The Swamp Fox

By John Oller
Image of the cover of The Swamp Fox by John Oller. Wesley Donehue's book reviews and recommendations.

Without South Carolina and Francis Marion Americans would be saying “God save the Queen” today.

When people talk of South Carolina’s history they almost always talk of the Civil War or the atrocities of slavery. We hear of the slaves routed through Charleston, the angry words of John C Calhoun, and the bigotry of Ben Tillman.  We hear of how South Carolina tore the nation apart. Rarely do we hear how South Carolina helped create this nation.

We were a late supporter of the cause and it took a lot of convincing for South Carolina to sign the Declaration of Independence. As the richest city in the colonies, Charleston was full of British loyalists who had a lot to lose. It was also pretty obvious that Charleston would be a first and primary target for the British invasion. Charleston, along with Savannah did fall and the British were poised to move on from the South to the North where they could focus all efforts on destroying Washington’s army.

Most of you outside of South Carolina have probably never heard of The Swamp Fox, Francis Marion. You may have seen The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson. The character was a composite of three men – Andrew Pickens, Thomas Sumter, and mostly Francis Marion.

Marion is considered the father of guerrilla warfare. Rather than confronting superior British forces face to face, which was the norm, Marion raised a militia and moved in secret throughout the woods and swamps of South Carolina to cut off British supply lines. His efforts hindered British southern efforts, forcing Cornwallis to refocus time, resources, and men down South. This splitting of British priorities allowed Washington to gain decisive wins up North while also giving time for the French to arrive.

There’s so much to the story of Francis Marion. I loved this book for many reasons. Marion’s character and leadership as well as military genius could take a lifetime of research in itself. This book provides a good broad overview. Mostly though I loved this book because as a South Carolinian I literally walk through or drive past so much history on a daily basis. So many battles happened right here where I stand yet I go about my day ignoring or forgetting. This book should be read by every lover of American history, but it’s damn near required reading for every South Carolinian.

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