and of actions ever directed by the purest patriotism."
The artless language of this address was grateful to the venerable patriot. In its truth and simplicity lay its force and eloquence. It had truly embodied in a single sentence the noble points of his career and character. He lived in the delightful consciousness of a pure mind, free from accusation—and no higher eulogy could be conferred upon the captain of citizen soldiers, than to say, he never wantonly exposed their lives, but was always solicitous of their safety. To this address his answer was verbal. He no longer used the pen. The feebleness of nature was making itself understood. That he felt himself failing may be inferred from his withdrawal from all public affairs. But his mind was cheerful and active to the last. He still saw his friends and neighbors, and welcomed their coming—could still mount his horse and cast his 'eye over his acres.' The progress of decline, in his case, was not of that humiliating kind, by which the faculties of the intellect are clouded, and the muscles of the body made feeble and incompetent. He spoke thoughtfully of the great concerns of life, of death, and of the future; declared himself a Christian, a humble believer in all the vital truths of religion. As of the future he entertained no doubt, so of the awful transition through the valley and shadow of death, he had no fear. "Death may be to others," said he, "a leap in the dark, but I rather consider it a resting-place where old age may throw off its burdens." He died, peaceful and assured, with no apparent pain, and without regret, at his residence in St. John's parish, on the 27th day of February, 1795, having reached the mature and mellow term of sixty-three years. His last words declared his superiority to all fears of death; "for, thank God," said he, "I can lay my hand on my heart and say that, since I came to man's estate, I have never intentionally done wrong to any."
Thus died Francis Marion, one of the noblest models of the citizen soldier that the world has ever produced. Brave without rashness, prudent without timidity, firm without arrogance, resolved without rudeness, good without cant, and virtuous without presumption. His mortal remains are preserved at Belle-Isle, in St. John's parish. The marble slab which covers them bears the following inscription:—"Sacred to the memory of Brigadier-General Francis Marion, who departed this life on the 29th of Feb., 1795, in the sixty-third year of his age, deeply regretted by all his fellow citizens. History will record his worth, and rising generations embalm his memory, as one of the most distinguished patriots and heroes of the American Revolution; which elevated his native country to honor and Independence, and secured to her the blessings of liberty and peace. This tribute of veneration and gratitude is erected in commemoration of the noble and disinterested virtues of the citizen, and the gallant exploits of the soldier, who lived without fear, and died without reproach."
This inscription was the tribute of an individual, not of the country. The State of South Carolina has conferred his name upon one of its district divisions. But a proper gratitude, not to speak of policy, would seem to require more
"If it be we love His fame and virtues, it were well, methinks, To link them with his name i' the public eye, That men, who in the paths of gainful trade, Do still forget the venerable and good, May have such noble monitor still nigh, And, musing at his monument, recall, Those precious memories of the deeds of one Whose life were the best model for their sons."
[End of original text.]
Appendix A. Notes on the electronic text.
The great majority of changes in this electronic edition, from the original, are in spelling (some words are spelled both ways in the original). To wit:
partizan :: partisan. merchandize :: merchandise. duresse :: duress. ancle :: ankle. swamp-fox :: swamp fox. (The modern spelling.) co-operate :: cooperate. bivouack :: bivouac. head-quarters :: headquarters. secresy :: secrecy. patrole :: patrol.
A number of spellings which might be considered errors, and might not, have been retained, where they are less likely to interfere with reading.
When the true facts were known, either from context or outside reading, a few other errors were corrected. A couple are footnoted in the text. Otherwise, the larger changes are:
Chapter 5 (p. 59 of the original): "Weems, in his life of our author" has been changed to "Weems, in his life of our subject".
Chapter 6 (p. 80): "while the second North Carolina regiment" has been changed to "while the second South Carolina regiment".
Chapter 14, last paragraph (p. 239): "Mrs. Moultrie" has been changed to "Mrs. Motte".
These errors are not merely represented here for their scholastic interest, but also to give the reader an appreciation of the types of errors which Simms was frequently subject to make. Many have most certainly not been caught—if I had not lived in the Waxhaw area, I certainly would not have known of the error (footnoted in the text) which replaced 'Waxhaw' with 'Warsaw'—two very different regions. Names are particularly prone to error, not only by Simms, but from the whole revolutionary era in the South—many of the people were only semi-literate, if literate at all, and many of the names have been spelled several, even a dozen ways—sometimes even by the individual named. For all this, the errors of Simms are generally minor, and will not prevent the reader from a true appreciation of both Marion and Simms.
Alan R. Light, Birmingham, Alabama. December, 1996.
Appendix B. Song of Marion's Men.
By William Cullen Bryant [1794-1878].
As this poem is quoted in part by Simms at the very beginning of the book, I have considered it appropriate to include the whole here:
Our band is few, but true and tried, Our leader frank and bold; The British soldier trembles When Marion's name is told. Our fortress is the good greenwood, Our tent the cypress-tree; We know the forest round us, As seamen know the sea. We know its walls of thorny vines, Its glades of reedy grass, Its safe and silent islands Within the dark morass.
Woe to the English soldiery, That little dread us near! On them shall light at midnight A strange and sudden fear: When, waking to their tents on fire, They grasp their arms in vain, And they who stand to face us Are beat to earth again. And they who fly in terror deem A mighty host behind, And hear the tramp of thousands Upon the hollow wind.
Then sweet the hour that brings release From danger and from toil: We talk the battle over, And share the battle's spoil. The woodland rings with laugh and shout, As if a hunt were up, And woodland flowers are gathered To crown the soldier's cup. With merry songs we mock the wind That in the pine-top grieves, And slumber long and sweetly On beds of oaken leaves.
Well knows the fair and friendly moon The band that Marion leads— The glitter of their rifles, The scampering of their steeds. 'Tis life to guide the fiery barb Across the moonlight plain; 'Tis life to feel the night-wind That lifts his tossing mane. A moment in the British camp— A moment—and away Back to the pathless forest, Before the peep of day.
Grave men there are by broad Santee, Grave men with hoary hairs, Their hearts are all with Marion, For Marion are their prayers. And lovely ladies greet our band With kindliest welcoming, With smiles like those of summer, And tears like those of spring. For them we wear these trusty arms, And lay them down no more Till we have driven the Briton, Forever, from our shore.