Patriot Militia General Francis Marion
||Born: 1732; St. John's Parish, Berkeley County, South Carolina
Died: February 26, 1795; Pond's Bluff, South Carolina
Battles: Fort Sullivan
Additional Information: Camden, Charleston, King's Mountain, Charles Cornwallis, Horatio Gates, Nathanael Greene, Henry Lee, William Moultrie, Thomas Sumter, Banastre Tarleton
Southern Campaign: November-December 1780
Georgetown, South Carolina: November 15, 1780
While Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton was tracking Francis Marion in early November, Thomas Sumter reemerged with a reorganized force and carried out several successful operations. This caused Lt. General Charles Cornwallis to recall Tarleton. On November 15, 1780, Marion attacked the British garrison at Georgetown, South Carolina. He had intelligence that there were only 50 British regulars manning the post, but they had since been reinforced by a number of Tory militia under Captains Jesse Barefield and James Lewis. Two assaults were turned back, first by Lewis and then by Barefield, and Marion's nephew Gabriel Marion was killed. After two days, Marion withdrew due to low ammunition.
Halfway Swamp and Singleton's, South Carolina: December 12-13, 1780
In December 1780, Marion learned that Major Robert McLeroth was escorting 200 recruits from Charleston. He gathered about 700 mounted men and rode to intercept McLeroth. Marion caught him at Halfway Swamp, which was about twenty miles northwest of Nelson's Ferry. McLeroth took up a defensive position when his rear guard was attacked. He protested the shooting of his pickets and challenged Marion to meet him in the open. Marion replied that pickets were fair game as long the British continued to burn homes and conduct raids. He also suggested mortal combat between teams of twenty men.
Major McLeroth agreed to the challenge and a field was chosen. Marion selected Major John Vanderhorst as team captain and carefully chose twenty men. They were ordered to not fire until they were fifty yards away. However, the deadly contest did not play out, because the British team marched off the field. McLeroth had merely been stalling while waiting for reinforcements. Captain James Coffin was leading 140 men to join McLeroth, but when he learned of Marion's presence, he declined to reinforce McLeroth for attack.
Around midnight of December 12, 1780, Major McLeroth left his campfires burning, slipped away with his men and made for Singleton's. Major John James discovered the ruse and beat McLeroth to Singleton's. James took position on Singleton's Hill, fired one volley on the British and then he and his force fled to the redcoats' surprise. The rebels had just learned that the Singletons had small pox and were vacating out of self-preservation. Marion withdrew to Nelson's Ferry. Captain Coffin now joined McLeroth nearby and the British force reached Hillsborough on December 16th.
Marion had utilized Port's Ferry for several months as a favored base of operations, but following the action at Halfway Swamp, he established a camp at Snow's Island. Snow's Island was actually a low ridge about five miles long and two miles wide. It was protected by the Peedee River on the east, Lynches River on the north and Clark's Creek on the south and west. Swamps and a lake to the west offered even further protection. It would become his favorite and most famous base.
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