The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution
“a captivating and long overlooked study of a little known chapter in the American Revolution.”
In 1779, Great Britain was fighting France and Spain as well as trying to suppress a revolt in their North American colonies. The British public was weary of war, their forces were stretched to the limit, and the conflicts were bankrupting the country.
It was at this point that John Oller introduces the reader to the situation in the North American colonies. He tells us that the war in the North had reached a stalemate, so British leaders decided on a bold strategy to end the conflict.
Called a “Southern Strategy”, it was decided to first gain control of the southern colonies, Georgia and the two Carolinas. British forces under General Cornwallis would crush the revolt there and then move north to join General Clinton’s force in New York. Once this juncture was accomplished, the British believed they could trap Washington’s army between the two forces and thus end the American revolt entirely.
Before Cornwallis could move his forces north, he had to protect his rear in the South. Toward that end, Georgia was subdued after the capture of Savannah. But gaining proper control of South Carolina proved to be another matter. Following the capture of Charleston, thousands of the colony’s citizens swore allegiance to the British crown. It appeared that the British strategy was well on its way to being successful.
It is at this point that Oller introduces the reader to Francis Marion. A second generation French Huguenot, Marion left a comfortable life as a plantation owner and began a role as a rebel guerrilla leader. In over two dozen engagements, Marion disrupted the activities of the British army regulars and their American allies, the loyalists. Even though he did not allow scorched earth tactics against the loyalists, he was feared to such an extent that Cornwallis did not feel it possible to move his army north when he had planned. Basically, Oller contends that Marion’s guerrilla activities prevented Cornwallis from subduing the South Carolina rebellion.
In so doing, Marion’s disruptive tactics prevented Cornwallis from accomplishing that first requirement of the Southern Strategy and thus saved the American Revolution from defeat.
The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution is a captivating and long overlooked study of a little known chapter in the American Revolution. Oller’s work should be read by all students of early American history and in particular by those interested in better understanding how the American Revolution was won.