Woodlands. Beautiful. Untamed. Soaring old-growth elms arch over riverside maples along the shores of the gently curving, deep-water Santee River.
Upstream, the swamps. Beautiful. Hundreds of BIRDS SING. Shafts of sunlight pierce the canopy, cutting through the hanging moss and kudzu, falling onto soft, swaying ferns covering the high ground.
The water is clear, with fields of floating lily pads, each with a stark white flower rising from it.
THE FOLLOWING IS BASED ON A
EXT. POND BLUFF - DAY
A farm built between the banks of the river and the deep green of the swamps. Good, fertile land, hacked out of the wilderness.
The perfectly tended fields are ripe with barley, hops, alfalfa and tobacco. Two sturdy brothers, NATHAN, 13 and SAMUEL, 12, work one of the fields, rhythmically swinging scythes through the barley.
The house, built of native brick, is well-constructed and well-maintained. There's a barn, a workshop and a forge. It is a home of substance rather than wealth. On the front porch, MARGARET, 11, pumps a butter churn while her brother, WILLIAM, 6, watches.
GABRIEL, 18, strong and handsome, walks out of the woods with a musket in his hand and a dozen game-birds over his shoulder. At his side walks THOMAS, 14, also carrying a musket.
INT. WORKSHOP - DAY
A perfect colonial workshop, fastidiously arranged with every conceivable tool of the period. A foot-powered lathe. A drop-forge. A lifting saw. Racks of tools, planes, hammers, augers, drills, blocks, all hanging in their places. All very well-worn.
FRANCIS MARION methodically works his lathe, turning a piece of hardwood, shaving off tiny curls of wood with a razor-sharp chisel. He's in his late-forties, strong and weathered. His hands, though big and callused, handle the chisel with a surgeon's precision. Self-educated and self-sufficient, he has built himself, as he built his farm, brick by brick, from the coarse clay of the earth.
A finely-made rocking chair, missing only the dowel on which Marion is working, sits on the work table. The chair is a work of art, thin and light, a spider-web of perfectly turned wood, no nails, no glue.
Sitting on the woodpile, SUSAN, 4, a silent, stone-face wisp of a child, watches her father.
Marion takes the piece of wood out of the lathe, carefully fits it into the chair, inserts a peg and taps it into place. Then he steps back and appraises his handiwork.
He picks up the chair and hooks the top rail to a scale, countering with a three-pound weight. The chair floats.
Marion blows softly on the weight which sinks. Susan nods, so far, so good. Marion puts the chair on the floor and walks slowly around it, checking every angle.
Then, the acid test. He takes a deep breath and lowers himself onto the seat, gingerly adding an ounce at a time. Not a creak. He smiles and sits back with a sigh.
CRACK! THE CHAIR SPLINTERS under Marion's weight, DUMPING HIM on his ass on a pile of broken wood.
He picks up some of the wood, about to fling it across the room but stops as Susan shoots him a disapproving look. He calms himself.
Susan gets down from the woodpile and puts the remains of the chair in the fireplace. As she climbs back up to her perch, Marion steps over to his wood rack, extracts a fresh dowel, fits it into the lathe and starts all over again.
EXT. WORKSHOP - DUSK
Marion leaves the workshop with Susan at his side. Nathan and Samuel walk past, exhausted from their day in the field.
Father, I saw a post rider at the
Thank you. Did you finish the upper
We got it all cut and we bundled
half of it.
Those swimming breaks cut into the
day, don't they?
Marion walks on without waiting for a reply from his contrite sons who jostle one another, trying to pass off the blame. Gabriel and Thomas walk out of the barn.
Father, a post rider came from
Charleston. You have a letter
Thank you. How's the spotted one's
Better. She's near ready to calve.
Marion nods and motions for Susan to go with Gabriel and Thomas to the house. She does so and Marion walks on alone toward:
EXT. HILLTOP - POND BLUFF - SUNSET
The loveliest spot on the farm. A beautiful view of the house, barns, river, fields and hills beyond. A gravestone stands in the shade of a single apple tree. It reads:
ELIZABETH PUTNAM MARION 1738-1773
Above her name is a carving of the night sky, at the center of which is the NORTH STAR, steady and guiding.
Marion approaches. He gives himself a moment to look at the grave, then he starts picking apples, speaking to the gravestone in a quiet voice that is more matter-of-fact than sorrowful.
... and they bundled half... almost
no trace of the boys you knew...
A soft wind blows some dry leaves along the ground. Marion pauses as if listening to a spoken reply.
... no, she still hasn't spoken...
Margaret was her age when you... I
remember the time at the river when
we couldn't find Catherine... you
couldn't stop crying... and she was
asleep in the wagon the entire
Marion pauses, remembering. The CRASH OF A PLATE BREAKING, followed by the SOUND OF AN ARGUMENT rises from the house below. Marion shakes his head with an exasperated sigh.
He heads down the hill toward the house, now glowing from the lights of candles and oil lamps.
INT. MARION'S HOUSE - EVENING
Pre-dinner chaos. Everyone talking at once. Marion's seven children and his two family servants, ABIGAIL and AARON, a middle-aged black couple, prepare dinner. Susan silently watches from the stairs. Marion walks in.
I smell turnips...
Father, Samuel broke the blue
I did not...
Marion hands the apples to Abigail and steps over to open his mail and dispatches.
News of Boston, father?
I hate turnips...
William knocked it right out of my
Samuel, William, both of you clean
Marion hands a packet of pamphlets to Gabriel and opens a letter.
The Assembly has been reconvened,
I've been called to...
Marion's children go wild.
We're going to Charleston!
When, father, when?
We'll leave tomorrow...
The children ERUPT INTO CHEERS and THUNDER into the dining room.
Charleston! We're going to
Marion and Gabriel exchange a stone-faced look. Then Marion puts on a smile and inhales deeply.
I love turnips...
Marion follows his children into the dining room.
EXT. MARION'S HOUSE - NIGHT
Quiet. The only sounds are the soft calls of a few NIGHTBIRDS and the DRONE OF CICADAS. A faint light moves through the downstairs, passing windows in the otherwise dark house.
INT. MARION'S HOUSE - NIGHT
Marion, holding a candle, does a father's bedtime check. The CAMERA FOLLOWS him as he makes his rounds into:
THE KITCHEN. Everything is clean and put away in its proper place.
THE MAIN HALLWAY. Marion checks that the doors are closed and bolted. He heads up the stairs.
INT. BOYS' BEDROOM - NIGHT
Marion enters, finding William asleep on the floor and Nathan and Samuel in bed. He lifts William into bed, takes a slingshot from Nathan's hand, tucks in Samuel and walks out.
INT. GIRLS' BEDROOM - NIGHT
Marion steps to the doorway, finding Margaret and Susan at the window, looking up at the night sky.
... now count five finger lengths up
from the front two stars of the Big
Dipper, and that's the North Star,
Susan gazes up at the North Star. The girls notice Marion and climb into bed. He puts a chair against Susan's bed and kisses her. He pulls a blanket up around Margaret, who whispers:
It helps her to know Mother's there.
Marion nods with a thin smile, kisses Margaret and walks out.
INT. MARION'S STUDY - NIGHT
Squadrons of lead soldiers stand ready for battle as Thomas, lying on the floor, deploys his men. Gabriel reads the new pamphlets and broadsides. Marion walks in and pours a drink. Gabriel hands several of the pamphlets to his father.
The New York and Rhode Island
assemblies have been dissolved...
The middle colonies?
Rioting both sides of the bay, in
Chestertown they burned the Customs
House and tar-and-feathered the
Customs Agent. He died of burns.
In Wilmington they killed a Royal
Magistrate and two Redcoats.
Anything about the convention in
Poor Richard says they'll make a
Declaration of Independence by July.
Marion shakes his head and sits down, carefully extracting
a delicate pair of reading glasses from a wooden box. He
Scott Higgins joined the militia.
Marion hears but doesn't respond. Thomas looks up from
his lead soldiers.
He's seventeen. A year younger than
Gabriel and Thomas wait for a reaction. There is none. Gabriel goes back to reading and Thomas resumes playing with his toy soldiers. Marion's eyes drift from the page to Gabriel.
EXT. SWAMP ROAD - DAY
The Marion family, in two tightly-packed carriages, drives on a beautiful road, cut through the swamps. The canopy of swamp maples and weeping willows forms a tunnel of green, mottled by sunlight.
EXT. BENNINGTON OVERLOOK - DAY
The two carriages pass a view of their entire valley. Scattered farms with a patchwork of cultivated fields surrounding the town of Bennington.
EXT. SANTEE ROAD - DAY
Passing through rolling farmland, the Marions head toward the coast. They pass a large contingent of South Carolina Militia, drilling in a field. The children, particularly Gabriel, watch avidly.
EXT. CHARLESTON - DAY
A big, bustling city. Marion and Gabriel negotiate the carriages through the busy streets. The children watch, wide-eyed, seeing taverns, a public gallows, drunkards, street entertainers, well-dressed ladies attended by their maids, food venders, a man with a trained bear.
EXT. CHARLOTTE'S HOUSE - CHARLESTON - DAY
Grand. Four stories. Marion and his children pull up. CHARLOTTE MOTTE hurries out. She's in her mid-thirties, beautiful, with a deep sadness that she keeps hidden as best she can.
The children leap from the carriages and swarm around her, embracing her, smothering her with kisses.
Aunt Charlotte! Aunt Charlotte!
Welcome! Welcome! Margaret,
William, look at you...!
They're huge. What have you been
They're from good stock on their
Charlotte hustles the children toward the door.
Come, come, inside, wait until you
see what I have...
Presents! For me? What do you
Charlotte sweeps past Marion who smiles and follows her into the house.
INT. PARLOR - CHARLOTTE'S HOUSE - DAY
Marion watches as Charlotte finishes handing out presents. Susan plays with a new doll. William has half-a-dozen new spinning tops, skimming around the floor. Margaret holds a new dress up to herself. Samuel, Nathan and Thomas tear into packages holding platoons of lead soldiers. Gabriel looks through a new book.
Charlotte sees Marion watching her, rises and joins him at the doorway.
You look well, Charlotte.
As do you.
Suddenly Thomas and Samuel race through the doorway, forcing Marion and Charlotte together, their bodies close. They step back and exchange warm but uneasy smiles.
The moment is broken by the SOUND OF CHILDREN. Marion and Charlotte gratefully turn their attention back to them.
EXT. CHARLESTON SQUARE - NIGHT
Down the block from the Motte house. A yelling crowd of Sons of Liberty is massed around a Liberty Tree from which hang dozens of glowing lanterns. Most of the men in the crowd are drunk. Vendors sell rum, ale, food and banners emblazoned with a coiled snake and the legend, "Don't Tread On Me." Scores of on-lookers, including respectable people, as well as street urchins, whores and drunkards, watch the proceedings.
Several Sons of Liberty string up effigies of King George III and Governor Wilmington. They light the effigies on fire. As they begin to blaze, the crowd cheers.
EXT. CHARLOTTE'S BALCONY - NIGHT
Marion's children, except Gabriel, stand on the balcony watching the mob. Marion steps out onto the balcony.
Inside, all of you...
The children turn to Marion with stricken expressions. Marion relents.
The children turn back to the mob. Marion joins them.
Look! There's Gabriel!
They see Gabriel making his way through the crowd. He sees them and waves, then enters the house.
A moment later Charlotte steps out onto the balcony and sees:
IN THE SQUARE, a pair of drunk Sons of Liberty, pull down one of the smoldering effigies, cut off its head, then start hacking at it's groin with a sword.
Appalled, Charlotte shoots a glare at Marion and snaps at the children.
Children, inside! All of you!
The children start to protest, but a glance at Charlotte's resolute expression makes them think better of it. They file into the house. Charlotte shoots a glare at Marion and shoos the children inside. Gabriel steps out and joins them.
The British army is barricaded in
Boston. Harry Lee, is here from
Virginia, recruiting for a
Is that why the Assembly was
Yes. He seeks a levy of troops and
And the Governor?
He vowed that if the Assembly votes
a single shilling to Lee, he'll
dissolve the body.
Which would force our delegates in
Philadelphia to vote for
And send us to war alongside
Our governor is a bigger fool than I
Lee is counting on your vote and
expects you to be the first to
Marion nods thoughtfully without revealing what he thinks of Lee's expectations. Marion turns back to watch the mob.
EXT. ASSEMBLY HALL - CHARLESTON - DAY
The capital building of South Carolina. A large crowd of lower-class men and women is massed in front of the Assembly Hall. As well-dressed Assemblymen walk into the building, the CROWD YELLS words of encouragement to some and berates others.
In the square in front of the Assembly Hall a squadron of blue-uniformed AMERICAN CONTINENTAL SOLDIERS drills. A recruiting table is being set up by a Continental Captain and several military clerks.
Marion and Gabriel walk across the square toward the Assembly Hall. As they push their way through the crowd, Gabriel eyes the Continentals.
INT. ASSEMBLY HALL - DAY
Two dozen ANGRY, YELLING, MEN OF PROPERTY. Among them are ROBINSON, HAMILL and JOHNSON, who are Patriots. Opposed to them are SIMMS, WITHINGTON and BALDRIDGE who are Loyalists (loyal the the King). As Marion makes his way to his seat, the SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY POUNDS HIS GAVEL.
Slowly, the room quiets down.
Our first order of business...
And out last if we vote a levy...
The ROOM ERUPTS.
ORDER! ORDER! Mr. Simms, you do
not have the floor.
The ROOM SETTLES DOWN.
Our first order of business is an
address by Colonel Harry Lee of the
An imposing figure rises and makes his way to the front of the assembly. He's COLONEL HARRY LEE, about Marion's age and cut from the same cloth -- strong, weathered, with a powerful bearing. The room quiets down.
Lee sees Marion and offers a familiar nod, which Marion returns, stone-faced. Then Lee speaks, simply and clearly.
You all know why I am here. I am
not an orator and I will not try to
convince you of the worthiness of
our cause. I am a soldier and we
are at war and with the declaration
of independence we all expect from
Philadelphia, it will soon be a
formal state of war. In preparation
for that, eight of the thirteen
colonies have levied money in
support of a Continental Army. I
ask South Carolina to be the ninth.
Colonel Lee, Massachusetts may be at
war, along with New Hampshire and
Rhode Island and Virginia, but South
Carolina is not at war.
Massachusetts and New Hampshire are
not as far from South Carolina as
you might think and the war they're
fighting is not for independence of
one or two colonies. It's for the
independence of a nation.
And what nation is that?
Robinson, one of the Patriots, stands up.
An American nation. Colonel Lee,
with your permission?
Those of us who call ourselves
Patriots are not seeking to give
birth to an American nation, but to
protect one that already exists. It
was born a hundred-and-seventy years
ago at Jamestown, Virginia and has
grown stronger and more mature with
every generation reared and with
every crop sown and harvested. We
are a nation and our rights as
citizens of that nation are
threatened by a tyrant three
thousand miles away.
Thank you. Were I an orator, those
are the exact words I would have
Laughter. Marion rises.
Mister Robinson, tell me, why should
I trade one tyrant, three thousand
miles away, for three thousand
tyrants, one mile away?
Laughter from the Loyalists. Surprise from Lee and the Patriots. In the gallery, Gabriel winces.
An elected legislature can trample a
man's rights just as easily as a
Captain Marion, I understood you to
be a Patriot.
It's Mister Marion.
I understood him to be a Patriot as
If you mean by a Patriot, am I angry
at the Townsend Acts and the Stamp
Act? Then I'm a Patriot. And what
of the Navigation Act? Should I be
permitted to sell my tobacco to the
French traders on Martinique? Yes,
and it's an intrusion into my
affairs that I can't... legally.
And what of the greedy, self-serving
bastards who sit as Magistrates on
the Admiralty Court and have fined
nearly every man in this room.
Should they be boxed about the ears
and thrown onto the first ship back
to England? I'll do it myself.
And do I believe that the American
colonies should stand as a separate,
independent nation, free from the
reins of King and Parliament? I do,
and if that makes a Patriot, then
I'm a Patriot.
Marion grows more serious.
But if you're asking whether I'm
willing to go to war with England,
the answer is, no. I've been to war
and I have no desire to do so again.
The room is quiet, the Assemblymen having been thrown off-balance. Gabriel is stunned and disappointed by his father's speech.
This from the same Captain Francis
Marion whose anger was so famous
during the Wilderness Campaign.
Marion glares at Robinson, then smiles.
I was intemperate in my youth. My
departed wife, God bless her soul,
dampened that intemperance with the
mantle of responsibility.
Robinson looks derisively at Marion.
Temperance can be a convenient
disguise for fear.
Marion bristles but before he can answer, Lee steps in.
Mister Robinson, I fought with
Captain Marion in the French and
Indian War, including the Wilderness
Campaign. We served as scouts under
Washington and I have no doubts
about Captain Marion's courage or
competence on a battlefield.
There's not a man in this room, or
anywhere, for that matter, to whom I
would more willingly trust my life.
I stand corrected.
Nonetheless, I would like to know,
Mister Marion, how... how... how...
Lee's oratorical skills peter out.
Damn it, Francis! How in God's name
do you expect to gain independence
without going to war?
Harry, Harry, Harry...
Marion and Lee drop all formality and become nothing more than two old friends, pissed off.
My hairy arse! You live in a cave
if you think we'll get independence
The Speaker POUNDS HIS GAVEL.
Gentlemen! Please! This is not a
Wasn't it a Union Jack we fought
A long time ago...
That's a damn long time...
The Speaker POUNDS HIS GAVEL again.
Marion and Lee ignore the speaker.
You were an Englishman then...
I was an American, I just didn't
know it yet...
The astonished Assemblymen and now even the Speaker watch the argument avidly, turning their heads in simultaneous anticipation of each rejoinder.
We don't have to go to war to gain
There are a thousand avenues, other
than war, at our disposal...
Name five hundred.
Royal petition, delegates to court,
judicial redress, economic boycott,
That's five, keep going...
... time, royal succession,
You said bribery twice...
Marion speaks slowly and firmly.
We do not have to go to war to gain
Lee says nothing for a moment, then he speaks more seriously, quietly, grimly.
Francis, I was at Bunker Hill. It
was as bad as anything you and I saw
on the frontier. Worse than the
slaughter at the Ashuelot River.
The British advanced three times and
we killed over seven hundred of them
at point blank range. And still,
they advanced and they took the
ground. That is the measure of
their resolve. If your principles
dictate independence, then war is
the only way. It has come to that.
Marion is silent for a long moment. He softens, finds himself unsteady and speaks far more honestly than he ever wanted to.
I have seven children. My wife is
dead. Who's to care for them if I
go to war?
Lee is stunned by Marion's honesty and his show of weakness. At first Lee has no answer, then:
Wars are not fought only by
childless men. A man must weigh his
personal responsibilities against
That's what I'm doing. I will not
fight and because I won't, I will
not cast a vote that will send
others to fight in my stead.
And your principles?
I'm a parent, I don't have the
luxury of principles.
The other Assemblymen, both Patriots and Loyalists, stare at him, appalled. Marion, feeling weak, sits down. Lee looks at his friend with more sympathy than disappointment. Then Lee turns to Robinson who addresses the chair.
Mister Speaker, I call for a vote on
a levy to the Continental Army.
The vote is taken on a roll call. Gabriel watches from the gallery.
In the gallery Gabriel turns and walks out. The roll call continues. Marion sits, eyes straight ahead.
EXT. ASSEMBLY HALL - DAY
The crowd waits. The doors open and a PAGE BOY dashes out and runs to the Continental Captain at the recruiting table.
Twenty-eight to twelve, the levy
The Continental Captain motions to an assembled squadron. They raise their muskets and FIRE A VOLLEY into the air. Other soldiers, STRIKE UP A MARTIAL AIR ON FIFES AND DRUMS. Volunteers crowd around the recruiting table, YELLING and jostling for position.
The delegates walk out. Both Patriots and Loyalists give Marion a wide berth.
Marion sees Gabriel, standing near the crowd at the recruiting table. Marion walks up to him.
Father, I've lost respect for you.
I thought you were a man of
When you have children, I hope
When I have children, I hope I don't
hide behind them.
Marion looks closely at Gabriel.
Do you intend to enlist without my
They lock eyes for a moment, then Gabriel turns from his father and walks away, joining the crush around the recruiting table.
Marion stands alone in the middle of the chaos. The FIFES AND DRUMS continue to play. Marion doesn't hear them.
Harry Lee walks out of the Assembly hall with a triumphant group of Patriots who look at Marion coldly.
Lee excuses himself, and steps over next to Marion. Lee sees that Marion is watching Gabriel at the enlistment table.
One of yours?
I recognize him now. Is he as
imprudent as his father was at his
No, thank the Lord. He's more like
I'll see to it that he serves under
They shake hands. Then Lee walks over to the soldiers. Marion takes a last look at Gabriel, then heads off through the crowded square, moving against the tide of men headed toward the recruiting table.
EXT. POND BLUFF - DAY
Springtime. The apple tree at the top of the hill is covered with blossoms.
"TWO YEARS LATER"
EXT. FIELD - POND BLUFF - DAY
Marion plows a field. Nathan leads the plowhorse. Samuel follows, breaking up the clods of dirt. Hard work. They stop to catch their breath. A SOFT WIND blows.
Marion turns his head as if listening for a faint voice. He hears nothing. He snaps the reins and continues plowing.