Francis Marion, a folk hero of South Carolina, grew up on a farm outside Georgetown where he honed his skills on hunting and fishing expeditions in the swamps and backcountry. Lots of places in Georgetown are named for him so when we saw a sign pointing down a tree-lined road to his burial place at Belle Isle Plantation near Pineville, we thought we should have a look.
After disastrous defeats in American Revolutionary War battles at Charleston and Camden in the summer of 1780, the Continental Army gave up the fight for independence in South Carolina.
Not Francis Marion however.
He put together a band of 20-70 men who patrolled the area between Charleston and Camden along the Santee and Pee Dee Rivers. Using guerrilla tactics, he freed American prisoners being held by the British, captured British outposts, and lent critical assistance to the struggling regular American troops. Marion’s Men, as they were called, served without pay and provided their own arms, horses, and food.
Marion and his men, crossing the PeeDee River
Marion tormented and demoralized the British army with his uncanny ability to elude capture, including one 26-mile, 7-hour chase through marshes, woods, and swamps that earned him the title “The Swamp Fox”.
There are lots of tales in this neck of the woods about the legendary stealth and cunning of The Swamp Fox, and historians agree that he was a major force in keeping alive the cause of independence in the South.
Marion returned to farming after the war and passed away in 1795 at the age of 63. He is buried at Belle Isle, his brother’s plantation. His grave and memorial is now a beautiful state historic site.
His modern legacy continues as one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare in the traditions and tactics of the U.S. Army Rangers and the Green Berets.
Towns, festivals, colleges, hotels, a memorial park in Washington D.C., counties, a national forest, businesses, a ship, schools, a submarine squadron, a Disney TV series, and children of several generations all carry his name.
Francis Marion Park, GeorgetownAnd, the park that is the center of Georgetown, where ceremonies, street dances, concerts, etc. are held on the harbor, is named Francis Marion Park.