Francis Marion was the lead character in early drafts of the movie script, but because to avoid some controversy and to allow for more dramatic storytelling, the fictional character of Benjamin Martin was introduced.
Francis Marion was a known Indian fighter from the French and Indian War, however his most famous brush with Indians was leading his 30-man scouting party into a known Indian ambush to clear the way for the main force. Only ten men including himself survived. It was a massacre, but not of Indians.
Francis Marion was known as the "Swamp Fox" and operated in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. His base of operations was Snow's Island, which was located in the middle of the South Carolina swamps, not unlike how Benjamin Martin operated from the old Spanish mission located in the swamp. But unlike Martin, Marion was childless and did not even marry until after the war.
There are some who say they have evidence that Marion mistreated his slaves through beatings and rape. PatriotResource.com has found no sources that indicate this, but these comments were made in several articles criticizing the accuracy of the film even as far as back as when the film was in the earliest stages of preproduction. Such comments, though not backed up by any credible sources, helped prompt the producers to drop Marion as the lead character in favor of a composite fictional character.
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